Uses of Cocoa Nibs

Uses of Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa nibs on red background


What are Cocoa Nibs?

Cocoa nibs have been gaining in popularity among health-conscious consumers across the world for their incredible benefits and intense chocolate flavor. Also referred to as cacao nibs, they have been used for centuries in the chocolate-making process but have only recently started being incorporated into modern cooking as a sought-after ingredient on their own.

Cocoa nibs are made by taking pieces of Cocoa beans that are then fermented, dried, roasted and finally cracked. The result is the least processed form of chocolate available, allowing you all the benefits the Cocoa bean has to offer with none of the nasty additives that can be present in more refined chocolate. The nibs retain that deep, wholesome cacao flavor and can be used in many ways from toppings for your next sweet treat to the art of beer-making.

Where do Cocoa Nibs Come From?

Cocoa beans are derived from the Theobroma cacao tree which is found natively in the upper Amazon region.(1) Modern Cocoa beans are mostly grown and harvested in West Africa, with countries such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana responsible for most of the world’s production.(2) However, due to the problems of child trafficking and slavery in these countries, our cocoa nibs come exclusively from Latin America where we can assure fair and transparent prices to the farmers.

Historically, Cocoa was first reported to be used by Aztec populations almost 5000 years ago in South America. The Spanish were then responsible for taking it back to Europe, spreading the popularity of the Cocoa bean across the continent – resulting in the worldwide popularity of Cacao and chocolate as we know it today.(3)

How are Cocoa Nibs Used?

Not having almost sugar, they do not have the same sweet taste that regular chocolate can have.(4) As a result, they are often added to desserts to help balance flavor and increase intensity. Having said that, Cocoa nibs can be used in almost any dish you can think of due to their versatility and flavor profile.

  • Cocoa Nibs as a Topping for Ice-Cream

Perhaps the simplest way to incorporate the great flavor and incredible health benefits of Cocoa into your diet is as a topping. Sprinkling nibs onto your favorite ice cream adds an extra dimension to the experience without putting anything unnatural or processed into your diet.

  • Smoothies

Cocoa nibs can be used in almost any smoothie. They are a great addition if you want to enjoy their benefits and are a little afraid of the bitterness that can be present in raw Cocoa nibs. They taste incredible when paired with things like peanut butter or bananas, adding real punch and intensity.

  • Baking

Perhaps the most common way to cook with Cocoa nibs is to add them to cakes, muffins, breads or any other recipe that calls for baking. They can be used as a topping or baked in the raw batter to add that deep chocolate flavor with none of the added sugar of refined chocolate. They are versatile, bringing intensity and refinement to dishes that are savory, sweet, and anything in-between.

  • Beer Brewing

One of the most interesting ways to use cocoa nibs is in the process of brewing beer. Brewers have been experimenting for years with different ingredients when making their beer and have found that using Cacao in the brewing process adds a depth of flavor to the finished product that is unrivaled and unique.(5)

There are many ways to use Cacao in beer but by far the best is to use pure chocolate with little or no additives – this is where Cocoa nibs come in. Their strong aroma adds flavor to the beer without any unnecessary sugar.

The Cocoa can be used at any point when making beer whether it’s being fermented, at different times in the boil, or during the mash. The choice of when to add the Coca will influence the final product as the flavors develop differently depending on when the nibs are incorporated.

Cocoa nibs are best used in certain styles of beers as light beers and lagers often don’t pair well with their chocolate flavor. It is best enjoyed in beers such as stouts, brown ales, and porters as the flavors work together with the natural properties of the beer without becoming overwhelming.

Not all beer with chocolate notes in its flavor profile makes use of Cocoa. Chocolate beer refers to any beer that uses Cocoa in the brewing process. Some beers, like Guinness, have a distinct chocolate flavor but use no Cocoa at all. They rely on ingredients such as dark-roasted barley to achieve sweetness and complexity of flavor.

  • Flavor Extract

Vanilla extract is common and widely used but few people know that a delicious, chocolate alternative exists in the form of Cacao nib extract. The tincture is made by crushing the Cocoa nibs and adding alcohol. This is then stored in a glass jar for several months, allowing the extract to develop and deepen its flavor.

