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Nov 19, 2012 08:17 PM

Good uses for cocoa nibs

I put together a gift basket for a friend. One thing I included was a small bag of cocoa nibs.

I was thinking these could make snacks.

But my friend has tried them and is saying they are kind of bitter. What would be good uses for them?

I've seen recipes for putting them in cakes or brownies. I think you could put a few on top of cake or cupcakes for decoration. I think I've heard about putting them in coffee.

What else?

And if my friend doesn't do much baking, what would be good uses for her? Covering the nibs with a little chocolate so that they are sweeter? Anything else?

(I saw that some of the nibs on sale were covered with something sweet. But the ones I ended up buying are plain.)

Thanks for your ideas!

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  1. Sorry, I am jumping in here to "bookmark" this :)

    I have a big package of them and I also would like to hear how other hounds are using them.

    So far, I have only sprinkled them on top of desserts. They are a bit bitter but clearly have a cocoa flavor- and have a hard time imagining them in savory dishes.

    7 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          Half nibs and half dark choco (or white choco chips) chips are pretty groovy too.

        2. re: Brandon Nelson

          I am going to try that! I bought a bag of dark chocolate coated cocoa nibs for a friend and forgot to give them to her. Now I know what to do with them.
          I have made the nibby buckwheat cookies a number of times and they are great too.

          1. re: pavlova

            nibby buckwheat cookies? i only recently obtained my first stash of buckwheat flour... i want to know more!

          2. re: Brandon Nelson

            nice one as well, I drop a few in coconut muffins.

        3. This Alice Medrich panna cotta is delicious.

          You can use the same steeping method for ice cream, or other dairy-based desserts. They add a nice crunch to shortbread or other cookies, can be added to granola, added to chocolate bark, pressed to the outside of cakes, and on and on.

          Medrich's Bittersweet has several recipes, including savory applications like asparagus with prosciutto, eggplant, and greens.

          1. These are all great ideas. I think they would be a natural with banana bread.

            I imagine they get softer if put in something like panna cotta?

            Wonder if that happens if they are baked also?

            And what about the coffee idea?

            1 Reply
            1. re: karykat

              When you steep them for panna cotta, you strain them out. It leaves a somewhat illusive chocolate flavor behind.

            2. My friends used cacao nibs to infuse bourbon. It sounds extra-special-delish to me! This isn't their blog, but here's a how-to I found:

              Where did you get the nibs--mail order? I'd love to try this, too.

              31 Replies
              1. re: kattyeyes

                Our coop has a number of things from this company. (Don't have the name in front of me.) They have the plain cocoa nibs, some nibs that are coated with something sweet, and cocoa powder.

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  chocolate bourbon...

                  now, you know i'm going to have to try that! just in time for christmas.

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    I picked up a bag of nibs in the "whole body" section (bath/beauty) of Whole Foods...and we're off! Note to self: the day before Thanksgiving is hands-down THE most RIDICULOUS day to attempt to shop at Whole Foods. :)

                    1. re: kattyeyes

                      I live right near a Whole Foods and coming home from work yesterday, I got caught up in the WF snarl. There were TWO police cruisers and officers out there directing traffic into and out of the garage, a huge lineup of cars, and jams all around. Worst traffic I saw all day yesterday in the DC metro area.

                      1. re: tcamp

                        OMG! You have me beat! Glad you got thru it w/o incident. I honestly only went yesterday b/c I was in the area and wanted to get started on this infusion. Happy holidaze!!! ;)

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          Be sure to report back. I'll be interested in how this works. It would make a good gift I think.

                          1. re: karykat

                            You bet...give me three weeks and I'll be back to let you know. :)

                      2. re: kattyeyes

                        I keep coming back to the fact that you found cocoa nibs in the "whole body" section. Is there some cocoa nib beauty ritual I haven't heard about?

                        But add me to the list of those wanting to know how cocoa nib bourbon turns out!

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I'll bet "they" purport cacao nibs to make you beautiful from the inside out. :) "Power foods for the modern lifestyle. Antioxidants. Iron. Magnesium." I think flax seeds are in the same section. More recipes here:

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            It's always a good day when you can add antioxidants to your bourbon.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              LOLOL, I couldn't agree with you more! :) Cheers to THAT and to YOU, Caitlin!

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                I was musing this evening about trying the cocoa-nib infusion with gold rum.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  Why not? I only wish any of us lived closer so we could have a tasting party!

