Secret Ingredient Frozen Hot Chocolate

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When I was in high school, the cool thing to do at lunch was eschew the basement cafeteria (obvi), leave the grounds altogether, and go to the local coffee shop. This made us feel like “adults” or something, sitting on plush velvet sofas, gossiping about so-and-so’s new haircut, and whose older brother we’d make out with while sipping a beverage that cost at least an hour’s worth of babysitting. Of course none of us really liked coffee, so we would blow our money on Italian sodas, fruity teas, and smoothies. When the warmer months rolled around, sandwich boards everywhere would announce that our very favourite, coffee-free drink was back in town: the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Now, if you have never lived in North America, the name and entire concept of this beverage I’m sure eludes you. Isn’t it an oxymoron, frozen hot chocolate? Yes, I suppose it is, but then I also suppose that is the point – to confuse you enough that you want to buy one. There is a famous restaurant in New York City that first came up with this drink, and although I’ve never had the original, plenty of franchised cafes have made their own versions of what it essentially, a frothy chocolate milkshake.

In the past few weeks the weather here in Copenhagen has warmed up and I’ve finally been in the mood for cool, blended drinks again. But instead of using frozen bananas and other blood sugar-spiking fruits, I’ve been experimenting more and more with frozen veggies instead. The results are surprisingly delicious and I’m thrilled to have a few new veg-centric smoothies on lock. This is just one of them.

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The surprise ingredient in my frozen hot chocolate is…wait for it…cauliflower. Now this may sound totally weird, but please trust me, it’s delicious. Not even in a compromising way. The first sips are pure chocolate paradise, followed by a slight cruciferous waft, which then disappears again, conveniently, for those of us who perhaps don’t like vegetables at all (I’m looking specifically at my three-year-old son right now). All in all, this is one frosty, chocolate-y miracle of a drink for summer and I’m making it every morning to celebrate liquid vegetables tasting like candy.

Cauliflower Power
Did you know that a cauliflower is actually a little head of thousands of compact flowers? Call me a hippie, but I like the idea of mowing down on a meadow. It makes me smile. Cauliflowers are white because they do not contain any carotene, the pigment found in things like carrots and broccoli, but what it lacks in vitamin A, it makes up for in potassium, folic acid, and vitamin C. And it may surprise you to learn that cauliflower is 25% protein and among the cancer-fighting cruciferous family that includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale.

Since this recipe calls for frozen cauliflower, I know some of you will be wondering if that changes the nutritional content in any way. I’m happy to report that a recent study done on the freezing of cauliflower has shown its nutrients to be fairly stable after one-year freezer storage. Cauliflower in the study was blanched in near-boiling water for three minutes prior to freezing for one year. Numerous phytonutrients were evaluated in the study, including cauliflower’s sulfur-containing compounds. While nutrients levels were typically reduced after this year of freezer storage, loss of nutrients averaged about 15-35%. Although I always recommend eating fresh vegetables, there are some (fun!) applications that benefit from using the freezer. And it’s great to know that it doesn’t pose too much a treat to those precious nutrients. Plus, frozen veggies (and fruits) can be lower cost, especially when the fresh version is out of season. If you’re on a budget, frozen produce is a respectable way to get your plants in!

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The important part of this recipe is that you use frozen cauliflower, either purchased that way, or a head of cauliflower prepared ahead of time – washed, chopped into florets and frozen overnight. Similarly to how a frozen banana behaves in a blender, cauliflower too takes on a creamy-frothy consistency that works extremely well in this context. I also like to freeze the milk into cubes since this helps to keep the drink very cold and light. Dates sweeten the mixture, and you can scale these up or down depending on how hardcore you are. The cacao powder I’ve used is raw, but you can also use regular cocoa powder in a pinch, or if you’re on a budget.

This recipe is a mere 4 ingredients, but if you feel like gettin’ fancy, by all means top that frozen hot chocolate with coconut cream (from a can of coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight) and some cacao nibs. You can also add some ingredients to the blend itself, like a handful of soaked cashews for extra richness, a scoop of protein powder (I like sprouted pea, sprouted brown rice or hemp), vanilla, or even fresh greens (spinach is very good at hiding in this too).
The point of all this is to have fun and enjoy something that tastes like it’s pretty indulgent, but secretly good for you.

