Cacao Bliss Balls

I know you’re all about making chocolatey, nutty, sweet and rich yet nutrient-packed two-bite snack balls that are pure bliss. But first, a question:

Vertical image of mini round snacks covered in coconut flakes, some in a bowl and some on a wooden board next to a blue towel, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Have you ever found yourself face-to-face with more dates than you know what to do with?

Not the kind who shows up on your parents’ doorstep smelling like an Abercrombie & Fitch store from 1998, and tries to woo you with a six-pack and a plan to sneak into the neighborhood pool.

Man did I fall for that every time, though.

I’m talking about dried, wrinkly little dates that are loaded with natural sugar and full of fiber.

Maybe this isn’t exactly a common scenario one might find themselves in, but there was a time when I had a pantry bursting with so many boxes of dates that I didn’t know where to begin. I had signed on to a recipe development project with a young girl who had a knack for start-ups.

Vertical close-up image of individual snack rounds covered in coconut flakes on parchment paper on a wooden board.

Although, I suppose most of them just started up and then didn’t really go anywhere…

Regardless of the nature of the gig, it was on her dime, and my role was simply to play with food. How could I say no to that? Her latest venture was a company that sold gift boxes of gourmet stuffed dates.

She sent me pounds of fruit, fancy wrappers, and several types of date syrup to tinker with on my own time.

I had never seen so many Medjool dates in my life, and I couldn’t wait to begin yanking out their pits and getting to work. But, alas, the project fell through – leaving me with a stockpile of dried fruit.

Not that working with an ingredient like that has ever been a problem for me (see “Orange, Lavender & Figs” as evidence, available on Amazon.

Instead of following the original set of guidelines, I decided to take the road less traveled.

Vertical top-down image of dried fruit and chocolate mounds covered in coconut flakes scattered on a wooden cutting board next to a bowl of dried fruit and a blue towel.

As opposed to cramming things inside the dates’ itsy-bitsy wells, I began breaking them down in the food processor to transform them in a different way. Before I knew it, no-bake balls were on the horizon.

I was already dropping too much cash on similar store-bought products, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in that.

I sprinkled in whatever nuts I had on hand for some texture and bulk, then in went a splash of woody vanilla extract and chia seeds for crunch. I loved the idea of making a quick snack that incorporated some high-impact nutritional elements and wasn’t just a guilty pleasure.

I realized that a great way to take full advantage of the dates’ sweet flesh was to marry it with a slightly bitter element that would enhance their flavor even more. I had both cacao and cocoa powder on hand, and in case you’re wondering – no, they’re not the same thing with the letters rearranged.

Raw cacao powder isn’t roasted after the beans are fermented and dried. It’s relatively unprocessed, and the unroasted beans are loaded with a remarkable amount of antioxidants.

Vertical image of individual mounds of chocolate balls on waxed paper on a cutting board next to bowls of ingredients.

Cocoa powder, on the other hand, comes from fermented beans that are roasted at a high temperature. But enough about processing – let’s talk flavor.

Cocoa powder is often used for baking and has sweeter notes of chocolate, while cacao is earthy and somewhat bitter, like dark chocolate. Seeing as my dates already packed a sugary punch, rich cacao powder was the right call.

The two balanced each other out like they were meant to be together all along.

Stopping there would have been just fine, but the balls needed a little brightness, and I’m a sucker for coconut.

Whether it’s because my sister Sarah lives in Hawaii and coconut’s nutty perfume reminds me of her, or because my college roommate – also Sara, but without the “h” – was allergic to coconut so I had to reluctantly avoid it for years, whenever I can turn to the tropical-scented shreds, I go for it.

Vertical top-down image of a bowl of healthy dried fruit snacks on a wooden cutting board next to a blue towel with bowls of cocoa powder and dried fruit next to it.

See, just like cacao and cocoa – sometimes one letter can really make a difference.

Not only do the sweet, fluffy slivers get blended into the balls, but I snowball the sticky rounds through the coconut for a coating with texture, color, and flavor.

