Cacao is an amazing, powerful bean that grows in pods on the cacao fruit tree, also known as Theobroma Cacao. These crops are grown in hot climates in places around the world that are close to the equator.
There is a variety of products that are made from the cacao pod and it can be a bit confusing. Cacao and cocoa are both derived from the cacao bean and they sound & look similar, but they are both distinctive when it comes to nutrition, taste and cost. So I thought that I would outline what I have learned about cacao for you.
Raw Cacao Powder
Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing the unroasted cacao beans and grinding it into powder. This process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat which is cacao butter.
Raw cacao powder contains more fibre and calories than cocoa powder and more of the nutrients from the whole bean are still intact. Cacao is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, cholesterol-free saturated fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre, natural carbohydrates, and protein in other words raw cacao is a nutrient rich and healthy food.
Cacao butter is the fattiest part of the pod and makes up the outer lining of the inside of a single cacao bean. It is white in colour and has a buttery texture that is a little like white chocolate in both appearance and taste.
It is a fantastic ingredient to use in real food sweet treats and icing recipes.
Cacao nibs are simply cacao beans that have been ground into coarse edible pieces. Cacao nibs contain all of the fiber, fat, and nutrients that the cacao bean does.
Cacao nip can be nibbled on just as they are, in trail mixes or a great addition to bliss balls for an extra chocolate hit!
Cacao paste comes from cacao nibs that have been slowly heated to preserve the nutrients and are melted into a bark.
Cacao paste can be used to make raw desserts or you can just eat it as it is.
Cocoa (baking powder) is what we all grew up baking with. It is also made from the cacao bean, except cocoa undergoes a higher temperature of heat during processing and also some cocoa brands that you buy have other additives in the ingredients list. This processing removes a lot but not all of the original nutrients that are found in the cacao bean.
Though cocoa is an inferior product to raw cacao it still retains some fibre, has little fat, and has a bit of protein and other nutrients in it as well.
If you buy cocoa powder, be sure you buy plain cocoa powder, not cocoa mixes, which often contain sugar. The benefit of cocoa over cacao is that it is much more affordable. Provided that the cocoa you buy has nothing else added it is still good for you but does not have the same level of ‘super food’ nutrients as raw cacao powder does.
You can use either cacao or cocoa in any of the recipes that I post that call for cacao. Here are some ways that you can enjoy cocoa or cacao: