Cacao Hemp Crispy Treats

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So the big move-in happened, but we are far from moved in. I am writing this from my dirty dining room table, watching and listening to a collection of relative strangers drill, saw, spackle, sand, stain, and paint around me, like a tornado of humans in tool belts. Drywall dust dances in the shafts of light pouring into our new space, as I try to ignore the deafening screech from a floor sander behind a paper-thin plastic partition a few feet away from my head. Ahhh…home renovation. I could go on about the frustrations of living in a construction site, how my filth-tolerance has reached unthinkable heights, and how if I hear someone tell me that it should all be complete in “two more weeks” I may collapse, but I know that whenever it is done, it will all be worth it. Really and truly.

I made these Cacao Hemp Crispy Treats a few days before we relocated from our rental to our home, knowing that I would need to have a stockpile of snacks that didn’t require refrigeration, or even cutting, since we would be living without electricity, and I had no idea where to locate a knife in the unpacked boxes stacked high in the basement. Since then, I’ve thanked myself every time I’ve sunken my teeth into each chewy-crunchy-sticky bite, the cacao releasing its relaxation-inducing alkaloids and minerals into my frazzled bloodstream, the hemp seeds delivering their much-needed anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and the nut butter grounding my nerves with all its protein and healthy fat. In these uncertain times, I’ve been certain that a delicious snack was ready to satisfy me at the drop of a hammer.

My original inspiration for these bars came from my fellow Canadian health-food blogger and vegan recipe guru Angela Liddon, of Oh She Glows fame. Her Almond Butter Crisp Rice Treats were a fun Sunday afternoon snack project for my four-year old son and I, and since then I’ve been making many variations of them. My goal was to add more protein, healthy fats and filling fiber to the bars, so I tossed in heaps of hemp and chia seeds until I found the right balance. Losing their chewy-crisp goodness would have been a real shame, since it’s the texture of these treats that is so very crave-able! So I tinkered a few times, and found the exact right amount that maintained the satisfying chew. I also wanted to add chocolate. Because chocolate.

After nailing the additions, I knew that top needed some flair: not just visually, but something to cut the richness a tad. I had some freeze-dried raspberries kicking around my pantry that I had bought on a whim in the US some months back, and immediately knew that they would be the perfect supplement with their vibrant pink hue and bright acidity. Bingo! Freeze-dried fruit (and vegetables) have been popping up all over the place lately, since they taste incredible, have a long shelf life, and are a nutritiously convenient way of getting another serving of produce a day, especially for kids. However, if you can’t find freeze-dried raspberries, or any substitute for that matter, you can easily replace them in this recipe with more traditional dried fruit like goji berries, roughly chopped figs, apricots, or even raisins. You could also top the bars with toasted nuts or seeds, coconut or cacao nibs. Think of these as a blank canvas for your favourite add-on flavours and textures, or keep it as simple as you like. The bars are also delicious as is, and if you’re into a dark and rich flavour above all else, simply leave the toppings off. But do not under any circumstance skip the flaky salt – it is key. 

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Hemp hemp, hooray!
Since being back in the homeland and trying to buy as much locally-produced food as possible, I’ve been loving on hemp seeds lately – even more than usual! Because of their mild, nutty flavor, they blend so effortlessly with just about any food, sweet or savory. And what they lack in flavor, they make up for in protein and healthy fats, specifically those essential Omegas. We’ve all heard about Omega-3s and how important they are for the health of our entire body, helping to prevent cancer asthma, depression, obesity, diabetes and so on. But! There is another star on the block, Omega-6, which seems to be less talked about due to the fact that many of us get enough (or in some cases, too much) of this essential fatty acid.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fasts are essential, meaning that our bodies don’t produce them and we need to obtain them from the foods we eat. Sources of Omega-3 fats include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia, dark leafy greens, some sea vegetables and cold-water fish. Omega-6 sources include soybean, canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, and sesame oils. You can see from this list that most people in the Western world at least, are getting their fair share of Omega-6 fats, and lacking in Omega-3s. In fact, in North America it is estimated that the population consumes 10 to 20 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3, due to the popularity of processed foods. Although the correct ratio of these fats is still a matter of debate, researchers in this field agree that this ratio is far too high. We should be aiming for an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio between 2:1 and 4:1.

So why is the balance so important? Because the ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s helps determine the flexibility of our cell membranes, meaning that ALL communication throughout the body depends on at least in part on this balance being correct. Coronary heart disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, and healthy genetic processes have all been linked to the delicate equilibrium of essential fatty acids.

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How can we improve the situation then? Just making simple, small changes to our diets will greatly improve the balance of fats in our bodies. Instead of relying solely on foods high in Omega-6s like peanut butter and foods made with vegetable oils (like corn, sunflower and soybean oil) swap them with foods high in Omega-3s like walnut butter and flaxseed oil, and sprinkle chia seeds on your breakfast bowl or a salad. For omnivores replacing chicken, beef and pork with wild-caught, cold water fish will make a big difference too.

