I have no idea if she was right about French kids eating Nutella for breakfast, but I believed her at the time. And it felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. Before, I guess I'd never thought much about what the French ate for breakfast or what anyone from any other culture ate at all. I grew up in a small Arkansas town where chain restaurants reigned supreme (and still do), and back then, the Chinese buffet (which was loaded with American faves, like mac & cheese and ranch dressing) was about as cultured as dining could get. But that Nutella, man — it was as if I'd just learned some amazing new secret.
Of course, finding Nutella in Jonesboro grocery stores proved difficult until much later in my college years. So I wouldn't get a second taste for awhile. And after I went vegan, I remember thinking, "Damn, I guess Nutella is out." Thankfully, a number of vegan companies have developed vegan versions over the years. And the latest — and perhaps best — version comes from Endangered Species Chocolate. Three versions in fact! They sent me all three to sample and review.
If you're not familiar with Endangered Species Chocolate, you should be! They donate 10 percent of their net profits to species preservation and habitat conversation. Most (not all) of their chocolates are vegan. And they're recommended by the Food Empowerment Project, which means their chocolate is ethically sourced and slavery-free. They've been in the chocolate bar market for years, but the spreads are fairly new.
The Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa is the one that mimics Nutella, and it's a pretty spot-on comparison. It's rich and chocolately, smooth and creamy, with a hint of hazelnut. Think of the inside of a Ferrero Rocher truffle (surely, you ate those in your pre-vegan days, right?). I tried all three of these spreads on toast, and this one was definitely my fave. It was delightful paired with mashed raspberries on whole wheat toast.
I enjoyed that toast before a Saturday long run. Since the spreads arrived, I've learned that they make perfect pre-run fuel. I like to get the right combo of fat, wheat, and simple sugar to power me through a long run without getting hungry. And this did it for me!
Next up is the Almond Spread with Cocoa. This one tastes a bit like a chocolate almond butter, but it's sweeter and creamier. That's probably because the two main ingredients are cane sugar and vegetable oil. This isn't health food, but that's okay because sometimes, we just need into indulge. I spread this one on some toast with banana slices before another long run. Again, it powered me through about an hour and a half run. Look how the spread gets all melty on the warm toast. Mmmmm.
Then there's the Cocoa Spread. This one is just straight-up chocolate. It's sweet with a slight bitterness from the cocoa. Just the right balance. And while I prefer the other two over this one when eaten straight from the jar with a spoon (yes, I have been doing that), this cocoa spread makes the very best toast because you can totally make peanut butter cup toast! OMG! One tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter and one tablespoon of cocoa spread! YES!
Who need Nutella when you can have cruelty-free vegan chocolate spread that helps animals?