I am, or used to be, a big fan of liqueurs. Of all sorts, really. Bailey’s is an eternal favorite, and the espresso and strawberry flavors are just to die for. Mozart cream is by far my favorite chocolate liqueur. Ice cream wouldn’t happen without Mozart as topping. Sheridan’s is beautiful, you can start drinking with your eyes while you pour. And there was a time when I often enjoyed a White Russian made with Tia Maria or Molinari Caffé (Kahlua = meh) with chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. Because the holy beverage is the perfect weekend lazy morning drink. And it goes sooo well with cookies…
But, keto happened and my carefree enjoyment of sugary alcoholic beverages was forever changed.
With the new, healthy habit of reading nutritional fact labels to help me decide what to safely ingest, I came to the realization that no alcoholic beverage displays one. Some are graceful enough to provide an ingredient list, and inform whether they are or not gluten-free. But calorie and sugar count? Never.
Calories in alcohol are a difficult subject, I understand. Your body doesn’t metabolize them the same way as the calories from proteins, fat or carbohydrates. Alcohol is a macro-nutrient itself, but the nutrient part is really lacking. How much of the alcohol ingested is used in the same manner as the other macro-nutrients, burned as calories, and stored as fat? No one knows, actually. It depends on many factors. So it’s not surprising that calories aren’t generally displayed on alcoholic drinks labels: an accurate calculation just hasn’t been invented.
Sugar, on the other hand, I cannot fathom (an honest) reason why it isn’t displayed. Everyone knows the detrimental effects that sugar has on our health, and the sugar content in a liqueur is an important factor to be taken into consideration for health conscious people who enjoy their alcohol. And yes, you can be healthy conscious and enjoy your alcohol. I never got the criticism over people who order a burger and fries and ask for diet soda. Smart them. They’re cutting the whole calorie content of their meal in half, pretty much, and removing the sugar, which is the worst part. Every bit counts. And everyone has to start somewhere.
The keto cacao nibs sugar-free DIY chocolate liqueur
So, as commercially available sugar-free liqueurs are still unheard of – PLEASE let me know if I am wrong – I embarked on a journey to create keto and low-carb liqueurs.
This recipe for homemade keto chocolate liqueur is incredibly easy. The most difficult part of making sugar-free liqueur at home is waiting for it to get ready! You’ll need a lot of patience and self control. No taste testing is required along the way, I assure you.
What exactly are cacao nibs, and are they keto friendly?
Also called cocoa nibs, cacao nibs are a relatively new ingredient, as in newly available for purchase by folks like you and me. So it’s completely understandable if you’ve never heard about them.
Cacao nibs are the purest, least processed form of chocolate you can buy. They are basically the beans of the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao), with the shells removed, and broken down into smaller pieces – the nibs.
They are used in the chocolate industry as the raw material base for making our beloved dark or milk chocolates – not white chocolate, as this one just takes the cacao butter.
Per 100 grams, cacao nibs contain 50 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbohydrates – of which only 1 gram is sugar and the other 13 grams are fiber, so 5 net carb per 100 grams, and 13 grams protein. Cacao nibs are rich in manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. Which makes them a nutrition wonder, and very much keto friendly indeed.
What do cacao nibs taste like?
It’s a love or hate relationship, depending on personal taste. Some people, mostly the ones that already appreciate ultra dark chocolate (90% plus) and black coffee, just can’t get enough of them. They add them to cookies instead of chocolate chips, to porridge, to chia puddings, as topping to ice cream. They like the crunchiness and even use them to cure chocolate cravings, having them just by the tablespoon.
I call these people crazy. Cacao nibs are to chocolate like coffee beans are to a cup of espresso. And you don’t see coffee lovers munching on coffee beans very often.
Other people, often the ones with a sweet tooth, just hate cacao nibs. They find them bitter, and even sour and pungent.
Although I love my dark chocolate and black coffee, I don’t like to eat cacao nibs straight from the package. They are acidic and the lack the creaminess that makes chocolate amazing. They are more like a “plant” form of chocolate, really dry and somewhat fibrous.
How to make the keto cacao nibs chocolate liqueur
You’ll need the following hardware for this DIY cacao sugar-free liqueur:
- 1 clean glass bottle, minimum 750 millilitres, preferentially with a screw cap (it has to be well sealed as you’ll be shaking it a lot). This bottle will probably be thrown away after you are done, so just use anything. A wine bottle is ideal.
