No-bake cookies were some of the first things I learned to make in the kitchen. I had a sleepover with a friend while I was in elementary school and her mom made a batch while we were there. I raved about them so much that we ended up making another round together so she could teach me how.
I remember being very proud of my newfound culinary skills! Once home I made them again and again and again … I eventually tired of them, but they never fully left my repertoire.
Now when I make no-bake cookies, the recipe looks a lot different than it did back in the early 1990s. Today’s recipe for no-bake energy bites has been updated significantly to include delicious aromatic spices as well as chia seeds – something I had definitely never heard of when I was in grade school.
These are still a fun, quick recipe that makes a perfect afternoon snack.
In addition to their sweet and savory taste, these no-bake energy bites contain many ingredients that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress as well as helping to balance blood sugar levels. That means that you can enjoy your cookies while improving your heart health and reducing the factors that can lead to chronic illness.
Before we get to the recipe, let’s take a closer look at the herbal ingredients.
Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
Chocolate is well known for its ability to support heart health; however, study after study shows that the type of chocolate you use is important. Dark chocolate, high in regularly occurring flavanols, is your best choice for heart health. One meta-analysis of short-term studies using high-flavanol cacao products found that it significantly improves blood pressure, insulin resistance, and lipid profiles.1
When buying chocolate, also look for a fair trade and organic certified brand. Many chocolate companies put profit over human rights and environmental justice by using child labor and harmful chemicals. Please don’t support those practices with your money.
Chia Seeds (Salvia hispanica)
Chia seeds are small oval seeds that come from a sage plant that grows in Mexico. The seeds are incredibly nutrient dense! They are high in antioxidants, fiber, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, copper, and selenium.23 The seeds are mucilaginous, forming a thick pudding when soaked in liquids. In this recipe they add a nice crunchy texture.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Renowned for its countless health benefits, turmeric is a spice I like to use in cooking at least once a day. The secret to turmeric’s outstanding status lies in its ability to modulate inflammation.
I explain this further in this excerpt from my book, Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Every Day Ingredients into Foods and Remedies that Heal: “While turmeric is referred to as an anti-inflammatory, it doesn’t suppress inflammation in the same indiscriminate way that NSAIDs do. It supports the body’s ability to address inflammation, so it’s more accurate to say that turmeric modulates inflammation than to say it is ’anti-inflammatory.’ Instead of inhibiting fatty acids like prostaglandins, and thereby blocking the beneficial aspects of inflammation, turmeric assists the body’s healing abilities in numerous ways: it increases glutathione production (important for detoxification), decreases free-radical damage, and blocks specific inflammatory enzymes.”4
When using turmeric for specific health purposes, larger amounts than found in this recipe are usually necessary. However, when using turmeric as a daily spice to promote healthy digestion and gain from its many phytonutrients, even adding small amounts to recipes can be of benefit.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.)
Cinnamon is pretty much a given when it comes to baking at our house. Its delicious taste would be enough of a reason to frequently cook with it, but its health benefits really seal the deal.
Cinnamon has been widely studied for its ability to reduce blood glucose levels, a benefit to those with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. A recent study also showed that it could reduce fasting insulin for people diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).5
Another small study showed that cinnamon could improve glucose levels and insulin sensitivity in healthy volunteers.6 That study also concluded that results are best when cinnamon is used daily. As with turmeric, larger amounts are needed for specific purposes (the study with PCOS used one and a half grams per day and the study in healthy volunteers used three grams per day), but we can still benefit from using small amounts on a regular basis.
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
Cardamom has a unique and provocative flavor that is unlike any other spice. I love cooking with cardamom in savory dishes, in desserts, and even in teas and coffee.
Cardamom isn’t just for the taste buds. It is a carminative herb that can help with a variety of digestive complaints, from slow digestion to cramps and even bad breath. Like cacao, cardamom has been shown to have a multitude of heart-health benefits. One interesting study showed that three grams of cardamom daily can significantly reduce inflammation (hs-CRP) in women with high cholesterol.7
Cacao and Turmeric No-Bake Energy Bites
With no baking involved, these delicious no-bake energy bites are easy to whip up! We love them as an afternoon snack alongside a cup of roasted dandelion root herbal tea. Nut butters can be difficult to stir together; use room temperature nut butter to make it easier.
