Chocolate Walnut and Maca Energy Bites

by Gena on October 14, 2012


Raw snack bites, made of dates, nuts, and seeds that I’ve ground together in a food processor, often along with spices or superfood ingredients, are a standard part of my weekly student food rotation. They’re easy to make, portable, tasty, fun to flavor, and they save me money on the raw snack bars and energy bites that are so seductive in health food stores. I’m really trying to purchase less snack fare lately, and DIY more often; it’s one thing to buy produce and healthful, quality ingredients, but quite another to spend money on things I know I could make (more often to my liking) at home.

This week’s raw snack/treat came together without too much thinking. I’m running a bit low on nuts and seeds (I’ll need to restock soon), so I took a quick survey of what I had: the remainder of a bag of walnuts (recently used for my creamy walnut and orange dressing) and some hemp seeds. I also had a bag of maca, sent to me recently from my generous friends at Navitas Naturals.


I’ve chatted with you all about maca before, so I need not belabor my take on the health claims. Though I can’t say I believe all of the maca-related hype (better sex drive! perfect hormone balance! more energy!), I can say that the studies on maca, while neither numerous nor conclusive, indicate that it may influence hormone balance positively. Maca is also a source of phytonutrients and some amino acids, and a lot of people simply enjoy it for its taste, which I’d classify as a little sweet and nutty.

It took me ages to warm up to maca, and to this day, I can’t overdue it without finding the flavor off-putting. I do, however, really enjoy it in small amounts, and my favorite way to consume it is not in smoothies (which is the easiest and most obvious way to eat it), but with or in chocolate. When I realized that I had both maca and chocolate aplenty, this little snack recipe came together effortlessly.


Chocolate, Walnut, and Maca Energy Bites (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free)

Makes about 18 balls

3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup hemp seeds
6-8 pitted medjool dates (depends on size; 6 large or 8 smaller)
Generous pinch sea salt
1/4 cup cacao powder
3 tbsp maca powder

1. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, grind walnuts, salt, and hemp seeds till fine. Add the dates, cacao, and maca, and blend till the mixture is uniform and holds together well.

2. Shape into 18-20 balls. Store in the fridge to firm them up and to keep them fresh. They should last at least a week, unless you eat them all first!



Quick, easy, and very snackable! Of course, if you have an allergy to walnuts, you could make these with a mix of pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds rather than the nuts. And you could also add cinnamon or even a little chili for a kick. I may try these soon again with mesquite.

Hope you get inspired to throw together a raw energy bite of your own soon—I know that many of you already do.

Thanks so much for the condolence wishes on Friday, friends. Much appreciated. I’ll be back in DC soon for another busy week, so you can expect more packed lunch action to come!


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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

The Delicate Place October 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm

i totally tried…as in really really tried to give the maca claims a chance. i used 3-5g of it daily for 3 weeks then one week off for 5 months and i experienced none of the claims except maybe mild appetite suppression (though it could be because i do not really love the taste).

research is my day job so as expected, i practice it in my day to day life. i read ad nauseaum in the homeopathy/superfood arena. while, i do see and have experienced beneficial effects of things like tumeric, ginger, fennel & licorice. there is definitely a good bit of snake oil out there. it’s up to us to do our homework and be the discerning consumer!


Janae @ Bring-Joy October 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

I agree with you–a lot of “superfoods” claims could be applied to just about any whole plant food.

I tried raw cacoa beans because they were “superior” to cocoa powder, but ended up getting really sick! Turns out I’m intolerant of raw cacoa–the few times I’ve tried it I always feel VERY nauseated/want to throw up.

Good point!


Gena October 15, 2012 at 8:03 am

Agreed re: snake oil, and it distresses me that so much of it pervades our community of people who are open to alternative medicine. I tried to use maca as it is prescribed in holistic circles — for hormone balancing after my final ED relapse — and it didn’t do anything. But there are a couple of studies on PubMed that, though far from conclusive on a grand scale, show some promising results. My guess is that it’s more hype and wishful thinking than real, but then, peoples’ bodies do respond in different ways to these things, and it’s possible for some people to feel an effect, and others none. I guess more research about many of these supplements is in order!


bitt October 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

These look great. It took me awhile to warm up to maca, and I’m still tepid about it actually. my favorite combo is actually mesquite and chocolate, I am sure these would be amazing with that addition or substitution.


