I am often asked what cacao nibs are and how to use them.
The smooth, creamy, melty chocolate we love is made from cacao beans which come from a tree known botanically as Theobroma cacao. The trees only grow in the area of our planet called the Cocoa Belt - located 20 degrees above and 20 degrees below the Equator. This includes countries such as Ecuador, Peru, The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Hawaii, The Ivory Coast and more.
When first cut from the tree, the large colourful pods are filled with white, sticky beans. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and winnowed
(the outer husk is removed) which exposes the dark brown nib inside.
The cacao nibs are bitter and very crunchy - similar to coffee beans.
They are packed with powerful micro nutrients such as Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium as well as the minerals Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Copper.
Published scientific reports show that the antioxidant levels in cacao are higher than those found in tea or even red wine. Unless you are eating 100% Cacao chocolate, it contains other ingredients such as sugar and possibly dairy (for milk and white chocolate), vanilla and possibly soy lecithin (used as an emulsifier).
How can we get all those amazing nutrients without the sugar, dairy and other ingredients? .....eat Cacao Nibs!
Over the years, I have discovered many ways of incorporating cacao nibs into my daily diet. Eating them as they are can be a little daunting for some but I love the
crunchy texture and bitter flavour.
For breakfast, sprinkle some over your yogurt, add a bit of fruit and a drizzle of raw honey.
Top Steel Cut Oats with dried Blueberries, Cacao Nibs and a bit of brown sugar for a hearty, healthy start to the day.
If I am making a Smoothie for Breakfast, I add a tbsp of cacao nibs and just blend it a bit longer than usual. There still may be a few little bits in the Smoothie, but it is delish!
Add cacao nibs to your next batch of bread, muffins or cookies.The crunchy texture adds an amazing texture to any baked good. A slice of Cacao Nib Banana Bread and a double espresso pairs perfectly for your mid day snack and it will load you up with nutrients to get through the rest of the day.
Now it's dinnertime....let's add a sprinkling of cacao nibs to a Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad or one made with Spinach, Strawberries and a nice Balsamic dressing - yum!
So get to know cacao nibs! Experiment with its uses. Your body will thank you.
(Cacao Nibs are available in our Chocolatier's Pantry in 50 g bags)
Lori Eisenberger, Chocolatier.