Cast your eye over the window of any high-end pâtisserie shop, restaurant menu or even supermarket shelf and you’ll probably spot a relatively new ingredient that five years ago would be tough to track down: cacao (or cocoa) nibs. Unlike traditional chocolate, these nibs are simply little shards of roasted cacao bean, which has been allowed to ferment and then dry out. In normal chocolate production, these nibs would then be ground and combined with sugar (and then ground down to a fine powder, melted and tempered) to create chocolate.
Obviously, the lack of added sugar means cacao nibs aren’t anywhere near as sweet as the average chocolate bar. They still taste a little like chocolate, but have a much more bitter, natural flavour. It’s this unique taste, combined with the satisfyingly crunchy texture of nibs that have made them popular today, while the associated health benefits – cacao flavanols, antioxidants and essential nutrients – are the icing on the cake.