A Benign Indulgence: Rustic Mayan Chocolate Truffles

Rustic Mayan Chocolate Truffles

Mayan chocolate, bitter and sexy, with its resonant flavors of cinnamon and chili always reminds me not of Mexico, but of Amsterdam.  It was in that cold and wet city that my husband and I tied the knot to the bells of the Oude Kerk six years ago.  We’re not much for fanfare, we two.  And while we’d planned the trip for months, it was only in the three days before we left that we decided to make the Valentine’s getaway a honeymoon.  A trip to the county clerk for our $10 marriage license, $165 on eBay for our wedding rings, and we were set.  No satin dresses, no expensive flowers, no wedding invitations.  Just us, in love.  We were young and poor and passionate (and, I imagine, you could say that not much has changed since then).  We rented an apartment in de Wallen – one of the city’s oldest sections in which stunning architecture and history combine with Amsterdam’s most well-known indulgences: coffee shops and the red light district.

After a few days in the city, visiting the Stedelijk and spending hours walking from canal to canal, we met my brother-in-law at Central Station.  He rode the train in from Italy where he’d spent a few years hopping from farm to farm.  We surprised him with the news and signed our papers while he dished out a bowl full of risotto with winter vegetables – our reception dinner, if you will, combined with a cheap bottle of  viognier.  Intimate, quiet and simple.  My brother-in-law stepped out of the apartment only to return a short time later with a box of truffles, among them Mayan chocolate.  And, perfectly, our only wedding gift.

Bitter Mayan chocolate with its aromatic spices will always remind me of Amsterdam and of that quiet night we spent huddled in that apartment, laughing, telling stories, eating chocolates and reveling in a young love.

Mayan chocolate is infinitely complex, and worth savoring.  Like a rich and complicated perfume, its flavor follows a sequence – vibrant top and middle notes fading away into a robust and lingering bottom note.  The pleasure of Mayan chocolate begins first on the tongue with a powdery and astringent bitterness quickly outshined by floral notes of vanilla and orange that fade into the throat with the lingering and stimulating spice of cinnamon and chipotle chilies.  Mayan chocolate is an experiential exercise in pleasure more than a treat or an indulgence.

So this Valentine’s day he greeted me with roses, and I greeted him with Mayan chocolates.  May you celebrate today in the arms of someone who drives your passion.

Mayan Chocolate: How it Nourishes

Chocolate is a strong food – one whose bitterness is typically tempered by cream, milk powders and mountains of sugar.  Most chocolates are further insulted by the addition of soy lecithin, an emulsifier which some manufacturers include in lieu of additional cocoa butter. In many conventional brands, soy lecithin is sourced from genetically engineered beans and is best avoided.   Sadly, milk chocolate bars which typically contain milk powders are best avoided as milk powder is a source of oxidized cholesterol.  What you want in a chocolate is high cocoa content, no emulsifiers, limited sugar and no milk powder. Read more about how to choose a good organic dark chocolate.

Chocolate is also rich in theobromine, a stimulant, and is best consumed in small pieces when consumed at all.   Though a stimulant, chocolate also may offer cardioprotective and anticarcinogenic properties thanks to its rich combination of antioxidants – boasting an ORAC value of 20,832, a feat considering the ORAC value of raspberries and blueberries (both foods lauded for their antioxidant content) is 4,882 and 6,552, respectively1.  Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate also helps to improve blood vessel flexibility, thereby decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease2. Chocolate is also rich in trace minerals including iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese3 – necessary components of vascular tone and cell health4.  And for expectant mothers, chocolate intake may help to reduce the risk of preeclampsia5,6 while a Finnish study found that mothers who consumed chocolate daily during pregnancy reported better temperaments in their babies than those who avoided chocolate or only ate it seldomly7.

While I wouldn’t recommend chocolate as a dietary staple due to its naturally occurring stimulants and its tendency to be addictive, a little treat like these Mayan chocolate truffles might be a worthy indulgence now and then. Moreover, these chocolates contain about one-half a teaspoon of added sugar per piece – an indulgence well within the recommendation not to consume more than two teaspoons in one serving.

Where to Buy Good Quality Chocolate and Spices

The flavor of these truffles can be only as good as your ingredients.  Make sure that you choose a good quality dark chocolate (I use dark chocolate with an 85% cocoa content), and it should also be ethically sourced from companies who adhere to fair trade standards as child slavery is rampant in the chocolate industry.  Yes, it will be more expensive.  But, remember, treats like these mayan chocolate truffles are just that – treats.  For such a rare indulgence, the added expense won’t add up and you won’t be contributing to the problem of child slavery on West African cocoa plantations.

