Bolos de alfarroba

Bolos de alfarroba

On Saturdays, my wife and I usually end up in a café, reading and enjoying a treat. Last Saturday we found a café that carries an exceptionally good version of bolos de alfarroba, a musical name that doesn’t sound nearly as fine in English: carob balls.

Carob has a reputation in the States for being an unsatisfactory substitute for chocolate, which is reinforced by the fact that it’s nearly always used to create truly awful solid “chocolate” confections. The Portuguese have never seen it that way, fortunately. Alfarroba trees (called alfarrobeiras) are a staple of the Algarvian countryside, growing natively and shrugging off heat and drought. Their pods are used for many things, including livestock feed, and their seeds are so perfectly sized, matching so closely in weight, that they were the original “carat” used for weighing precious stones and metals. (The word is related to the scientific name for the tree: Ceratonia siliqua.)

The Portuguese use carob flour in all sorts of wonderful baked goods, including tortes, cakes and these little balls. The best ones come out tasting a bit like a not-so-sweet brownie: chewy, moist, and delightful. These were among the best. We’re going back for more.

Note: I am not certain where the thumb print on the left ball came from. Hopefully not from our server.

For a photo of alfarroba seed pods, a description of the harvest, and a simple cake recipe, check out “o cozinheiro este algarve.” I hadn’t heard that rumor about Coca-Cola, but given that the original Coke recipe was probably developed by (and stolen from) a Spanish company, that would not surprise me.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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3 Responses to Bolos de alfarroba

  1. Power Wench says:

    So? Where’s a recipe so we can make our own? BTW the recipe in the provided link is a mess – poor job of providing correct ingredient measurements.

    • oregon expat says:

      I’ve looked around and can’t find good English recipes. So, turning to the Portuguese, you can find one here, along with a photo of the finished product. (Obviously, this is a torte, not the balls…but tortes are yummy too.) I’ll translate:


      3 eggs
      1 cup sugar
      1 cup flour
      3/4 cup oil
      1 cup milk
      1 Tbsp port wine
      1 tsp cinnamon
      2 tsp baking powder
      2 Tbsp carob flour
      (optional) grated coconut


      Preheat oven to 355º F. Grease and flour a cake pan (no size given — I’m not sure what “small English form” means, but the photo looks like 9” or so). Beat eggs with sugar, oil and milk until well mixed. Add the cinnamon and port wine and fold in. Mix the flour, carob flour and baking powder separately; carefully fold it in. Pour into the cake pan and bake around 40 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Wait 5 minutes before taking from the pan. Top with grated coconut to your taste.

      I’m going to have to try this…


      Here’s another one, from a whole page of variations on the basic theme (i.e., with coffee, with spices and honey, etc.) The basic “Simple Cake” recipe follows. If you’re checking it against the original page, please note that I have rearranged the ingredients to match the order of use in the directions.


      3 eggs
      150g light brown sugar
      3 Tbsp olive oil
      100g carob flour
      1 tsp cinnamon
      50ml milk
      50g wheat flour
      2 tsp baking powder


      Preheat oven to 355º F. Grease and flour a cake form. Beat the eggs, brown sugar and olive oil into a smooth cream. Add the carob flour and cinnamon, mix well. Add half the milk. (It doesn’t say to mix now, but I’m assuming.) Add the wheat flour and baking powder and fold it in. If the batter seems a little hard, add the rest of the milk. Pour into the cake pan and bake around 40 minutes.

      Again, you get to guess the cake pan size, and I’m assuming this one also needs to pass the toothpick test.

  2. Cathy White says:

    Oooh, that would slip down nicely with a fine cup of coffee

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