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Secret Ingredient Frozen Hot Chocolate
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
2 cups / 250g frozen cauliflower florets
1/3 cup / 100g pitted dates
6 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
approx. 1 ½ cups / 350ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
handful of ice cubes (made from either plant-milk ice or water)

Optional ingredients:
Pinch of vanilla powder
coconut cream (from the top of a can of coconut milk)
cacao nibs
handful soaked cashews
protein powder

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary (mixture should be relatively thick).

2. Top with coconut cream and cacao nibs, if desired. Enjoy immediately.

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91 comments

  1. Louise Skadhauge

    Wow! that sounds like an absolute amazing idea!! I also feel that dates really are – just like bananas – blood sugar-spiking, don’t you have that same effect? I’m definitely gonna try this anyway 🙂 thanks a lot for the original idea 🙂

  2. Christine H

    Sarah, this is likely something I *should* know but don’t. Is *cacao* powder the same as *cocoa* powder that one gets here in the U.S.? Or is it something different?

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  4. Eliza

    I absolutely love cauliflower but not in my “milk”shake. It is as simple as that. Tried the recipe yesterday and could only bear to drink a few sips. Will stick to savory recipes with cauliflower.

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  6. JM

    This looks delicious, i am wondering though if it has many calories. I will try it nevertheless, thanks for the recipe 🙂

  7. Terri

    Amazing!! Enjoying this while I write this comment. I will say it again—I love your recipes! Your two books are on my counter and I use them every day. Thank you!

  8. Julia

    Great idea and recipe. Sorry to be a bore, but in the inteeest of scientific accuracy – cauliflower cannot have 25% protein content. Well, maybe if it is dehydrated… Most sites list about 2%.

  9. emily

    I made this as posted (but with cocoa powder instead of raw cocao) and it had a strong cauliflower taste. My 2 year wouldn’t eat it, unfortunately, though that’s not unheard of for a 2 year old. But it seemed to get stronger as you drank it. If you’re looking for a more traditional tasting chocolate flavor — I would skip this recipe.

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  13. Instimg

    This is the first time I’ve heard about use cauliflower for hot chocolate 😮 Gonna try it, I really like trying new things 😀 Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  14. Sylvia

    Sneaking cauliflower into a chocolate milkshake… you mischievous little imp. I didn’t think this blog could get any more innovative. I’ve been reading my new roots since 2012, you’re the best Sarah B!

  15. Jenny

    Thank you so much for all your inspiring recipes. Your blog changed my relationship to food and my health! I am sooooo very grateful for you. Sending lots of good vibes your way…because you do so much for so many people. In food bliss, thanks again!

  16. Susanne

    Hi Sarah,
    wow, this recipe is fantastic. I had to share it on my newish blog, not as beautifully shot as your mouthwatering pictures though, but I hope for improvement in that area. Anyhow, you can read a little praise to you on my site if you like. I am so greatful that I discovered your blog years ago and so far followed it silently. It opened my eyes and I am now building up a freelance career as nutritionist. Thank you for so much for all your inspiration. That had to be said once :-).
    Love, Susanne

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  18. Mary

    What an innovation! There’s always so many different ways to get more out of your recipes, making them more healthful, without compromising flavour, texture, or presentation. Its all about understanding the basics of taste and each food’s properties. Anyone can learn, and benefit from insights like this! Thanks very much for sharing!

  19. maya

    made a half amount with 1tbsp maple syrup, added a tablespoon of peanut butter (sorry. i know you hate it. but i can’t. i LOVE it) for extra creaminess and a dash of vanilla and salt. superb! (oh and i just used fridge cold cauli. i’m a rebel like that 🙂

  20. Beverly

    I soaked the dates in water for 30 minutes before using them because they have been in my pantry a long time and were very hard. If you don’t have a good blender or if you have old dates this will help! My frozen hot chocolate didn’t come out sweet enough for my taste, next time I will weigh the dates instead of measuring out 1/3 cup to make sure I am putting enough in. Thanks for the recipe! This was fun to make and to drink!