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Wouldn't that be fun? I think I need to buy some cocoa nibs, especially as I began thinking that there has to be worthy ways to pair cocoa-nib rum with my homemade spiced coffee liqueur, which has a base of dark rum and brandy.

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      Oh, my...I'd like to hear about your homemade spiced coffee liqueur if you don't mind sharing.

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        Sure, my pleasure. I copied the recipe from a CH post some years back, and I can't for the life of me find it to link to now, so apologies that poster, whoever she was, for the lack of credit here.

                                        This is a recipe that rewards patience, because as that poster says, the longer it ages, the better it gets. After the three-week infusion and four-week rest it's still kind of rough, but after a few months? Smooooth, and the flavors have really come into balance. Perfect for spiking hot cocoa and SO good poured over ice cream.

                                        The recipe calls for instant coffee; I used the instant espresso powder I keep around for baking, and it worked out fine. My other changes were using a titch less sugar in the syrup and adding a few (like 3) black peppercorns.

                                        As copied from her post:

                                        2 cups sugar
                                        1 cup water
                                        6 Tbl. instant coffee crystals
                                        1 vanilla bean, split
                                        5-10 whole cloves
                                        10 whole allspice
                                        2 1-inch pieces cinnamon stick
                                        1 cup dark rum
                                        1 cup brandy

                                        Make simple syrup by heating sugar and water in a heavy saucepan, stirring to mix. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add instant coffee and spices and remove from heat. Cool. Add rum and brandy and pour into a glass or ceramic container (not metal or plastic)*. Cap tightly or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Steep for three weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking or swirling around in the container every three days.

                                        Strain out the spices and discard. Line a funnel, a sieve or a coffee cone with a dampened coffee filter and pour the liqueur through. Change the filter regularly. This is a SLOW process! After filtering, cover tightly and age another three or four weeks (or more--the longer it ages, the better it gets). Makes about 4 cups.

                                        * If you're multiplying the recipe, you will still want to steep it in containers no bigger than about a quart, dividing the spices up between them. The flavor doesn't seem to develop as well in bigger containers. I've bought a box of quart canning jars that I re-use every year.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          WOWWW! Thank you so much--something else to brew! :)

                        2. re: kattyeyes

                          It's been three weeks (time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future...). Here's what chocolate bourbon looks like. I sampled but a teaspoonful, it almost tastes more like coffee than chocolate--probably because it's so dark and unsweetened. More on the flavor when I sample it properly rather than like a kiddo taking cough medicine.

                          Not sure what to do with those nibs. Part of me wants to buzz them up in the mini food processor and slip 'em into brownies, but also not tonight. I'll store them in the fridge for now and decide over the weekend.

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            Hmmmm. A coffee flavor sounds kind of good to me. But maybe if you're hoping more for chocolate.

                            I was looking at nibs at the coop again today. Some sold were unsweetened. Another kind had a cocoa liqueur (?) and cane sugar coating. Could be good to try.

                            Keep us updated as your bourbon steeps and as you think of other things.

                            1. re: karykat

                              True confessions:
                              I genuinely love chocolate.
                              I genuinely love bourbon.
                              I sincerely hate to tell you how much I DO NOT LIKE the chocolate bourbon I infused. BLEAHHHH!

                              We decided to give it a whirl tonight. Tried it straight--whoa, it's bitter. Let's put a little simple syrup in, then stir it over ice with some vanilla seltzer. Let me tell you, neither one of us wanted to finish it. In fact, just to be Yankee and not throw bourbon away, I was determined to chug it, yet wound up throwing the last of it down the sink. It was like punishment trying to swallow it. :( So sad.

                              wonderwoman, I hope you like yours much more than we did! I'm interested to hear if you added the nibs to the chocolate salami, too.

                              karykat, cane sugar in the mix with the nibs does sound good. And mixed with simple syrup, it did taste more of deep chocolate. I'll see if I can find a way to make the small portion remaining palatable. So thankful this was a really small batch.

                              We washed away the taste with chocolate cake shots, which I recommend enthusiastically:
                              vanilla vodka
                              (shake if you can, stir if not)
                              slice of lemon coated in sugar

                              Sip shot, bite lemon, oddly enough, it tastes a whole lot like chocolate cake. And a whole bunch better than unsweetened cacao-infused bourbon! CHEERS!

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                I am so glad you posted you're opinion and results with the bourbon. I was just about to start some for a bourbon lover on my Chrismas list. After your description, I am sure he would hate it! Thank you for reporting back!