What you’ll need…
- 1 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate)
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds, coarsely ground
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- Pinch of cardamom powder
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup nut butter that is well stirred and room temperature (peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, or other nut butter)
- 3 tablespoons honey (may need to be slightly warmed until it has a syrupy consistency)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Begin by toasting the oats in a cast iron or other sturdy pan, stirring them frequently over medium-high heat. The oats are done when slightly browned. Place the toasted oats in a large mixing bowl and return the pan to the stove.
- Next, toast the coconut flakes in the same pan. You can often do this without the heat on, just using the residual heat from toasting the oats. Watch the coconut flakes closely as they can easily burn. They are done when they are slightly browned and fragrant. Add the toasted coconut to the bowl with the oats.
- Add the chocolate chips, chia seeds, and orange zest to the bowl. Stir well, allowing the heat from the toasted ingredients to melt the chocolate a bit.
- In a small bowl, mix together the turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Add the spices to the oat mixture and stir well.
- Add the nut butter, honey, and vanilla extract to the oat mixture. Stir well. The ideal consistency is when the mixture can hold together easily, without being too sticky.
- Sometimes you may need to adjust the ingredients depending on the consistency of your nut butter. Add a bit more nut butter if it’s too dry. Or add more oats if it’s too sticky or runny.
- Once the mixture is well combined, press a small amount into a spoon and then release that to a lined cookie sheet.
- Firm the no-bake energy bites up by placing them in the refrigerator or freezer. Store in an airtight container. Eat within three days.
Yield: Makes approximately 40 bites
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Have you tried no-bake cookies before?
Do you also try to pack as many herbs and spices into snacks as possible?
We would love to hear about your favorite herb-filled snacks. (Pottery by Laura Keyes.)
- Shrime, Mark G., et al. “Flavonoid-Rich Cocoa Consumption Affects Multiple Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Meta-Analysis of Short- Term Studies.” Journal of Nutrition 141, no. 11 (2011): 1982–88. doi:10.3945/jn.111.145482. ↩
- Marcinek, Katarzyna, and Zbigniew Krejpcio. “Chia Seeds (Salvia Hispanica): Health Promoting Properties and Therapeutic Applications – a Review.” Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny 68, no. 2 (2017): 123-129. ↩
- Taga, M Silvia, E E Miller, and D E Pratt. “Chia Seeds As a Source of Natural Lipid Antioxidants.” Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 61, no. 5: doi:10.1007/BF02542169. ↩
- Biswas, Saibal K., et al. “Curcumin Induces Glutathione Biosynthesis and Inhibits NF-κB Activation and Interleukin-8 Release in Alveolar Epithelial Cells: Mechanism of Free Radical Scavenging Activity.” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 7, no. 1–2 (2004): 32–41. doi:10.1089/ars.2005.7.32. ↩
- Hajimonfarednejad, Mahdie, Majid Nimrouzi, Mojtaba Heydari, Mohammad Mehdi Zarshenas, Mohammad Javad Raee, and Bahia Namavar Jahromi. “Insulin Resistance Improvement by Cinnamon Powder in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial.” Phytotherapy Research: PTR 32, no. 2 (February 2018): 276–83. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5970. ↩
- Solomon, Thomas P. J., and Andrew K. Blannin. “Changes in Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Sensitivity Following 2 Weeks of Daily Cinnamon Ingestion in Healthy Humans.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 105, no. 6 (2009): 969–76. doi:10.1007/s00421-009-0986-9. ↩
- Kazemi, Shiva, Fatemeh Yaghooblou, Fereydoun Siassi, Abbas Rahimi Foroushani, Mahsa Ghavipour, Fariba Koohdani, and Gity Sotoudeh. “Cardamom Supplementation Improves Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Hyperlipidemic, Overweight, and Obese Pre-Diabetic Women: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 97, no. 15 (December 2017): 5296–5301. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.8414. ↩