  21. Theresa

    I just made this and offered my husband a sip -h is eyes grew big and he wanted one for himself but “a much bigger one” 🙂 The taste is amazing, the texture to, unfortunately it made me terribly bloated 🙁

  22. Marilou

    According to the University of Sydney GI database, the glycemic index of bananas is around 50, with a glycemic load of 13 (the latter index is probably more relevant than the GI alone). Dates vary between a GI of 31-50, for a glycemic load of between 15-22. So I’m guessing that replacing the dates in the recipe with bananas would not be any more harmful as far as the possible effect on blood sugar.

  23. Marilou

    According to the University of Sydney database on GI, bananas also have a low GI and a low Glycemic load as well.

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  25. Emily

    Hi Sarah,

    I just made this for a mid-day snack and it turned out fantastic. I split the recipe for about one serving and I used only 1 large date since I don’t like very sweet drinks. I topped it with some raw cacao nibs and coconut and it’s delicious. Frozen cauliflower is a great way to get more veggies in! I also use frozen zucchini in smoothies and it has a similar effect.

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    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Lauren,

      Although I know it’s important for certain people to know the breakdown of recipes, I don’t actually post them because I am trying to steer my audience away from focusing on this. Every ingredient in my recipes is health-supportive and I make sure that ingredients are always well-balanced, so that those making the recipes at home don’t have to worry about counting calories, protein, carbs or fat! So, if you are someone that is very curious, you can type all the ingredients into an online calculator to get your answer 🙂 Good luck and happy blending!

      xo, Sarah B

  27. Marion

    Sounds great, I love using vegetables in sweet desserts. Just wondering, however, if the 50g of dates don’t sort of negate the advantage of not using blood sugar spiking fruits in this smoothie!?

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Marion,

      Dates are surprisingly NOT a high-glycemic food. 60g of dates scores a 42 on the GI scale, meaning it is classified as low-glycemic. Rejoice!

      xo, Sarah B

  28. Jessie Snyder

    Ah-mazing, Sarah! I need to give cauliflower another go. I was loving it in my smoothies a while back, so luscious and creamy! Ps. That pink background?! Swoon. Everything you do just emanates joy, XX.

    • Sarah Britton

      Hey girl!

      You are not going to BELIEVE this, but that background was totally photoshopped! Those 4 years of art school really paid off 😉 Bahaha!
      Hope you get back on the cauli-smoothie wagon with me. Big love, always,

      Sarah B

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  30. Christine

    I tried this today with some minor adjustments and it was great! Couldn’t even really detect the cauliflower. I’ll be sure to keep some frozen cauliflower handy. Thanks for the great idea!

  31. Jen @ sweetgreenkitchen

    I love this! I don’t love bananas in smoothies, although my kids and husband love them! I find everything just tastes like banana, so I’m definitely on board with trying out frozen cauliflower to give me that creaminess without adding flavor or extra sweetness. I’ll probably reduce the number of dates and maybe add in some mushroom powders since I’m trying to get those superfoods in. Yum, adding frozen cauliflower to my shopping list now.

  32. Carina

    Great idea blending cauliflower with chocolate. Will certainly try this recipe but I would adjust the amount of dates. 1 date is about 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar. That is a lot of sugar!

  33. Emilie

    I love the idea of blending veggies and turning them into a chocolate smoothie. My concern nontheless: You are skipping the banana (as you call it “sugar spiking fruit”) but then add quite a lot of dates instead. Is this any better? I would prefer the banana, to be honest (more fibre, less fructose) and get my veggie-serving elsewhere. What’s your opinion on that?
    P.S.: Blending zucchinis with cacao tastes pretty good as well and you don’t have to cover up that much of strange veggie flavour.

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Emilie,

      You can of course replace or reduce the amount of dates, but dates are surprisingly NOT a high-glycemic food. 60g of dates scores a 42 on the GI scale, meaning it is classified as low-glycemic. Rejoice!

      xo, Sarah B

  34. Dana

    I love using frozen cauliflower in my smoothies. It’s such a great nutrient boost. I love the idea of using it in a frozen hot chocolate! (btw, I’m currently raiding the frozen veg aisle of my grocery store for smoothie ingredients. loving beets, sweet potato and others are up next)

  35. Ferment4Life

    The restaurant in NYC that you are referring to is Serendipity 3. It opened in 1954 and was unique for a long time. I used to go there as a teenager in the late 60s. I loved the restaurant and the frozen hot chocolate back then. It was a lot of fun! I even had my Sweet Sixteen Party there (an intimate affair with my best friends). I haven’t been there in over 45 years, as I’ve lived in Nova Scotia for the past 31. Just Googled it and it’s still there!

