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What are cacao nibs?

Cacao nibs are small chips of cocoa beans. Yes, these rich, chocolatey nibs are nature’s original chocolate chips! They’re loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. And they’re vegan, sugar-free and suitable for people who have a nut allergy.

What are cacao nibs made of?

Cacao trees (such as the Theobroma tree) are mainly grown in South America. They produce pods. Inside each pod are lots of little brown cocoa beans. (The same cocoa beans that give us chocolate and cocoa powder.) The beans are dried in the sun, gently roasted and then crushed to make cacao nibs. There are other ways to make cacao nibs, but at Food Thoughts, we follow these age-old traditional methods to keep the nibs as natural and nutrient-packed as possible. 

Cacao nibs benefits

Cacao nibs are very nutritious. They’re also sugar-free and vegan. And they’re delicious! Cacao nibs don’t melt, so they can be used to replace nuts if you have a nut allergy and are craving some crunch in your cookies. And they’re incredibly versatile. You can use them for everything from weekend bakes to mid-morning snacks. (Check out our suggestions and recipes below.)

Cacao nibs’ nutrition

Food Thoughts Cacao Powder and Cacao Nibs are minimally processed, and have no added sugar, fats or preservatives. Cacao is a true ‘superfood’.  In South American cultures, the health benefits of cacao have been appreciated for years and cacao consumption is significantly higher there than in Europe or the UK.  

Fortunately, we are rapidly catching up and benefiting from this amazing ingredient. 

Not only are cacao nibs full of essential vitamins and minerals, they’re also packed with fibre, protein and antioxidants. They may help to boost brain power, lower blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. Cacao is a rich source of:

  • Healthy flavanols. These help to maintain the elasticity of your blood vessels to support circulation and cardiovascular health.
  • Magnesium, which is great for your heart, muscles and nerves. It also helps to boost your immune system.
  • Antioxidants. These help to neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals. They can reduce the risk of age-related diseases and keep our hair and skin healthy.
  • Iron, which helps your body to make haemoglobin. Iron is crucial for your energy levels and mental clarity.
  • Fibre. We all need fibre in our diet, both for our digestive health and to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Read more on cacao nibs’ nutrition.

What do cacao nibs taste like?  

Cacao nibs have the bitter, complex flavour of unsweetened dark chocolate, with a firm and crunchy texture similar to roasted coffee beans. At Food Thoughts, we gently roast our raw cacao nibs to create a smoother taste and give them a little nuttiness and even more crunch. (There’s a reason they won a Great Taste Award.)

What are cacao nibs used for?

Lots of people just enjoy cacao nibs as a healthy snack on their own. However, they’re also a healthy alternative to chocolate chips. They lend a lovely crunchy texture to bakes, cereal and snacks, so are perfect if you have a nut allergy. And, when crushed, they give an extra boat of nutrients to smoothies, shakes and porridge. 

But what about chocolate coated cacao nibs?

Food Thoughts Chocolate Coated Nibs are also made from the best ‘Fino de Aroma’ grade cocoa beans, specially selected for their exquisite quality, aroma and intense chocolate flavour. How we make them? We take our Roasted Cacao Nibs (winners of a Great Taste Award a few years back), then dip them into single-origin, rich, dark chocolate (containing 53% cacao), so create these deliciously crunchy, chocolatey and incredibly moreish little treats. And guess what? They also won a Great Taste Award in 2022! 

They are ideal for grazing (the are perfectly paired to a cup of coffee), sprinkled on your cereal, or to replace nuts in cakes, brownies, cookies and other desserts. And because they are so compacted with chocolate flavour, you won’t need to use big quantities, making them the ideal partner to conscious eaters. And let’s not forget they are also dairy, nut, and gluten free! Because life is too good for everyone not to have fun!

Cacao nibs recipes

We have lots of tried and tested cacao nib recipe ideas to tempt you. The following are some of our favourites:

  • Cardamon & Cacao Nib Biscotti: this delightfully crunchy biscotti is a fabulous everyday bake, combining the crunchy cacao nibs into an Italian classic for a beautifully intense hit of flavour and texture. Great as home-baked little gifts, if you can bear to give them away!
  • Speedy Crunchy Tiramisu: this recipe will get you bang on to a fluffy cloud of cheese, coffee, biscuit and cocoa in just 3 hours. And it will reward you with a great surprise – the use cacao nibs of creates a magical explosion of crunch and creaminess. 
  • Homemade Cacao Granola: the combination of nuts and nibs (which don’t melt when baking) makes this granola a superfood of nutrients. Not only is this delicious, it’s perfect for your gut health. Its chocolatey crunch makes it great as ‘snacks on the go’ or as a nutritious and healthy start of the day. Plus, it stores really well for up to a week in an air-tight container.

How to use cacao nibs everyday

Cacao nibs are not just excellent for baking! Try:

  • Adding them to your favourite smoothies for texture.
  • Blending cacao nibs into homemade nut butters.
  • Stirring them into your morning oatmeal.
  • Mixing them with nuts and dried fruit for an energy-packed snack.
  • Crusting steak or duck with crushed cacao nibs for a unique flavour.
  • Blending them into hot chocolate or homemade nut milks.
  • Mixing coconut, almond butter, puréed dates and cacao nibs to make healthy energy balls.
  • Using them instead of chocolate chips in granola recipes.
  • Sprinkling roasted cacao nibs on top of yogurt.

Why not experiment with cacao nibs in your kitchen? We’d love to see what you create. 

Frequently asked questions about cacao nibs

Where can I buy cacao nibs?

You’ll find Food Thoughts Roasted Cacao Nibs and decadent Chocolate Coated Nibs in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose shelves and online shop. You can also buy them in bulk from our shop.

How do I store cacao nibs?

Our cacao nibs come in a handy, resealable tub or foil chef’s pack, so there’s no need to worry about storage. If you’re buying in bulk, press all of the air out of the chef’s pack before you reseal it or transfer the cacao nibs to an airtight glass jar and store in a cool, dark, dry location. 

Are cacao nibs the same as chocolate chips?

No. Cacao nibs are minimally processed and don’t usually contain extra ingredients. Chocolate chips usually have added ingredients, such as sugar, fat and milk.

Will cacao nibs melt?

Cacao nibs don’t melt, so they’re a good alternative to nuts and chocolate chips. If you want to make a gooey chocolate cake though, try cacao powder instead.

Are cacao nibs a type of nut?

Cacao nibs come from cocoa beans, so they’re nut-free and fine for people who have a nut allergy. They have a satisfying crunch so are a great alternative to nuts in brownies, flapjacks and other bakes. 

What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa?

Good question! It’s all to do with how the product is processed. Read our full guide on cocoa versus cacao here. 

What are the health benefits of cacao nibs?

Cacao nibs are very nutritious and they’re sugar-free. Incorporating cacao nibs into a balanced diet is a guilt-free way to satisfy your chocolate cravings. They’re a healthier alternative to chocolate chips and can be used in cookies, biscuits, brownies and cakes. You can also use them instead of nuts. So now you can enjoy chocolate without the guilt!