Carob is a treat that can be indulged any time, without the health problems caused by too much chocolate.
The carob tree, also known as St John’s Bread, originates in the Mediterranean region, and carob powder is made from the seed pods and has an appearance and taste similar to chocolate. It beats out the cocoa bean in the health stakes in two major areas – it contains no caffeine and is high in fiber. Carob contains vitamins A, B, B1, B2, B3, B6, D; calcium; iron; potassium; magnesium; manganese; and about 8 percent protein. It's also very rich in pectin and low in sodium. One tablespoon of carob powder contains two grams of fiber and one cup contains about 40 grams. Pectin helps to eliminate toxins from the body. Carob contains carbohydrates, tannins, proteins, minerals and dietary fibers.
If you want to use carob as a chocolate substitute at home, the best way is to use carob powder, and trim the fat and sugar in your existing recipes. That way you will get the nutritious benefits of carob, without the hazards that come from using it `just like chocolate’.
It is also best to develop a taste for carob as a product in itself. If you are expecting the pure taste of chocolate the first time you taste a commercial carob bar, you will be disappointed. It has a pleasant taste somewhere between caramel and chocolate and will certainly satisfy a sweet tooth. Used at home in cooking, the results can vary. Adding carob to a cake and cookie mix instead of cocoa powder will give a drier result, and may need the addition of vanilla extract to give a flavor closer to real chocolate. But you will need less sugar because carob is naturally sweet.
Carob powder can make a very satisfying nightcap, without the stimulating effects of the caffeine in chocolate. Mix a heaped teaspoon of carob powder with a little cornstarch to thicken it and add vanilla extract for sweetness before pouring on a cup of hot water. Carob powder can also be mixed with full or skim warm milk.
Some other benefits of carob include: