Cocoa nibs can be a great new addition to your kitchen pantry, but how do you use them?
A relatively new addition to shops across the country, cocoa nibs are becoming increasingly popular as more people look to reduce the amount of processed food in their diets. If you bought a packet of cocoa nibs on a whim and are now stumped as to what to do with them, then read on!
What are they?
Cocoa nibs are nature’s chocolate chips. They are crushed pieces of cacao bean that have gone through the fermenting, drying and roasting process. Normally these fragments are then crushed into a cocoa liquor before being made into chocolate, but more and more they are being saved and used in cooking.
The cocoa nibs have a distinctive texture and taste. As they are natural pieces of the cacao bean, they are very crunchy and a little harder than most nuts, but still easy to nibble on as a snack. In terms of flavour, they have a roasted, bitter chocolate taste with a hint of fruity notes.
Cocoa nibs have not been processed in the same way as chocolate or cocoa powder, and have no added sugar or flavours. This also means that they haven’t been cold-pressed – the process that separates the cocoa solids from the fat – so cocoa nibs still have cocoa butter in them, giving them a higher fat content than cocoa powder.
What can I use them for?
Cocoa nibs can be used in a variety of different dishes, from sweet and savoury to desserts and drinks. If your cocoa nibs are too large, then you can cut them into smaller pieces with a knife, or even put them in the food processor for a smoother texture.
Don’t confuse this with hot chocolate or cocoa, as the larger cocoa nibs will be removed before drinking, making this a lighter, tea-like drink. Steep the cocoa nibs in water for 30 minutes (or longer, depending on how strong you want the tea), adding a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg towards the end. Serve with a splash of almond milk for a refreshing drink with a chocolatey aroma. If you prefer a stronger chocolate flavour, you can grind the nibs in a food processor and use them in the same way as cocoa powder.
As these crunchy cocoa nibs are sugar-free, they are a great addition to a variety of savoury dishes. Sprinkle some on top of your salads or roast vegetables for some extra crunch and flavour, or add a rich smokey depth to your pesto by crushing some nibs into the mixture.
A perfect addition to baked goods, sprinkle some cocoa nibs in cookies, banana cakes and brownies to add a deeper chocolate texture and an extra crunch! Be careful substituting them for chocolate chips though; they have the chocolate flavour but they don’t melt in the same way as chocolate chips, so add a mixture of both if you’re hankering after that squidgy melted chocolate texture.
Delicious and crunchy, you can snack on cocoa nibs as they are! You can sprinkle them into your granola for a crunchy chocolatey addition, or add them to smoothies for a healthy kick of cocoa flavour.
We directly grow some of our cacao beans at our farm in St Lucia, so we know how to carefully roast the nibs to develop the chocolate flavours without becoming too bitter. If you’re trying to reduce the amount of processed food in your diet, then cocoa nibs are a great choice if you want to add some depth of flavour to your dishes, or to add an extra crunch to your desserts.