I guess I did know what to do with those dates after all.

Print
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Horizontal image of two rows of small chocolate mounds on parchment on a wooden cutting board in front of bowls of ingredients on a blue towel.

Cacao Bliss Balls


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 20 balls 1x

Description

For a perfectly poppable treat, try our cacao bliss balls. They’re bursting with chewy dates and cashews, and rolled in sweet coconut.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Place the dates in a large bowl of warm water to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in a small saucepot over low heat. Set it aside to cool slightly.
  3. Add the almonds and cashews to a food processor and pulse until very finely ground.
  4. Remove the dates, and reserve about 1 cup of the water. Add the dates to the food processor along with the cooled coconut oil, cacao powder, vanilla, salt, 6 tablespoons shredded coconut, and the chia seeds. Blend, dripping in a few tablespoons of the date liquid if the mixture is dry, until it comes together and starts to form a ball. The mixture should be sticky and uniform. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  5. Line a quarter-size sheet pan with wax paper and lay another piece on your counter.
  6. Turn the mixture out onto the paper on your counter and wet your hands to prevent it from sticking. Using a tablespoon measure as your guide, roll the nut and date mixture into bite-size balls that are about 1 inch in diameter. Arrange on the prepared pan with some space in between each, so they don’t accidentally roll into each other and stick together.
  7. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, to allow the balls to firm up slightly.
  8. Place the remaining shredded coconut in a shallow bowl. One at a time, toss the balls to coat. Arrange on a plate and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before serving, until firm.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Chocolate
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: Snack

Keywords: cacao powder, ball, snack, date, coconut, almond

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Gather and Measure Ingredients

If you can’t find dates, you can substitute 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, just make sure you remove the stems before soaking. The final product will be a little less sweet.

Horizontal image of prepped and measured ingredients in assorted bowls and spoons, some on a wooden cutting board.

If your dates aren’t pitted, slice them lengthwise down the middle to open them. Use your fingers to slide the pits right out. To hit the 1 cup mark, I ended up needing about 10 dates.

Horizontal image of removing the deeds of a date with a small knife on a wooden cutting board.

Feel free to use walnuts instead of almonds. If you can only find cashews that are roasted, those will work fine. If they’re salted, omit the additional salt from the recipe.

Measure your cacao powder, vanilla, salt, coconut, and chia seeds.

Step 2 – Soak the Dates and Melt the Coconut Oil

Place the dates in a large bowl and cover with warm water for about 15 minutes. Soaking will soften them and help them break down much easier in the food processor.

Horizontal image of a metal bowl with water and dates soaking.

In a small saucepot over low heat, melt the coconut oil if yours is solid at room temperature. You can also do this in a microwave-safe bowl by heating on high for about 15 seconds at a time until it’s melted.

Horizontal image of melted oil in a pot.

Allow the melted coconut oil to cool slightly before it goes in the food processor.

Step 3 – Pulse the Nuts and Add Remaining Ingredients

While you’re waiting for the coconut oil to cool and the dates to soak, add the almonds and cashews to a food processor and pulse until they create a crumbly paste. The nuts act as a binder, but you want them to be finely ground so there aren’t big pieces in the balls.

Horizontal image of crushed nuts in a food processor.

Remove the dates, but reserve about 1 cup of the water in case the mixture is too dry. You can also use the water that’s left in the bowl for wetting your hands when you’re rolling the balls!

Add the dates to the food processor along with the cooled coconut oil, cacao powder, vanilla, salt, 6 tablespoons coconut, and the chia seeds.

Horizontal image of assorted dried ingredients in a food processor.

Blend until the mixture comes together, keeping an eye on it to see if it looks too dry, and adding some of the date liquid to help it form into a ball. Don’t add too much at once, or the mixture will become runny.

Horizontal image of a brown paste in a food processor.

You’ll know it’s ready when it’s sticky and uniform. Transfer the bowl of the food processor to the fridge so everything can firm up a bit before rolling.

