It's that time of year again for practicing Catholics: the season when fast food, baked goods, candy, and pretty much all things tasty are neglected for forty days by the most devout of religious eaters. But, sacrificing for the sake of your faith does not have to mean depriving yourself of all things enjoyable. If you're a Catholic partaking in Lent, you may choose to give up one thing, many things, or nothing at all and use this period as a time for reflection and giving to others. Personally, I give up one thing every Lent, which happens to be my favorite thing: chocolate. 

If you are giving up chocolate too and are already starting to experience chocolate withdrawal like me, here are a few close alternatives that may keep the grumpiness and impatience at bay while satisfying that sweet tooth (or entire set of sweet teeth in my case):


In my opinion, carob is the most underrated chocolate alternative out there. Similar to chocolate, carob is a pod that comes from a tree and is roasted and ground to yield a versatile powder that can be made into a wide variety of tasty things. Popular treats made out of carob include carob-covered nuts and fruit, carob ice cream, carob brownies and baked goods, and carob bars, peanut butter cups, and candy. Pretty much anything made out of chocolate can also be made out of carob, as it delivers the same smooth mouthfeel as chocolate. You can find carob powder at Whole Foods as well as my personal favorite, carob raisins and almonds. This is also a great choice if you're looking to cut back on the caffeine, as carob contains no caffeine at all. 


Another extremely underrated sweet-tooth-satisfier is butterscotch. This old-fashioned treat has a complex flavor with  notes of white chocolate, toffee, butter, and brown sugar. Butterscotch can come in many forms, including a thick, caramel-like sauce, pudding, baking chips, and candy, and adds an an additional flavor dimension to simple desserts. My favorite butterscotch chips are from Guittard. Bake them into cookies, carob brownies, or cakes or eat them by the handful straight from the bag like I do. Calories don't count during Lent right? Once Lent is over, however, try butterscotch paired with chocolate and you'll be saying "chocolate and peanut butter who??"


I know what you're thinking. Why on earth would I ever liken something healthy like sunbutter to chocolate?! But hear me out, when paired with sweet things such as fruit jams or blended into frostings, this seed butter lends itself as a perfect companion. Its subtle notes of sweetness perfectly complement decadent caramel, fruity desserts, and, dare I say, even vanilla ice cream. To me, sunbutter has an ever-so-slight malty flavor, which would be a perfect addition to a salted caramel milkshake or to butterscotch blondies. This untraditional butter will become your Nutella substitute during the Lenten season and possibly even replace the chocolate-hazelnut spread in your pantry altogether (okay I won't go that far). 

Cookie Butter

On Ash Wednesday (which also just so happened to fall on Valentine's Day this year *sigh*), I had to say goodbye to my favorite cookie for a while: the Oreo. But, instead of wallowing in my Oreo sadness, I think of this period as a time to be even more food-adventurous and try new things. Cookie butter delivers some of the same pleasures as Oreos do, except with delectable brown sugar, cinnamon-y flavors instead of chocolately goodness. Put it on cinnamon raisin toast, pancakes, or monkey bread or bake it into a pie, cheesecake, or cookies. It's unlike anything else out there and will most likely leave you feeling pleasantly surprised. Luckily for me, my cinnamon addiction is almost as excessive as my chocolate addiction, but if this is not true for you, I still encourage you to take Lent as a time to expand you taste bud horizons while sacrificing something else that you love. Once Lent is over, try my absolute favorite, Trader Joe's Cookie & Cocoa Swirl, and you will need to hide every spoon in your house to stop yourself from eating the whole thing in one sitting. 

Salted Caramel

If you're looking for something to replace the chocolate chips in your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, look no further. Ghirhardelli now makes caramel baking chips, and they just might be almost as good as butterscotch chips (I'm not partial at all). Sprinkle a little flaked sea salt on top of your caramel cookies when they come out of the oven and voila! you now have a fancy little treat to eat after a long day of not eating chocolate. You can also melt the caramel chips and drizzle on top of cupcakes, cinnamon buns, or waffles. Caramel is so versatile and tastes great on just about anything, even fruit. It's also incredibly easy to make, you basically boil water, cream, and sugar and let the heat work its magic. 

So, as you can see, Lent is a time not only for sacrifice, reflection, and appreciation, but also for expanding your horizons, experiencing new things, and opening your heart (and your taste buds). Give these classic flavors and ingredients a try while substituting for whatever it is you're sacrificing this Lent. And, most importantly, don't forget that it is totally acceptable to cheat on Sundays :p