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Peek into the GRUB Pantry: Cacao Nibs

15 April


First off: cAcAO vs. cOcOA.  Tom-ay-toe, tom-ah-toe?  Well, yes and no.

Cacao is part of the botanical name for the tree: Theobroma Cacao.  “Cacao” comes from the Olmec people who lived in what is now Mexico.  Some people believe that a spelling error of “cacao” gave us “cocoa”.  So they do refer to the same thing.

EXCEPT that in English we got used to the word cocoa for all things chocolate, so recently when the health benefits of cacao became known, marketers used the word “cacao” to differentiate between processed cocoa, and new healthy, raw, less-processed cacao products.

Which means that now it’s mostly understood in the English-speaking world that cocoa powder is from roasted, more processed beans (and Dutch cocoa powder has an extra step of being soaked in an alkalizing chemical before being ground), while cacao powder is from raw, less-processed beans.

Why does it matter?  Well, there are a lot more antioxidants in raw cacao.  Cacao is also a great source of magnesium, sulphur and iron {among other minerals}.  It also has theobromine, a mild neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and energized {no, that’s not caffeine as is popularly thought}.

And that is why everyone now knows that chocolate is good for us.  Some chocolate that is.

The stuff packed with sugar and low-grade dairy and lots of preservatives and additives?  Nope, not so much.

70% cacao with only organic sugar?  Well, that’s still sugar, my friends, so you make your own choice there {we definitely decide for it on certain nights when the moon is full}.

How do you get the antioxidant benefits without the crap?

One of the ways we do it is with Cacao Nibs.  They’re the broken up pieces of the cacao beans.  They are NOT sweet {and when I tried to make hot cocoa with them I learned that they don’t melt – use cacao powder for hot cocoa, you can sweeten it with honey!}.

Cacao nibs are bitter and super crunchy.  We store them in a canning jar because the brand we buy comes in one of those “re-sealable” bags.  {Liars! They never “reseal”!}

To get a boost of antioxidants, minerals and a happy neurotransmitter we add cacao nibs to smoothies; if you add them in half-way through blending, they stay partially intact and give you a nice, teeny crunch in each mouthful.

If you’re making a cookie recipe, use nibs instead of chocolate chips for the crunchy chocolatey-ness without the added sugar {those cookies are probably sweet enough anyway}.   Yes, baking them will negate the raw enzymes and some of the antioxidants, but you will still get some nourishing benefits from them.

And we just read a recipe that called for soaking cacao nibs with almonds before making almond milk, and then blending them all together!  If you try this, please leave a comment and tell us how it is –it sounds delicious!

I also like to crush them up in a mortar and pestle {so they’re a little bit smaller}, and sprinkle them on top of chili, mole-style, or as the crunch factor on top of any bowl that needs it.  Yes, you can totally rock the cacao experience in savory dishes!

So there ya have it, Cacao Nibs.  Just one of the ingredients we like to play with to add nourishment to every bite.

What about you?  Do you use Cacao Nibs?  How?  Please share your methods & inspiration in the comments section below so we can copy your great ideas and rock even harder!


Liz & Ryanna

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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2 Responses to “Peek into the GRUB Pantry: Cacao Nibs”

  1. Mary P March 31, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    I’ve been trying to eat less sugar but still find a way to get my chocolate fix. I started eating Cacao Nibs and have experimented a little. I eat a little pile of them with a very little bit of honey or agave nectar drizzled over them. I also mix them with mini dark chocolate chips (with no soy or other top 10 allergens – Gerbs brand) to give them a little sweetness without as much sugar as just plain chocolate chips, and with the added crunch of the nibs.

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