Cacao nibs have become a very popular addition to the health community’s repertoire of nutritional ingredients. They are full of health benefits and a lot of people like to use them as a substitute for chocolate!
However, they do take some forethought to use properly since they have a more unique flavor and texture.
But what do cacao nibs taste like? And can you make them taste better? Cacao nibs on their own taste a bit bitter and acidic, despite being a primary component in the chocolate-making process. They have a crunchy texture that can give some nice contrast to both sweet and savory dishes.
Keep reading to learn more about what cacao nibs are, what they’re used for, what they taste like, and how to use cacao nibs in your everyday recipes!
What Are Cacao Nibs?
Cacao nibs are created by harvesting, fermenting, drying, then roasting the seeds of the fruit from a Theobroma Cacao tree.
The majority of cacao trees are found in many countries in Africa, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, and Indonesia. The trees produce pods that contain about 30-50 beans each.
Once the roasting process is complete, the shells are removed from the beans which have broken down into the little bits we know as “nibs.”
If you want to learn more, check out this great video by Craft ChocolateTV on YouTube to see how cacao nibs are made!
What Are Cacao Nibs Are Used For?
Essentially, cacao nibs can either be kept as-is or they can go on to become the chocolate we all know and love.
To make chocolate, the cacao nibs are finely ground into cocoa mass (or cocoa liquor), then stored at room temperature.
The cocoa mass can turn into cocoa butter and cocoa powder, which are used to make chocolate.
Dark chocolate is made by mixing cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sugar. And of course, adding milk to the mixture creates sweeter milk chocolate.
Benefits Of Cacao Nibs
Cacao nibs have become wildly popular in recent years among health nuts all over the world as people have discovered the various nutritional and health benefits.
The nibs have been found to be low in sugar, yet highly rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, proteins, and several vitamins and minerals.
They are also a natural plant-based source of iron, zinc, and magnesium, making them an excellent addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Honestly, it seems harder to find reasons not to start eating cacao nibs right now!
What Do Cacao Nibs Taste Like?
As we mentioned earlier, cacao nibs are safe to be consumed raw or “as-is.”
While they are perfectly safe to consume raw, they do have an intense flavor that tends to be bitter and acidic, which may not appeal to every palate.
The texture is crunchy, which makes the nibs more versatile — they can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
However, they pack quite a bitter and acidic punch, so many people have taken to getting in their daily cacao nib benefits by transforming them through different recipes.
How To Make Cacao Nibs Taste Better
Now that we know what cacao nibs are, plus how they’re commonly used, here are some ways to use cacao nibs that make them taste better. Whether you use them in a sweet or savory recipe, we hope you are successful.
Feel free to try these tips out and let us know which ones worked best for you!
1. Blend In A Smoothie
One of the easiest ways to tame the taste of the cacao nibs is by blending them in a smoothie or protein shake. To do this, just grab your favorite smoothie ingredients along with some cacao nibs and let the blender do the work!
Here’s a simple smoothie or protein shake recipe you can try:
- Start by putting about a cup or 2 of ice cubes in the bottom of the blender, then add the banana (either whole or cut in chunks).
- Next, add cacao nibs and vanilla protein powder.
- Finally, add the oat milk (or any other type of liquid) and put the lid on the blender.
- Choose a blender setting and let it whir until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. If needed, feel free to add more liquid.
2. Use As Yogurt Topping
Add cacao nibs along with fruit, nuts, honey, or other toppings to your yogurt, or try making your own granola with all the ingredients beforehand that you can sprinkle on yogurt or cereal every day!
Here’s a simple granola recipe that you can use as a yogurt topping:
- 2 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup almonds
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup cacao nibs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 300°F while you mix the ingredients together.
- Spread the mixture out on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 20 minutes at 300°F.
3. Bake Into Cookies Or Other Baked Treats
Adding cacao nibs to various recipes for baked goods is a great, easy way to tone down the bitterness.
Try using about 1-2 tablespoons of cacao nibs in your usual cookie dough mix or sprinkle them on top of a pan of brownies, bars, cakes, etc., before baking.
While we are being adventurous here, why not add cacao nibs to this brownie recipe with another surprising ingredient? We know, it sounds crazy, but hang in there!
Here’s a recipe for some quick and easy black bean brownies:
- 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- ½ cup quick oats
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ¼ cup coconut oil or vegetable oil
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup cocoa nibs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, then grease an 8-by-8 pan.
- Place the ingredients into a food processor; pulse until smooth.
- Bake the brownie mixture for 15-20 minutes and let cool. Test doneness with a toothpick.
4. Use In Mole (Sauce)
Chocolate is often used in recipes for mole, so cacao nibs should also do the trick! Mole comes from the Aztec word “molli”, meaning “sauce.”
It is usually a thick, dark, rich-tasting sauce featured in many Latin-based recipes, adding a spicy, smoky, and earthy flavor.
Mole is traditionally paired with turkey, and most commonly paired with chicken. However, Mole is also paired with beef, pork, and lamb.
There are several types of mole, but all of them generally contain at least two types of chili peppers, a sour element such as tomatoes or tomatillos, dried fruits, spices, nuts, seeds, and (in some cases) bittersweet chocolate.
All of these ingredients are melded together to form a paste, which is then mixed with broth or just water, and then left to simmer until it is incredibly thick.
So next time you’re craving enchiladas, try making your own mole and add some cacao nibs for extra flavor and all that comes with it!
Here’s an easy recipe for chicken mole enchiladas (serves up to 8 people):
- 2 pounds boneless chicken, or three pounds bone-in chicken
- 4 cups of your favorite mole sauce recipe that uses cacao nibs
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- Your favorite tortillas
- Your favorite cheese
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Season and sear chicken in an oven-safe pot. Remove once brown. Saute onions and bell peppers in the pan.
- Return the chicken to the pan and pour 1 cup of mole sauce over the chicken. Cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Let cook for 1½-2 hours.
- Remove the pot from the pan, remove the chicken from the pot, and shred the chicken, removing any bones that may be present. Return the chicken to the pot and mix the filling.
- Set the oven to 350°F. While it warms, heat up your favorite tortillas using a microwave or a frying pan.
- Corn tortillas are flavorful and traditional, while flour tortillas maintain their structure well.
- Choose a cheese as well.
- Crumbled Mexican cheeses like cotija are popular, but so are Colby jack or cheddar!
- Pour 1 cup of mole sauce onto the bottom of a casserole dish. Place a few spoonfuls of the filling with a sprinkle of cheese in a warm tortilla, roll tight, and place the tortilla in the dish.
- Fit as many tortillas in the casserole dish as you can, then save any leftovers for quesadillas or nachos with home-fried chips!
- Pour the remaining sauce over top, and sprinkle on a hearty layer of cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Broil for an additional minute for a crispier top.
5. Add Them To Your Coffee
Another fun fact about cacao nibs is that they do actually contain a bit of caffeine! 1 tablespoon of cacao nibs has about 13-14 milligrams of caffeine.
So, if you’re looking for an extra kick in your morning coffee, or you want to convince yourself you’re being healthier (we’ve all been there), try grinding cacao nibs in with coarsely ground coffee and brew!
For best results, try this out in your next batch of cold brew coffee:
- Grind coffee beans and cacao nibs together to your cold brew pitcher or mason jar using a loose-leaf tea or coffee ground bag.
- Add water, then let it brew for at least 18-24 hours, either at room temperature or in a refrigerator.
- When the coffee is done brewing, remove the coffee grounds and cacao nibs and pour the brew into a storage container for future use.
- Pour yourself a serving and add your favorite creamer, milk, and/or flavor syrup as needed!