Recipe - Free-from no-bake chocolate bites

Free from, no-bake chocolate bites

Our chocolate bites are free from dairy, gluten and refined sugar - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

It’s lovely to have the little cherubs (children or grandchildren) at home or over to stay in the school holidays...well, for the first week anyway. 

Once the novelty of no more school routine, no more packed lunches, no more washing grass-stained sports socks, has worn off, you realise your house has been taken over by a noisy, ever-hungry kind of beast. 

I remember laughing at friends with older children a few years ago as they regaled me with stories of their weekly shop being hoovered up greedily over the course of a day or so by insatiable teens.  

But, as I’ve discovered in recent years, it’s no laughing matter. My two (13 and 15) have an almost supranatural ability, in that they somehow manage to find and eat most of what I’ve bought before it’s even unpacked from the shopping bags. An hour or so later we’ll then get that familiar howl “muuuum, I’m hungry”. 

And I’ve turned into my parents. “Have some fruit then.....or some toast!” neither of which are as interesting to them as a bag of Hula Hoops or cheeky bourbon biscuit.  

Returning from a recent camping trip, the cupboards were almost bare, but I did manage to scrape together today’s recipe from the odds and sods lurking at the back. A few spoonfuls of peanut butter and almond butter, a bar of chocolate stuck to a bag of flour with golden syrup, the dregs of the maple syrup (from said camping trip), a sprinkling of seeds and cereal, and barley malt extract. 

The result? Really very tasty, crunchy, not-too-sweet balls of chocolate goodness. Now I’m not going to claim these are in any way healthy. But they are made without refined sugar, dairy or wheat. I like to think that, being packed with nut protein, and good oils from the seeds, they’re a decent junk-free alternative to the processed muck my kids usually want me to buy. 

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Who knows...maybe they’ll go back to school with glossy locks and fabulous skin after munching on the concoction? 

They don’t melt too easily once set, so make a brilliant snack for walkers, cyclists, runners (and picnic-goers) as well. 

A note on the measurements. I haven’t given one for the cornflakes as some peanut butters are thicker and oilier than others.  

Also, feel free to play with the recipe. If you have a nut allergy in the house, seed butter will work just as well. And most plain cereals will do in place of the cornflakes – although rice cereal won’t keep its crunch as long. 

I wouldn’t, however, swap out the barley extract. This sticky, naturally sweet gloop, helps to bind the whole thing together and brings a delicious Mars Bar-like maltiness to the finished product. Having visited a local malt factory a few years ago, I’m a convert. I always have a jar on the shelf to add to sauces to make them glossier, to temper the flavour of stews and soups, to make cheese scones taste cheesier, and chocolate cakes more chocolatey. It really is a bit magic! 

Chocolate energy balls 


100g dark chocolate - dairy-free if you like, or your favourite bar

3tbsps maple syrup 

3tbsps barley malt extract 

4tbsps smooth peanut butter (or seed butter) 

2tbsps mixed seeds 

Pinch sea salt 

Cornflakes – judge by eye 


Place the chocolate, maple syrup and malt extract in a pan on a very low heat and warm until the chocolate melts. Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Take off the heat and add the seeds. Now add the cornflakes, a handful at a time, crunching them with your fingers as you go to break them up. I found about 3-4 handfuls was enough. You want every seed and cereal flake to be coated well in the mixture. 

Allow to cool slightly, then take tablespoons of the mixture and form into balls, pressing the mix together. Set on a lined baking tray and allow to harden – you can pop them in the fridge to hurry the process up if you like. They’ll keep for a week in an airtight tin.