Pecan brownie bliss balls

helen and her daughter reaching for the bliss balls

I LOVE bliss balls. I didn’t know what they were 12 months ago, and now I’m obsessed. My discovery came about when my eldest decided to drop his midday nap. No longer could I put him down for a sleep after his lunch and then munch on chocolate in secrecy. I had to find some sort of filling sweet treat that was clean eating, good for you, and tasted delicious. and then I found bliss balls!

Bliss balls in their purest form are blitzed up dates and nuts rolled into balls. Perfect for dairy free, gluten free, refined sugar free, guilt free snacks. No need to sneak these in while the kids are napping, or while the family sleeps at night Nigella-style. And because they are high in protein and fibre they fill you up so you don’t end up over-indulging. 

This particular bliss ball recipe combines my own passion for chocolate, my husband’s passion for pecan pie, and my children’s passion for dates. or anything sweet for that matter! And then there’s their cheeky outer layer, which adds another level of taste as well as pretty decoration. I make them aaaaall the time:

– I use the coconut coated ones as snacks to keep in a Tupperware pot in my kit bag for post workout alongside a pint of milk – they are delicious washed down with milk, and combined the snack provides the perfect 4:1 ratio for post workout recovery (see the nerdy bit for the science behind this).

– I also used them in little see-through wrappers for my daughter’s birthday piñata – the children loved them and we avoided any psycho sugar highs!

– If you want a pretty looking after dinner treat for guests these work well too – nice and easy to prepare in advance, I like to bring them out with coffee after a BBQ or dinner party.

– They are basically always in our fridge to be taken post exercise, post pre-school, post long day at the office. sports bottle and bliss balls on grass

Pecan brownie bliss balls
Yields 20
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 20 Medjool dates (400g)
  2. 150g pecans
  3. 3 tbsp cocoa (use 100% cocoa or cacao powder)
  4. 1 tbsp peanut butter
  5. 2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or agave/ rice malt syrup)
  1. Blitz up the pecans in a food processor until they’re crumbs
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blitz until it clumps together
  3. Roll teaspoon sized balls between the palms of your hands
  4. Coat with chosen coating, or leave plain as they are
  5. Pop in the fridge or freezer for an hour to firm up.
Nom Nom Nerd


…and now for the nerdy bit:

4:1 recovery

One of these bliss balls taken with a small 150ml cup of semi-skimmed milk provides you with the ideal 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates: protein needed for optimal recovery post exercise. This is best taken as soon after exercise as possible, preferably within 30 mins during your ‘recovery window’. If your body weight is around 60kg this will provide you with sufficient carbs, but if you are closer to 80kg you should increase to two bliss balls and 300ml milk to reach you recommended target of 1.2-1.5g carbohydrate/kg/hr post exercise.

Carbs taken during this recovery window help you restock your muscle glycogen stores giving you more energy for your next workout, preventing that feeling of heavy legs when you’re doing lots of training. The dates and maple syrup in this recipe contain significant amounts of glucose, an easily digested simple carbohydrate, so will get into the muscles quickly. The carbs will also result in the release of insulin encouraging muscle growth.

Protein from the milk and nuts will then be available for muscle growth and repair, leading to increased muscle bulk and strength, and preventing injuries and over-training. Good quality protein like meat, eggs and dairy contain all essential amino acids. The milk in this recovery snack will therefore lead to more muscle growth than if the protein was coming from just nuts or vegetables.

I personally have a bit of a journey home post workout, so I usually take an insulated drinks bottle with me containing milk to keep in my kit bag & take with the bliss balls asap – I’m always starving and so so thirsty after exercise, so I find this recovery snack really refreshing. But if that doesn’t appeal you can always just grab a pint of milk from a newsagent post workout, or eat your bliss ball with a take-away latte, perfect for after an early morning session – yum!

Check out the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on Nutrient Timing (2008)

Front of pack nutrition labelling :

Nutrient per 100g %RI per 131g serving %RI
Energy kJ 551 6% 720 8%
Energy kcal 132 6% 172 8%
Fat 5.9g 8% 7.7g 11% Med
Saturated Fat 1.3g 6% 1.7g 8% Low
Total Sugars 15g 16% 19g 21% Med
Salt 0.10g 1% 0.10g 1% Low
Protein 3.6g __ 6.2g