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What is Gianduja?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gianduja is a chocolate confection traditionally made with hazelnut paste and sweet chocolate, although a number of variations have been developed. It is also known as gianduia and some versions can be traced back to the 1800s. This confection is readily available in many parts of Italy and Switzerland and it is also exported to some regions of the world. Some of the finest gianduja comes from Swiss chocolatiers, chocolate professionals who take their confectionary very seriously.

Classically, gianduja includes a combination of sweet chocolate that may be milk or dark with hazelnut paste. Variations include versions made with hazelnut chunks or halves, as well as almonds and other nuts. Traditional versions have a very rich, creamy flavor whether they are made with milk or dark chocolate, along with the signature complex sweetness that can be seen in many European chocolates.

Some companies make a spreadable version of gianduja that can be used on toast, added to desserts, and used in a variety of other creative ways. Spreads are often available in grocery stores and they range from slightly bitter dark versions to rich, creamy, and very sweet varieties. Gianduja bars are available in bite sized pieces, as well as larger chocolate bars, and some have features like layers of chocolate and hazelnut cream. Ice cream confections may be gianduja flavored as well.

This chocolate specialty is especially closely associated with Piedmontese cuisine and in this region of Italy, a number of stores carry gianduja. Some offer chocolate tours, encouraging visitors to make their way through a series of stores and shops to taste different versions. Some of these versions are only available in Italy because they do not ship well and visitors who are interested in chocolate may also take advantage of the opportunity to taste other Italian chocolate specialties.

The combination of hazelnuts and chocolate is a very old one. Various tortes, tarts, and other chocolate delicacies often involve a blend of hazelnuts and chocolate or almonds and chocolate. In gianduja, the creamy sweetness of the chocolate offsets the creaminess of fat-rich hazelnuts for a dish with a very creamy, warm mouthfeel and a flavor that is very rich. A small piece of this chocolate confection can go a long way, as many tasters have discovered.

People interested in trying this delicacy can check with a local grocery or import store to see if any varieties are available. Some stores can make orders by special request as long as their distributors have access to the right importers.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By myharley — On Jan 07, 2012

The hardest part about making your own gianduja chocolate is making the hazelnut paste. If you can find this paste already made, then the rest of the process is fairly simple.

I have only tried making this one time, but felt the long process of making the hazelnuts into a paste was a lot of work.

If you like other nut butters that are easier to find, you might try substituting something like almond paste.

I know this is not the same as the real thing, but if you had no other options, it would give you an idea of what this delicious candy tastes like.

I have not tried this, but someone like my husband would prefer this anyway. He does not like the taste of hazelnuts, but likes to eat almonds every day.

Once you added the paste to the sweet chocolate you might not be able to tell much of a difference.

By andee — On Jan 06, 2012

@John57 - You are fortunate to have been able to taste gianduja chocolate from the source! When my daughter lived in Europe for a few years, she knew one of the best things she could bring home to me was some good European chocolate.

I would savor every bite and try to make it last as long as I could. Finding gianduja chocolate in the United States is not always easy, but I have found a few places where I can order it online.

Most of these companies either specialize in chocolate or unique specialty items from around the world. Whenever I feel like a special treat for myself or a good friend, this is always the perfect choice.

By John57 — On Jan 06, 2012

If you are a chocolate lover, you would love the taste of gianduja chocolate. I spent a summer in Italy, and this was the first time I had heard of this wonderful treat.

I spent a lot of my time in the capital city of Torino, and you have many opportunities to sample and buy chocolate here.

As you walk down many streets, even the aroma of the chocolate from many of the shops is enough to make your mouth start watering.

Many shops will give bite size samples for you to taste. One bite of gianduja chocolate and you know you can't leave without buying some to take home.

When I came back home, one thing I really missed was being able to easily find the best chocolate. Once you get a taste of the good stuff, many of the other kinds of chocolate I was used to just don't taste as good.

By SteamLouis — On Jan 06, 2012

@turkay1-- I tried gianduja chocolates when I was in Italy. It really is very good, especially with Italian espresso. I don't think it could be compared to Nutella, gianduja spread is even more rich and creamy than Nutella. If you had gianduja spread, I doubt you would ever even look at Nutella again. But it's super high in calories. I can't imagine keeping a jar of it at home as I would eat it all up and gain weight.

@turquoise- I have seen some pure hazelnut spread (without cocoa) at stores before. Do you think those could be used in place of gianduja paste?

By turquoise — On Jan 05, 2012

@turkay1-- I made gianduja many years ago and from what I remember, it is different than making other kinds of chocolate in several ways.

The first issue is that if you're going to make gianduja from scratch, including the hazelnut paste, then you will need some equipment like a rolling mill. Because the hazelnuts and sugar are run through this mill to make a paste and then the melted chocolate is added to this and put into molds to cool down and harden.

I do know that it's possible to buy the gianduja hazelnut and sugar paste ready-made which makes the whole process much easier but not many places will carry that. It might be necessary to have it imported.

When I made it more than ten years ago, I used the rolling mill at my school to make the paste and my teacher supervised the whole thing. I haven't tried making it since then. It's really delicious but does require some additional work.

By candyquilt — On Jan 05, 2012

I've never had gianduja despite being a huge chocolate fan and after reading this article, I feel like I've missed out on a lot!

A friend of mine is chocolatier and makes some exquisite chocolates for several gourmet chocolate shops. I've had her hazelnut creme dark chocolates before and loved them. I wonder if she would be able to make gianduja as well.

Are there any chocolatiers or Italian chocolate fans out there that know about making gianduja? Is it harder to make than regular chocolates?

I know this is kind of silly to ask, but is gianduja spread anything like Nutella? I'm sure gianduja is better quality, but if it's even similar to Nutella, I'm sure I'll love it.

I'm not sure where to get gianduja but if my friend can't make it, I'll probably try some of the Italian confectioneries in the city and hope they carry it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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