Cacao nibs are one of my favorite “secret ingredients” to add to baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and brownies. Cacao nibs are pieces of roasted cocoa bean. The chocolate making process involves grinding up the roasted nibs into a paste, then adding additional ingredients – such as sugar, milk, etc – if needed to produce the finished chocolate product. The nibs themselves have a fruity, dark chocolate flavor and a substantial crunch, though they tend to be very small in size. I like adding them to recipes for the added texture, as well as for the way they enhance other chocolate flavors.
I was excited to see that Trader Joe’s recently began offering Roasted Cacao Nibs (they previously sold chocolate covered nibs near the register as a snack item – very tasty!) because I typically get my nibs from specialty baking stores or buy them in bulk online (Valrhona brand). Pouring out the nibs, I immediately noticed some differences between them and the sort I usually buy. They are in larger and more irregular pieces; some chunks were almost as large as almonds, while they’re typically much smaller and more uniform in size. It also seemed like there were pieces of husk still attached to the nibs, which means that they feel a little more like crunching on roasted coffee beans, rather than toasted nuts. The husks detracted a bit from the overall flavor of the nibs, as they don’t have that chocolaty-ness that you want in a nib, but they were still tasty, crunchy and snackable overall. I used them in a batch of cookies and still enjoyed the flavor and texture that they added. That said, I prefer the kind I usually buy and will probably stick with those in the future instead of coming back for another bag of these.