- 1 clean glass bottle with 1 liter capacity where you’ll keep your liqueur when it’s ready. You can also separate the liqueur into smaller bottles if you prefer. A great idea is to put your own labels on them to distribute as small gifts.
- A few paper coffee filters
- A funnel, or just use the coffee filter holder from your coffee maker as a support for the paper filter. Just wash the machine holder well before and after filtering the vodka.
Sugar-free homemade cacao liqueur, step 1 ingredients:
- 150 grams of cacao nibs (1 cup)
- 500 grams of 50% alcohol (100 proof) vodka – 40 % (80 proof) is fine if you can’t find 50%
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
You’ll just add these to the first screw-cap bottle and leave it in there for about 2 months (I left mine for 45 days), and shake the bottle every other day. You can leave the bottle somewhere you pass not so often in the house, and shake it whenever you pass through it. Don’t need any mathematical approach to this, if you just forget about shaking for a week it’s not gonna ruin the recipe. But try to shake it often, to stimulate the cacao and vanilla juices to come out.
Sugar-free homemade cacao liqueur, step 2: filtration
After at least 45 days have passed, your cacao nibs and vanilla bean have been juiced enough and should look like the picture on the right side, below. It is now ready to be filtered and have the simple syrup added, which will transform this godly chocolatey nectar into a proper keto friendly alcoholic beverage.
To get the infused vodka out of the first bottle,you can filter it straight into the one liter bottle you chose to hold the liqueur, using a funnel with the paper coffee filter inside. Alternatively, you can filter it over a big jar, and from there distribute into smaller bottles after you mix in the simple syrup.
The paper filter is a very important step, because the cacao nibs release a lot of fat into the vodka (see the second picture) and we don’t want all that fat clouding up our liqueur.
Pour the vodka mixture into the paper coffee filter slowly. The coffee filter will drain fast at first, but you will notice that will get almost clogged very soon due to the fat that’s catching onto the paper fibers. When the drainage gets too slow for your patience, just change up the filter for a new one.
I measured the vodka in and the vodka out of the bottle – 500 millilitres vodka went in, but only 460 ml came out. The nibs absorbed 40 millilitres of vodka, and wouldn’t let go. I can’t account for all brands of cacao nibs out there, as I’m sure they will absorb liquid at different rates. If you want your calculation of alcohol content to be on the spot for any reason, make sure to measure how much alcohol you managed to drain out of the first bottle. You can also add some more vodka to the initial recipe, to make up for any lost amount. Or add more vodka to top up the quantity later on, after draining. It’s your call.
Sugar-free homemade cacao liqueur, step 3: How to make keto simple syrup
To transform the chocolate infused vodka into a proper liqueur, we need to add both sweetness and mouthfeel. For this, we will prepare a simple syrup and add it to the vodka infusion, after draining the cacao nibs and vanilla away.
To make the sugar-free simple syrup, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 500 grams of water
- 250 grams of erythritol stevia keto 1:1 sweetener
- 0.8 gram of xanthan gum (1/4th teaspoon), or half the amount for a less thick liqueur
You can adjust the xanthan gum to your desired level of viscosity. 1/8th teaspoon of xanthan gum is the minimum for the recipe to have a liqueur mouthfeel, but you can use up to 1/4th teaspon (that’s what I used myself) to make it a little bit thicker. The thickness is lost as the time goes by, though. So, if you are planning to drink it reasonably fast, you can use less xanthan.
My bottle is over 6 months old, and it still tastes amazing – maybe even more amazing than it initially did, actually – but the liquid has lost some of its viscosity. Do not put more than 1/4th teaspoon of xanthan gum, this is the upper limit that the liquid will take before the consistency gets really… unappealing, to say the least.
As for the sweetener: you can prepare your own erythritol and stevia mix, or use an industrialized 1:1 keto sweetener. You can also just use up to 250 grams of erythritol and add extra stevia or monk fruit drops or extract powder until you reach the desired sweetness. Don’t increase the amount of erythritol or you risk the crystallization of the mixture. If you prefer, you can use xylitol instead.
Add the sweeteners and water into a pan, and mix well. If you use a whisk or a mixing spoon (that’s a spoon with a hole in it, I found out recently), you can mix with total abandon while avoiding the waves inside the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and turn off the heat as soon as the sweeteners are completely dissolved.
