If you ever crave a bitter chocolatey flavor, the best option would be to use cacao nibs. They add a rich and versatile taste to baked goods, cookies, smoothies, cereals, etc.
This takes us to the case that what if you don’t find cacao nibs around you? What if you just ran out of them at home or at a store near you? You need to look for a suitable cacao nib substitute, right? The best options are Chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate. But there are several other options.
Therefore, we decided to come to your rescue and list the 10 best cacao nibs substitutes to make your meals tastier like never before! Read on to find out!
Cacao Nibs: An overview
Cacao nibs are crumbled pieces of cacao beans (also known as cocoa beans). They are prepared by harvesting and drying cocoa beans, after which they are fermented and crushed into nibs. The nibs are obtained from the beans of the Theobroma Cacao tree.
Cacao nibs are available in raw and roasted forms. These are mainly used for sprinkling onto oatmeals while baking, smoothies, or in replacement to chocolates to make your recipes healthier. Overall, they offer a very chocolatey taste.
Cacao nibs have overall low sugar content, so it is suitable for people with diabetes and obesity issues. It has a natural bittersweet taste, like dark chocolate, with no added sweeteners. Cacao nibs are also rich in antioxidants and can be a great way of filling your sweet tooth!
Since they are rich in antioxidants, they also have anti-inflammatory properties that help control blood sugar levels and cure hypertension! It is also a mood enhancer and helps in releasing happy hormones.
Talking about nutrition, cacao nibs have only 1 gram of sugar. They also contain 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 6% of the recommended daily iron intake. It is also rich in magnesium and copper, having 16% and 25% of the recommended values of these minerals!
Talk about tasty and healthy at the same time!
Why substitute cacao nibs?
Cacao nibs are so tasty anyway; why would you want to replace them with anything else? Here are some reasons:
1. Chocolate allergies
Cacao nibs taste more or less like chocolate and share significant similarities with their properties. Many people are allergic to cacao nibs and can’t enjoy the same taste and flavor!
Therefore, finding the closest substitutes to cacao nibs always helps deal with such allergies as the chances of reactions are lesser.
If you need cacao nibs in any of your recipes and run out of them, or if your nearest grocery store does not have them. Therefore, you need to find substitutes instead of cacao nibs in your recipes.
3. Taste differences
If you just want to experiment with something different in your recipes instead of cacao nibs, then the substitutes would be beneficial in achieving a similar taste for your recipes.
What are the Best Cocoa Nibs Substitutes?
1. Chocolate chips
Best for: Cookies, Baking Doughs, etc.
Chocolate chips are one of the closest substitutes to cacao nibs because they are very similar in taste. Chocolate chips may be a tad bit sweeter depending on the brand you purchase. However, they can be replaced with cacao nibs in cookies, baking dough, etc., to get the perfect chocolaty taste.
The best part is that chocolate chips do not melt and retain their shape while cooking. They are bigger than cacao nibs, so you want to be careful with the quantities. You can also add them to pastries and cakes as toppings or in oatmeal and smoothies!
2. Cocoa powder
Best for: Beverages, cakes, brownies, etc.
Cocoa powder is slightly bitter as compared to cacao nibs. It also has a different texture, as it is more refined and available in powder form compared to cacao nibs. The powdered form can make it challenging for you to use it in terms of quantity.
Therefore, you may want to be extra careful before adding too much or too little cocoa powder, as it imparts a robust and bitter taste.
Cocoa powder is the best replacement if you don’t have a sweet tooth and do not crave sweet flavors in your recipes but still want the chocolaty taste. It is also healthy as it is the unroasted version of cacao nibs, with the fat removed. You can use this in various recipes like brownies, cakes, coffee beverages, etc.
3. Cacao beans
Best For: Cereals, Smoothies, etc.
Cacao beans are a perfect replacement for recipes that demand cacao nibs. However, they are the raw version of cacao nibs, making them slightly stronger and richer in taste. Use them with your breakfast cereal and oatmeal, or sprinkle them on top of smoothies and shakes.
Be careful with the quantities due to the bigger size and bitter taste. They add a crunchy texture to your meals due to the nutty texture!
4. Dark chocolate
Best For: Cakes, cookies, brownies, beverages, etc.
Dark chocolate is a very healthy substitute for cacao nibs. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that help remove toxic radicals from the body. This helps in preventing inflammatory disorders. On the other hand, dark chocolate has less sugar for the health-conscious ones, so it may taste bitter.
Make sure to be aware of the quantities, as excess dark chocolate can make your recipes bitter! You can add this as a substitute in cakes, brownies, beverages, etc. However, you may want to add a little sugar to adjust the sweetness.
Fun Fact: Dark chocolate is a mood enhancer! A cube of dark chocolate daily can help prevent diabetes and hypertension.
5. Toasted Walnuts
Best For: Smoothies, oatmeals, cereal bowls, brownies, etc.
Toasted walnuts help add a nutty crunch to your recipes that use cacao nibs. They are sweet and crunchy, making them an excellent addition to smoothies, oatmeal, cereal bowls, etc.
These walnuts are toasted to give them a sweet and nutty flavor. You can either crush them for your recipes or eat them whole in replacement for cacao nibs. However, you may need more toasted walnuts for your recipes to match the taste.
