Carob: The Popular Chocolate Substitute

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Carob has grown in popularity as a viable substitute for chocolate. The fruit pods are caffeine-free, low in fat, and high in fiber, so they’re a favored alternative for individuals with chocolate allergies who opt for healthier options.

What is Carob?

Carob, also known as the “locust bean” or “St. John’s bread,” is found in the Mediterranean, including Italy, Greece, and  Spain. The other names came from the belief that carob bean pods were the “locusts” that John the Baptist survived on when preaching in the wilderness.

Carob pods are elongated in shape and contain 5 to 15 edible seeds and a smooth, shiny, brown exterior texture. Carob seeds are used in gum production. The gums are used as food stabilizers in low-calorie products and as an emulsifying agent for candy and ice cream.

The taste of carob is sweet and nutty, with undertones of caramel and chocolate. As a result of its natural sweetness and distinct flavor, it is a favored substitute for chocolate chips.

The History of Carob

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) of the Fabaceae family is a well-established crop cultivated across the Mediterranean region for centuries. Its beginnings are traced back to ancient Egypt, where people recognized its potential as a food source and medicine. 

As international trade routes emerged within the Roman Empire, carob gained popularity as a substitute for sugar and cocoa. It has become an integral part of Mediterranean cuisine and remains a fundamental ingredient in dishes such as carob molasses and desserts. 

In specific locales, the use of carob has symbolic significance during celebratory occasions like weddings and Easter, as it is believed to impart fertility and good luck.

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Carob is commonly ground into powder and used as a spice.

What Does Carob Taste Like?

In its natural state, carob possesses a delicate sweetness and nuttiness, which is accompanied by a hint of bitterness.

Upon cooking, this flavor profile intensifies to offer a richer, more pronounced taste reminiscent of caramel, complemented by undertones of coffee and chocolate.

How to Tell When Carob is Ripe

Here are a few tips on how to select ripe carob:

ColorMature carob pods typically exhibit a reddish-brown or dark brown pigment, the intensity of which may differ marginally based on the specific type of carob tree.
TextureOnce the carob pods attain ripeness, their peel exhibits a mild wrinkling texture. It is essential to note that the skin must not display excessive shriveling or extreme smoothness.
FirmnessWhen assessing the ripeness of carob pods, one may gently squeeze them to ascertain their texture. Ideally, a firm texture indicates ripeness, while carob pods that are overly hard or soft are not ideal.
Scent Matured carob pods may exhibit a pleasant scent resembling caramel with a sweet tinge.

To ensure the purchase of high-quality carob fruit, one should select those that are weighty for their size, display an even dark brown hue, and exhibit no trace of cracks or mold. Steer clear of carob that appears light in weight, has a faint coloration, or displays evidence of insect infestation or decay. 

Are Carob and Cacao Related?

Carob and cacao are distinct from each other and have no relation. Carob has a sweet taste and is commonly employed as an alternative to chocolate. 

Cacao has a bitter flavor that is utilized for chocolate production. Their unique attributes, including flavors and appearances, make them suitable for different culinary purposes.

Does Carob Taste Like Chocolate?

Carob possesses a naturally sweet and nutty taste similar to chocolate; however, it does not exhibit the characteristic bitterness of cocoa. It presents a more subdued flavor profile and is used as a healthier substitute due to its reduced fat, theobromine, and caffeine levels.

Cooking with Carob

The initial process of cooking with carob fruit entails the harvesting and cleaning of its pods. Cooking predominantly utilizes carob pulp; to procure it, one can blend the pods in a food processor or blender and subsequently strain the mixture to eradicate any sizeable pieces.

Carob possesses versatility as a cooking ingredient that can be integrated into diverse cooking styles. It is milled into a fine powder that is an ideal replacement for cocoa in baking. Its culinary presence is distinct in traditional North African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

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Carob cake is a perfect example of how carob powder can be substituted for cocoa powder.

Carob Energy Balls: These nutritious snacks are made with carob powder, dates, nuts, and other wholesome ingredients. They are easy to prepare and make for a delicious and healthy treat. 

Carob Smoothie: A refreshing and indulgent smoothie can be created using carob powder. Blend carob powder with bananas, almond milk, honey, and ice for a creamy and satisfying beverage. 

Carob Cake: Carob can be used as a substitute for cocoa powder in cakes and desserts. You can make a moist and flavorful carob cake by replacing cocoa powder with carob powder in your favorite chocolate cake recipe. 

How to Store Carob

To preserve the carob’s freshness, store it in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dark storage area like a cupboard or pantry. With this technique, carob can maintain its quality for up to one year. 

While refrigeration is not mandatory, it can extend carob’s shelf life up to two years. This superfood can be frozen for long-term storage as it can maintain its quality for up to three years.

Nutritional Benefits of Carob

The highly nutritious carob fruit is rich in antioxidants, fiber,  and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Its chemical and fiber compounds promote healthy digestion, lower cholesterol levels, blood sugar reduction, and weight loss. 

The antioxidants in carob combat oxidative stress efficiently and prevent the onset of chronic diseases. The calcium composition of carob assists in maintaining good bone health.

Potassium and magnesium contribute to the proper functioning of muscles and the heart’s well-being.

Where to Purchase Carob

Carob can be sourced from specialized health food outlets, organic markets, and online vendors. Carob products readily available include carob chips, powder (carob flour), or whole pods throughout the year. You can easily find carob in the natural foods or baking section.


Tabitha is a freelance writer with love for food and drinks. She loves gardening and is always looking for new ways to get more fresh produce. She also loves animals and has dairy goats, chicken, sheep, a dog, and a cat at her home.

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