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8 Ways To Use Cacao Nibs

You've seen cacao nibs, maybe even smelled their delicious, chocolate-y scent, but do you know how to use them? These little nutritional powerhouses can add a boost of antioxidants to almost anything, especially sweet recipes. From more common uses, like adding to granola and trail mix, to lesser-known uses, like infusing cream and brewing them like coffee, here are 8 ways to use cacao nibs! You've seen cacao nibs, maybe even smelled their delicious, chocolate-y scent, but do you know how to use them? Let's quickly answer the question: what are cacao nibs? Cacao nibs are simple unprocessed cacao beans that have been peeled and roughly chopped. They have a bitter chocolate flavor and a lovely crunch. Learn the difference between cacao powder and cacao nibs here! While they can't act as a replacement for chocolate chips (due to their bitter flavor), they do work in many of the same foods that include chocolate chips -- like muffins, cupcakes, granola, cookies, and brownies. Because of unethical practices throughout the chocolate industry, including child slave labor, it's important to use high-quality cacao nibs from a trustworthy source. Wildly Organic's Cacao Nibs are Fair Trade certified. They come from beans raised organically without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. Cacao nibs work very well when matched with sweet ingredients. This balances their bitter flavor and makes them truly enjoyable. Here are a few ways to use and enjoy cacao nibs:

#1 -- Add Cacao Nibs To Granola

Cacao nibs work wonderfully in many homemade granola recipes. Simply add anywhere from a couple of tablespoons to 1/2 cup to a full granola recipe (about 3 to 4 cups of granola) after baking the granola. You can also sprinkle a few nibs on top of a bowl of granola along with some fruit or dried berries when serving. This Gluten-Free Goji Berry Granola recipe is a great example of using cacao nibs in homemade granola.

#2 -- Sprinkle On Smoothies & Smoothie Bowls

Cacao nibs make a great topping for smoothies and smoothie bowls. They balance out the sweetness of the fruit and provide some crunch (which can actually kickstart your digestion so you'll absorb the nutrients in the smoothie more efficiently). Cacao nibs pair well with nuts, dried coconut, and fruit.

#3 -- Add Cacao Nibs To Trail Mix

Boost your homemade trail mix by adding a few tablespoons of cacao nibs. As mentioned above, cacao nibs pair well with nuts, dried coconut, and fruit, so they work perfectly in healthy, homemade trail mix. Begin by adding a small amount to be sure you like the flavor. Then increase as desired.

#4 -- Fold Cacao Nibs Into Ice Cream

Mix a few cacao nibs into a bowl of ice cream for a delicious treat. Try this 5-Ingredient Coconut Milk Ice Cream! Again, start with just a few nibs and increase as desired.

#5 -- Include Cacao Nibs In Salad

Surprised? ;) A quick sprinkling of cacao nibs can go a long way to make salad more interesting -- especially a salad with fruit, like this Strawberry-Spinach Salad!

#6 -- Infuse Cream With Cacao Flavor

Roast 1/4 to 1/3 cup cacao nibs (see how below) then mix with 1 cup of heavy whipping cream. Warm in a saucepan until simmering, then remove from the heat. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain out the nibs and chill the infused cream in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours. Leave the infused cream un-whipped to use as creamer in coffee or hot chocolate. Or, whip cream as you normally would, adding sweetener as desired, and use it as a topping for hot chocolate, coffee, or other desserts!

#7 -- Make Hot Brewed Cacao

If you're trying to quit coffee or avoid caffeine, you can make a coffee-like drink with cacao nibs! This drink uses roasted cacao nibs (learn how to roast below) with water in a French press to create a simple, hot beverage to satisfy coffee cravings. Add sweetener, milk, or creamer as desired. Here's the full recipe!

#8 -- Use Cacao Nibs As A Garnish

If you have some frosted cupcakes or muffins, a sheet cake, or a glazed quick bread or Bundt cake, a sprinkling of cacao nibs on top makes a lovely garnish with the bonus of added texture! These Grain-Free Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes are a great example with cacao nibs IN the cupcake batter as well as sprinkled ON TOP!

How To Roast Cacao Nibs

One easy way to boost the flavor of cacao nibs is to toast them.
  • Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  • Spread cacao nibs on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before using or storing.
  • Store in an airtight container.
Once toasted, the cacao nibs can be used in all the ways mentioned above, especially for infusing cream or making Hot Brewed Cacao. The roasting step is not necessary but is a nice way to mix things up a little. As you can see, there are a myriad of ways to use cacao nibs!

Do you enjoy cacao nibs? What's your favorite way to use them?

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