Category Archives: Sauces & Spreads

Spiced Peanut Butter

This is another recipe made in collaboration with Wendy Batterman. It works well with a variety of powdered spice mixes—consider substituting karha masala, curry, 5-spice, pumpkin pie mix, or ras el hanout for the garam masala. Depending on whether it matches the spices you choose, add a little shredded coconut!

If you’re opening a fresh jar of unmixed peanut butter, you can drain off the separated oil and use it to cook the spices.

1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons peanut oil or olive oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons shredded coconut (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)

Gently sauté the spices and coconut with the peanut oil over medium-high heat to release the flavor of the spices. Let the sautéed spices cool for an elegant blending. Mix the spice blend in with the peanut butter, cocoa powder, sugar and salt.

Onion Spread (p. 91)

This rich chocolate-onion spread is great on sandwiches, and in pasta salads, potato salads, guacamole, and dressings. The spicy version makes a good substitute for chutney in lentil dishes. We use it as an ingredient to add flavor to all sorts of foods; see if it makes sense to add anywhere a recipe calls for cooked onion.

Makes about 3/4 cup
Takes 1 hour

2 tablespoons cocoa butter
1 large red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons cacao nibs
1/3 cup water

Put the cocoa butter and onion in a pan over medium-low heat. Cook the onion for about 40 minutes, or until it is translucent and mushy. Remove the onion from the pan and let it cool.

Once the onion has cooled, combine it with the nibs, water, and a pinch of salt. Blend it until the spread is smooth. It will last several weeks refrigerated or several months in the freezer.

Spicy onion spread: Substitute a white onion for the red onion. With the onion, cook a pinch of asafoetida powder, one minced chipotle pepper, and cumin seeds or a cinnamon stick. Remove the cinnamon stick after ten minutes.

onion cross sections!


Peanut Dip (page 93)

This tasty recipe is based off an Aprapransa stew from Ghana. It originally called for a palm nut pulp, but we use peanut butter as it is more widely available in North America. Serve this dip with 1-2 cups of berries, apples, bananas, tomatoes, carrots, jicama, or other fruits and vegetables that go well with peanuts.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 teaspoons annatto seeds
1 large onion
4 cups water, divided
2 cups cooked beans
1/4 cup peanut butter
4 medium tomatoes
1/2 cup uncooked polenta, or 1/4 cup corn flour
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a large saucepan over medium heat, briefly cook the oil and annatto seeds until the annatto seeds start to collect bubbles. Remove from heat, wait a few minutes, then strain out the seeds.

Mince the onion, then add it to the oil in the saucepan. Turn the heat back on to medium and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the beans, one cup of water, and the peanut butter. Dice the tomatoes, then stir them in along with another cup of water.

Start toasting the polenta in a small pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes or until it turns golden brown. Stir the polenta into the mixture along with another cup of water.

You can mince the cocoa nibs for a smoother dip and a more intense chocolate flavor. Stir in the cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, lemon juice, and remaining cup of water. Salt to taste.

Turn the heat down to low and stir occasionally until the dip is at your preferred consistency. For us, this takes about 10 minutes. Serve with fruits and/or vegetables.

Salsa Picante (page 95)

Our housemate Bridget was so helpful when it came to understanding the names of these various salsas. We’re not sure if she learned it growing up in Puerto Rico or raising a family in Texas, but she’s a true salsa expert. Salsa is not a precise science; alter these recipes based on your preferences and what’s in your kitchen. Remove the seeds from your peppers if you prefer a milder salsa.

Makes 3-4 cups
Takes 60 minutes

3 large tomatoes
1+ chili peppers
1 small onion
1 ear’s worth of corn (3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium tomatillo
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
Juice of one lime (2 tablespoons)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Chop the tomatoes, peppers, and onion. Put them and the corn on a baking pan and drizzle the oil over everything. Roast them for about 30 minutes, or until they start to turn a little brown at the edges.

While the other vegetables roast, chop the tomatillos and cilantro. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven, add the tomatillos, nibs, cilantro, and lime juice and stir well.

Salt to taste and serve with chips, add to burritos, or use it to make a taco salad.

Salsa Verde: Replace 2 of the tomatoes with 2-3 medium tomatillos and 2 large green tomatoes. Add 1/4 cup of fresh mint, reduce the nibs to 2 tablespoons, and add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Salsa Fresca: Follow salsa picante or salsa verde, but without roasting anything. Instead, chop the tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and salt them. Drain the tomatoes before mixing them last to everything else. Set aside the salty tomato water to use in other dishes for salted water or vegetable broth.

Chocolate Chili Barbecue Sauce by Greg Evans (page 82)

Greg made this barbecue sauce for a potluck and everyone loved it. We think you will, too.

Makes 2 cups
Takes 60 minutes

1 onion, diced
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup (6 oz can) tomato paste
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or more to taste, depending on how spicy you want it)

Sauté onion on medium heat until translucent and golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Add the water to the skillet and deglaze the pan by scraping and stirring; then add the sugar and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a blender or food processor along with the onions and the rest of the ingredients, and blend until smooth. Pour the resulting sauce back into a pan (or the same skillet) and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Easy Sauce: Essentially the same sort of sauce could be made more conveniently by using store-bought vegan BBQ sauce, adding the chocolate and chipotle powders to it, and simmering it for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors meld.

Guacamole (p. 86)

We had guacamole on a picnic one day and realized that we somehow nearly forgot to include cocoa guacamole in this book!(!!!) Darin even worked in Australia as a picker on an avocado and lime farm!

