Serious Eats

How Did Macadamia Nuts Find White Chocolate?

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[Photograph: Lee Zalben]

Some flavors just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Apples and cinnamon. Strawberries and cream. And then there's white chocolate and macadamias.

Crunchy, nutty macadamias are a delightful contrast to the creamy, vanilla notes in white chocolate. Both are kind of extreme on their own, but together the effect seems greater than the sum of its parts.

But does anyone know how and when and this flavor combination got together?

I remember my first time experiencing it, and it actually wasn't in cookie form.

In 1988 while in high school, I worked at TCBY (aka The Country's Best Yogurt)—that was the first place I ever came across the White Chocolate Macadamia combination. I remember it distinctly because we offered six flavors a day. Chocolate and vanilla were always "on tap" and we had to keep the White Chocolate Macadamia flowing too otherwise we'd get complaints from the locals. On the weekends, we couldn't refill the machines fast enough.

I'm not really sure what all of the fuss was about. TCBY's white chocolate macadamia soft-serve was good, sure, but the "flavors" were just chemicals created in a lab to emulate the taste of the real thing. Why were people raving so hard? Was it the tropical luxury of macadamias? Was it the sweet novelty of enjoying white chocolate over milk or dark?

I don't remember eating any white chocolate macadamia cookies as a kid. Maybe I was sheltered. But nowadays you'll find them from Mrs. Field's and Pepperidge Farm, and even as energy bars from Clif and Luna. Of course mac-nut purveyor Hawaiian Host offers white chocolate covered macadamia nuts. (Their competitor Mauna Loa does not.)

When was the first time you tried white chocolate and macadamias together? Why do you think the two work (or don't work) together?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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