What is a Carob Bean?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Carob truffles with coconut flakes.
Carob truffles with coconut flakes.

Carob beans come from the carob tree, which is native to the Mediterranean. The tree produces an edible seed pod that has been used in food and drink recipes for thousands of years. In fact, the Talmud and some interpretations of the Bible reference carob as a source if sustenance. In some Christian circles, the carob bean is called St. John's Bread because of the belief that the saint subsisted on them when he was in the wilderness.

Carob chip cookies.
Carob chip cookies.

The seed pod of the carob tree contains many small beans and a mildly sweet pulp. Because carob has a sweetness to it, it has been traditionally used as a source of sugar and as a sweetener in recipes. In some places it is reduced into a syrup that is used to flavor and glaze foods. Although the carob bean is an edible food for humans, it has also traditionally been used as feed for animals.

Carob beans are often used in granola cereals.
Carob beans are often used in granola cereals.

When carob is dried or roasted, it has a sweet, slightly bitter taste. It is often converted into powder that can be used in recipes for cakes and cookies. Carob is also available in the form of chips which look identical to dark chocolate chips. Although carob tastes significantly different from chocolate, it is often used as a chocolate substitute in baked goods. Carob chips are also often used in granola, cereals, and trail mixes.

Carob beans come from a Mediterranean tree.
Carob beans come from a Mediterranean tree.

One of the reasons that carob is used as a replacement for chocolate is that it contains no caffeine. Although chocolate only contains a small amount of caffeine, even this small amount can be problematic for people with certain health conditions. Carob is also used as a chocolate substitute in dog treats because chocolate is toxic to dogs.

The carob bean and its many forms have become quite popular in the health food industry. Products made from the carob bean are reported to have numerous health benefits and to be a good source of nutrition. According to health food specialists, carob can improve digestion and lower cholesterol. It is also a rich source of calcium and has been used to treat osteoporosis.

The carob tree produces edible seed pods that are often substituted for chocolate or used as a sweetener.
The carob tree produces edible seed pods that are often substituted for chocolate or used as a sweetener.

Carob has been used to treat a number of ailments in addition to high cholesterol and osteoporosis. Derivatives of the carob bean have been used to treat diarrhea in both children and adults. It is also sometimes used to treat symptoms of asthma which are brought on by allergies.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for , Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for , Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

discographer

@SarahGen-- My cream cheese has carob bean gum in it (also called "locust bean gum.") I'm not sure what it does, it might be added as a thickening agent. It's also added to some dog foods.

It can definitely be used in baking since it's sweet. You can use it in place of sugar, or sweetener but I'm not sure how much you will need. You will probably need to test it and see.

SarahGen

What other uses does the carob bean have?

Can carob bean gum be used in baking? What kind of ingredients can it be substituted for?

bluedolphin

I saw carob beans for the first time in Turkey. Before I saw them, I though that they were really a type of bean. They're kind of shaped like green beans but are very different. They are large and hard with tough, dark brown skin. You can snap them into two and chew on them. They taste sweet but not extremely sweet.

People usually eat them dry. The owner of the spice shop I bought them from said that they're good for the immune system and have aphrodisiac properties. He even showed me a jar of "carob bean gum." I guess it's the syrup of the carob bean. Apparently people eat it for its therapeutic benefits.

I think it's a very interesting seed pod. I like it.

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    • Carob truffles with coconut flakes.
      Carob truffles with coconut flakes.
    • Carob chip cookies.
      Carob chip cookies.
    • Carob beans are often used in granola cereals.
      By: nito
      Carob beans are often used in granola cereals.
    • Carob beans come from a Mediterranean tree.
      By: Uros Petrovic
      Carob beans come from a Mediterranean tree.
    • The carob tree produces edible seed pods that are often substituted for chocolate or used as a sweetener.
      By: anastigmat
      The carob tree produces edible seed pods that are often substituted for chocolate or used as a sweetener.