Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

 
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While I cannot remember my first Reese's cup, perhaps it was after a delicious Halloween haul, or at a school function, but regardless, whoever first introduced me to the perfect union of  peanut butter and chocolate was a very kind-hearted soul. So, thank you thoughtful childhood neighbor or generous elementary teacher.

Now, I believe there might be two kinds of people in the world: people who LOVE peanut butter and people who don't. I am in the "I can eat it straight out of the jar camp." So yeah, I love the nutty stuff, and it only would make sense that Reese's seemed to go so quickly in my household. 

But, since becoming vegan, I have become more mindful about the ingredients that I choose to eat. Thus the products that make-up the beloved Halloween treat are not exactly clean, compassionate, or healthy. They read as follows: MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR; COCOA BUTTER; CHOCOLATE; NONFAT MILK; MILK FAT; LACTOSE; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER); PEANUTS; SUGAR; DEXTROSE; SALT; TBHQ (PRESERVATIVE)

So, when I made the switch to veganism, I bid my sweet, scrumptious, peanut buttery friend good bye. That was a bittersweet (yes, I do intend the pun there) day. I am grateful for the switch to honor my health and values, but I missed that chocolatey cup.

After many lonely years without peanut butter and chocolate swirled in one bundle, I heard about Justin's on a vegan podcast and a joyous celebration ensued. Yes! Finally, I could not only feel nostalgic about the candy, but relive the delightful and addictive taste again. 

Justin's Dark Chocolate turned out to be an incredible substitution for the childhood favorite for a couple of reasons, the first being the comparatively less processed ingredients. The ingredient list for Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups is as follows: 

Organic Dark Chocolate (Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Chocolate Liquor*, Organic Cocoa Butter*, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla), Organic Peanuts, Organic Powdered Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Palm Fruit Oil**, Organic Peanut Flour, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Vanilla Flavor, Sea Salt, Organic Soy Lecithin.

When put side by side, Justin's wins out for clean eating every time. Obviously, there is an absence of milk products, but the ingredients are organic and, well, readable. Because, nothing is more suspicious and off-putting than shortening your ingredients to initials, like PGPR and TBHQ. What are PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate) and TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone) anyway, and do they really need to be in my chocolate?  Thus, if you are looking for food that stays away from preservatives that maintain the color of your food (TBHQ) or additives to reduce the viscosity of chocolate (PGPR), than Justin's Dark Chocolate is certainly a better option.

Regardless of naturalness, Justin's will not go any easier on your waist line or reduce the amount of gym time you have to do to burn this off later. In fact, Reese's and Justin's have an almost one-to-one ratio for calories, fat, and carbs. Both serving sizes are two cups (the whole package), and both of the calorie counts sit at 210. Surprisingly, Justin's even has a higher total fat by one gram. However, with ingredients like PGPR that bump up the creaminess, Hershey needs less fat to create a similar effect.

On the other hand, the mainstream competitor in this show down cannot proclaim its ingredients to be organic, to use sustainably sourced palm fruit oil (orangutan friendly palm oil), or be Rain Forest Alliance certified. Thus, we see that Justin's is striving to put out a classic treat in a cleaner and a more sustainable way.

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Okay you say, enough about the ingredients and cleanness of ingredients. Let's here about the taste. Does it match your childhood nights of Halloween gorging?

The short answer is yes! In fact, I shared it with my Reese's lovin' family, and a delicious time was had by all. As we tasted the cups, I listened very carefully to their first time reactions. The first words out of my mom's mouth were, "Oh, you can't even really taste the difference," and words like creamy, salty, and nutty were generously given out. 

While the experience is very similar, there are some subtle differences, and certainly, some are for the better. First, the chocolate is dark, so the taste is much richer and that slight bitterness of dark chocolate carries on at the finish of the bite. So, if you are a dark chocolate fiend, this is certainly a good thing. Also, the chocolate is exceptionally creamy, which marries well with the saltiness of the peanut filling inside. Compared to its Hershey's counterpart, the peanut butter is more savory and less sweet, but I like it that way. It provides a nice contrast to the sweetness, bitterness, and creaminess of the surrounding chocolate. Perhaps, the only downside to the Justin's cups are the thickness. They are not as substantial, but the richness does  not leave you wanting five more, so I do not see this as a major problem.

Each bar costs about two dollars, depending on your vendor, so I would not recommend these as an everyday treat on behalf of your wallet or your waist line. But, when you get that hankering to walk down peanut butter chocolate memory lane, these come highly recommended.