[recipe!] Cocoa Halvah Spread

By: Rachel

Have you ever tried halvah? The word halvah is used in many different languages to describe a sweet confection, however the type I'm most familiar with is the sesame halvah that is popular in the middle east—a vegetarian (and often vegan) blend of sesame seeds, sweetener like sugar or honey, and possibly a mix-in (like chocolate or pistachios). My local market sells a halvah from Turkey that is one of my favorite treats.

Here's why I love halvah: It's candy, no doubt. But where most other sweets have few health benefits, this one happens to be full of good-for-you nutrients, particularly for young vegetarians (and not-so-young vegheads too). The sesame seeds that comprise sesame halvah are nutrition powerhouses, with just two tablespoons packing 3 grams of protein, 176 mg of calcium (14% of your daily need), and 2.62 mg of iron (17% of your daily need) for only 100 calories. Halvah is also, thanks to the protein and fiber provided by the sesame seeds, a much more satisfying snack than many other sweets out there. If you're going to have a treat, halvah is one smart way to go.

I was thinking about what nutrition superstars sesame seeds are, and how most people don't know how to add them to their diets outside of the occasional sesame bagel (which, let's be real, doesn't count for much). Personally, I love tahini—the paste made from ground sesame seeds—and mix it into oatmeal, smoothies, and more. But not everyone is a fan of the flavor.

Enter my cocoa halvah spread. I combined a few simple ingredients to turn these sesame superseeds into a chocolate-y topping that would taste great on toast, as a dip for carrot sticks, or mixed into oatmeal. The recipe is forgiving and can be altered to your taste and what you have on hand. Here's how I did it:

 

Cocoa Halvah Spread

1 cup sesame seeds (I used black seeds, white work well too)

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water (more as needed)

 

Gently toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat; toss until seeds become aromatic (be careful they don't burn!). Place seeds in a food processor along with the remaining ingredients and run until crumbly. Add cocoa powder and salt, and combine. While machine is running, slowly add honey, vanilla extract, and water. Run the food processor until it's thoroughly combined and smooth; it should be the consistency of an easily spreadable peanut butter. Try not to eat it all with a spoon.

 How pretty are these seeds?! Toasting releases the oils and makes the flavor pop even more.

How pretty are these seeds?! Toasting releases the oils and makes the flavor pop even more.

Let us know what you think! How else do you like to eat sesame seeds?