What do you do when you discover five different types of chocolate hazelnut spread in your pantry? Well, if you’re me, you conduct a little Chocolate Spread Smackdown — a non-scientific, yet indulgently fun, taste test to understand the pros and cons, similarities and difference between the various spreads on the market.
It was not difficult for me to recruit a group of taste testers for this activity — my husband (Mike), kids (ages 4 and 6) and in-laws (Ken and Susan) were more than willing to participate. I set it up as a blind taste test — they didn’t know which spread was which, or even which spreads were involved in the test (although they knew that one of them would be Nutella). I gave each taster a plate with 5 spoonfuls (in some cases forkfuls, as I ran out of spoons!) of chocolate spread. I’d marked the back of each utensil with a number so I could tell which spread was which. The tasters’ job wasn’t to decide which was “best” or “worst”, but merely to describe what they were tasting. The results proved interesting!
I’ll start with Nutella, since it’s the spread most of you will recognize, but we actually did the test in a random order and the tasters didn’t taste the same spreads at the same time (in an effort not to be influenced by each other’s comments). This wasn’t scientific, but I tried to make it fair!
Overview: “The Original Hazelnut Spread”, first imported from Italy to the US over 25 years ago. It is now the number one selling branded hazelnut spread in America. Sold in grocery stores.
What’s in it: Sugar, Palm Oil, Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Skim Milk, Reduced Minerals Whey, Lecithin, Vanillin
Blind test feedback: All of the testers know and love Nutella (although only one — my husband — identified it), so it’s not surprising that this familiar flavor seemed to appeal to them most.
- Susan: “It tasted nutty, there’s some distinctive flavor in there.”
- My 6yo: “It’s really chocolaty and tastes like candy.”
- My 4yo: “So yummy, so sweet, super chocolaty.”
- Ken: “The texture is more like peanut butter, very sweet.”
- Mike: “I think this is Nutella [he guessed it!] — a little nutty, more peanut butter texture, very creamy. I can taste the hazelnut.”
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Overview: Hershey’s launched their new line of chocolate spreads last month in an effort to compete with Nutella. The Chocolate flavor is being marketed as a “smooth, creamy chocolate spread makes any snack an indulgent dessert” as well as a baking ingredient. Sold in grocery stores.
What’s in it: Sugar, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower Oil and Palm Oil), Nonfat Milk, Cocoa, Milk, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm and Canola Oil), Soy Lecithin, Salt, Natural Vanilla Flavor
Blind test feedback: The testers detected a texture difference with this one, describing it as “gummy” and “sticky”.
- Susan: “Very chocolaty, a little gummy, good flavor.”
- My 4yo: “Tastes like sunflower [in fact, there’s sunflower oil in there!]”
- Mike: “Thicker, stickier than some of the others, almost like a taffy”
- My 6yo: “It was sticky, kinda nutty and a little chocolaty.”
- Ken: “Probably my least favorite. It had an aftertaste — it tasted very artificial to me.”
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Overview: Jif launched its lined of hazelnut spreads back in 2012 — they say their spreads “make anything your new favorite thing.” If we were doing a true apples-to-apples test, I would have had the tester try Jif’s new chocolate flavor rather than the salted caramel, but salted caramel is what I had on hand. Sold in grocery stores.
What’s in it: Sugar, Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed and Palm), Hazelnuts, Skim Milk, Whey Powder, Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Sunflower Lecithin, Salt
Blind test feedback: The testers could tell there was a notably different flavor (they guessed butterscotch), compared with the more chocolate-forward spreads.
- My 6yo: “Really chocolaty.”
- Ken: “More like butterscotch than chocolate”
- Mike: “Very butterscotchy, tastes like candy”
- Susan: “Very smooth, very nice, very sweet — maybe a little too sweet”
- My 4yo: “It tastes yummy, it’s so creamy.”
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Overview: Nocciolata is an Italian chocolate hazelnut spread, made from all organic ingredients. Also, unlike some of its American counterparts, it doesn’t contain palm oil, artificial flavors or GMOs. Sold in many major grocery stores, as well as specialty markets.
What’s in it: Cane Sugar, Hazelnut Paste, Sunflower Oil, Skim Milk Powder, Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Butter, Sunflower Lecithin, Vanilla Extract
Blind test feedback: The nutty flavor came through prominently to my testers — as it turns out, hazelnuts appears higher on the ingredient list for Nocciolata than for the others.
- Ken: “Not totally chocolate, could be a combination with a nut, almost smoky”
- My 4yo: “Tastes like candy, super yummy”
- My 6yo: “Chocolaty with nuts in it”
- Mike: “Nuttier than the others. This also could be Nutella [nope!]. More nut flavor than I prefer.”
- Susan: “Very chocolaty, smooth, I don’t pick up a lot else.”
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Overview: This was my spicy curveball in the test — an Italian olive-oil based spread made with dark chocolate and chilies. Nudo doesn’t seem to have it on the market anymore (I’ve held it for about a year), but I thought I’d go ahead and share the taste results anyway!
What’s in it: Dark Cocoa Powder, Vegetable Oils, Sugar, Hazelnuts, Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Chilies, Skimmed Milk Powder, Soy Lecithin, Flavors
Blind Test Feedback: They noticed the spice! Surprisingly, my kids didn’t balk — in fact, they really liked the spicy chocolate combination. My mother-in-law, Susan, also noticed it wasn’t quite as sweet (it’s the only spread in the test that doesn’t list sugar as its first ingredient).
- My 6yo: “Tastes like spicy Nutella. And it’s black.”
- Mike: “Really spicy, nutty”
- My 4yo: “It’s spicy a little. It’s nutty and I really like it. I think I like spicy things now.”
- Ken: “Very soft and spicy, nice heat in the back of my throat.”
- Susan: “Definitely spicy, I taste peanut butter, thicker texture, richer chocolate, not sweet”
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In case you were wondering, of course I tasted too! I tried my best to make it a double-blind test, so that I wouldn’t know which spread was which, but it turned out that there were visual differences across the spreads so I couldn’t help but identify them. Again, it wasn’t a scientific test at all, but I tried to remove as much bias as I could. But you don’t have to take our word for it — grab yourself a spoon (or 25) and taste for yourself!