What Are Cacao Nibs? Several Tasty Ways to Use Them

Cacao nibs might not be as sweet as a piece of milk chocolate, but they are a nutritious way to incorporate more antioxidants into your diet.

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Cacao Nibs
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Cacao nibs have been touted as a superfood that are packed with more antioxidants than dark chocolate. You've probably seen them all over the internet adorning nutritious smoothie bowls, and you know they must taste like cacao because, well, it's in their name. But what exactly are cacao nibs?

How Cacao Nibs Are Made

Cacao nibs are harvested from the cacao plant, which grows pods filled with cacao beans. The beans are shelled, dried, fermented, and ground up into the crunchy, bitter, intensely chocolate-tasting bits known as cacao nibs.

Cacao vs. Cocoa

When cacao gets heated at high temperatures to reduce its bitter edge, it becomes known as cocoa. Unfortunately, this process causes the bean to lose some of its nutrients. Contrary to cacao nibs that are mostly unprocessed, cocoa is usually made into chocolate bars or cocoa powder.

Recipe Ideas

Cacao nibs are crisp but delicate (their texture reminds us a bit of cashews). If you're new to the nib, start by sprinkling some over baked goods like cranberry cacao nib brownies right before they go in the oven (this will give you a little taste of their flavor). If you enjoy it, try mixing in a couple of tablespoons to your favorite baked goods as a stand-in for dark chocolate chips. Think chocolate chip cookies, chocolate ice cream, banana bread, granola, and toffee.

There's a reason cacao beans go hand in hand with smoothie bowls: They make a fantastic crunchy topping for smooth and tender bases. Try topping your bowl of morning oatmeal, ice cream, yogurt, or even fruit salad.

And let's not forget savory dishes. Yes, savory: Cacao nibs have no added sugar and bring a delicious, slightly smoky depth to meat dishes. We like to crust pork chops or steak with crushed-up nibs before searing them. You'll need to grind up the nibs with a spice mill or mortar and pestle. If you don't have either, place them in a plastic bag and give them a few whacks with a rolling pin.

Where to Buy Cacao Nibs

Look for cacao nibs at natural grocery stores (even Whole Foods carries them), or order them online. We love Navitas Naturals brand for its extra-crisp texture and slightly fruity flavor.

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