Taste Test Thursday: Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

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photography by Carol Shih

I was listening to NPR this morning, and apparently the smell and taste of chocolate helps boost the sales of romance novels in bookstores. Go figure. America worships chocolate.

I mean, c’mon, we eat chocolate hazelnut spread by the tubful(s).

So don’t kill me if you don’t like the results of this test. They’re quite shocking. I almost peed in my pants when the votes were coming in. Read on for the conclusion. It’ll give you a heart attack.

All four spreads
All four spreads

THE CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREADS

A. Nocciolata – Rigoni di Asiago, Italy ($6/tub, bought from Green Grocer)
B. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter – Boulder, CO ($11/tub, bought from Green Grocer)
C. Nutella – Canada (about $4, bought from Kroger)
D. Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s Tub of Love Hazelnut Spread – Dallas, TX ($15/tub, bought from Dude, Sweet Chocolate)

THE TASTE TESTERS

Two interns, the web team (minus Liz, who’s lost in the desert), Matt Shelley, and Loren Means

WHAT THEY SAID

Nicciolata's hazelnut spread
Nicciolata’s hazelnut spread

A. Nocciolata (Ingredients: cane sugar, hazelnut paste, sunflower oil, skim ilk powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, and vanilla extract)

Taster 1 – creamy, but not good flavor
Taster 2 – smooth, but ultimately rather bland
Taster 3 – funky aftertaste – chalky
Taster 4 – Nutella? Nice and creamy, good smooth texture
Taster 5 – creamy, synthetic
Taster 6 – creamiest

Justin's hazelnut butter
Justin’s hazelnut butter

B. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (Ingredients: dry roasted hazelnuts, dry roasted almonds, organic evaporated cane sugar, organic cocoa, organic cocoa butter, organic palm fruit oil, vanilla, sea salt)

Taster 1 – almond butter texture – flavor okay
Taster 2 – can taste the oils from the hazelnut. Gritty, but not in a bad way
Taster 3 – like the gritty-slightly salty
Taster 4 – definitely more nutty, I like the crunchy texture, not as chocolate-y
Taster 5 – great texture, nutty, fresh
Taster 6 – thickest and most texture. To me, it’s the perfect balance of hazelnut and cocoa.

Nutella's chocolate hazelnut spread
Nutella’s chocolate hazelnut spread

C. Nutella (Ingredients: sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor)

Taster 1 – good combo of creamy with a little texture, crunchy, great flavor
Taster 2 – right balance of smoothness and texture. flavor is SUBLIME.
Taster 3 – extra chocolatey- too sweet
Taster 4 – really smooth, good and chocolatey, not much hazelnut, nice and sweet
Taster 5 – smooth and velvety, great chocolate
Taster 6 – more chocolatey. I can’t even taste the hazelnuts. You can really see the hazelnut bits, but still creamy

Dude, Sweet's Tub of Love
Dude, Sweet’s Tub of Love

D. Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s Tub of Love Hazelnut Spread (cane syrup, sweetened condensed milk hazelnut, TCHO “Nutty” & Valrhona Abinao chocolates, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract)

Taster 1 – flavor is strange. tastes like the filling inside a chocolate inside a bad box of chocolates
Taster 2 – more caramel in consistency than the rest. like it, but not as a hazelnut spread.
Taster 3 – interesting. I think I love it. gooey texture like caramel.
Taster 4 – very different than the others, caramel flavor, tastes like a candy bar
Taster 5 – funny after taste, thick
Taster 6 – Thick. Just a tiny bit of hazelnut texture. More hazelnutty than cocoa. A nice roasted taste, but not a huge fan of the aftertaste.

THE RESULT

A. Nicciolata – 1 vote
B. Justin’s – 3 votes
C. Nutella – 6 votes
D. Dude, Sweet’s Tub of Love – 0 votes

CONCLUSION

I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but Nutella won by a longshot. (Despite the fact that it had the wettest texture and looked the slimiest out of all of them.) But this is interesting. This taste test proves three things:

    1. Nutella is good at appealing to mass markets.
    2. Our group of taste testers is attracted to sugar. Nutella has 21 grams of sugar per 13 oz. tub, whereas Justin’s has 7 grams of sugar per 16-ounce can. (Like ScottDFW says, “By weight, Nutella is roughly seventy percent refined sugar and engineered vegetable fat. Hazelnut content is a mere 13%.”) Grossness.
    3. Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s Tub of Love was a semi-finalist in the “dark chocolate spread” category at the 2013 International Chocolate Awards, but it received zero votes at our taste test. (So. Sad.) Several people really liked it, but the spread’s taste and texture were so unique compared to the other three spreads. This led people to pick a spread that’s closer to their idea of what a hazelnut spread should taste like. (i.e. Nutella)
    4.  
      I’m sorry, Dude, Sweet. I was rooting for you! But we’re just a bunch of knockheads who like a lot of sugar in our spreads. Obviously, no one should hire us to be judges at the next International Chocolate Awards.

      (And if you’re looking for a good guide on buying spreads that taste better than Nutella, ScottDFW has written one. There’s no better expert in Dallas on gianduia spreads besides ScottDFW of DallasFood.org. This guy has written 35 blog posts about gianduia. I’m not even kidding. It’s like a thesis on chocolate hazelnut spread! Someone ought to give him a medal.)