Fun fact: Walnuts are a rich source of Omega fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins. It helps in the brain and overall cognitive functioning and development. Incorporating walnuts into your diet daily is beneficial!
6. Carob chips/Carob Powder
Best for: Baked goods like cakes, cookies, toppings in cereal, etc.
Carob tree is a small Mediterranean shrub. Carob chips are made from the pod of carob trees. These pods are dried, roasted, and then ground into fine carob powder. Then the powder is made into chips that actually look like chocolate chips.
They are not as bitter and have a naturally sweet taste, with additional nutritional properties. They have less sugar and more fiber which makes them nutritious. The natural sweetness of carob chips can be used in cakes, cookies, candies, and other baked delicacies.
7. Vanilla Beans
Best For: Smoothies, as toppings, cakes, etc.
Vanilla beans are not similar to cacao nibs in texture and taste. However, their unique and aromatic flavor offers a rich taste to your taste buds. Vanilla beans can replace cacao nibs in smoothies, shakes, cakes, etc. You can grind them or use them as toppings.
The best part about vanilla beans is their scent and smokey flavor. They are naturally bitter-sweet and are versatile when used in replacement for cacao nibs.
Fun fact: Vanilla is actually a spice obtained from the orchids of the vanilla genus of plants. They are not beans, but because they are derived from a pod, they get the name.
8. Chocolate liquor
Best for: Cakes, beverages, toppings, etc.
Chocolate liquor is the liquified version of cacao nibs. Therefore, it would be exactly the same in terms of taste. It is because the texture varies; you need to play carefully with the quantities accordingly. Depending on the brand, the texture is either liquid or paste-like!
Else, chocolate liquor makes for a perfect and easy replacement for cacao nibs. Use it as toppings in your baked recipes, and see the aroma tingling your nostrils. Do not add excess liquid to ruin the texture of solid baked goods.
Best for Baked recipes, to be used instead of melted chocolate as toppings or in beverages, etc.
Callets are like tiny chocolate morsels which melt pretty easily. This makes them fit for baking or adding a thin layer of chocolate beneath cakes or within cookies. They are not a very commonly found alternative to cacao nibs, but the taste is more or less similar.
Callets have a bitter-sweet flavor and fit perfectly with almost any recipe that demands cacao nibs. These are usually available as chocolate bars in supermarkets and grocery stores. You will need to weigh them in kilograms and not in terms of volume because they are available as cubes. Therefore, you need to adjust the quantities accordingly.
10. Coarsely ground coffee beans
Best for: Cakes, Beverages, etc.
Coarsely ground coffee beans are quite bitter but are very similar in texture. They are easy to use and versatile, making them an excellent choice for beverages, cakes, smoothies, etc.
Plus point, they offer a caffeine boost and a very distinct bitter flavor, which adds to the richness of your preparations and depth in flavor. There are specific chocolate-infused coffee beans as well that are available that exactly match the taste of cacao nibs.
Can you eat cacao nibs every day?
Yes! You can eat them every day, and they are very easy to incorporate into your meals. Use them as toppings in smoothies, shakes, beverages, oatmeals, puddings, pancakes, etc. They have several nutritional benefits too!
Do cacao nibs melt?
No! You cannot melt cacao nibs in pellet form. However, if you need to use them in melted forms in recipes, you need to crush the nibs into powder form.
Are cacao nibs and chocolate chips the same?
No. Cacao nibs are smaller than chocolate chips. Also, they do not have a very distinct and rich chocolatey taste. The flavor is slightly different with more complex taste notes. Hence, the end result in recipes would differ!
What’s the difference between cocoa nibs and cacao nibs?
Cacao nibs are roasted forms, whereas cocoa nibs are smaller and broken versions of cacao nibs. When the husk from cacao nibs is removed, and they are broken into pieces, that forms cocoa nibs.
Substitute for Cacao Nibs when Making Candy
Roasted cocoa beans are the ideal substitute for cacao nibs while making candy. Since both ingredients have a similar profile in terms of taste, aroma, and texture, you will not feel any major difference while preparing candies.
If you’d like your candies to have hints of coffee, you can also use coarsely ground coffee powder as a substitute.
Substitute for Cacao Nibs when Making Cookies
Chocolate chips are the ideal substitute for cacao when preparing cookies. Chocolate chips are loved by all due to their sweetness and crunchy texture.
Substitute cacao nibs for chocolate chips
Cacao nibs are considered to be the dairy-free substitute for chocolate chips. They can be added to pancake batter or cookie dough.
Substitute cacao nibs for cocoa powder
Since cacao nibs add a bit of crunch and texture, they can be substituted for cocoa powder in muffins and cupcakes.
Cacao nibs more or less resemble chocolate chips in terms of texture. In terms of taste, they are like cocoa powder, and they do not melt easily!
Keeping these properties in mind, we have suggested the best cacao nib substitutes for your delicacies. You can use them daily; they are healthy choices and are very similar to cacao nibs; you would barely feel the difference!
Please read our article above and tell us which is the best cacao nibs alternative through the comments section below!
Milburn Adler is a food enthusiast and connoisseur of wine. His area of expertise is food fusions and gourmet foods. He lives to experiment with new recipes every day and spends most of his day looking for fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables.