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No-Bake Cherry Cacao Energy Balls

Greenletes / Recipes / Snacks / No-Bake Cherry Cacao Energy Balls

These no-bake Cherry Cacao Energy Balls combine fresh pitted cherries with dates, almonds and cacao for a delicious and nutritious little morsel.

I don’t know about you, but I love ripe cherries. There’s something about sweet summer cherries that just makes me happy. Maybe it’s the fact that I can only get them in the Northeast for about two months or that they lend sweetness to recipes without any added sugar.

Either way, cherries are a daily staple for me during the summer. [Related: Cherry Coconut Yogurt Bites]

That’s why I’m really excited to bring you this new energy ball recipe, featuring fresh cherries, cacao, almonds and dates.

How healthy are energy balls? 

It all depends on the recipe! Energy balls can be a great snack option because they offer a good balance of carbs, protein, fiber and healthy fats. However, energy balls can also be nutrient dense and contain added sugars, so it is important to always read the ingredients list before making or buying energy balls. 

To avoid unhealthy energy balls, it is best to make your own at home that are packed with healthy and natural ingredients. Also try to keep your serving size to the recommended amount, because overeating could lead to high calorie consumption. 

Is it better to eat energy balls before or after a workout? 

These energy balls offer the perfect amount of carbs and protein to provide you with the energy you need before a workout. By eating a pre-workout snack that is higher in carbs, you are fueling your body with the energy it needs to get you through your workout. 

Having a little bit of protein in a pre-workout snack satisfies hunger and keeps energy levels high throughout your workout. A post-workout snack is usually higher in protein and contains some carbs for muscle growth and repair and to replenish energy stores. 

Ingredients to make energy balls

I love how easy these energy balls are to make and that they only require a few simple ingredients. I’m sure you’ll have most of these ingredients in your pantry already!

To make these energy balls, you’ll need:

  • ⅓ cup pitted dates
  • ½ cup pitted cherries
  • ⅓ raw almonds
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredient Swaps & Substitutions

There are endless ways as to how you could make these energy balls, but some of the swaps I get asked most about are:

  • Cacao nibs: Cacao is available in most supermarkets, but it’s a bit expensive. If you can’t find it or don’t want to buy it, you can use dark chocolate chips. Just know that the balls will be higher in calories and fat if you use chocolate instead of cacao. Plus, they will be sweeter.
  • Pitted Cherries: If you don’t have fresh pitted cherries, you could use dried or canned pitted cherries instead. Otherwise, you could swap it with fresh or dried cranberries.
  • Raw almonds: Raw cashews or hazelnuts will work just as well!

How to make energy balls

When I think of an “energy ball”, it has a few major components– carbs for energy, protein for sustained energy and little added sugar. They should also be easy to make and yummy to munch on. These cacao energy balls with fresh cherries check off all those boxes.

These energy balls are so easy to make:

Here’s how to make them:

  1. Combine dates, pitted cherries, and almonds to a food processor and blend until a sticky mixture has formed.
  2. Add rolled oats, cacao nibs, cinnamon and salt to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is well combined.
  3. Use your hands to form golf-ball sized balls and refrigerate for at least an hour to set.

The nutrition of cherries

The shining star in this recipe is undoubtedly the cherries. I love this delicious stone fruit so much because it’s naturally sweet and packed with nutrients. One cup of cherries has:

  • 100 calories
  • 2 grams protein
  • 25 grams carbs
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 18% of the Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin C
  • 10% daily value of potassium
  • Antioxidants

Cherries are rich polyphenols, otherwise known as plant compounds that fight inflammation. Too much inflammation in the body is associated with a higher risk of serious diseases, like heart disease, Diabetes and certain cancers. Therefore, eating anti-inflammatory foods is good for overall health.

What is cacao?

The one ingredient on this list that may have you scratching your head is cacao. Chocolate and cocoa powder actually comes from the cacao tree. The difference between cacao and cocoa is the processing after the bean is picked.

Cacao is very minimally processed and has no added sweetener. That means it’s extremely high in antioxidants and has all the good-for-you elements of dark chocolate without the added sugar or fat.

On its own, cacao tastes bitter. But when you mix it with naturally sweet ingredients, like dates or cherries, it gives off a chocolatey flavor without the extra calories of sugar.

What are the health benefits of cacao? 

Cacao creates a delicious chocolatey flavor, but it does so much more than that! Cacao is incredibly rich in antioxidants, especially flavanols, which offer many health benefits. Flavanols have been linked to improvements in blood pressure, which may lower your risk of heart disease. 

The high fiber content of cacao can also improve digestive health and lessen your symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. A three tablespoon serving of cacao nibs has 9 grams of fiber, or 31% of the daily value! Cacao has also been associated with reducing inflammation, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes and improving cognitive health.

So what I am really trying to get at here is that using cacao in any recipe goes way beyond adding a yummy flavor, it also offers many significant health and nutritional benefits. It’s a win-win situation! 

Serving Size

I would recommend two energy balls as the perfect serving size size for a snack. These make a great plant-based snack at anytime of the day and will not exceed your caloric requirements as part of a well-balanced and healthy diet! 

How to store Cherry Cacao Energy Bites

These vegan energy bites will stay in the fridge for up to a week. Store them in an air tight container or a sealable baggie.

Cherry Cacao Energy Balls

These no-bake Cherry Cacao Energy Balls combine fresh pitted cherries with dates, almonds and cacao for a delicious and nutritious little morsel. (Makes 8 balls)

Course Snack
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 4 servings
Calories 92 kcal
Author Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Ingredients

  • cup pitted dates
  • ½ cup pitted cherries
  • raw almonds
  • cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Add dates, cherries, and almonds to a food processor and pulse until a sticky homogenous mixture is formed.
  2. Add rolled oats, cacao nibs, cinnamon and salt to the food processor and pulse until mixture looks evenly distributed and well combined.

  3. Use your hands to roll mixture into golf-ball sized balls. Place on a parchment lined plate. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Nutrition Facts
Cherry Cacao Energy Balls
Amount Per Serving (2 balls)
Calories 92 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Fat 2g3%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 1mg0%
Potassium 148mg4%
Carbohydrates 17g6%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 18IU0%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 11mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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I’m Natalie Rizzo, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian.

My mission is to help everyday athletes fuel their fitness with plants.

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