But the most ideal food to choose when trying to achieve that perfect balance of these fats then, is hemp! Hemp’s Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is a healthy 3.75:1. You can find hemp in many forms these days: un-hulled and hulled seeds (also known as hemp hearts), hemp oil, hemp flour, hemp protein powder, hemp milk, and hemp seed butter. Remember that choosing hemp in its most natural form (the un-hulled or hulled hemp seeds) is your best bet to ensure a high-quality, whole food product.

I like to sprinkle hemp seeds on just about everything, from my breakfast porridge to my salads and sandwiches. They add an amazing creaminess to smoothies, raw custards and cheesecakes. You can even make your own milk from hemp and you don’t even need to soak the seeds first! Simply blend 1 part hulled hemp seeds to just under four parts water, with an optional sweetener like maple syrup, dates, or honey, and enjoy. Simple and delicious. You can get the full hemp milk recipe here.

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The last thing I want to mention is the crisp brown rice. There are a few types of it on the market, and one reason I’m happy to be back in Canada, is because they have the right kind. By that I mean really crispy rice crisps. For whatever reason, the ones I found in Europe would always get soggy very quickly, whereas the ones here maintain their crunch even after combining them with wet ingredients like maple syrup and brown rice syrup. I’ve also found high-vibe sprouted brown rice crisps over here from a company called One Degree (not sponsored). They work really well too, but cost a fortune. I alternate between those, and the ones I’ve found at my local bulk food store that aren’t sprouted or even organic, but they get the job done when I’m renovating a house and feeling strapped for cash. You may need to experiment with a couple kinds before finding “the one”. In the end, the bars should be relatively crunchy-crisp – not mushy at all (even though they will still be delicious).

If you like Rice Crispy Treats, you’re going to love these bars. They’re the grown-up version of your favourite childhood treat, with a mega boost of nourishing superfoods. It’s an indulgence you can feel good about feeding both you and your family…but I won’t tell anyone if you hide them and eat them all yourself. I’ve definitely never done that before. Nope. Never.

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Show my your bars on Instagram: #cacaohempcrispytreats

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Hey Toronto! I’ve just launched my first collaborative project since moving back to Canada, with my friends at ELXR Juice Lab: the Activated Power Bowl! This delicious breakfast (or snack!) is made lovingly with activated grains, superfood stir-ins, and tasty toppings. There are three mouthwatering varieties to choose from, or you can build your own bowl. I am so thrilled to offer my fellow Torontonians a vegan, gluten-free, whole food breakfast with activated grains – this is truly the first of its kind! The Activated Power Bowl is available at all four ELXR locations across the city, so if you’re in town go pick one up and enjoy. We had a very successful launch over the weekend – huge thanks to everyone who came out to taste and support!

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56 comments

  1. Tyler Read

    Wow! A delicious high protein snack, packed with healthy fats, that you can take practically anywhere with you. This is exactly what I needed for myself as well as to recommend to my personal training clients. Thanks!

  2. Besma

    I used to love these in my childhood, and these are like a healthier, grown-up version! I can’t wait to try them.

    Besma | Curiously Conscious

    • Sarah Britton

      Hello Annie,

      Great question…chia gets absorbed, but flax will pass through the body unless ground. It makes good poop, but that’s about it! Haha…

      Smiles,
      Sarah B

  3. Annette

    These are so yummy! I replaced the brown rice syrup with coconut nectar and they came out perfect and so yummy!

  4. federica

    I made it over the weekend and love it! I reduced the amount of brown rice syrup to a little less than 1/2 cup, keeping everything else the same: super delish!

  5. Codrut Turcanu

    hey Sarah, I love the way these look in the pic. I assume they taste at least as good as they’re showing up 🙂

    Congrats for your 300k+ Instagram followers, great job!

    • Sarah Britton

      Hey Codrut…they taste ever BETTER! Haha…no joke 😉 I hope you get to try them.

      And thanks very much. I’m forever humbled by my amazing readers!

      All the best,
      Sarah B

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Cassie,

      Unfortunately not, as the rice syrup is a totally different viscosity that holds the bars together. You can try creamed honey, but I cannot guarantee the results.

      Good luck!
      Sarah B

  6. Joanne Richards

    Hi Sarah, I normally wouldn’t ask for a substitute but I just used up all my coconut oil making your Banana bread granola (from your Amsterdam workshop 😉 and I bought the ingredients for this and the shops are closed (as it’s Easter!) so was wondering any chance of anything else? Butter maybe…?!

  7. Anna

    Sarah you have totally inspired me. I am going to attempt at making each and every recipe that you have created. Thank you!!

  8. Cari

    Hi Sarah,
    These look so fab but I am concerned about how high in sugar they seem. How did your son do on these? Was it a major sugar rush for him? I feel like my son would obsess over these and want to eat one million in one go. I have heard you talk before about how health conscious you are with feeding your son and I would love to hear what you feed him day to day and if you have any tips on getting him to eat enough veggies etc. My son is a pretty decent eater overall but definitely has veggie defiant moments. Thanks so much for sharing all the delish foods you do!

