Carob is the semi-dried or roasted long bean pod of the carob tree. Carob trees are native to the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. They are an important part of the traditional cuisines in those areas. Best of all, carob beans are one of the most delicious guiltless snacks in the world.
Old World treat
I had heard of the carob before as a teenager. But I dismissed it as one of those exotic, overhyped hipster “health foods.”
That was until a few years ago when I traveled to Istanbul for the first time. I wandered the maze-like Grand Bazaar until, like a dog, my nose led me to the spice streets.
One shop had a display of spices, nuts, and dried fruits so huge that it overflowed onto the pavement outside. In the middle of that glorious chaos, I spotted a basket containing these large, chocolate-brown bean pods.
The shop owner saw me stop and stare (like the uncultured tourist that I was!). “Try it!” he said. “This is keçiboynuzu… carob. Traditional snack. Good for your health. You will like it.”
Then he took a carob bean and broke off a piece for me to taste.
He was right. I bit into that piece and instantly fell in love with it. I ended up buying a few bags to bring home with me!
What it tastes like
Texture-wise, carob is like beef jerky. But instead of meat, you get a sweet, earthy flavor reminiscent of chewy Italian desserts called “panforte” — a mix of nuts, dates, honey, molasses, and cocoa powder. (You can see why I fell in love with it!)
Culinary and nutritional value
For centuries, the people living around the Mediterranean have been using carob beans as a natural sweetener in desserts and beverages. Carob is also used as livestock feed in some countries. Camels, cows, pigs, and dogs appreciate its sweet flavor and can safely digest them.
A carob pod is rich in dietary fiber, carbohydrates (over 80% of its total dry weight), and protein (as much as 8 grams per 100 grams of dry weight). It also has Vitamins A and B, plus some important minerals like iron, manganese, zinc, and copper. Yet unlike nuts or cacao beans, the carob is virtually free of any fat (only as much as 0.6%!) and has no caffeine or theobromine. It makes for guiltless snacking! Both you and your dog can enjoy carob beans without causing abnormal spikes in your blood sugar levels.
If your dog is the curious type who goes out of his way to sniff and lick at your favorite chocolates (even as you try to keep it out of reach), switching to carob is a healthy alternative and a great way to keep your dog safe from chocolate poisoning.
How to eat carob pods
If you’re not sure of how clean a carob pod is, give it a quick rinse with water. Then pat it dry.
Start by cutting (with a knife) or chewing off the tip on its long end. Little by little, eat your way through the pod as you would a granola bar.
The only thing you need to be careful about is the seeds. You can’t bite on these; they’re hard enough to crack human teeth. Simply pop them out of the pod as you eat.
But what if you’re serving carob pods to your dog? A dog doesn’t have the same powerful jaws and teeth as camels and cows do. It’s safer if you take the carob seeds out before serving them.
To take out the seeds:
1. Using a sharp kitchen knife, cut the long pod into shorter sections.
2. Then slice off one lengthwise side or “seam” of each pod section. You’ll expose the seed chambers within. Just pop or tap out the seeds.
Sweet carob dog treats
Carob pods can also be turned into a powder or flour. The flour can then be used to create sweet treats that you and your dog can munch on!
Making carob powder
To make carob powder, cut the dried or roasted carob pods into pieces and take out the seeds. (See the instructions from the previous section above.) Drop the pieces into a food processor and pulse or blend until you get a rough powder, similar to fine almond flour.
This is an easy recipe. You will need:
- carob flour, 100 grams
- peanut butter, 100 grams
- ground hazelnuts, 30-35 grams
- honey, 65-70 grams
In a bowl, combine 30 grams of the carob flour with all the ground hazelnuts, peanut butter, and honey. Mix well until you get a more consistent batter.
Divide and form the batter into little round balls or bite-sized nuggets. (You may also use a cookie cutter to form more artful shapes.)
Roll the nuggets in the rest of the carob powder. Lay them on a tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate these for a couple of hours before serving.
1. Just like carob, hazelnuts are safe for dogs, too!
2. Peanut butter is also safe for dogs, but only as long as it doesn’t contain any xylitol.
3. When making kid- and dog-friendly treats, don’t use raw honey. Raw honey may contain microorganisms that can negatively affect the digestive and immune systems of a young child or dog. Use pasteurized honey instead.
Isn’t it wonderful how dogs can eat carob alongside their human buddies? So go ahead, have carob as a pantry staple. You’ll not only be tapping into age-old culinary traditions, you’ll be creating delicious memories with your dog and the rest of the family.