Coming in on the coattails of Independence Day is another holiday that doesn’t get its proper dues – World Chocolate Day!

If you don’t know chocolate’s origin story, you might be surprised to learn it’s almost as old as recorded history. The Olmec civilization (located in Mesoamerica) was the first known cultivator of cacao trees around 1500 BC.
The Mayans and Aztecs took their love for chocolate to the next level. They used cacao beans in religious rituals, as currency, and to create a bitter drink called “xocolatl.” This drink was often flavored with spices, chili peppers, and cornmeal, and was believed to have invigorating and even spiritual properties.

The sweet, solid chocolate we know today didn’t emerge until the 16th century, when Spanish explorers introduced cacao beans to Europe. Europeans added sugar and honey to xocolatl, transforming it into a sweeter beverage. Chocolate quickly became a favorite among the wealthy, and its popularity spread throughout the continent.

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, innovations in processing revolutionized chocolate production. This made chocolate more affordable and accessible to the masses, leading to the creation of the familiar chocolate bars and candies we enjoy today.

Now, chocolate is a dessert staple. If you feel like celebrating all things chocolate, there are some incredible chocolate shops nearby. Here are some of my favorites in the East Valley that you can visit to indulge in some incredible options:

  • Dulceria La Bonita Wholesale in Mesa is a family-owned business that offers a wide variety of Mexican candies, chocolates, and piñatas. They also have a large selection of bulk candy and party supplies. The public is welcome even though they are a wholesale company.
  • Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory in Mesa is a candy store that makes its own chocolate, fudge, and other treats. They also have a large selection of nostalgic candies and toys.
  • Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Tempe is a chain store that offers a variety of chocolates, fudge, and other treats. They also have a selection of gift baskets and other gift items.
  • Rocket Fizz in Gilbert is a candy store that sells a wide variety of sodas, candies, and other novelty items. They also have a large selection of vintage candy and toys.
  • Sweeties Candy of Arizona in Chandler is a family-owned candy store that sells a wide variety of bulk and packaged candies. They also have a large selection of nostalgic candies and toys.
  • Tifa Chocolate & Gelato in Gilbert is a chocolate shop that makes its own chocolates, truffles, and other treats. They also have a gelato bar and a coffee shop.

Do dietary restrictions put a damper on your chocolate consumption? Never fear! There are some incredible DIY options that are just as sweet and easy to make at home.

Craving a decadent chocolate treat but worried about the sugar content? Fortunately, you can make sugar-free chocolate right at home. It only takes a few simple ingredients, is fun to try, and provides a fun creative outlet if you want to invest in some fun add-ins or interesting silicone molds.

sugar free chocolate truffles

Easy Sugar-Free Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz dark chocolate (make sure it’s unsweetened or 100% cacao)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional, for smoother texture)
  • Flavorings (optional): vanilla extract, espresso powder, spices, etc.

Instructions:
1. Chop or crush the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Stir until melted and smooth.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream and coconut oil (if using). Add any desired flavorings.
3. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
4. Once firm, scoop out small portions and roll them into balls.
5. (Optional) Roll truffles in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut.
6. Store the truffles in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Pro Tip: Consider using stevia or monk fruit sweetener as alternatives if you prefer a touch of extra sweetness.

By making your own sugar-free chocolate, you can control the ingredients and ensure a healthier indulgence. Dark chocolate, especially when made without sugar, offers some potential health benefits:

  • Antioxidants: Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.
  • Heart health: Some studies suggest that dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.
  • Brain function: Dark chocolate may improve cognitive function and memory. It’s a delicious way to satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your health goals.

Ready to get creative? Once you make the sugar-free chocolate, consider some of these ideas for molds or  mix-ins.

Molds:

  • Festive shapes: Look for food-grade silicone molds at your local craft or grocery store that match holidays or special occasions (hearts for Valentine’s Day, pumpkins for Halloween, etc.).
  • Character molds: Kids (and kids at heart) will love chocolates shaped like their favorite characters.
  • Geometric or abstract shapes: These can add a modern touch to your creations.
  • Custom molds: If you have a specific design in mind, you can even get custom molds made.

Mix-ins:

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • Dried fruit: Cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, pineapple, mango.
  • Candied fruit: Orange peel, lemon peel, ginger.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg.
  • Espresso powder or instant coffee: For a mocha twist.
  • Sea salt: A sprinkle of sea salt on dark chocolate creates a delicious sweet-and-salty flavor.
  • Cookie crumbs, pretzels, or potato chips: Add a fun crunch and unexpected flavor.
  • Freeze-dried berries: A burst of tartness and beautiful color.
  • Edible glitter or sprinkles: For a festive touch.
  • Flavored extracts: Vanilla, almond, peppermint, etc.

Additional tips:

  • Layering: Create different layers of chocolate with different mix-ins.
  • Dipping: Dip strawberries, pretzels, or cookies in melted chocolate.
  • Drizzling: Drizzle different types of chocolate over each other or over other treats.
  • Temper your chocolate: This will give it a smooth, glossy finish and a satisfying snap.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to customizing your chocolate. Have fun experimenting with different combinations to find your favorites!