Step 4 – Form and Refrigerate the Balls

Line a quarter-size baking sheet with wax paper and lay another piece on your counter. Make sure you do this ahead of time because your hands will be wet after rolling the balls, and you’ll want them to have a prepared place to land. Clear a space in your fridge or freezer for the pan.

Horizontal image of a tablespoon of a dark brown paste over parchment paper.

Turn the mixture out onto the paper on your counter. Wet your hands slightly so the mixture doesn’t stick to your palms too much and the balls come together nice and easy. I used the date water in the bowl to continuously wet my hands, and it worked like a charm.

Horizontal image of rolling a dark brown paste by hand into a small round mound.

Using a tablespoon measure as your guide, roll the nut and date mixture into bite-sized balls. They should be around 1 inch in diameter.

Place each finished ball onto the prepared sheet pan, making sure to leave some space in between them so they don’t accidentally roll into each other and stick together.

Horizontal image of small dark brown round mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Transfer the pan to the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, or the freezer for 10 minutes, so the balls can firm up a bit before being rolled in the coconut.

Step 5 – Roll in Coconut and Chill

Horizontal image of rolling small round chocolate mounds in coconut flakes in a bowl.

Place the remaining shredded coconut in a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll the balls in the coconut until they’re coated well.

Horizontal image of dried fruit and chocolate mounds covered in coconut flakes scattered on a wooden cutting board next to a bowl of dried fruit and a blue towel.

Arrange the cacao bliss balls on a plate and refrigerate until they’re firm, for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Warm Water Words of Wisdom

Splashing the warm date water into the food processor to help the mixture come together is reminiscent of dripping starchy cooking water over noodles and sauce. Suddenly, everything begins to cling and make sense.

Horizontal image of two rows of small chocolate mounds on parchment on a wooden cutting board in front of bowls of ingredients on a blue towel.

But before you get rolling, take it from someone who has worked this recipe from start to finish. Be mindful of overwatering your batter. The main issue this will cause is a bit more of a mess as you try to roll your bliss ball into shape, but here’s the good news:

Even if they feel a little too wet, the balls will harden right up in the fridge before being doused in the coconut.

Use this recipe as a base and feel free to take things in a slightly different direction. Sprinkle in some cinnamon or ground cloves. Sweeten the deal by subbing cocoa powder for the cacao. If you don’t like chocolate at all, but still want a fun snack food, consider going for our peanut butter rice treats or our coconut dream truffles instead. Change up the dried fruit or nuts, or make your own combo based on what you have on hand.

How will you add your personal touch to these two-bite treats? Share your ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Not sure what to do with the rest of that container of cacao powder? Whip up one of these recipes that features the fruity, bitter notes raw chocolate next:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lorna Kring on March 17, 2015. Last updated on April 27, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

26 thoughts on “Cacao Bliss Balls”

  1. Chocolate and coconut, a very awesome combination. These things will ‘sell like hotcakes’ when my children find out about them. This is the perfect dessert menu item, and it’s mostly healthy too.

    Reply
  2. This might be a really dumb question but what’s the biggest difference between figs or dates?

    This looks really delicious, by the way, and chocolate is SUCH a great combination with coconut! Plus I heard there’s a lot of good nutritious things about coconuts so I’ve been meaning to try to eat more things with coconuts in it. Thank you for sharing the recipe, I can’t wait to try it this weekend 🙂

    Reply
    • No dumb questions tangela21. Both figs and dates are highly nutritious fruits, loaded with vitamins and minerals. And both are native to the Middle East/Mediterranean regions, now also grown in the southwest US.

      Dates are grown on tall date palm trees, while figs grow on woody fruit trees which are members of the Mulberry family.

      Figs are round and soft, filled with tiny seeds and are delicious fresh or dried.

      Dates are oblong in shape and super sweet – they’re most commonly eaten dried.

      I hope you enjoy the recipe – let us know what you think or give it a share if you’re really impressed!

      Reply
  3. One of the most often made delicacies in this part of the wold. Unbelievably easy to make and they are absolutely delicious. Only bad side to them is you just can’t stop eating them.

