From sweet treats to savory snacks, cacao is showing up in more places than ever before. And for good reason. This tasty superfood is packed full of antioxidants, magnesium, and iron, giving it substantially more health benefits than regular cocoa (for more info on the difference between cacao and cocoa, check out this post).
Another great thing about cacao is its versatility. Available as both cacao nibs and cacao powder, the superfood can offer different tastes, textures and health benefits, depending on how you use it. To help you decide between the two, we’ve put together a guide on choosing between cacao nibs and powder, and how to make the most of each one.
Before we explore the differences between cacao nibs and powder, let’s run through some of the reasons why you should choose cacao in the first place.
Trace almost any chocolate bar back to its origins and you’ll find the Theobroma cacao – a tropical evergreen tree, that’s also known as the cacao tree. Its superfood seeds, cocoa beans, are processed and combined with other ingredients to make all kinds of cocoa and chocolate products. However, to make the most of the incredible health benefits of the cocoa beans, we can skip these last steps to create cacao.Having undergone minimal processing, raw cacao contains an impressive amount of antioxidants and phytonutrients, including magnesium, irons and phenylethylamine.
The result? A superfood with some incredible health benefits, including the potential to improve mood, boost heart health, and increase alertness.
Cacao Nibs vs. Cacao Powder
Cacao is most commonly found in two forms: nibs and powder. Both have subtly different flavors, textures and nutritional profiles.
Cacao nibs are simply cacao beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces, a lot like chocolate chips but without the additional sugars and fats. As they have been so minimally processed, cacao nibs contain almost all of the fiber, fat, and nutrients that the cacao bean does.
Cacao powder is created by grinding down cacao beans and extracting the cocoa butter (the fat component of the cacao bean). The powder is created from fermented cacao beans (fermentation is important here as it reduces the cacao bean’s natural bitterness).
Whereas regular cocoa powders are ground under high temperatures of up to 300° F, raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans at a temperature that doesn’t exceed 104°F. This minimal processing locks in most of the antioxidants, minerals and nutrients naturally contained in the bean.
How to Use Them
Whether you choose cacao nibs or powder depends entirely on how you’re planning on incorporating cacao into your everyday life.
If you usually use cocoa powder in recipes, cacao powder can be a great alternative. It’s especially tasty in:
- Creamy smoothies
- Hot chocolate
- Healthy bakes, including cakes, cookies and energy bars
- Savory stews for added richness
If you prefer something with a bit more crunch, cacao nibs might be the best option for you. These fruity, nutty and subtly chocolatey morsels might not have the sweetness of chocolate, but they can give an extra cocoa kick to your favorite recipes. Simply sprinkle a handful on anything from acai bowls to salads. Here are some ideas:
- Sprinkle cacao nibs on your acai bowl
- Add to salads for extra crunch
- Mix into homemade trail mix
- Replace chocolate chips for cacao nibs in cookies and brownies
Whether you choose cacao nibs, cacao powder, or both, always remember to buy certified organic products from sustainable sources to guarantee the best quality and taste.
Want to find out some of the health benefits you might enjoy from this superfood? Check out the 5 top health benefits of cacao or read these easy tips on how to incorporate cacao into your diet.