Ashley October 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I love powdered maca!! Not sure about the health benefits either, but it can’t hurt..right? ;) I’m all over these. I bet the maca lends a nice caramel flavor. Yum. — Thinking about you today and am so sorry for your loss. I’m sure it was also very difficult to miss such a close friend’s wedding. Hugs to you, Gena. xo


Lisa @ The Raw Serenity October 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I often make these balls and I can’t get enough of them!
I can’t however have the maca. After months of have bowl problems, it turned out that maca was the problem.
I originally tried it for the claims that it balanced your hormones. I did read online that its not uncommon for people not being able to digest it.


Robyn October 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I too love MACA…I use it in my Avo breakfast pudding,,,not sure if it’s that or some other thing I’m adding for good energy all morning…it works for me<3


Lou October 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I can’t have TOO much Maca either… I find the flavour somewhat off-putting in large amounts. Too bitter? Can’t quite put my finger on it… but when it is combined with such delicious comrades as chocolates, dates and walnuts, I am SURE I would love these little snack bites.

Lucuma is my FLAVOUR of choice, a little more mellow than the maca – whatever the health benefits claim to be ;) As long as it tastes good, huh?


Diane October 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Just made these and they are delicious!! Thanks!!


Averie @ Averie Cooks October 14, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Dates, maca, cocoa…mmm, sounds great! I havent made raw little balls in ages with chocolate nor have I replenished my maca supply that ran out about…a year ago :)

these sound perfect, Gena!


Ricki October 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Well, I finally have a reason to open that bag of maca! Can’t wait to try these (though I’m a little concerned about all these comments from people who don’t enjioy the taste. . .!!).


Gena October 15, 2012 at 8:05 am

You’ll see what I mean, Ricki. It’s a very bold flavor. But it does grow on you.


Hannah October 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Better sex drive?! DAMMIT THAT’S WHERE I’VE BEEN GOING WRONG ALL THESE YEARS! If only I’d been adding maca to my breakfast every morning, I’d have at least five babies by now to take seventy-three photos of, just for you.

By the by, emoticon heart: <3


Gena October 15, 2012 at 8:05 am

Exactly. Why have you not reproduced en masse? Go buy some maca.


Ela October 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Oh dear–what have I missed with you? Please don’t think me an inconsiderate friend… Going back to check.
The bites, btw, sound delightful. I agree that maca/choc is a great combination, and I second/encourage the cayenne/cinnamon kick to it.


Deb October 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Those energy bites look so yummy, Gena!

Funny—it’s kind of empowering to be able to make your own power snacks (and save major $$ in the process!).

Last night, I just made a recipe similar to yours, but I used chia seeds instead of maca, and topped it with some coconut cashew cream. Yum-on-the-go! :)


Noodle October 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Thanks, always looking for yummy new ideas with energy bites. I made some with dried pineapple, cashews, coconut and tahini the other day…sooo yummy^^


Alice October 15, 2012 at 2:56 am

Gena, what other seeds would you suggest as a good substitute for hemp in this recipe? Thanks.


Heidi kokborg October 15, 2012 at 4:22 am

They look so good! I’ll definitely give them a try :)


Janae @ Bring-Joy October 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

Could these be made with cocoa powder, do you think?


Gena October 15, 2012 at 8:00 am

Oh, certainly!

Wary though I am of all things “superfood,” I do think that raw cacao has a bolder, deeper, richer taste than cocoa (I think of it as the difference between coffee and espresso) which means I can use less of it. The 4 tbsp in here is even on the cusp of being TOO chocolately! But that’s cool with me ;-)

All this said, normal cocoa powder can be substituted for cacao in essentially all of my recipes.

Reply October 15, 2012 at 7:57 am

look great and very tasty;) thank you for sharing your another recipe! I’m trying to become vegan so any inspirations are more than welcome!


Ellen (Gluten Free Diva) October 15, 2012 at 9:04 am

Can’t wait to try these! I love how easy and portable they are. I wonder if they freeze well?


Christa @ Edible Balance October 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

These look delicious Gena! I really need to get back into the swing of things and make my own snacks again. It’s been difficult to get back into a routine after a 2.5 week vacation, hopefully this week will get back to normal!

I’m really on the fence with maca. I’ve been taking two tsp/day for a few months now, as you know I have many hormone issues and it’s one of the very few supplements my naturopath has me taking. I don’t see much of a change, I think I need to pay more attention to the actual effects. I notice the energy factor the most, taking it after my morning workout.

It took me a while, but I do enjoy the flavor more now and love the addition in desserts and smoothies! Pretty sure I’m going to love these bites!


