Cocoa Nibs in the kitchen

Most large retailers now sell cocoa nibs (some for as much as £28 per kg) they are now finding their way into baked goods in high end restaurant desserts, folded into ice cream and decorating bonbons. But their exact origin and use is still a mystery to many people.

Get to know your nibs

Cacao and chocolate come in many forms, and they’re really interesting to cook with – as well as eating just as they are of course!  They are full of flavour, nutrients that make you feel good.

Cacao beans are the starting point for chocolate. Cacao nibs are the broken up bits of the bean with the husks removed. They are just chocolate that hasn't been ground and mixed with sugar yet. They're good for you, and have an intense nutty chocolatey taste, but not sweet at all.

They're unique in texture—crunchy but tender, like a macadamia nut, with mouth-cooling properties from the cocoa butter; and complex, with a bitter cocoa flavour. The flavour takes some getting used to, and there are certainly a wide range of qualities of nibs (as there are with anything). The crunchy little bites of cacao nibs are a mix of bitter and slightly fruity flavours. They smell a bit like chocolate, but don’t taste exactly like it. I use nibs in both savoury and sweet dishes, from breakfast in the morning salads at lunch right through to dessert at the end of the day.

But what do you do with them?

Add a handful to your morning porridge or in your muesli

Cocoa nibs have a savoury side,

They can be used to encrust duck breast, steak or fish or simply sprinkled onto salads, pasta and pizzas. Why not try making some cocoa nib pesto – for extra crunch and a rich flavour, mix a tablespoon of cacao nibs through a carrot salad (carrot and cacao nibs are a great pairing, especially with a lemon vinaigrette dressing)

Sprinkle nibs over a coconut curry that has sweet vegetables such as pumpkin or sweet potato and carrots in it.

grind nibs with nuts and herbs to make a pesto. 

Sweet

First there are the obvious things: using them as sprinkles on cupcakes or ice cream; mixing them into cookies tossing them into brittle instead of nuts. if you’re making choc chip cookies, swap half the choc chips for cacao nibs

Simply coating them in caramelized sugar—is simple, and candied cocoa nibs make a delicious snack.

Candied cocoa nibs can also be used in baked goods even breakfast cereals or enrobed in chocolate for a treat.

And since we all know that the less processed the cocoa is, the more antioxidants it contains, this can only be good!

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