6 of the Best Uses for Cacao Nibs

If you don’t already have a stash of cacao nibs in your pantry, it’s high time you invested in these little chocolatey wonders.

Cacao nibs are crushed pieces of cocoa bean that have gone through a process of fermenting, drying, and roasting. They’re jam-packed with chocolatey flavor (sans any added sugars) and boast a crunchy texture that’s similar to nuts. They’re also loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients including fiber, iron, and magnesium.

Their taste and nutritional properties help explain why cacao nibs are skyrocketing in popularity in restaurants and superfood aisles across the country. But you don’t have to go out to enjoy these little treats. Here are six stellar ways to put cacao nibs to good use at home.

Incorporate them into all kinds of baked goods.

Cacao nibs offer the perfect opportunity to add texture, chocolatey flavor, and a unique twist to a huge variety of baked goods. Use nibs instead of nuts in cookie recipes; stir a spoonful into cake batter; sprinkle them on top of brownie batter before popping it in the oven; add them to pancake mix; or try out these recipes for Banana Coffee Muffins with Cacao Nibs and Oatmeal or Cacao Nibs Brownie Bites.

Mix them into condiments.

A number of condiments are well-suited to a cacao nib infusion. Need convincing? Look no further than these recipes for Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (think of this as homemade Nutella), Cocoa Nib and Spiced Lamb Sausage Pizza (which incorporates cacao nibs into the pizza sauce), or Nibby Pesto (which combines cacao nibs, olive oil, Niçoise olives, and basil leaves into a surprisingly delicious blend).

Whip up some hot chocolate.

If Alton Brown created it, you know it’s gotta be good. This recipe for Cocoa Nib Hot Chocolate is surprisingly easy to make, but it still packs the quality and refinement that have made Brown a household name. The secret? Steeping ground cacao nibs, sugar, water, and salt in a French press for 30 minutes before heating, straining, and combining with milk.

Add them to smoothies.

If you want to add some chocolatey flavor (and a healthy dose of antioxidants) to your breakfast or afternoon smoothie, look no further than cacao nibs. Toss in a few tablespoons to your smoothie recipe of choice, or give this recipe for a Cacao Coffee Banana Smoothie a try.

Turn them into candy.

Looking to create a crunchy, flavorful treat? Then whip up this recipe for Candied Cacao Nibs. Eat the candied nibs out of hand or break them into pieces to use as an impressive topping on cupcakes, cakes, and so on. For a similar take on candied cacao nibs, check out this recipe for Chocolate Honey Brittle with Cacao Nibs.

Sprinkle them over sweet and savory meals.

Cacao nibs can be used as a topping on virtually any meal you can think of—including savory ones. Sprinkle them over salads, roasted veggies, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, or trail mix. Or, if you’d prefer the sweet route, use cacao nibs to top a bowl of ice cream, pudding, granola, or fruit salad.

From condiments and salads to pastries and candy, cacao nibs complement virtually any type of dish. Incorporating these crunchy little bites into your daily cooking routines can add flavor, texture, and nutrients to satisfy any palate.