The roasted onion and corn are sweet, so they balance the bitter flavor of the cocoa powder.

Makes 2 cups
Takes 60 minutes

1 large tomato
1 small onion
2 chili peppers
1 ear’s worth of corn (3/4 cup corn)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large avocado, ripe
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
Juice of one lime (2 tablespoons)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Chop the tomato, onion, and chili pepper. Put them and the corn on a baking pan and drizzle the oil over everything. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, or until they start to turn a little brown at the edges.

Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and put them in a bowl along with the avocado, nibs, and lime juice. Stir well and salt to taste. Voila! Guacamole is always best eaten fresh—even with lime, the avocado will oxidize. Serve with corn chips or eat straight from the spoon.

Awesome Bean Dip: Replace the avocado with 2 cups of refried beans, roast a few cloves of garlic with the other vegetables, and switch out the nibs for 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Chocolate Peanut Butter (p. 83)

Got Phyllo dough? Optionally, substitute hazelnut butter for the peanut butter and either way, you’ve got mock Nutella. You can make Chocolate Baklava!


I had a lot of fun working with Wendy Batterman on chocolate peanut butters. We learned just how subjective the sense of taste can be—I liked extra cocoa, while Wendy preferred more salt. If you use unsweetened peanut butter, the sugar will add a stronger chocolate flavor than the chocolate peanut butter would otherwise have. If your peanut butter already contains sugar, you can omit sugar from the recipe.

1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Powdered sugar (optional)

In a jar, combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly. This can be a little messy. The alternative, also messy (but a little faster), is to combine all ingredients in a bowl and transfer the mixture to a jar using a rubber spatula.

Serve it on toast or sandwiches, use it as a base for a peanut sauce, or as a dip for fruits and vegetables. You can also mix in mini marshmallows, toasted coconut, granola, or other toppings.

Dad’s Strawberries, Chocolate Style (p. 84)

Strawberry season would come around when I was a kid, and I’d wake up one morning to sugared strawberries, which was the best surprise ever, and which my dad would make by sprinkling sugar over strawberries and putting it all in the fridge. I can even remember which container he would use. The sugar pulls the liquid out of the strawberries and you end up with syrupy strawberry goodness.

This year, when strawberry season came around, I realized that we had no choice but to reinvent it. We eat this with pancakes, but it also goes well on peanut buttered toast.

Makes about 4 cups of strawberry topping (plus one mug of strawberry drink)
Takes all night (plus 2–4 hours baking the optional caramelized sugar)

Caramelized Sugar
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Pour a bag of sugar into a glass baking pan and shake the pan so it’s evenly distributed. Do not use a metal pan—that will melt the sugar instead of caramelizing it. Cook the sugar for 2–4 hours. Crush any chunks. Caramelization makes the sugar a little less sweet and more flavorful, which will result in a more complex strawberry dish. This will make a subtle difference for those with discerning taste buds.

6 tablespoons white sugar or caramelized sugar
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Plant milk (optional)

In a large container, combine the strawberries, mint, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Put the lid on and put the container in the fridge. In the morning, it’s ready! Use a fork to serve these strawberries over pancakes or toast.

Fresh, rich strawberry drink: Drain the syrupy by-product from the bowl of strawberries into a cup and add 1–2 times as much plant milk as there is syrup. Stir it, then sip it. This is objectively amazing and might be the best part of the whole “Dad’s Strawberries” recipe.

Strawberry salsa: If you want something you can eat straight, decrease the sugar to 1/4 cup and replace the cocoa powder with 1/4 cup of cocoa nibs, and let it all sit for an hour instead of overnight.

Mexican Chile Seasoning (p. 79)

Here is a theobrominated spin on a traditional Mexican treat. Sprinkle this powder on fruits and vegetables, add it to beans… the possibilities are endless.

Makes 1/2 cup
Takes 5 minutes

2 tablespoons sumac powder
2 tablespoons ground chile pepper
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon salt

Mix together all ingredients. Store in a jar and sprinkle on everything as needed.

Fresh lime: During lime season, you can replace the sumac with the juice of a lime. This version must be refrigerated and should last for several days in the refrigerator.

Crockpot Mole Negro (p. 80)

This smoky, nutty chocolate-based sauce is a relatively quick version of the real deal, which can take an entire day to prepare. I love crockpots for recipes like this. On the stovetop, it takes nearly an hour of supervised cooking. With an electric crockpot, I just need to prep a few hours earlier, and I can walk away until the mole is ready.

If you haven’t bought chipotles en adobo before, look for them at a Mexican market or in the international aisle of the grocery store—they’re smoked chili peppers in sauce, usually sold in a small can. Mole is traditionally drizzled over burritos, enchiladas, or a variety of meats or meat-substitutes. It’s like a complex, spicy barbecue sauce.

Makes 2 cups
Takes 1 hour prep plus 3 hours cooking (unattended)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
2 chipotles en adobo, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon chili powder or flakes
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups vegetable broth
1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped (or about 1/4 cup grated chocolate)

Put a pan on medium heat and add the oil. When the pan is hot, add the onion and garlic and sweat them for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, and cook them for another minute while stirring constantly.

Move the contents of the pan to a crockpot. Add the chipotles, peanut butter, chili powder, cornmeal, and salt. Stir in the broth and add the chocolate.

Cook in the crockpot on high heat for three hours. If you don’t have a crockpot, simmer on medium heat for 50 minutes.

For a smooth texture, let the mole cool and blend it before serving. The mole can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, or kept frozen for several months. The oil separates out as it cools, but you can reheat the mole and stir it back in before serving.

simple illustration of an onion both above and below ground