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Crunchy Coconut Cacao Clusters

I’m always looking for easy snacks to carry with me on-the-go, whether it’s running errands or out on a hike.

Trail mix might be a classic for hiking snacks, but I often find the store bought versions have more dried fruit than I’d like (way too sweet for my taste). Plus, the dried fruit makes the nuts lose their crunchiness. No one likes soggy nuts.

Enter these crisp morsels which I’ve dubbed Crunchy Coconut Cacao Clusters.

Crunchy Coconut Cacao Clusters are a lightly sweet, teeny bit salty, incredibly crunchy snack that blows trail mix out of the water.

If you have my book, Real Food for Pregnancy, you may have made the Grain-free Granola recipe (if you haven’t, make it!). This recipe is somewhat similar, but I’ve changed out some ingredients, most notably adding in cacao nibs, which adds a nice chocolate note.

Cacao nibs are pieces of cacao beans (or cocoa beans; different spelling for the same thing) that have a bitter, chocolatey flavor and light, crunchy texture. Instead of adding chocolate chips to a trail mix or granola, you can use cacao nibs as a sugar-free alternative.

But, because cacao nibs are kind of bitter, incorporating them into a recipe that has a touch of sweetness — like the honey in Crunchy Coconut Cacao Clusters — helps balance it out.

This recipe also has some collagen powder to up the protein and provide beneficial amino acids for supporting your skin, joints, digestive health, and even uterine health.

Did you know that by the end of pregnancy, the uterus contains 800% MORE collagen than it did before you were pregnant? This is one of many reasons that incorporating collagen rich foods (and/or supplemental collagen) is supportive of your health in pregnancy. And, those benefits continue postpartum to optimize recovery as outlined in this post.

As a postpartum mama myself, I continue to regularly eat collagen-rich foods and I know that’s one of many reasons I’ve had such an easy recovery after baby #2.

The secret to the crunchy factor in this recipe is a low and slow roasting process at 250. That’s two hundred and fifty degrees. A low temperature is key to evaporating the moisture naturally present in nuts, but doing so without burning them and damaging their unsaturated fats.

A low temp means these need to bake for a while, so you’ll need to set aside 45 minutes and visit your oven a few times to turn the mixture and ensure the gooey honey evenly coats every morsel.

I promise you, the effort is worth it. Once you get these out of the oven, the honey will have caramelized and upon cooling and the mixture will have hardened into a crunchy sheet of sweet and salty goodness. After baking, the coconut flakes remind me of those expensive bags of coconut chips that are so popular, but these are even better because they’re studded with chocolatey cacao nibs.

Is your mouth watering yet?!

Crunchy Coconut Cacao Clusters

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 cups large coconut flakes
  • 3/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp collagen powder
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

  2. In a small bowl, combine honey and melted butter/coconut oil. If the honey is crystalized, you’ll want to warm it until it’s liquidy (this will help dissolve the collagen powder and salt).

  3. Add collagen powder, salt, and almond/vanilla extract (I prefer almond extract). Stir until fully combined.

  4. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet (or pyrex 9x13 inch pan) with parchment paper.

  5. Add cashews, coconut, and cacao nibs. Drizzle with honey mixture and stir to combine.

  6. Bake on the middle rack in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes (it will be sticky, so consider using a silicone spatula). The clusters are done when the honey is caramelized and the cashews are crisp. Taste test to make sure you’re happy before removing from the oven.

  7. Let cool completely, break into chunks, and store in an airtight container for snacking.

Recipe Notes

There are a million brands of collagen on the market. I continue to use this brand with great results (Amazon affiliate link).

This recipe is lightly sweet. If you want it sweeter, feel free to increase the amount of honey or sprinkle with your favorite sweetener of choice before baking (yes, stevia or erythritol works just fine).

For those who have digestive issues with nuts, consider using Crispy Cashews in place of raw cashews in the recipe.

I’ll be honest, when I first made this recipe, I ended up eating more than my fair share. It’s kind of addictive, but hey, if you’re gonna have something sweet, you may as well have it be packed with healthy fat and protein for better blood sugar balance (see this post for more on blood sugar and what I learned from wearing a continuous glucose monitor).

My recipe for Crunchy Coconut Cacao Clusters is open to interpretation, so feel free to swap in whatever nuts/seeds you like (almonds? Walnuts? hazelnuts?). Try different sweeteners (maple syrup would be good!). Try adding spices (cinnamon? ginger?).

Make it work for whatever your flavor preferences are and report back with your “recipe” in the comments below.

Happy baking!

Until next time,
Lily

PS – Like this recipe? Share it with your friends and family.

PPS – If you’re feeling extra kind, make a batch of this for a new mama friend. It makes a great one-handed snack that you can have nearby when baby decides they don’t want to be put down. Better yet, bring them this AND a meal! Lot of inspiration and 50+ postpartum recovery recipes can be found in this post.

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

4 Comments

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  1. This looks great! Glad to see more recipes from you 🙂

  2. Looks delicious! I’m just entering my second trimester and when I asked my doctor if I could Continue to take my collagen supplement, she said best not to because there is no research on the effects on baby. But I’ve read so many contradicting reports/ What are your thoughts on it?

    • I made this today and since I can’t make a recipe as is to save my life: subbed maple syrup for the honey, Lily’s chips for the cacao nibs and a walnut almond mix for the cashews. Turned out amazing.

      I also made your beanless chili and Shepard’s pie to freeze for postpartum! Hoping the clusters last until after the baby comes otherwise my husband can make the next batch 🙂 thank you for the amazing recipes!

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