    Sarah, shouldn’t the cauliflower be blanched to neutralize the oxalic acid, as with all crucifers?

    • Jackskel

      Cruciferous vegetables don’t have high amounts of oxalic acid/oxalate. Other greens such as spinach and beets greens do, however

    • Sarah Britton

      Hello there!

      Yes, I know about Serendipity, but it’s not the kind of place I would ever recommend! Sounds like you had a fun time as a kid 🙂

      And the oxalic acid content of cauliflower is relatively low, compared to spinach, beet greens, almonds and cashews. But if it’s a real concern for you, by all means, blanch away!

      Hope that helps,
      Sarah B

  36. Jenna

    I love this idea, but I’ve heard dates are a high GI food too, maybe worse than bananas. Did I get this wrong? Either way, I’ll look forward to trying this out. 🙂

      • Sarah Britton

        Hello ladies!

        Dates are surprisingly NOT a high-glycemic food. 60g of dates scores a 42 on the GI scale, meaning it is classified as low-glycemic. Rejoice!

        xo, Sarah B

      • Kristin

        I think there is only a partial picture being painted here.
        This article from Harvard explains that glycemic LOAD is a more accurate measurement of how foods affect your blood sugar and insulin release (instead of glycemic index– because it matters how much you eat in a serving)- dates are definitely worse than bananas.
        I think it’s great to post recipes that contain more veggies but let’s not paint bananas as a problem and then laud dates as a health food when dates have more sugar and a higher glycemic load. (Bananas glycemic load=11, dates =18.)

        http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Jenna,

      You did get it wrong…but most people do 🙂 Dates are actually low-glycemic! So enjoy!
      If you’re still concerned, use stevia instead.

      xo, Sarah B

  37. Alison

    I love your recipes! I have been thinking though, why take out the sweet blueberries, bananas or other fruits, and add dates? Dates are so high in sugar, is there another exchange that makes this healthier?

  38. Alison Walsh

    I love your recipes! I have been thinking though, why take out the sweet blueberries, bananas or other fruits, and add dates? Dates are so high in sugar, is there another exchange that makes this healthier?

  39. Gemma

    This looks so divine! As a chocoholic it’s a great surprise to find secretly healthy chocolate recipes, it looks luscious but it’s made with cauliflower, so cool! =)

  40. Buffy 💗 @begoodorganics

    Delish Sarah! I’ve been using cauliflower in smoothie and sweet recipes the past few months too – as well as parsnip, cucumber and beetroot. They’re amazing. And add natural sweetness. Esp good when you’re wanting to add all sorts of other goodies aka our beloved CHOC O LATE.

    Your retreats sound amazing too – come to NZ sometime we have some fab retreaty spots (and then I could come!). But seriously, on the cards?

    x Buffy
    http://www.begoodorganics.com

    • Sarah Britton

      Hey Buffy!

      You’re an old pro at this then! Hahaa…I am jus discovering the veggies-in-smoothies thing. Funny how you can get in such a habit with your food, eh? I am loving this new discovery!

      And I hope to get to your part of the world someday. I’ll keep you posted.

      Love, Sarah B

  41. Jessika

    Do you have to boil the cauliflower before freezing it? It sounds like a fantastic way to use veggies! 👍

    • Aim

      “The important part of this recipe is that you use frozen cauliflower, either purchased that way, or a head of cauliflower prepared ahead of time – washed, chopped into florets and frozen overnight.”

      I think you just use it raw:~}

    • CSJ

      I think she meant raw!! Boiling it would produce a pretty awful stink and take away the crunchy frozen texture and lots of the nutrients 😉

  42. Hannah

    Yes!! I am so excited to try this. I would love to see some more of your veg-centric smoothies. I’ve been enjoying a good green smoothie now that it’s finally warming up in Seattle, but getting off that banana train isn’t easy. Keep them coming, please!

  43. Stef

    Hi Sarah, i just tried this miraculous recipe it is creamy and very tasty , love it 😍😍
    Thank you so much !!!!
    Stef

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