Are you a fan of Nutella? Even die-hard Nutella devotees might not be aware that their favorite sweet, nutty, chocolate spread has its roots in an even older Italian confection called gianduia. The sweet, rich spread is used similarly to Nutella but is darker and nuttier than its counterpart.
- Also Known As: Gianduja
- Place of Origin: Italy
- Main Ingredients: hazelnuts, chocolate, sugar
- Substitute: Nutella
What Is Gianduia?
Gianduia (pronounced "john-DOO-ya" and sometimes spelled gianduja) is an Italian chocolate-hazelnut spread made by roasting hazelnuts, grinding them into a paste, and blending with dark chocolate, butter, and cream. Think of ganache, which is a blend of melted chocolate and heavy cream (and sometimes butter and even eggs), but with hazelnut paste added in.
Gianduia is commonly said to have been invented in the Piedmont region of Italy in the early 19th century during the Napoleonic wars. As legend has it, Piedmontese chocolatiers responded to the scarcity of cocoa—due to various naval blockades and counter-blockades at the time—by adding ground hazelnuts to their cocoa powder as a sort of filler.
This legend is doubtful for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that sugar, a key component of chocolate, was equally scarce during that period. Indeed, it's highly likely that French chefs had been experimenting with the combination of chocolate and hazelnuts for up to a century before that, so its popularity likely developed gradually, eventually reaching Italy during Napoleon's reign.
In its earliest versions, gianduia was shaped into balls or morsels called gianduiotti before taking the form it has today of a creamy, spreadable mixture. Some versions of gianduia are made with almond paste instead of hazelnuts and it's available in dark and milk chocolate varieties.
Like Nutella, gianduia has a wide variety of uses, including spreading on toast, croissants, or a baguette, on cookies and cakes, pairing with fruit, or even just enjoying it with a spoon straight from the jar. You can thin it with additional cream to make a ganache-like frosting or filling, or use it for making mousse, gelato, or even truffles. And just like Nutella, it's a wonderful filling for sweet crepes and all kinds of pastries.
What Does It Taste Like?
Gianduia has a rich, deep, complex chocolatey, nutty flavor, with a creamy, slightly grainy texture. By comparison, Nutella, which is made with chocolate, oil, and around 13 percent hazelnuts, gianduia contains at least 30 percent hazelnuts and sometimes much more—up to 60 percent depending on the brand and variety. As a result, Nutella is more straightforwardly chocolate with a nutty finish, whereas gianduia features a much more complex and nutty flavor profile.
Substitute gianduia for Nutella in any recipe, including the recipes below. The dish will be nuttier with a darker chocolate flavor than if Nutella was used. You can also enjoy it on toast, croissants, scones, and more.
Where to Buy Gianduia
Gianduia can be purchased at many grocery stores, specialty food stores, chocolate and confectionery stores, as well as online. Look for supermarkets that have a large international section or specifically shop at an Italian grocer. Several brands make the spread, sometimes available in different flavors (dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate) and sell gianduia in plastic or glass jars. You may also find it labeled as "gianduja."
Store store-bought gianduia as you would Nutella or peanut butter. Keep tightly sealed in the original container in a cool, dark place. Check the container to see if you need to refrigerate it after opening—many brands don't require refrigeration and chilling the mixture will make it hard and difficult to spread. It should last for a month or longer once opened. Refrigerate homemade gianduia, letting it warm up on the counter before using.
Make Your Own Gianduia
To make your own gianduia, you'll need to start with raw hazelnuts. If you can find them without the skins, that will definitely speed things along. Otherwise, roast them on a sheet pan for 10 to 15 minutes, wrap the warm hazelnuts in a clean towel, and rub vigorously. The steam plus the friction from the towel will help get the skins off.
Next, grind the hazelnuts into a paste in a food processor or high-speed blender along with some granulated sugar. Meanwhile, melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave, whisk in some cream, butter, salt, and vanilla extract, and finally combine the melted chocolate with the ground hazelnut mixture.
While it's still warm, pour the gianduia into a glass jar or other container. It'll thicken as it cools, and will keep for four weeks tightly covered in the fridge.
Nutrition and Benefits
A 33 gram serving of gianduia (about two teaspoons) provides 193 calories along with 2 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, and 18 grams of carbs.