Vegan Cacao, Nibs & Baking Chocolate – PlantX UK

What could be better than cake? How about homemade cake?! And even better than that… homemade chocolate cake!

Well, you can have your cake and eat it, too! Substitute cacao nibs or vegan baking chocolate into traditional baking recipes (think rich brownies, sweet chocolate chip cookie dough or fluffy chocolate muffins!) to get an entirely plant-based taste of sweet, creamy chocolate.

How to Use Cacao Nibs and Vegan Baking Chocolate in Baking

Would you believe us if we said you could just sub in cacao nibs, vegan cocoa powder and vegan chocolate chips into your recipe?? No? Well, let us elaborate! 

Cacao is the raw, unprocessed version of its cousin, cocoa. Even though they come from the same plant, cacao and cocoa taste quite different from one another. Cacao tends to be slightly more bitter than its counterpart but also loses less of its nutritional content through processing. 

The superfood, cacao, comes in many useful forms, most commonly cacao powder and cacao nibs. In powder form, you can use it in place of cocoa powder in many confectionery recipes. But, remember the more bitter taste we mentioned? Yep, you may want to adjust the sugar in the recipe to compensate. Or you may just want to appreciate the different flavours!

And what about vegan baking chocolate? Well, baking chocolate is another vital ingredient in a good baker’s pantry - from cakes and cookies to tempered chocolate, good quality baking chocolate is a must. 

But, don't be tempted to substitute regular eating chocolate for baking chocolate! Baking chocolate has little or no sugar, compared with regular eating chocolate. So, again, you can use vegan baking chocolate directly in any recipe that calls for unsweetened chocolate.

Finally, cacao nibs can be used to sprinkle on top of your baked goods for added crunch

The Benefits of Using Cacao Nibs and Baking Chocolates

Natural cacao nibs, AKA cocoa nibs (confusingly!), are perfect for adding a touch of sweetness and texture to your baked morsels. Aside from their convenience and all-around tastiness, cacao nibs are high in antioxidants and are also packed full of minerals and vitamins.

Buy cacao nibs to benefit from higher nutritional content than their more highly processed counterpart, cocoa powder. Oh, and these babies don’t melt in their natural state, so they’ll store well and maintain their texture in your cooking!

Vegan chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and vegan chocolate for baking is no exception. Vegan baking chocolate typically contains no or little sugar, making it a healthier choice than a standard eating bar. (Although, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some vegan chocolate from time to time! We love the angelic Raw Halo - Mylk + Salted Caramel Organic Raw Chocolate, which is both divine and packed with antioxidants, fibre and essential minerals! Or if you like your chocolate a little darker, then why not give Vivani - Organic Dark Panana 99% Cocoa Chocolate a go? Not only smooth with delicious notes of caramel, but it is also packed full of flavonoids and fibre!)

Top Cacao Powder Brands to Try

Indulge your sweet tooth with a few of our favourite brands…

Cacao powders are so versatile! Not only can they be used in your favourite cake, but they’re also great for topping your granola, adding some sparkle to your yoghurt or blending into your smoothie! Our Top 3 cacao powders are:

Why not try them all to find your perfect cacao powder? 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa?

Did you ever wonder what’s the difference between cacao and cocoa? Ever wonder whether some poor person is just really, amazingly bad at spelling?

As it turns out, cacao and cocoa both come from the same cacao plant. So, just what IS the difference between the two? 

Well, both start out as cacao beans. They are separated from the fatty part AKA the cocoa butter (Incidentally, cocoa butter isn’t actually butter and so is completely dairy-free!). And it’s from here that they go on their separate journeys. 

Cacao beans left unfermented and unroasted are processed at a low(ish) temperature and then milled into a powder form, which makes cacao powder. In this form, cacao powder is slightly more bitter but does retain more of its nutrients. 

Cacao beans that are both fermented and roasted at a higher temperature become cocoa powder. Whilst both cacao powder and cocoa powder are vegan-friendly (that is, until cocoa powder is processed further with added sugar and dairy content to make it more supermarket-friendly), cocoa powder will lose some of its natural nutritional value through the manufacturing process. 

What are cacao nibs and vegan baking chocolate?

Cacao nibs are delicious nuggets of dried and fermented cacao beans. As they’re not actually chocolate, they don’t melt in their natural state. They’re extremely similar in texture to coffee beans - crunchy, gritty and edgy! It’s this texture, with a hint of sweet, fruity chocolate, that makes cacao nibs the perfect topping for porridge, baked goods and even salads! 

Vegan baking chocolate is made from ground cacao nibs and typically does not contain any added sugar. Like non-vegan baking chocolate, it is super-versatile and comes in many forms for the convenience of your kitchen! 

Vegan baking chocolate bars are most common and can be chopped into smaller pieces and added to your recipe. Alternatively, vegan baking chocolate chips are formed into perfect little nibs of chocolate, ideal for chocolate chip cookies. There are even vegan white chocolate baking chips to make the perfect blondie!

Do cacao nibs taste like chocolate?

Yes and no… 

If you’re wondering whether cacao nibs have the same sweetness as milk chocolate, we’re afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Completely natural cacao nibs share the complex, bitter flavour of unsweetened dark chocolate. We’re talking dark chocolate with as high a cocoa concentration as you can think of (try 85%+!). 

That’s not to say that cacao nibs aren’t delicious in their own right. The earthy taste of cacao nibs combined with the lovely crunchy texture makes these a delightful snack, and a perfect complement to many of our favourite foods - yoghurt, porridge and even, mixed in with popcorn!

What can I do with cacao nibs and vegan baking chocolate?

Pretty much anything that you can do with non-vegan chocolate! 

Vegan baking chocolate and vegan chocolate chips can be used directly in almost any baking recipe. You may need to adjust the sugar to compensate for the slightly more bitter taste, but otherwise, just keep calm and carry on! 

One of our favourite recipes happens to be Sara’s Nanaimo Bars. A crispy chocolate base, creamy coconut filling and topped with more chocolate - heaven in a bar!

Cacao nibs go great with pretty much anything! On their own, they make a quick and easy snack with a bit of a bite. Toss a few into a smoothie for a nutty texture - if you’re looking for smoothie inspiration, try this delightful Raspberry Cheesecake Smoothie

Decorate your cake, fresh from the oven with a handful of natural cacao nibs. Or start your day with a wholesome overnight porridge, topped with (you guessed it!) your friendly cacao nibs! 

For the ultimate indulgence, try a Vegan Hot Chocolate Bomb! These also make the perfect, handmade gift for your loved ones! 

Where does cacao come from?

Cacao originates from South America. Today, it is cultivated in tropical areas around the Equator. The most well known and largest producers of cocoa include Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria. For a quick canter through the history of cocoa, scoot over to our US sister blog!

With chocolate and cacao-based products as popular as ever, sustainable and fairtrade farming practices are more important than ever. The World Cocoa Foundation’s vision is a “thriving and sustainable cocoa sector, where farmers prosper, communities are empowered, and the planet is healthy.” Its members include cocoa and chocolate manufacturers, processors and other companies globally. 
Here at PlantX, we believe that a plant-based lifestyle is more than just a diet. That’s why we take great pride in sourcing products like the Organic Fairtrade Cacao Powder by The Raw Chocolate Company - high-calibre, plant-based foods that are sustainable and fair.

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