Nutritious Nut-Free Paleo Chocolate Protein Cups

Nutritious Nut-Free Paleo Chocolate Protein Cups

Nuts are Not a Healthy Snack Option for Everyone

Nuts seem to be the perfect healthy snack food. I remember the days when I tossed a dozen whole natural almonds in a snack-size zipper bag, tucked it away in my bulging purse and took off for the day. It was my hunger insurance policy. I had a healthy snack, no matter what, with no added sugars or gunk found in most protein bars.

Then, about 2 months after going gluten-free back in 2007, my nut allergy struck. I swear, I nearly shut down the Fresh Market when I sampled a new almond product at a demo table. It flung me right into a severe reaction.

The mystery of why, and when, food allergies and intolerance develop and manifest is anyone’s guess, but I suspect over-consumption played a role in my case. After I learned I could eat gluten no more, I turned to making my own almond, pecan and macadamia flours for baking. I’ll leave you to connect the dots about my over-consumption theory. ;)

Check out my article Food Allergy Testing and Diagnosis Basics for more on the path to diagnosis and the different types of allergies. 

So, that was the end of tree nuts for me. Peanut and soy reactions followed within a month. Since that time, I have happily lived in a gluten, dairy, soy, peanut and tree nut free world. No complaints here. I’m always eager to hear what my body has to say about how I’m treating her. Besides, there’s far more food that I can eat than the few foods I can’t.

However, there are times when it would be oh, so nice to toss a dozen almonds in a zipper bag and cram it down into the abyss that is my purse and dash out the door, worry-free. You understand.

Multiple Food Allergies can Limit Snack Choices & Variety

That’s why you’re not making suggestions like pumpkin and sunflower kernels or homemade granola bars, etc. I love pepitas and sun seeds and I can make a mean granola bar, but I tire of seeds only, and I really don’t eat a lot of added sugar, even when it’s honey or another so-called “healthy” sugar (don’t get me started, please).

If You’re Looking for a Candy Bar, Look Elsewhere

These are good for you and make a convenient snack if you’re avoiding sugar and need something to keep your blood sugar balanced between meals. If you are accustomed to eating sugary foods and candies, these will not taste sweet to you. If you do not eat sugar, or you only consume it occasionally in small amounts, you will taste the natural nutty sweetness in these cups.

A Little Sweet Talk

 I understand the cacao (or cocoa powder) may be too bitter for some. If you would like, feel free to add a sweetener of your choice. Have fun experimenting with your favorite sweetener and an appropriate amount of it. I’m not making suggestions on sweeteners, as I haven’t experimented. If you do, please leave a comment and share your results so others can benefit.

When adding sweetener to this recipe, keep in mind, sugar is sugar, regardless of form, and alternative sweeteners like stevia, as well as artificial sweeteners (which I hope you’re not using at all), “trick” the brain into expecting sugar to enter the body. If you’re breaking sugar addiction, or you need to regulate insulin release (we all really need to do this for optimal health), avoid those products, too.

I like Dr. Mark Hyman’s article, Confession of a Food Addictand what he says about sugar being an addictive drug. 

Either way – with or without added sweetness – I hope you’ll give these a try and add them to your healthy protein snack rotation!

For those on a paleo diet:

You may enjoy this as a nut-free, paleo friendly “sweet” treat or protein boost!

Nutritious Chocolate Protein Candies1_

Nutritious Nut-Free Paleo Chocolate Protein Cups

Nutritious Nut-Free Paleo Chocolate Protein Cups
Prep time
Total time
This recipe is free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts (coconut is NOT a nut; learn more here), eggs, grains (use grain-free vanilla extract), sugar.
Recipe type: Healthy Snack, Snack
  • ½ cup organic virgin coconut butter (This is NOT the same product as coconut oil; coconut butter is made from the meat of the coconut.)
  • ½ cup unsalted tahini (this is sesame seed butter)
  • ¼ cup organic raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup organic unsweetened dried coconut, finely grated
  • 1 Tablespoon organic raw cacao powder (you may sub unsweetened cocoa powder if you prefer)
  • Pinch of Maldon or other coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract(Use grain-free vanilla; or sub your normal gluten-free vanilla extract used in baking.)
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon organic ground ginger
  • Additional unsweetened organic coconut for sprinkling on top, optional
  • Additional Maldon or other coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top, optional (When I do this, I omit added salt in the candies or I find them too salty for my taste.)
  1. Combine all ingredients - EXCEPT additional coconut and additional salt - in your food processor.
  2. Process until mixture is very smooth (this takes a few minutes and a few time scraping down the sides of the processor).
  3. Once smooth, spoon the mixture into 18 mini paper muffin liners, diving evenly. (To make this easier, first place the mixture in a large pastry piping bag with a large open tip; alternatively, you can use a large zip-top bag in the same way by snipping off one bottom corner.)
  4. Top with additional coconut sprinkles or sea salt, as you desire.
  5. Chill about 30 minutes to firm up; store extras in the refrigerator, covered, up to 2 weeks.


  • I am not offering substitutions for ingredients here (i.e., coconut products) because the recipe was developed with a particular nutrient profile in mind. Thanks for understanding and feel free to have some fun making this recipe your own.
Gluten Free Gigi

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As someone with celiac disease and multiple food allergies, Gigi understands how food can harm or heal. Fully restoring her own health with diet alone after a 25-year health struggle, Gigi now uses her own experiences and the skills she gained as a former neuroscience researcher to share practical, easy-to-understand strategies, science-backed nutrition information, immediately useful tips and recipes to make gluten-free living liberating and positive for everyone!
  • sandy

    Hi, I would like to know how much protein is in each piece. Do you have the break down in nutrition on these, others might like to know how much carbs are in each. Thank you! These sound and look good!

    • glutenfreegigi

      Hi, Sandy.

      I do not provide nutritional profile for recipes here, as many individuals use different products (brands or substitutions) than I do, and also, some may be more/less heavy handed in preparing individual portions of foods. At the end of the day, I feel it best for each individual to do the calculations they are most interested in, it’s easy to do, just compile for entire recipe based on products you use, then simply divide by number of servings you create. :) Hope this helps!

    • glutenfreegigi

      Hi, Sandy.

      Check out my answer to this often-asked question on my FAQ page. :)

      Why don’t you offer nutritional information like calories per serving and fat content for your recipes?

      I do not supply nutritional information for my recipes for several reasons.

      1. The assessment I supplied would only be valid for the exact brand of ingredients I use. Not everyone has access to the same brands I do, and nutrient info does vary between brands.

      2. Readers often make ingredient substitutions in recipes, sometimes substituting multiple ingredients to suit their own dietary needs, tastes or to use ingredients they have on hand. While this is not usually a problem in terms of preparing a dish, it would most likely cause any nutritional information provided to be inaccurate.

      3. Calculating nutritional information for every recipe I share would be very time-consuming. Based on #1 and #2 above, that time investment would likely not be useful to most.

      For these reasons, and a few more, my time is better spent creating new content for you to enjoy here on the site, and in my other endeavors to help raise awareness of celiac disease and educate the gluten-free community. Thank you for understanding, and remember, you can calculate nutritional value yourself by tallying all nutrition amounts for each ingredient in a recipe, then dividing those totals by the number of servings you make from the dish.