Cocoa extract has a more complex and intense flavor when compared to the nibs themselves. It can be used in any recipe as a chocolate alternative. It’s a great way to add depth to any baked good or even in a savory stew.

The more time you give your extract to cure the better. The longer it is left in a cool, dark place the better. Most recipes recommend that the extract is cured for a few months but leaving it for up to a year produces the best results. It is important to remember that like Vanilla extract, Cocoa nib extract does retain some of the alcohol flavors and should be used with this in mind.

  • Chocolate Making

For those wanting to make chocolate at home, Cocoa nibs are an excellent choice as they are more readily available than traditional Cocoa beans. They are easier to handle and prepare as they do not need to be shelled before the chocolate-making process can be started.

There are many different techniques and recipes out there. The most popular method is to take dried, roasted nibs and grind them in a melanger with a little bit of cocoa butter. Sugar is then added along with other flavors such as vanilla. Once the nibs become a smooth, liquid, and uniform mass (known as cocoa liquor or cocoa mass), more cocoa butter can be added. After that, the chocolate is tempered and placed into molds to set in the fridge until firm to the touch.

  • Flavor for Distilled Liquors

Adding a chocolate flavor to your favorite tipple can be a great way to bring new life to a cocktail or spirit. Some liquors use Cacao in the distillation process but it’s possible to incorporate Cocoa nibs into any alcoholic drink as a flavor enhancer.

Brandy, whisky, or rum benefits the most from added Cacao, but it can be used successfully in other distilled spirits such as tequila or even gin. There are endless possibilities and many imaginative uses for Cocoa nibs in distilled liquors.

The easiest way to use Cocoa in distilled liquors is to simply crush the toasted nibs and then add the raw liquor to them in a glass jar. This is then sealed and left for a minimum of three days. Steeping them for longer only adds to the finished product. More time allows for increased flavor development and intensity, giving whatever liquor you started with a delicious chocolatey note.

  • Snacks

Due to their high concentration of fiber, Cocoa nibs are an excellent choice when you want to reach for a guilt-free, bitter chocolate-flavored snack. They differ from refined chocolate as they are less calorie-dense. Eating Cocoa nibs as a snack will leave you feeling fuller for longer while giving you the health benefits associated with Cacao. They are delicious and good for overall well-being.(6)

  • Nut Mixes

Cacao nibs work well with nuts, dried coconut, berries, or dried fruit. Adding them to a healthy and home-made trail mix can be just the thing to brighten up something that is a little dull or boring.

  • Garnishes

Sprinkling crushed Cacao nibs onto a dish or drink as a garnish can add a twist to even the drabbest recipe. They can be used in everything from chicken mole to pecan pie as a fabulous topping that adds taste and flair.

  • Cacao Tea or Brew

Cocoa nibs can be easily brewed into tea, or into a beverage similar to coffee. It has the neuro-stimulant Theobromine, which also is energizing but does not give you the jitters as coffee does. To brew cocoa nibs, you can just let simmer in water or brew them in the water just the same way you'd do with tea leaves (you can also combine flavors. Another method is to use a food processor or blade mill, and grind the nibs to the same size as you'd do with coffee. Then place them in the coffee filter and proceed the same way as if it would be coffee. You can sweeten your drink with honey, agave, stevia or sugar, or just drink it dark.


Cocoa nibs are incredible. They are packed with nutrients and have a much lower calorie density than traditional refined chocolate.(7) They are also easy to use and store making them highly versatile while retaining that chocolate flavor we’ve all grown to know and love. Their lack of refined sugar makes them an excellent choice for those wishing to incorporate the benefits of Cacao without any compromises.(8)


Cacao nibs are safe to consume as they are washed and dried. They are an industrial ingredient that is meant for further processing. As such, they may contain small amounts of naturally occurring impurities like small pieces of branches, cacao shells, and small stones. Please bear this in mind and check for any impurities before use if consuming them straight from the box.



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