What Is Carob And What Does It Taste Like?

Carob, as some might recall, is one of those circa-1970s fad foods that made the rounds in dusty health food stores before "health food" was cool. It was marketed unsuccessfully as a substitute for chocolate, to the disappointment of many a child of hippies, as The New Yorker so elegantly reminds us. Its proponents put it into every chocolate-adjacent thing from carob chips to carob cakes. As one food trend forecaster put it to Carobou, "It's not a chocolate replacer... When you're comparing anything to chocolate, it's going to fail." Amen.

But what carob does offer is a number of health benefits, plus the honor of being named one of the next hot food trends in 2021. Carob, for those wondering, is a kind of pod from trees that can grow all over the world (via Healthline). After its seeds are removed, the pod, which contains a sweet pulp, can be dried and then ground into a brown powder that resembles cacao — but only in looks. Carob, by many accounts, is really nothing like chocolate, but it might be good anyway (via Treehugger and The Spruce Eats).

Why you might be eating more carob soon

Carob, as chef Cortney Burns told The New Yorker, tasted "like nutty cardboard" to her back in her teens, but it can also have a deep malty flavor if it's used correctly. It's also sweet, and the blogger from Oh She Glows even likens it to dates. Carob powder and chips can be used in cookies and cakes, but to avoid conflating it with chocolate, you might be better served adding it to a smoothie (like this one from Jennifer's Kitchen) or a bar, where its flavor can get a boost from extra goodies like nuts or plant-based milks.

But why even bother with carob? Well, according to a food trend forecast from Spoonshot, Carob has a lot of hydroxyproline, which helps the body produce more collagen. Healthline says it's also relatively rich in calcium, antioxidants, protein, fiber, and vitamins A and B2, which can help maintain healthy skin and eyes — plus, it's caffeine-free and has been shown to help with digestive health. "These factors all add up to make it the next superfood darling," say the trend forecasters. Here's to a carob-happy 2021.