Melanie St. Ours October 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

This recipe looks great—very similar to how I make maca truffles. (It just sounds so much more decadent to call them truffles to me…)

I completely share your wariness over the hype about Maca. For me, it comes partly from the weird way that marketing & hype combine to make celebrities of some herbs while neglecting others that are equally wonderful. Usually the herbs that fall into fashion are from far away places and have an air of exoticism about them. The real key is to use the herbs and supplements that are right for you. The hype can make that harder to discern.

Like many of the adaptogens, Maca can help the body find hormonal balance and restore people when they’ve been depleted. It’s a warming herb, which can be really helpful in vegan diets which have an overall more “cooling” energy according to traditional medicine. People who have “hot” conditions like high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, or high anxiety levels might not do well on this herb.


Karla October 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

I put 2T of coconut oil in mine since they seemed dry.


Karla October 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Actually added in Cocoa nibs and Chia seeds instead of the Hemp seeds since I didnt have them on hand.


Halo October 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

I find maca to be too much of stimulant during the ‘change-of-life’ period, and have experienced rapid heartbeat and anxiety after eating it, along with cacao butter. I agree people with high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and high anxiety levels might not do good on this herb, as I am one of them. Plain cacao, a little coconut oil, and honey works better for me.


Kathleen October 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Just catching up – so sorry for your loss. It’s never easy. I’m sure it was also difficult to have to miss Anne’s wedding. Hugs!


Lia October 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm

This looks nice, simple, and tasty. I have been holding off from fruit and nut bars/balls recently just due to nut costs. I’ve also been avoiding the lara bar section pretty effectively. I may make balls soon though, cocoa cinnamon balls sound like a perfect fall/winter snack for work. I am lucky enough to have a full kitchen at my work, but not often the time to comfortably cook and eat. Between meal snacks prevent pissy Lia from showing her head to clients! Thanks for the energy ball reminder!


Vibeke October 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I found these dry and very unpleasant. I added 1-2 tbsp maple syrup and they were still meh.


jill October 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Just made these, but I used a smidge of Ho Shu Wu since I don’t have any maca currently, but I love maca when I have it. I haven’t been keeping up with celebrity superfood endorsements lately, so I’m blissfully unaware of the major hype being mentioned. I used it a few years ago, when I first discovered raw foods, and my health improved in so many ways that I couldn’t really pin anything on 1 particular thing I was doing, it was all working together.

I’ve already made a recipe card for these, I really love them :)


Christy@SweetandSavoring October 15, 2012 at 5:55 pm

You’re right, the energy/snack bars in stores *are* seductive- important to remember we can create much healthier and cheaper ones at home. Guess that lazy factor too often comes into play for me :\

I just discovered your blog! Reposted the Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers because I found it super helpful :)


vanessa October 16, 2012 at 11:19 am

These are FABULOUS! I added cacao nibs for a little crunch :)


vanessa October 16, 2012 at 11:20 am

Oh, and I used almonds instead of walnuts (I’m allergic). I bet these would also be great with cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne! Next time…


Kathryn October 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm

How many of these would you consider to be a snack?


Heather J October 27, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I made this in an attempt to use up the ignored bag of maca in my pantry. I also found it very dry using just the ingredients as listed. Maybe my dates were too dry but it definitely needed some liquid. I added 2 tbsp maple syrup and they rolled into balls just fine. Not bad.


kate November 8, 2012 at 8:43 am

I absolutely adore these balls. Completely addictive. Another fantastic recipe, Gena.
When I first tried Maca I was almost personally affronted by how disgusting it tasted. Now, a couple of years on, I have learned to appreciate it in conjunction with anything chocolate, and in smoothies with sweetened nut milk as the base. I have never really noticed all the alleged health benefits, but if it goes some way to bolstering energy while balancing adrenals then I’m happy.

I have recently found some fresh, raw dates in the UK, and was wondering if you have ever tried to make fruit/ nut balls/ bars with fresh dates? I did not use them in my latest batch of Choc Walnut Maca Energy Balls as I was concerned that they would not provide the right degree of stickiness needed, so stuck to raw Deglet Noir dates instead.


Cassandra November 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm

These taste great with carob instead of cacao. Fantastic snacking!


nouna January 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm

hello, what could substitute hemp?
Sunflower seeds?


Sadie August 18, 2013 at 6:12 am

I love these snack balls! They remind me of raw brownies (nom nom) and are an awesome way to sneak a superfood into unsuspecting little brothers hehe.


Gena August 20, 2013 at 6:15 am

Great! So glad you like them Sadie.


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