What Are Cacao Nibs?

What are cacao nibs? It’s chocolate you can eat for breakfast—sorta. Read on to find out everything you need to know about cacao nibs. 

In college, a friend of mine introduced me to this German tabletop card game called Bohnanza. There’s a bit of a learning curve to the game, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fun. Essentially, you get cards with beans (“Bohn” in German) on them and you trade and maneuver in order to grow as many crops as possible. One of the best parts of this game is the cute illustrations of the beans. As I recall, the cocoa bean is styled as a wide-eyed glob swinging through a puddle of chocolate. This is generally how we view the cocoa bean—as something synonymous with chocolate. But did you know there are other uses for it? For example, cacao nibs. But what are cacao nibs? What do they taste like? Let’s get some answers. 

What are cacao nibs?

What if I told you that there was a version of chocolate that was actually healthy, with almost none of the downsides? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it kind of is too good to be true. But cacao nibs are the closest we’re likely to get to such a miracle. 

Cacao nibs are crumbled pieces of dried cocoa beans. That’s it! Unlike chocolate, which has fatty cocoa butter, dairy, and oils added, cacao nibs are only the bean. They’re far, far less sweet than chocolate, so they’re not likely to be a permanent replacement to candy, but they do still have the chocolatey notes beneath their bitterness.

How to pronounce cacao nibs correctly?

First, the easy part: “nibs” is pronounced like “nibs” (rhymes with “ribs), exactly as it’s spelled. As for how to pronounce “cacao,” it’s like “kuh-COW.” The emphasis is on the second syllable, like in “ka-pow!” 

What do cacao nibs taste like?

Alas, though they’re in the same family, cacao nibs don’t taste like the sweet, creamy milk chocolate we all mostly know and love. Cacao nibs are far more bitter than their confectionery cousins, because there is usually no added sugar in them. They may taste more like a coffee bean than chocolate at first bite. The rich, deep, chocolatey notes are three, but not accentuated by sugar, added cocoa butter, or oils. 

Do cacao nibs melt?

Another way that cacao nibs are not like other chocolate-related products is that they do not melt. This is because there’s almost no moisture in them and they’re quite dense. Of course, if you put them on the surface of the sun, they might conceivably melt, but we’ll have to wait for NASA to get to that experiment before we have an answer.  

Do cacao nibs have caffeine?

Yes, cacao nibs do contain a small amount of caffeine, as do most other chocolate products. There’s around 5 to 15 mg of caffeine in a tablespoon of nibs (for comparison, a cup of coffee typically contains around 100 mg of caffeine). 

How to use cacao nibs:

Healthline.com has a great breakdown of a bunch of different things you can do with cacao nibs, assuming you don’t want to just cram fistfuls of them into your mouth. Some options include stirring them into a smoothie or oatmeal, or using them as a topping for acai bowls, mixing them with nuts and dried fruit in a trail mix situation, grind them into savory sauces like BBQ sauce or mole, or, as Healthline puts it, “Crust steak or duck with crushed cacao nibs for a unique flavor.” Unique flavor lovers, take note! 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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