There's something about cacao: no matter what time of day, it always sounds like a good idea to enjoy this tasty, nutrient-dense superfood. You may remember that cacao is a top superfood for truly incredible reasons: it's full of anti-aging antioxidants, rich in vital minerals, and boosts cognitive health and neuroplasticity…to name just a few of its benefits! But cacao is also a real hero in the kitchen as a healthy, delicious way to consume chocolate in a variety of applications. Here are eight of our most favorite ways to use cacao and our top cacao recipes for inspiration:
1. Smoothies and Smoothie Bowls
Fact: Cacao basically turns smoothies into chocolate ice cream. Amazing, right? Add a spoonful or two of cacao powder to your next creamy blend and revel in having dessert for breakfast.
Our Good Mood Mocha Smoothie recipe is a delicious way to add a little spring to your step. Combine cacao powder, cacao nibs, and some additional ingredients including coconut water (don't get it confused with coconut milk!), vanilla extract and instant coffee powder to start your morning off with a rich energizing coffee smoothie.
2. Homemade Chocolate
Few things are more satisfying than mixing together cacao butter, cacao powder and your sweetener of choice to make healthy chocolate entirely from scratch. Let the “artisan” start with you! Click here to learn how to temper cacao butter to make chocolate like a pro.
One of our favorite cacao recipes is the classic Cacao Butter Bark recipe. This completely customizable recipe allows you to make delicious homemade chocolate simply by mixing together cacao butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Let your imagination run wild with this one when choosing toppings!
3. Baked Treats
Cacao powder can be used as a direct one-to-one swap for unsweetened cocoa powder to amp up the chocolatey goodness of your favorite baked treats like cakes and brownies. And for a nut-like crunch with a chocolate chip-like taste, try sprinkling regular cacao nibs or cacao sweet nibs into batters as well.
One of our most favorite cacao recipes is this vegan Sweet Potato Brownies recipe (is your mouth watering yet?). These rich and gooey brownies are exceptionally testy and packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Enjoy them with a warm drink like Hot Cocoa for a nutrition-packed chocolate overload! To keep your entire pairing vegan, use a plant-based milk for your hot cocoa, such as almond milk or soy milk.
4. Overnight Oats
Sweet breakfast options like oatmeal, overnight oats or chia pudding become renewed by mixing in cacao powder to create a chocolate-themed variation. We love this low-sugar application!
5. Hearty Stews
Believe it or not, cacao can act like an earthy spice in stews that feature Central and even South American flavors. A spoonful of cacao powder is a great addition to chili or stew with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, lime and cinnamon.
Cacao makes the most amazing chocolate drizzle in the world, just begging for your next healthy treat! By simply combining cacao powder with nut butter and your favorite liquid sweetener, you'll create the perfect decadent upgrade for everything from smoothie bowls to fresh fruit to pancakes.
7. Fat Bombs, Balls and Bites
Throwing cacao powder into your next food processor experiment almost guarantees deliciousness. You can even try grinding up nuts and dried fruits to make a sticky base or make keto-friendly cacao fat bombs for a healthier sweet treat that doubles as an energizing snack between meals.
Incorporating cacao nibs is a fantastic way to make any kind of granola a little crunchier and a little healthier, too! You can use regular cacao nibs or cacao sweet nibs for this simple and satisfying application.