    Reply
    • That’s a winning recipe Cmok, delicious and easy to make. But I know what you mean about not being able to stop… and it’s so hard to hide them on yourself!

      Reply
  4. What a great recipe and I love the fact you say they are healthy fats, as people forget we do need fats in our diet. I like the idea of adding chia seeds as I do think they make them seem healthier too. As a chocoholic I may roll mine in chocolate flakes instead of coconut though!

    Reply
    • Hello there fellow chocoholic…thank you for that amazing idea there… i ought to try it out one of these fine days…but i think i’ll begin with the article’s recipe then next time carry out your recipe or perhaps i could work my way round a combo 😉

      Reply
    • Hey Bella, the chia seeds would certainly add some health benefits. If you try them in this recipe, let me know how it turns out. I’d be interested in hearing your results. Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Someone is really pushing the right buttons here… i love everything this article has to offer.. if i have the permission to do so, the page has been bookmarked..my mouth slavers at the sight of that wonderful presentation…no worries, just minor side-effects of a sweet tooth 😉 .

    Reply
      • Well, this chocoholic can get a bit selfish when it comes to all matters sweet tooth rendered stuff…i just hope when i go all out and make these cute, delicious, tasty and nutritious cacao balls, i’ll have the humble decency to invite a friend or two for a tasting session 😉

        Reply
  6. These little treats do look delicious and I love the way they incorporate dates. Dates are a fruit after all and we need to eat more fruit, right? So I think I’ll start with a batch of these!

    Reply
    • Oh, absolutely, I’m sure these would count as a serving of fruit!! At least, that’s how this chocoholic likes to think…

      Reply
  7. This is almost identical to my grandmother’s famous “Snow Ball” recipe. The only exception being that she doesn’t use dates or almonds. They are absolutely delicious, and I can only imaging that these are just as tasty! I love that you don’t have to bake them or anything, just need to let them chill. I always make my grandmother’s recipe when I go camping. I just bring all the ingredients pre-measured in separate bags and combine them when I want them over the trip. Just an hour or so in the cooler after and they are good to go!

    Reply
  8. I have such a rush of excitement when I come upon a recipe that has dates in it. I absolutely love using dates and figs in recipes. Nothing is better than a recipe that doesn’t require cooking & it’s even better when it’s healthy. I’d rather feed this to my friends, family, & children than the no bake cookie.

    Reply
  9. I love this recipe, I simply love it! It’s awesome and refreshing to find recipes that don’t require any baking. This one sounds yummy, but the best of it is that’s really simple and everyone probably already has all the ingredients at home right now. No need to go out to the grocery to buy expensive stuff to make these.

    I also love the fact that my kids can be involved in the making of these delicious balls. My children always want to be part of the cooking process, but sometimes recipes are too complicated. This is perfect to spend an afternoon with the whole family sharing a nice time. Also sounds like a great Christmas dessert recipe!

    Reply
  10. This bliss ball recipe sounds fresh and delightful! I like the idea of using figs as a change from dates. The texture must be a big part of the magic: crunchy, silky, and chewy! Just reading the blend of flavours makes me salivate: sweet, nutty and coconut-y, choclate-y, and salty! I love bliss balls because of the variety one little ball holds in it! Thank you for this recipe post!

    Reply
    • You hit the texture nail on the head for figs blazeC, they add a wonderful element of crunch! Hope you enjoy the recipe.

      Reply
  11. These seem like and awesome dessert when trying to stick to an exercise and diet regimen. Dessert cravings are what I find to be most difficult when I want to be healthy. The healthy fats in this dish and the protein from the nuts would make it a guilt free treat assuming that I don’t eat the whole batch in one go haha!

    Reply
  12. I love these treats! I’m not into shredded coconut, and I’m happy to report these are amazing even without it. These are perfect for no-added-sugar diets – thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  13. Dear Lorna,
    Thank you for teaching me a terrific new word- SLAVERING.
    You are truly inspirational and a fancy lady.
    Bless you,
    Kimberly

    Reply

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