Here’s something cool—cocoa nibs

February 20, 2016

Mexican Chocolate and Cherry Brownies / JillHough.com

So last week I was at one of my happy places, Rancho La Puerta, a spa/resort in Mexico where I have the incredible, amazing, stupefyingly good fortune to be a visiting cooking teacher about once a year.

It’s a very cool place that miraculously manages to be rustic yet pampering, invigorating yet relaxing, super fun yet super indulgent. They have hot and cold running activities, from hiking to circuit training to Latin dance cardio to meditation to crystal bowl healing to jewelry making to cooking classes. It’s like camp for grown-ups, with great food, plus every spa service you can imagine.

Like I said, very cool.

(For more about the Ranch, see this post, this post, and this post.)

But being there reminded me of something else that’s cool—cocoa nibs.

Cocoa nibs are basically the raw material of chocolate-making. They’re cocoa beans that have been dried, roasted, and winnowed—winnowing is the process that removes the outer papery skin from the roasted bean—resulting in the crunchy roasted cocoa nutmeat, if you will. To make chocolate, you grind, grind, grind those cocoa nibs into a peanut butter-like mixture, then add ingredients including sugar. (This is a super-simplification—for more about the miracle of chocolate-making, read this post.)

Mexican Chocolate and Cherry Brownies / JillHough.com

But cocoa nibs are great in and of themselves. In both taste and texture, they’re a lot like nuts, but ones with a slight coffee/cocoa flavor. Which means you can use them any place you’d use nuts, but your finished dish will be waaay more interesting.

Use them in brownies, for example—we made Mexican Chocolate and Cherry Brownies topped with cocoa nibs (pictured) in class last week.

You can also mix cocoa nibs into cookies and cakes and muffins. Sprinkle them into salads and over sundaes. Puree them into pesto. And mix them into rice or granola. Again, basically any place where you’d use nuts, you can use cocoa nibs.

I once worked a chocolate-themed lunch where we served a twist on green beans almandine—cocoa nibs browned in butter, then dribbled over blanched green beans.

Cool, eh?

Many thanks to Denise, Gina, Anna, Saida, Angelina, and everyone at Rancho La Puerta for yet-another awesome week. Thanks, too, to all who attended my classes at the Ranch—for our new friendship, and for giving me the opportunity to reappreciate cocoa nibs.

Mexican Chocolate and Cherry Brownies / JillHough.com


13 thoughts on “Here’s something cool—cocoa nibs

  1. Jill Post author

    I kind of forget to use them anywhere but the usual place(s), too, Heather–sort of like saving the good jewelry for special occasions–so it was nice to be reminded myself!

  2. Citra Kale @Citra's Home Diary

    Hi Jill….I saw many of my friends posting about cocoa nibs, start from truffles until brownies and delish chocolate dessert… Now with your posting about cocoa nibs makes me crave about it…but… super duper difficult to find cocoa nibs here in my place :( I’ll try online maybe later.. thx for sharing this yummy recipe. rgds

  3. Sara

    I love cocoa nibs and I think they’re such an underutilized ingredient! I don’t think I’ve seen them on top of brownies before but it’s a great idea, can’t wait to try it!

  4. Jill Post author

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Citra! And while cocoa nibs are definitely delish (if you search for them, try cacao nibs, too–same thing), I’ll bet you have TONS of delicious ingredients available to you that I’d be hard-pressed to find, too.

  5. Jill Post author

    I kind of forget to use them, Sara, or as I said to Heather, save them for special occasions. But using a “special” ingredient makes every day special, you know? Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. Jill Post author

    I am definitely VERY lucky to get to enjoy Rancho La Puerta for “work”! And love the idea of nibs in granola bars! I’ve toyed with putting them in granola, but haven’t made granola bars–might your recipe be on your site??? :)

  7. Jill Post author

    The link worked, Rosemary–yay! And those cookies look awesome. My husband ADORES shortbread cookies–might have to surprise him with a batch of yours! And thanks for the compliment about the Guittard piece–I was really flattered when Guittard told me I was unusually accurate in describing the chocolate-making process. And it was quite a kick to be there and see it with my own eyes!

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