LOVE WINS VEGAN CHOCOLATE-COVERED DATE CARAMEL HEARTS
These vegan chocolate-covered date caramel hearts require just four ingredients (plus sea salt and toppings). The date caramel is made with a combination of Medjool dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and sea salt. Unlike most date caramels, this one won't stick to your hands. The coconut oil yields a caramel that's soft, subtly chewy, and bendable. I recommend forming it into heart-shaped pieces but feel free to make squares if you're in a rush. Once the caramels are formed, dip them into melted chocolate and top as desired.
Salted Date Caramel
- 1 pound firm Medjool dates*
- 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
- 1 to 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, as needed to thin the chocolate
Optional Topping Ideas
- Chopped goji berries
- Chopped pepitas
- Culinary grade lavendar
- Shelled hemp seeds
- Chopped freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries
- Large-flake sea salt
For the Date Caramel
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Firm (i.e., old) dates work best for this recipe. If you use fresh dates, the caramel texture will not be the same, so keep this in mind. Add the dates to a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or until soft and warm. Let cool slightly and then pit the dates.
Add the pitted dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and sea salt to a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until the dates are ground smooth and the mixture rolls into a smooth, slightly oily ball within the food processor. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to encourage even processing.
If you have a small (1 to 1 1/2 inches), heart-shaped cookie cutter: place the caramel between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out into 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness, and use the cookie cutter to punch out heart shaped caramels. Repeat with the scraps. If you don't have a heart-shaped cookie cutter: scoop out about one tablespoon of caramel and form into a heart** (see notes for links to tutorials). (Alternatively, form into squares, balls, etc. to quicken the process).
Transfer the caramel hearts to the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining caramel. You should have about 22 to 24 caramels.
Freeze for at least 15 minutes to firm.
For the Chocolate Coating
Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate coating.
Whisk together the chocolate and coconut oil over low heat in a double-boiler or ban marie until melted, smooth, and glossy. Be careful not to overheat or the chocolate will seize and take on a gritty texture.
One at a time, use a fork to dip the hearts into the chocolate to evenly coat.
Shake off excess chocolate, return to the lined tray, and sprinkle with toppings, as desired. (Alternatively, generously drizzle the chocolate over the caramel hearts and sprinkle with toppings.) See notes for leftover chocolate tips***.
Transfer the tray to the freezer and chill for 15 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
Store the hearts in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If you store in the freezer, allow the caramels to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to soften before enjoying.
*TIP: Older, firmer Medjool dates work best for this recipe. If you use fresh/very soft, sticky dates, the caramel will not be easy to handle as pictured, so keep this in mind.
**Checkout this tutorial and/or this tutorial for tips on forming hearts by hand.
***If you have leftover chocolate, I recommend making small chocolates. Pour the chocolate into molds, top as desired, and freeze. Alternatively, make a small batch of chocolate bark. Pour the chocolate into a small lined loaf pan, top, freeze, and break into pieces.