A little while ago, I read a headline that grabbed my attention claiming Nutella contained MSG. I didn’t have time to read the article at the time, but at my next grocery visit, I took a look and didn’t see anything that looked off on the label. So I did a little research, figuring the bad stuff was being disguised by a less offensive name. And I was right. If you look on the ingredients list, you’ll notice an ingredient called “Vanillin: An Artificial Flavor”. That, my friends, is where the MSG is hiding. Also, it turns out, MSG is usually in Whey, which is on the ingredients as well. Here is a full list of unlabeled MSG ingredients (meaning it does not have to be disclosed that the ingredient contains it).
And knowing how much people love this stuff, I thought it would be a good idea to try to make our own yummy hazelnut spread and avoid the nasty stuff. Not just the MSG, but the soy lecithin (read about why that stuff isn’t so great here) and you can use a healthier and all natural sweetener, like honey that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and probiotics. Oh, and make hazelnuts the #1 ingredient in the hazelnut spread, rather than third (!!) in Nutella’s version. Sugar is Nutella’s #1 ingredient. Read the full ingredients list here to see.
MSG is controversial, some people think it’s perfectly healthy since it occurs in nature. But this stuff that’s added to food is not the kind that occurs in nature – it is manufactured in a lab. Read more here if you’re interested.This is all you need to make your own Nutella. Just hazelnuts, cocoa powder, honey (or you can use any sweetener you like), a pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla extract and some milk to smooth out the consistency to your preference. I like using coconut milk here, but you could use any milk you like (almond milk works well also). The process is very much like making your own almond butter, but not as tedious or time consuming since hazelnuts are a softer nut and break down in to a butter consistency much more quickly. Once you’ve achieved the hazelnut butter, it’s just a matter of blending in the rest of your ingredients to get that delicious hazelnut (Nutella) spread.Full disclosure though: making your own will not taste exactly the same or have the same texture as store bought Nutella. It can’t. You are not adding soy lecithin, which is an emulsifier and gives chocolate that creamy texture you know and love. You’re also probably not going to add so much sugar that it outweighs the amount of hazelnuts in the recipe (though you could, but it might make you feel a little guilty seeing all that sugar with your own eyes). And you’re not adding oil or artificial flavors to this to get those addictive properties that are manufactured to make you love the stuff so much that you buy it every week. This is a natural way to go. It’s delicious! But if you’ve been a hardcore Nutella addict for a while, then you’ll need to adjust your expectations. I don’t advocate using white sugar, but if you really wanted to, you could use that (confectioner’s sugar would blend best) and still be better off than buying store bought that contains MSG, soy, added oil, and questionable dairy products.
Homemade Nutella Recipe
1 cup hazelnuts* (see note about skins vs no skins)
1/4 cup honey (or sweetener of choice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
2-4 tbsp milk of choice (I like coconut), or more as needed
Place hazelnuts in food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. I’ve made this a few times and have found that this process could take anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes depending on your hazelnuts. Sometimes they have more oil and it comes together quickly. Whatever you do though, I don’t recommend soaking or rinsing the nuts before hand. You need them to be very dry for best results.
Once the hazelnuts turn into a buttery consistency, add the honey or other sweetener, vanilla, salt, and cocoa powder and blend until smooth. Slowly add the milk until you reach your desired consistency.
Note: I like to use the kind of hazelnuts that have already had the skins removed. If you can’t find those, you can remove them yourself by roasting them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then placing them in a damp kitchen towel, using the towel to slough off the skins. The heat plus the moisture helps to remove them easily. You don’t want to leave the skins on because they are pretty bitter.
That’s it! Enjoy! Oh, and store in the refrigerator. There are no preservatives in this, so you don’t want to keep it in the pantry.One last note. If you love your Nutella, think I’m totally off my rocker, and that the artificial, unnatural ingredients in Nutella are perfectly legit, then by all means, eat up. I’m just happily offering up a solution to those who are hesitant to trust food labeling and the manufacturers who process these shelf stable foods that don’t expire for years.