My love affair with Reese’s peanut butter cups started at a young age. Peeling the black paper off, listening to the pop at each ridge as it separated from the chocolate, taking the first bite through the milk chocolate and into that characteristically dry but delicious peanut butter– it’s an experience I remember well.
To this day, the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is one of my absolute favorites. Now that I eat a keto diet, I can’t just pick up some Reese’s at the grocery store (or those amazing Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups) but I can make an even better version at home. These healthy, low carb (hey, they’re even vegan!) peanut butter cups are incredibly easy and use just two ingredients!
And they’re higher quality to boot!
It’s All About That Peanut Butter
Let’s be real: in the chocolate realm, Reese’s does not use particularly great chocolate. That’s just a fact. It tastes good together, but I’m betting that a bar of just the chocolate they use on a Reese’s would not impress you in any way.
But the peanut butter in a Reese’s is different than the stuff you buy in a jar– the texture is completely different. It holds together in a specific way.
Other recipes out there either use regular peanut butter as-is, or they add other ingredients to the peanut butter to change the texture. The recipe for peanut butter bars I used to make growing up had crushed graham cracker in it.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret– you don’t need to add anything! What makes the Reese’s peanut butter a different texture is simply how they make the peanut butter. So I’m going to show you how to make peanut butter in a way that gives it that perfect Reese’s texture.
Grind, Baby, Grind
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Making peanut butter?? I thought you said this was going to be easy!
Ok, I know. If you’ve never made nut butter before this is going to sound super intimidating, but I promise, it’s incredibly easy.
All you need to make nut butter is, well, nuts and a food processor or high powered blender.
Now, you do need a decent one. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. There are many more expensive models out there but this one just plain does a great job without unnecessary bells and whistles.
You can also use a Vitamix or a Blendtec blender. I’ve hear that Ninja blenders may work for this also, but it will not work with a standard type of blender.
Ok, so you’ve got your nuts (I used roasted and salted peanuts) and your food processor. Here are the super complicated instructions:
1: Place nuts in food processor
2: Push on.
3: Push off when the peanut butter clumps into a ball.
I know, so difficult!
I do not add any sweetener here. I’m used to natural peanut butter and like it that way. But if you just need that sweetness, you can add a few drops liquid stevia or some powdered sweetener (like Sukrin Icing) to taste.
Now, if you’re familiar with making your own nut butters, you know that usually you keep going after the nut butter reaches a ball stage. Continuing to process it will release more of the nuts’ oils and create a smooth product like what you find in the stores. But for these lovely healthy peanut butter cups we are stopping at this point.
Quick note: Peanuts are legumes, and since legumes are avoided on a ketogenic diet, some people choose not to eat them. However, they are much lower in carbs than other legumes, so I eat them in moderation. If you prefer to avoid them, you can also make this recipe with almonds instead.
Let’s Talk Chocolate
We already established that Reese’s peanut butter cups don’t have the greatest chocolate. That’s probably why I was briefly obsessed with the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. “Briefly” only because I couldn’t be trusted around them.
Here’s a general rule you can apply to all of cooking: The higher quality your ingredients, the better your food will taste. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but generally this is true.
I don’t mean to say that spending more on ingredients will automatically make for better tasting food, but paying attention to the quality is important. Chocolate is no exception.
In general, the fewer the ingredients, the better the chocolate. Chocolate that has a lot of fillers is just plain not going to be as good. Chocolate is more difficult to make without emulsifiers, so chocolate that’s made without them is made by people who know what they’re doing.
Now, to make these low carb and healthy, you need to choose between a very dark chocolate (85%) or a sugar free chocolate such as Lily’s. It’s up to you whether you prefer to use chocolate that’s sweetened with a small amount of sugar or to avoid any trace of sugar and use one sweetened with low-carb sweeteners such as erythritol and stevia. There are two camps in the keto community when it comes to this, and I’m not going to tell you which one is right for you. Either way, you’ll still be keeping your carbs low.
Two Ingredients: When Lovers Meet
Ok, now it’s time to make the magic happen. Melt your chocolate either in a double boiler or the microwave. When melting chocolate, you should always melt it slowly. Melt it until most but not all of it is melted. Then stop heating it and stir it until it’s completely melted. This will temper it so it hardens properly again.
To assemble the peanut butter cups, use mini muffin liners for a regular-sized peanut butter cup, and foil or paper candy cups for a mini size.
For either size, the assembly is the same. Spread a layer of chocolate in the bottom of the liner. Then take a portion of the peanut butter and shape it into a disk. Make sure the diameter is smaller than the liner so there’s room for chocolate to go around it. Place peanut butter on top of the chocolate layer.
Then, pour more chocolate on top to cover the peanut butter. You can tap the cups down on a hard surface gently to smooth the tops.
Allow to cool completely at room temperature. You could put these in the freezer to cool quickly if necessary, but then your chocolate may bloom and won’t look as nice. It will still taste fine.
Oh, my friends. You need these in your life.
I need these out of my kitchen because I can’t be trusted around them.
Just one more little bite.
I’ll just be… over here… <wipes chocolate off face.>
Healthy Low Carb Peanut Butter Cups
- Place all the peanuts in a food processor or high powered blender. Run continuously until the peanuts come together into a ball. (See specific instructions for nut butters on your blender or food processor for best results. Just make sure to stop blending when the mixture forms a ball.)
- Melt chocolate in a double boiler on the stove, or in increments in the microwave (30 secs., then 10 sec. intervals) until it is mostly but not completely melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Spread a thin layer of chocolate in the bottom of mini muffin liners or candy cups.
- Form a small amount of peanut butter into a disk and place on top of the chocolate layer.
- Make sure peanut butter does not touch the sides of the liner. Pour chocolate over the top to completely cover the peanut butter.
- Allow to cool completely at room temperature. May be stored at room temperature at least a week.
Nutrition will vary depending on the type of chocolate used. Estimated values for large/small, using dark chocolate are: Calories: 2.3 kcal/44 kcal ; Total Carbs: 3.4g/ 1.9g; Fiber: 1.2g/0.6 ; Net Carbs: 2.3g/1.2g; Fat: 7.1g/3.8g; Protein: 2.5g/1.3g