It's no secret that I love dips, spreads, and condiments of all kinds. I regularly return from a grocery trip with a bag filled solely with cylindrical containers. (Almond butter, hummus, tahini, labneh, and chili garlic sauce; the five main food groups.) I run out of spoons even more quickly than I do clean socks in the winter.
Something about the unbridled and unadorned consumption of an amorphous, softly textured semi-solid brings me all the pleasure in the world. Call it an affinity for nursery food, or a disproportionate appetite for concentrated flavor—or call it nothing at all, and just hand me that jar of crunchy peanut butter.
For a long time, the popular hazelnut-cocoa spread Nutella—born in 1964 and popularized in the U.S. in more recent decades—was a stalwart in my lineup. It combined two of my most revered pantry staples: nut butter and chocolate. I ate it by the heaping spoonful, mostly, but also slathered onto warm toast, drizzled over ice cream, and as a dramatic costume-change for sliced fruit.
But at some point over the years, pantry products with fewer ingredients and I started to gravitate toward one another, like, well, natural cashew butter and raspberry chia jam. And I can't put my (chocolate-covered) finger on why, exactly, but my at-home attempts at a mostly plant-based, refined sugar-free chocolate spread have never yielded quite the luxuriously silky, swirly texture evinced by a swoosh of Nutella on warm toast.
So when I came across Hella, a new three-ingredient vegan product from online wellness-oriented grocery marketplace Bubble, I didn't have particularly high hopes. (Full disclosure: Bubble sent us product testers, though this post is not sponsored.)
But Bubble's combination of hazelnut, coconut sugar, and cacao nibs blew me away. It's got a perfectly smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and a flavor that mimics the very best aspects of other hazelnut-chocolate spreads while offering a more simplified, sophisticated sweetness. And I wasn't alone in finding the bottom of my jar rather quickly, apparently—Hella sold out within 48 hours of launch. (It's since been restocked.)
"Hella seems simple with its three ingredients, but it took over nine months for us to perfect the recipe, ingredients, and get the machinery just right for those three ingredients. We ended up with a milling process that skips preservatives, fillers, milk powders and additional oils, and lets the ingredients shine through," says founder Jessica Young, a trained chef who was previously the first employee at Daily Harvest.
Bubble was founded in 2018 to address what Young perceived to be a gap in the market for an online-only retailer offering "clean label" snacks and pantry staples (defined by Bubble as lacking refined and artificial sugars, certain dyes, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and fillers). Its product selection is navigable by a header called "pantry," or by dietary constraints under one called "lifestyle." Earlier this year, Bon Appétit's Healthyish called Young one of "the people changing the way we think about wellness."
As someone who has a little smudge of Bubble's chocolate-hazelnut spread on her face as she writes this, I can attest that it does make me feel very, very well.
What's the one condiment you can't get enough of? Let us know in the comments!
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.