Spice makes these truffles, so purchasing a good quality spice is essential.  If you don’t have a favorite local spice shop, you can purchase organic spices online in bulk.  I buy from Mountain Rose Herbs which offers both culinary and medicinal herbs and spices.


mayan chocolate truffles

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours

Yield: About two dozen Mayan chocolate truffles.

mayan chocolate truffles

This recipe for Mayan chocolate truffles calls for chocolate with an 85% cocoa content, bitterly and wonderfully dark; you’ll find that the addition of other flavors such as orange, cinnamon, vanilla and even chipotle chili powder enhance the complexity of the chocolate’s inherent flavor and aroma. You won’t miss that sugar one bit. Further, these Mayan chocolate truffles are more simplistic and rustic – they require no hand molding; rather, simply chill the chocolate in the refrigerator and cut away at it to form beautifully imperfect bite-sized pieces. Beauty lies in imperfection.



  1. Toss chopped chocolate into a mixing bowl with the zest of one orange, cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, the contents of one vanilla bean and a dash unrefined sea salt.
  2. Bring coconut milk and coconut oil to a slow simmer in a saucepan over a moderate flame.
  3. Pour coconut milk and oil over the chopped chocolate and seasonings then stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and the mixture, or ganache, becomes thick, uniform and glossy.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a plate lined with parchment paper, molding into a log as best you can, and allow it to harden in the refrigerator for eight to twelve hours, or overnight.
  5. After the Mayan chocolate has hardened in the refrigerator for eight to twelve hours, remove it, unmold it from the parchment paper and carve it into irregular bite-sized chunks.
  6. Toss the chunks with cocoa powder and serve.

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What people are saying

  1. says

    I absolutely adored this post. I teared up at the reflections of love and marriage, and thoroughly appreciated the informed and balanced approach to chocolate. Well done!

  2. says

    Thank you for the great post! I have been searching everywhere for a spicy mayan chocolate recipe, and this is inspiring I made my first batch of spicy chocolate ever tonight it’s in the fridge now! I’m so excited to taste it!

  3. Barbara says

    Jenny, I love your column. You have amazing photos. Your recipes are incredibly varied, doable and sensational. Your stories behind each recipe make it all come alive. Thank you for sharing yourself and your wonderful food with all of us.

  4. Jen says

    Help! I’m following this recipe (to the letter) as part of a holiday promotion for my business and something is going wrong: the mixture never becomes “thick, uniform, and glossy.” Instead it’s more like oily and clumpy. What’s going wrong? Thanks so much for your help!

      • says

        My mixture turned clumpy also and I followed the recipe exactly. The coconut oil does not want to mix with the other ingredients and form a homogenized mixture. Jen- what did you do to fix this?

  5. Nan says

    Being a resident of Delft in The Netherlands, I was really taken by your Amsterdam Mayan Chocolate story! I love love love Amsterdam and dark chocolate even more! I can’t wait to try your recipe! Good timing with Valentine’s day!

  6. says

    Looks delicious! I am having trouble printing your recipes lately. I can’t cut and paste anymore- is there a “print recipe” button I am missing so I can only print it and not all the rest of what you have to say? Thanks so much! Nikki

  7. Tom says

    I had a separation of lots of bright yellow from the dark chocolate. Is it because I tried to mold it in the parchment too early when it was still totally liquid? Or because there was soy lecithin in the chocolate I used? Or is it the fat from the coconut oil & coconut milk? There really was a lot of the bright yellow.

  8. says

    Hello there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this
    post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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  9. ruth paul says

    Love the way you celebrated your wedding. When we married we had 8 dollars after paying for expenses which were not very much. When we went to get our license my husband lost his voice. On our wedding day evening we went with some relatives to my cousins and watched t.v. We had a courtship of a long six weeks. Last May 6 we celebrated our 64th anniversary. We raised 3 children and have traveled extensively. For 29 years we worked different shifts and different days off. Have been retired for 24 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. Just getting to know each other. ha. Love your recipes. Love to cook and used to cook for lots of people that lived in our home from time to time. We built a home from ground up and when we started we did not know even how far apart the studs were to be. Then lived on a farm and on Sundays half the church came home with us. We would eat and then some took walks and some just laid on the floor and napped. Then in the evening we had prayer time and prayed for needs of each other and others. Have lived in Florida for 15 years and our kids want us to move back where they are. May all of Gods blessings be upon you. Ruth Paul

  10. sareen says

    Is there a way i can make 85% chocolate for the base of this recipe , myself? I have raw cacao and cacao butter….?

  11. Deb says

    These are amazing. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 parchment paper lined pan and put into the freezer for a couple of hours before breaking in to small pieces and tossing in cocoa. Might even venture to add another 1/8 tsp of chipotle
    Chili powder, maybe. Delightful!

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