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  Glad to help NOT waste good bourbon. My pleasure to save a fellow bourbon lover from a repeat experience! :)

                                2. re: kattyeyes

                                  just tried mine. i've been sipping it like cognac, and kind of like the bitterness that lingers in my mouth and on my tognue.

                                  can't say that i'm in love with it, and don't know that i'd make it again. but no way i'm dumping it down the sink.

                                  the wet nibs ground up nicely in the food processor. i'm storing them in the fridge until i make the chocolate salami in the next few days. i had to buy a bit more cream than i need for that recipe. planning to mix what's left with the chocolate bourbon -- a sort of chocolate bourbon alexander. might throw some frangelico i have left from a haelnut dessert i made for thanksgiving.

                                  will report back.

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Thank you for this experiment and your report. Indeed a shame to waste good bourbon!

                                    The chocolate cake shots sound very counterintuitive. Taste buds sometimes don't work in predictable ways.

                                    I'll want to hear more about that chocolate salami.

                                    And will be buying some of the sugar cane ones at the coop next time.

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      turns out that when it comes to chocolate bourbon, patience is a virture.

                                      when i tried it last week, it was bitter, and just a tad sour from the cocoa nibs. after i drained off the nibs (btw, ground up and added to the chocolate salami got universially great reviews), i let it just sit in the cupboard and finally tried it tonight.

                                      what a difference a few days made! without the nibs, the bitterness had deepened and mellowed, and i am in deep, deep love with the result, and plan another batch as soon as i get back from the holidays.

                                  2. re: kattyeyes

                                    time's been slippin, slippin, slippin into the future for me too. so, thanks for the reminder to check chocolate bourbon.

                                    i, too, have been thinking about what to do with the nibs. i like the idea of buzzing them in the food processor. i'm making a big batch of chocolate salami (a truffle like mixture with hazelnut, dried cherries and chopped biscotti or pizzelle), and the blizted nibs might fit right in.

                                    will keep you posted.

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      waiting for my chocolate salami to set up, but after sampling what was left in the bowl, the ground up coca nibs will be an excellent addition.

                                      i still have a ltlle less than a cup left, and i think i'll stir them into a batch of steel cut oats cooked with coconut milk, then stir in some chopped pecans and 2% plain greek yogurt..

                                  3. re: kattyeyes

                                    i had a little more than a cup left in a bottle of eagle rare 10, so i decided to to a test run.

                                    will report back in 3 weeks:)

                                    1. re: wonderwoman

                                      Excellent. (Don't forget!) Will want to know.

                                  4. There is a recipe in Mark Bittermans Salted where you roll goat cheese in a mixture of cocoa nibs and black salt......
                                    From his site........
                                    Getting Nibby with It
                                    Goat Cheese sprinkled with Cocoa Nibs and Turkish Black Finishing Salt. Wow. We tried this again at the Art Opening for Roger Hallin we held on Sunday, and won literally dozens of converts. The strange thing about the combination of unsweetened, pungent, crunchy cocoa nibs combined with crusty, flakey Turkish Black salt on the rich, creamy-crumbly curds of a nice soft goat cheese is that it seems so utterly classical! People from all walks of life and of all ages just stood there, drinking wine and munching away, eyebrows raised in smiley happiness, looking at the art. A definite holiday must. If you need help with the nibs or the salt, we could be able to accommodate you at the store, and we have also put Theo’s Panamanian cocoa nibs up for sale at the online store.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: angelsmom

                                      This sounds fantastic. And easy.

                                      Will definitely put this one on the list.

                                      1. re: angelsmom

                                        Me again. I looked for the recipe on Mark Bittman's site and on google generally, but couldn't find it. Do you have a link? If not, could I talk you into summarizing the recipe?

                                        Assume this must be a soft goat cheese?

                                        1. re: angelsmom

                                          Found this! I thought you meant Mark Bittman instead of Mark Bitterman. And thought YOU had gone to the art opening.

                                          Thanks for this!

                                          1. re: karykat

                                            Mark Bittermans.....
                                            A cup or so of unsweetened cacao nibs, an 8 ounce log of goat cheese, a couple of pinches of black flake sea salt .....and roll the goat cheese in it.

                                          2. re: angelsmom

                                            This is an AWESOME Recipe. Absolutely brilliant. And yes, it is Bittman (those two are so easily confused!).

                                            1. re: angelsmom

                                              I just did this tonight with dinner. REALLY GOOD. I experimented with the crackers though. You want something like a plain butter cracker or water cracker ( I didn't have any left) because the nibs and salt are subtle and complex. Stay away from wheat or rice crackers.

                                              Thanks for the idea!