Recipe ~ “Zoo Butter” Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Zoo Butter

When someone forwarded me a recipe for homemade Nutella, I knew that it would soon be a staple.  Wow!  What’s better than Nutella?  I now know the answer is homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread, which we affectionately call “Zoo Butter”.

We named it Zoo Butter, because at the time when I first started making it my 2 and 4 year old couldn’t easily say hazelnut.  Plus, I have found any reference to the packaged counterpart brings up too much comparison, confusion and rejection in my household (“that’s not macaroni and cheese, Mom”).  So, the “z” from hazelnut became zoo and the spread was branded “Zoo Butter”.

One of our goals in living a slow urban life is to minimize the processed foods we eat.  At times it is downright unrealistic, but the choices that companies have to make with regards to ingredients, packaging and processing efficiencies in order to put an inexpensive product on the shelf tend to leave us with the feeling that we are selling our souls to the devil (by the way, spend a little time trying to figure out who is the devil in this analogy and it will drive you mad).  Anyhow, my point is that we do our best to find substitutes to packaged goods wherever possible.  This recipe is in my humble opinion a near perfect substitute.

I have experimented a bit with the recipe to get the smoothness, sweetness, and chocolatey-ness to our liking.  You may need to make some small adjustments for yours (see the notes in the recipe for adjusting).  Also, the recipe is for a double batch.  I just found that it was a better portion for us and it tended to go pretty fast, but feel free to make half of what is listed below.

*A note on de-skinning the toasted hazelnuts.  This truly is the only tasking part of the recipe.  Here are a few tips that I have uncovered to help the get those pesky skins to release…

  • Turn the hazelnuts once during cooking.  You can shake the tray or just stir gently with a spatula.

    De-skinning the hazelnuts

  • Use a dish towel to rub off the skin.  I put all the toasted hazelnuts in one bowl, place small batches on the towel, rub, and then return the de-skinned hazelnuts to a new bowl.  I have found your hands can work just as well t0o, if you don’t mind digging in.
  • No matter how hard you try, there will still be some stubborn hazelnuts that will not release their skins.  I try not to include too many of these because they can impact the taste, since the recipe is pretty much entirely hazelnuts.  So, I keep a bell jar of bum hazelnuts.  They are good for other baking (cookies – yum!), sprinkling on a salad or just to munch on.
  • There is a much more complicated but highly effective method that involves boiling the nuts in a baking soda bath.  If you are interested, you can check out the directions at  It actually contains a youtube link to an old Julia Childs episode with a demonstration that is quite entertaining.

This recipe is truly one of my favorites.  It is fairly easy to make, has a good amount of nutrition packed in from the hazelnuts, makes your kitchen smell delicious and tastes oh-so-yummy.  Plus, it makes a great gift and usually gets eyebrow raises when I tell people about.  I like to put a generous dollop on my Greek yogurt for breakfast.  Some other suggestions that are very popular in our house – sandwiched between bread by itself or with peanut butter, spread on apple slices, or placed atop a warm waffle or pancake.  I am sure it would be fabulous in baked goods as well (muffins, french toast, etc. – just google Nutella recipes and you’ll find a million).  I haven’t made any those yet, mostly because I just love the simple deliciousness of it as it is.  Enjoy…

“Zoo Butter” Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread
Yield: about 24 ounces (3 cups)

4 cups whole raw hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
up to 1/2 cup vegetable or nut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp salt

Raw hazelnuts for roasting

Raw hazelnuts for roasting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or pan (an 11×14 jelly roll pan works well to prevent slippage but you can use any baking sheet).  Toast until the skins are dark, about 15 minutes. Stir the nuts halfway through baking.  You should be able to smell the toasted nuts
  2. Remove the skins, using a kitchen towel (or your hands), and rub until most of the skins have come off.  Don’t fret if you can’t get off all the skins, but less is better.

    Hazelnuts processed into butter

  3. Pour the nuts into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, warm liquid,about 5-7 minutes. First, you will get coarsely chopped nuts (which is really really loud – warn anyone within earshot first).  Then, it will seem like it is not working and is stuck, but keep the faith and keep processing.   The heat and friction will extract the natural oils and will magically form into a butter.  (Texture Note: This is a good time to judge the texture. If you prefer a very smooth butter, then let it process a little longer.)
  4. When the nuts are liquified, add in the sugars, cocoa, vanilla and salt. (Texture Note:  Feel free to use all powdered sugar if youdon’t like the texture of the brown sugar.)  Slowly drizzle in enough oil to make a

    The finished spread

    Additional ingredients

    spreadable consistency.

  5. Transfer to an airtight container (typically 2 bell jars will do it). You can store in therefrigerator for 1-2months

Zoo Butter - Yum!

This recipe adapted from Su Good Sweets.

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3 Responses to Recipe ~ “Zoo Butter” Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

  1. Jessica says:

    Hi there, thanks for trying my recipe, and I’m glad you liked it. Zoo Butter is such a fun name.

  2. Pingback: The Joy of Mason Jars – 25 Uses for Glass Jars | Slow Dwelling

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