All About Cacao

Cacao, often confused with cocoa, is a nutrient dense “superfood” that gives chocolate its health halo. So what’s the difference between cocao, cacoa, and chocolate?

The cacao tree produces seeds/beans which can be 1. Cold pressed and turned into cacao powder 2. Roasted and turned into cacoa 3. Ground into a paste-like substance which results in the chocolate we see on store shelves.

Pure cacao is packed with magnesium, calcium, iron, antioxidants and flavonoids that may be helpful in heart health as well as energy levels and mood. It’s these nutritional qualities that give chocolate its reputation as a healthier sweet treat. But [there’s always a but!], further investigation is required! The percentage you see on a chocolate bar indicates how much of that product is actually pure cacao [read: more nutrient dense] and not fillers/added sugar — so the higher the percentage the better.

Now for the powder…which should you use, cacao or cocoa? Cacao powder gives off a rich chocolatey taste with more bang for your buck than cocoa powder because of the nutrients named above. It can be used in place of cocoa in nearly every recipe. I add it to smoothies, DIY lattes, baked good, energy bites and bars. Find cacao at E & Rose Wellness Cafe in their bowls [Sobro!], Toast [Banana!], Smoothies [Dark Magic, Bulletproof!] as well as Hu Kitchen’s Chocolate Bars and Hunks.

Are you a chocoholic? How do you get your fix?! Try using cacao powder in my Chocolatey Cacao Hummus [below], Go-To Smoothie Bowl, Chocolate Tahini Bliss Bites, or Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter Bites.


CHOCOLATEY CACAO HUMMUS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-15 OZ. CAN CHICKPEAS, DRAINED + RINSED

  • 1 TBSP. COCONUT OIL

  • 1/4 CUP CACAO POWDER

  • 2 TBSP. AGAVE/HONEY/MAPLE SYRUP [OR MORE TO REACH DESIRED SWEETNESS]

  • 2 TSP. VANILLA EXTRACT

  • SALT [A PINCH OR TWO!]

  • 2-3 TBSP. WATER

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. IN A FOOD PROCESSOR [YOU COULD ALSO TRY A HIGH SPEED BLENDER], ADD CHICKPEAS AND BLEND FOR SEVERAL SECONDS.

  2. ADD REMAINING INGREDIENTS, ASIDE FROM WATER, AND BLEND UNTIL THE MIXTURE STARTS TO COME TOGETHER.

  3. ADD WATER, STARTING WITH 2 TBSP., AND BLEND UNTIL DESIRED CONSISTENCY IS REACHED, ADDING MORE WATER AS NEEDED.

  4. SERVE WITH FRUIT, CRACKERS, RICE CAKES, PRETZELS, ETC. ENJOY!

Lara Harris, MS, RD, LD