What are cacao nibs?

Versatile cacao nibs add crunch and flavour to sweets and savouries alike.

Folonomo's cacao nib rocks

John Paul Urizar

Get the recipe for Folonomo’s cacao nib rocks.

What are they?

Cacao nibs (also sometimes labelled as cocoa nibs) are little bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans. If you were to continue the chocolatemaking process, these nibs would then be ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. Add to that sugar and milk, and you’d eventually end up with a chocolate bar.

Why do we care?

We love these tiny pieces of goodness for the chocolate flavour they deliver minus the sugary sweetness. They deliver big on the texture front, too – crunchy with a slightly cool mouthfeel, courtesy of cocoa butter. While cacao nibs are often found in raw desserts, we’re not shy to add them to traditional chocolate desserts and sweets. Throw them into brownies, slices and biscuits, for instance, for a nut-like crunch with bonus chocolate flavour. They’re also versatile enough to use in savoury dishes – try them tossed in a salad of bitter leaves, goat’s curd and soft herbs or try our roast beetroot recipe here.

Where can I get them?

Once only found in health-food shops, cacao nibs are now widely available in supermarkets.

Cacao nib and hazelnut granola

Makes about 600gm

Preheat oven to 150C. Combine 200gm rolled oats, 120gm coarsely chopped hazelnuts, 100gm cacao nibs, 50gm coconut flakes, 2 tsp ground cinnamon and ¾ tsp sea salt flakes in a large bowl. Melt 70gm coconut oil with 70ml maple syrup and 2 tsp vanilla bean extract in a small saucepan over low heat, then add to dry ingredients. Mix well to combine then spread on a large baking tray and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (20-25 minutes). Cool completely. Granola will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Cacao nib choc-chip cookies

Makes about 16

Preheat oven to 180C. Beat 170gm melted butter, 150gm brown sugar and 100gm caster sugar in a bowl until starting to become pale (1-2 minutes). Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, beat until pale (2-3 minutes), then add 250gm plain flour, ½ tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt, stir to combine, then stir in 100gm coarsely chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) and 70gm cacao nibs and mix to form a dough. Roll balls of 2 tablespoonfuls, flatten slightly and place on oven trays lined with baking paper, leaving 5cm between each. Bake, swapping trays halfway through, until lightly browned at the edges (8-10 minutes). Cool completely. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Roast beetroot with cacao nibs

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 200C. Wrap 4 unpeeled beetroot individually in foil, place on a roasting tray and roast until tender when pierced (40-50 minutes). Meanwhile, heat 70ml olive oil, 2 thinly sliced golden shallots, 1½ tbsp cacao nibs, 1 thinly sliced garlic clove and the zested rind of ½ lemon in a small saucepan over low heat until shallot softens (3-4 minutes). Remove from heat, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and ½ tbsp red wine vinegar, and season to taste. When cool enough to handle, peel beetroot, cut into wedges and serve topped with dressing and torn mint.

Cacao nib praline truffles

Makes about 20

Stir 20gm caster sugar and 40ml water in a saucepan over medium-high until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook without stirring until caramelised (6-7 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in 60gm cacao nibs and a pinch of salt, pour onto a lightly oiled tray and stand until set. Break up praline, then crush in a food processor. Bring 185ml (¾ cup) pouring cream to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat, add 330gm finely chopped couverture milk chocolate and stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Cool briefly, then stir in crushed praline and refrigerate until firm. Roll into bite-sized balls, dip in melted dark chocolate and roll in Dutch-process cocoa. Truffles will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

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