A few days ago, as I was nibbling on some chocolate covered roasted cocoa beans, I realised that this is one of my favourite snacks. The wonderful roasted cocoa aroma, the crunchiness and the fresh, unadulterated cocoa flavour are so addictive! Good news: eating a handful of cocoa beans is healthy (compared to a handful of (over)salted peanuts or crisps, or even chocolate). In fact, it is 100% cocoa, no added sugar, no other ingredients. Pure bliss! With being less processed than chocolate, more of the good stuff remains inside too. More antioxidants, more flavonoids, etc.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in order to enjoy this treat. Nowadays, most health food shops carry a few cocoa-based items such as cocoa nibs or chocolate covered cocoa beans, and you can always check your local chocolate shops, some of them might sell nibs or beans too. The quality of these products might not be always equal. If they don’t specify on the packaging, then the nibs/beans in the bag are most likely cheaper, less flavourful varieties from West Africa (still marketed with the same message, so beware!), so try to look for single origin beans/nibs from South American origin for example.
Okay, so you grabbed a bag of cocoa nibs. Now what? Here are my 12+ tips on where and how you can use them in the kitchen. Believe me, you’ll be hooked!
- On their own as a snack
As I said, they work just like nuts and seeds, great to nibble on at any time of the day. They even give you a little energy kick due to cocoa’s theobromine content that is similar to caffeine.
- In granola
Whether you eat ready-made granola or you make your own at home, you can always mix in a good handful of cocoa nibs to add some extra crunch and guilt-free chocolate flavour.
- Sprinkle on porridge
Similarly to granola, you can sprinkle cocoa nibs on top of your morning porridge. I find it works really well with fresh fruits too (strawberry, banana, pear, apple, apricot).
- Sprinkle on yoghurt
Again, just a variation of the above, plain Greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of runny honey (or any of your favourite yoghurts) and some cocoa nibs create a lovely and quick dessert.
- Swap choc chips in cookies
Are you worried about too much sugar in your favourite chocolate chip cookies? Next time, swap some or all of the chocolate chips to cocoa nibs, and you’ll have a wonderful crunchy, chocolatey cookie with much less added sugar.
- Add to brownies, muffins, banana bread
Cocoa nibs can be a great addition to any homemade cakes and bakes, especially the chocolatey and nutty ones.
- Add to homemade energy balls/flapjacks
As cocoa nibs don’t need further cooking/baking, you can easily use them in no-bake recipes such as energy balls or flapjacks to get a chocolate flavour and some added crunch.
- Put in a trail mix
Cocoa nibs go really well with other crunchy nuts and dried fruits, and they cut back on the sweetness too.
- Try them in brittles
If you swap peanuts or other nuts for cocoa nibs, you’ll end up with an amazing brittle! The caramel creates a fine sweet and crunchy layer on the nibs that makes it impossible to stop eating it. It also looks really pro if you use the brittle shards as cake decoration.
- Blend them in a smoothie
Would you like to create a chocolate flavoured smoothie without adding chocolate or bitter cocoa powder to your drink? Add cocoa nibs! Don’t expect a sweet chocolate flavour, but you’ll get a nice mellow cocoa taste without any added sugar, and it still won’t be bitter. Adding fresh vanilla seeds will get you even closer to a real chocolate flavour. Especially great with bananas and coconut.
- Add to herbal tea mix
I’m sure you’ve already seen cocoa shell tea. This is the shell of the cocoa bean that is removed before grinding the nibs. Brewing the shell gives a very light cocoa flavoured drink, so adding in nibs will only enhance this more. You can probably find other chocolate flavoured tea mixes, but why not create your own? Nibs go really well with rooibos or black tea, but feel free to experiment. I once brewed together fresh mint leaves and cocoa nibs and it was very tasty and refreshing. And again, cocoa taste without added sugar!
- Soak them in alcohol
If you like DIY liquors and cocktails, why not experiment with cocoa nibs. You know you can create vanilla extract by soaking vanilla pods in vodka, so let’s swap that for cocoa nibs. Chocolate vodka, boom! Use any kind of strong spirit, leave it macerate for a few weeks and then enjoy your new drink on its own, or create some wonderful cocktails. (Chocolate martini, cocoa gin, etc.)
+1: Grind your cocoa nibs
Use a food processor or coffee grinder to grind cocoa nibs into a fine powder, (aka cocoa bean flour). This can be used instead of e.g. almond flour in many recipes such as macaron shells, cakes, muffins, brownies, etc. Just get creative!
Hungry for some more detailed recipes? I will share with you some of my favourites in the upcoming posts.
How do you like cocoa nibs? Let me know your favourite recipe in the comments below!