Any loyal chocoholic will tell you that the smooth, bittersweet bite of chocolate at the end of a long day is hard to beat. But carob chips are coming up in the world as a viable—and healthy—alternative. Can this fruit-based chip really compete with the chocolate we know and love?

Pod to Powder: What Is Carob?

Carob chips are made from the roasted and crushed seedpods that grow on the carob tree. A mature carob tree can produce between 220 and 400 pounds of reddish-brown, 12-inch seedpods each year. The seeds are usually removed to be processed into bean gum. The husks of the pods are roasted and then ground into a chalky powder. This powder, mixed with a variety of other ingredients like sugar or oil, is the primary ingredient in carob chips.

The Healthier Choice

Carob chips can deliver a flavor and texture similar to that of chocolate chips, but in many ways, they’re healthier. For example, an ounce of chocolate chips and an ounce of carob chips have the same amount of calories, but the former has 8.5 grams of fat, while the latter has 6.6 grams. Carob chips also have double the amount of fiber. Because carob chips have natural sweetness, there’s less need for added sugar.

Taste Test

Even the biggest fans of carob chips will admit that they’re not identical to the more ubiquitous chocolate variety. The cocoa-like flavor of carob comes from the roasting process, so the final product can be distinctly nutty, toasty, or earthy. Even unsweetened carob chips have natural sweetness and lack that slight bitterness found in most chocolate.

Carob Chip Caveats

For folks who are vegan or gluten- or dairy-intolerant, carob chips seem like a godsend; but it’s important to be label-savvy when shopping for them. Some brands add ingredients that are incompatible with specialty diets. Look out for ingredients you might be avoiding, like added sugar, malt-based sweeteners, soy, casein, or dairy.

Tips for Carob Chip Success

In terms of basic measurements, carob chips are an even swap for chocolate chips in recipes. If you’re new to carob chips, however, transition slowly. For example, instead of subbing in a whole cup, do 1/2 cup carob chips and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Since carob chips are naturally sweet, you may want to add less sugar in recipes that originally call for chocolate chips; try eliminating 1/4 to 1/3 of the original amount of added sugar and make further adjustments to taste.