Healthy Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding with Kuzu


I'm always looking for excuses to have chocolate, and this pudding is one of the best excuses yet. It uses just five ingredients, is dairy-free, involves minimal clean-up, and (here's the clincher) fights anxiety. The star of the show is kuzu root, which is high in flavonoids proven to aid digestion, relieve stomach cramping, reduce stress and combat insomnia. You can read more about the health benefits of kuzu here; when I have it before bedtime, I sleep better than ever. In terms of its culinary uses, it works well as a thickening agent. 

Although kuzu is not well-known in western cuisine, it's readily available (and affordable) online and at health food stores. I first learned about it when I stumbled upon this recipe via the healthy living website Juiceboks. Based on Erin's pudding, my variation uses chocolate hazelnut milk and sliced local strawberries. If you think that clean eating means giving up comfort food, think again: this easy, low-calorie dessert tastes decadent enough to induce serious cravings...

INGREDIENTS
(serves 4) 

4 Tbsp Maple Syrup
3 Tbsp Crushed Kuzu Root (I order it from Amazon.) 
2 cups Chocolate Hazelnut Milk (I use the brand Pacific.)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 pinch Salt
(+ fruit of your choice, chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts to sprinkle on top)

STEPS

1. Using the back of a spoon, crush the kuzu root starch into a powder. 
2. Mix the kuzu root and maple syrup in a bowl.
3. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate hazelnut milk, kuzu root/maple syrup blend, vanilla extract and salt. 
4. Bring the mixture to a simmer on medium heat, whisking continuously until it thickens. Keep cooking it until it reaches a consistency slightly thicker than gravy. As I learned the hard way, don't cook it for too long or it will become gelatinous! If this happens, just add a little more milk to your mixture. 
5. Pour the mixture into bowls and let cool/set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can prepare the pudding up to a day in advance. 
6. Garnish with fruit, nuts and/or chocolate chips and serve.


I enjoyed my pudding while thumbing through the textbook-size September issue of Vogue. Needless to say, I made a bigger dent in the pudding than in the magazine. Again, thank you to Juiceboks for introducing me to kuzu root and this delicious pudding!