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Can I Use Carob As a Substitute for Chocolate?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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When it comes to using carob as a substitute for chocolate, there are at least three camps: yes, no and "why bother?" Yes, it is possible to use it to create food products vaguely resembling real chocolate. No, carob and chocolate cannot be used interchangeably in recipes without modifications. Finally, why bother using an inferior chocolate substitute when the real thing is so much tastier and just as healthy in moderation?

Carob is derived from the seeds and pulp of a Mediterranean evergreen known as the carob tree or St. John's bread, in honor of John the Baptist. The pulp of the tree is also used to create locust bean gum, a thickening agent often found in commercial ice cream and other products. The seeds are naturally sweet, and contain none of the bitterness associated with the cacao bean from which real chocolate is derived. Recipes generally require less sugar than recipes using cocoa powder or natural chocolate. This is one reason why carob cannot be used as a one-to-one substitute for unsweetened chocolate.

It can be used as a substitute for chocolate in the creation of "chocolate flavored" treats for animals, however. Real chocolate contains theobromine, which is actually a mild psychotropic drug. Dogs and cats cannot process large amounts of theobromine, which is why real chocolate can be so dangerous for them to consume. Treats made from carob do not contain theobromine, so animals should not face any health problems after eating them.

Those who are allergic to the ingredients found in real chocolate might also consider a carob alternative. Many health food stores carry toasted soybeans and raisins covered in it, as well as pure carob bars. It is not chocolate, however, so the texture and flavor may be noticeably different. Carob can be a hard sell for many consumers who have become accustomed to the bittersweet essence of real chocolate. Before investing too heavily in it as a chocolate substitute, it might be wise to try a sample of the product first.

There is a misconception that carob is significantly healthier than real chocolate, which is one reason many health-conscious people make the switch. In reality, the two are about the same when it comes to healthiness, and dark chocolate is actually better than carob in some respects.

Carob gained popularity in the 1970s, when the buzzword among dieters was fat. Chocolate was viewed as an unhealthy fatty food, while carob was seen as the healthier low-fat alternative. While the resemblance to real chocolate was negligible at best, carob became one of the star players in the health food craze of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In reality, the type of saturated fat found in real chocolate, primarily cocoa butter, is not the same as the artery-clogging saturated fats found in animal meats. Real chocolate must contain cocoa butter, but carob can be reinforced with other saturated oils which are much more hazardous to a consumer's health. This alternative also does not contain significant levels of flavonoids, but real chocolate contains these important antioxidants. Carob is also more expensive than most brands of chocolate, and many people can easily distinguish real chocolate from a substitute. You could use carob as a chocolate substitute if you have allergies or plan on feeding leftovers to your dog or cat, but otherwise you may just be better off using the real thing in moderation.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon1005916 — On Dec 17, 2021

Why bother? Unfortunately, I am allergic to chocolate. It makes my tongue swell and gives me hives.

By anon250186 — On Feb 24, 2012

Why? Well, consider this for a moment. Most people eat milk chocolate rather than dark. It would need to be over 60-70 percent cacao, which most people don't pay attention to. Very dark chocolate could be eaten, in great moderation, but most people can't handle "moderation".

Also, the health benefits are not yet proven conclusively. Chocolate (except white) contains a lot of theobromine, which is a stimulant. It affects the heart, muscle and kidneys. They are trying to prove the medicinal properties, however, did you know that women who eat it while pregnant can cause health problems with the baby because the baby can't break it down? It's a hard drug to handle, and this is why it will even give an animal a seizure. It is labeled as "toxic" to animals and babies. It also relaxes the muscle at the base of the esophagus which can allow stomach acid entry. Bad news for people with gastrointestinal reflux disease.

There is some in regular chocolate, but there's even more of it in dark chocolate (that's why it's more bitter). This gives people that "high" they get from chocolate, the darker the the chocolate, the more 'high'. Theobromine is very bad for anyone with anxiety. It is a stimulant and can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, even headaches. Since I stopped eating it, my anxiety has massively decreased, headaches are rare and I sleep much heavier and actually all through the night now.

When I first tried carob I was unsure of it, but I kept eating it and I love it now. Someone bought me some dark chocolate and I gave it away and ate my carob because I don't like the taste of it anymore. Your body adjusts to it, as with all foods. I love carob!

By anon151616 — On Feb 10, 2011

Why bother? Because chocolate triggers extreme irritability in me; sugar triggers depression. My son also has a dairy allergy, which limits a lot of chocolate products. It's taken me two years to find tasty replacements for what I can't have anymore. But it's well worth the search.

By anon146032 — On Jan 25, 2011

@ anon120419: Please don't breed. We don't need your genes to be represented in the gene pool.

By anon120419 — On Oct 20, 2010

why bother? because I too am allergic to chocolate! carob doesn't taste the same but at least it is something I can have. I also am allergic to wheat, yeast, milk and eggs. Thank God for Celiacs and Vegans: I am able to use their wheat, egg, and milk substitutes (again it doesn't taste the same but its better than nothing). I have just recently found a substitute for yeast!

By anon58818 — On Jan 04, 2010

Why bother? Because my esophagus closed up due to acid reflux! I have learned to be diligent about what I put in my mouth.

By gon2pieces — On Oct 25, 2009

Why bother? Well, because I love chocolate, but I'm deathly allergic to it! Yes, to chocolate. I've had the allergy tests to prove it. Too many companies think that everyone has to have chocolate everything! You don't have any idea how much I would love to have it, too. OK, there's a taste difference. Do I have a choice? Not really. Chocolate candy is my favorite. Look at the candy shelves. Seems to be everybody's favorite. But, I simply can't have it. I'm also allergic to cinnamon. There goes another category of wonderful things to eat. Why bother? Because candy makers have decided not to make much else. What other choice do I have? Feel deprived or risk my health. Don't like either choice, so I vote for carob! Plain and simple.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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