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Cari,

      My son does totally fine on these, but I cut them into pretty small two-bite pieces for him (instead of the full-size for mummy! 😉 And he doesn’t actually have them every day. I keep them in the freezer and they’re more of a special treat.

      And on the day-to-day, his diet is simple but healthy. We have porridge for breakfast, sometimes with some fruit, hummus or nut butter sandwiches for lunches with cucumber, fresh and dried fruit, Life-Changing Crackers etc., often a veggie-packed smoothie for after school snack (peas, avo, cucumber, spinach with a banana or pear for sweetness) and dinners are quinoa and lentils, pureed veggie soup, socca, legume pasta, eggs, and some raw chopped veggies on the side. It’s limiting since he’s four and going through a very picky phase, but we keep putting green things on his plate and somedays he bites! Hang in there and try and hide as much as you can in whatever you can! I think the most important thing is to keep them away from processed stuff as much as possible, and not obsess beyond that. When I compare my son’s diet to what I ate growing up (and turned out ok) I remember NOT to freak out every time he passes on the broccoli. Hope that helps…

      xoxo, Sarah B

  9. Sara

    Some people asked for subs for brown rice syrup- it’s a tough one to sub for (agave won’t work) because you need something very sticky and thick to sub for the marshmallows in the original Rice Krispie treats.

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Sara,

      Exactly – that’s what we’re replacing. I’ve mentioned it in the comments below that creamed honey could work, but I can’t promise the same results. Have you tried anything different?

      Best,
      Sarah B

      • Jennifer L.

        Someone mentioned above that coconut nectar worked great. It has a lower GI so even better when mixing sugars and simple carbs.

  10. Jenine

    Nutrition info please??? And sub for brown rice syrup? Never bought/used it, and have just read up on it….devoid of nutrients and very high glycemic index….Thanks!

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Jenine,

      Brown rice syrup is important here for binding – it’s special consistency is thick and viscous and helps hold everything together. And this sweetener is basically pure glucose – fine for metabolism, but like any sweet of course, still a special treat 😉 I wouldn’t eat it every day! You can try using creamed honey instead, but I cannot guarantee the results.

      Hope that helps!
      xo, Sarah B

  11. Olga

    I think the brown rice crisps here in Australia are on steroids, I only added half the amount with some activated buckwheat and hemp seeds. These are next level delicious… seriously you cannot stop at one. I added a little extra chocolate layer to the top too!

    • Sarah Britton

      Mmmm! That sounds great Olga! I love the idea of activated buckwheat too. Did you soak and dehydrate them yourself, or is that a commercially available product in Oz?
      Glad you’re enjoying them that much!
      xo, Sarah B

  12. Den

    These look incredible! I’m going through your second book like crazy and plan to get the first. 🙂

    I’m having a hard time finding the puffed brown rice. Do you have an suggestions?

  13. Sahar Gerstel

    Hi Sarah! Any recommendations for what to use instead of the rice syrup?? I never cooked with it so feel like it will be a purchase for one-time use…
    Thanks! x

    • Sarah Britton

      Hello Sahar,

      Unfortunately there is no sub for the rice syrup – it’s incredibly thick and viscous, which is how the bars are held together. You could try the thick kind of creamed honey, but I can’t guarantee the results will stick…but they WILL be delicious!

      Hope that helps,
      Sarah B

      • Annette

        Hi there
        What about using coconut nectar? That is also VERY thick and viscous….

  14. Natalie

    Happy new house! XD
    I did fall in love with the picture having the stirring chocolate, I’m really hungry nowww
    Wish I could have it for breakfast <3

  15. Lydia Ashman

    These look amazing! I like that they can be kept outside the fridge. Too expensive for me to make at this moment, since 6 of the ingredients I do not have. Do you think that agave syrup would be an okay sub for both maple & brown rice syrup?

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Lydia,

      Yes, they totally keep outside the fridge – I just like the texture of them when they’re cold! And no real sub for brown rice syrup since it’s the viscosity of it that really holds the ingredients together. Hope that helps!

      xo, Sarah B

  16. Lori

    Reading this, I was all ready to mix up a batch for a care package. Then I read the refrigeration requirements. Have you tried holding them at room temperature or do you think they would stay at room temperature for a few days in the mail?

    • Sarah Britton

      Hey Lori,

      Yes, they hold together just fine outside of the fridge, I just like them best when they’re cold and firm. I’m sure they’d ship okay…what an idea! Haha. Good luck and enjoy!

      xo, Sarah B

  17. silvia

    As per usual the queen of perfect treats!
    I still make even your first recipes after so many years. And I keep enjoying them all!
    Thanks! xx Silvia

  18. Julia

    Whoa! These sound delicious. I do love the classic Rice Krispie Square and found the secret to making them extra tasty was being generous with the salt and vanilla, so I bet the flaky salt makes all the difference.

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