Add in your xanthan gum, slowly sprinkling the fine powder evenly on top of the liquid. Whisk vigorously. This way, you will avoid any clumps from appearing. If you do get clumps, you can insert an immersion blender and give it a couple of quick pulses to get rid of them.
The mixture will change color after the addition of xanthan gum, but you won’t notice much of a thickening while it is still warm. But you can taste it now, and make it sweeter with extra stevia or monk fruit drops. Remember that the sweet taste will be cut in half, when you add the chocolate infused vodka to the mixture.
After the sugar-free syrup is cooled down, just add it to the chocolate infused vodka and your homemade keto liqueur is done! You can add exactly 500 ml, to achieve the calculated proof, or more (the recipe makes a little bit over 500 ml syrup) if you want it sweeter and less alcoholic. In any case, the flavor will continue developing over time. I suggest waiting for at least one more week before enjoying.
What’s the alcohol content of the finished keto chocolate liqueur mixture?
The finished liqueur recipe, accounting for 500 milliliters of vodka and 500 milliliters of simple syrup contains 25% alcohol if 50% alcohol vodka is used, or 20% alcohol for 40% vodka.
How many calories are in the keto homemade chocolate liqueur?
As discussed above, the calories in alcohol are somewhat hard to calculate. And although the calories in cacao nibs and vanilla are known, the fact that we are not going to eat them but just whatever the vodka managed to seep out of them, I am not able to give you a correct calorie and macro count for the recipe.
So, for the nutritional information on the recipe card I used the accepted number of calories in vodka – which are most likely wrong, as in being alcohol these are calories in the straight scientific sense of amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius, and not what your body is able to use or store as fat.
On top of that, I added the calories for half of the the cacao nibs, as a gross approximation, as they are not going to be eaten whole and the fat of the nibs will mostly be filtered out.
Erythritol, as always, is removed from the calculation, as it in a non-absorbable sugar alcohol with a glycemic index of zero.
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For the chocolate vodka infusion
- 150 grams of cacao nibs (1 cup)
- 500 grams vodka (50 or 40% alcohol)
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
For the sugar-free simple syrup
- 500 grams of water
- 250 grams of erythritol stevia keto 1:1 sweetener
- 0.8 gram of xanthan gum (1/4 teaspoon), or half amount for a less thick liqueur
- In a clean glass bottle (minimum 750 ml size) with screw on cap, add the cacao nibs, vodka and vanilla bean. Let it be for 45 days to 2 months, shaking the bottle vigorously every other day.
- Filter the vodka chocolate infusion out through coffee paper filters into a 1 liter clean glass bottle. You might have to change the paper filter a few times, as the fat from the cacao nibs will clog them.
- Prepare the keto simple syrup: add the water and sweetener to a pan, and bring it to a boil while whisking. When the sweetener is fully dissolved, turn off the heat. Evenly sprinkle the xanthan gum on top of the mixture, and vigorously whisk it to avoid clumping.
- After the syrup cools down, pour it into the bottle. Shake the bottle to mix, and try the liqueur for sweetness. You can add stevia or monk fruit drops to make it sweeter, if necessary.
- Keep the bottle well sealed out of direct light. There's no need to refrigerate. Wait for another week for the flavor to develop before enjoying.
You can adjust the xanthan gum to your desired level of viscosity. 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum is the minimum for the recipe to have a liqueur mouthfeel, but you can use up to 1/4 teaspoon to make it a little bit thicker. Do not put more than 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum.
You can use either erythritol or xylitol in 1:1 sugar combination. For the erythritol stevia 1:1 keto sweetener recipe I used, click here.
With a 500 ml vodka and 500 ml simple syrup mixture, the keto cacao liqueur contains 25% alcohol (ABV) if 50% alcohol vodka is used, or 20% alcohol (ABV) for 40% vodka.
The caloric content displayed in the nutrition information is just a gross approximation, but the net carb content is likely correct.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 50 ml
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 156Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 37mgCarbohydrates: 14gNet Carbohydrates: 0.4gFiber: 0.5gSugar: 0.5gProtein: 0.5g
Nutrition information is provided as a guideline only. Different brands of ingredients may have different nutrition facts. If tracking macros, remake the calculations using the nutrition facts from the labels of the ingredients you selected. Net carbs calculated exclude carbs from insoluble fiber and the sugar alcohol erythritol.