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5 Ways to Use Cacao Powder in Everyday Foods

Cacao powder is not the same as the cocoa powder often found on supermarket shelves. Cacao is the raw, pure form of chocolate. Made from the fruit of the cacao tree, cacao is minimally processed (One Green Planet, 2014). In contrast, cocoa powder contains cacao that has been heated and processed to create a smoother chocolatey flavor; you can learn more about the differences between cocoa and cacao here. Eating cacao powder is a great way to boost your intake of beneficial nutrients.

Health Benefits of Cacao Powder

Ancient pottery from Central America suggests that indigenous peoples have been using cacao for more than 3,000 years (Mercola, 2015). Now that modern science has exposed the beneficial chemicals within cacao, it is easy to see why this food was so prized. Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds (Mercola, 2015).

Among the most beneficial of these compounds are antioxidants. Antioxidants are a class of molecules that sweep through your cells, mopping up damage created by free radicals. Getting enough antioxidants may reduce your risk of certain forms of cancer or age-related eye diseases (Harvard T.H. Chan school of Public Health, 2015). Some evidence also suggests that raw cacao may contain compounds that can lower stress levels and promote better mood (Mercola, 2015).

Ways to use Cacao Powder in Everyday Foods

Given the health benefits of cacao powder, it pays to eat this form of chocolate every day. Because many people are used to eating milk chocolate -- which contains much more sugar and dairy -- eating raw cacao powder can be an adjustment at first. Cacao powder tastes slightly bitter, although many people come to love its rich flavor.

When using cacao powder, be aware that a little goes a long way. Just a couple of teaspoons of cacao powder are bursting with antioxidants, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds (One Green Planet, 2014). Try using cacao powder in these everyday foods to harness its beneficial properties.

Add Cacao Powder to a Smoothie

Smoothies are a natural pairing for high quality cacao powder. The sweetness of the smoothie masks the somewhat bitter flavor of the cacao, making this a great introduction to cacao powder. To make a cacao smoothie, blend your favorite fruits (strawberries, bananas, or blueberries work well) with Greek yogurt and a bit of ice. Add 1 tablespoon of cacao powder for a rich, chocolatey burst of flavor.

Sprinkle Cacao Powder over Fresh Fruit

The intense taste of cacao powder pairs perfectly with the natural sweetness of fruits. This makes the perfect healthy dessert for people trying to watch their calories. Simply slice your favorite fruit and sprinkle it with a dusting of cacao powder for an antioxidant-rich treat. Pineapple, raspberries, and bananas are the perfect pairing for cacao powder.

Make Rich Cacao Brownies

The brownies you get from a box will have nothing on this natural cacao powder version. Simply swap raw cacao powder for the cocoa powder in your favorite brownie recipe. You may have to adjust the sugar or add a sugar alternative to counter the intensity of the chocolatey cacao powder. These rich cacao brownies are the ideal treat for chocoholics.

Make Homemade Granola Bars

Don’t be daunted by homemade granola bars. They’re actually easier to make than you might think! Plus, homemade granola bars tend to contain less sugar and more nutrients than commercial versions. Rolled oats and your favorite nut butter form the base for the perfect granola bar, while the addition of honey or agave syrup provides all-natural sweetness (Heimbuch, 2014). Then, adding in nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and a sprinkle of cacao powder or cacao nibs provides the flavor and nutrients you need in a well balanced energy bar.

Intensely Chocolatey Homemade Truffles

Truffles are one of the most decadent desserts around, but they often contain heavy whipping cream and may be too fussy to make every day. Not so with a simple dairy-free recipe that calls for shredded coconut, raw honey, coconut milk, almond butter, and raw cacao powder. These truffles come together in minutes and boast a rich, unique chocolate flavor. Rolling them in a dusting of raw cacao powder provides an amazing finishing touch. For a full recipe for chocolate truffles with cacao powder, check out the incredible recipes below.

Cacao Powder Recipes

While the above ideas are brilliant suggestions for culinary innovators, the list below includes full recipes for those that prefer greater guidance in the kitchen. Try out some of these delectable dishes to make great use of our favorite source of the sharp tastes of quality cacao.

Matcha Green Tea Pancakes

Matcha Green Tea Pancakes Recipe {gluten-free}

Add a spritz of sweetness to your morning with these matcha pancakes which pair the rich palate of matcha with the tart tastes of Greek yogurt and cacao based syrup.
Ingredients: Almond milk, brown rice flour, egg, sugar, coconut oil, matcha green tea powder, hemp protein powder, butter, greek yogurt, walnuts, almonds, banana chips, cranberries, golden raisins, maple syrup, cacao powder, baking powder.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 9-10 pancakes

Blueberry Chia Jam Bars {gluten-free, vegan}

Blueberry Chia Jam Bars Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

These berry bars couple the natural sugars of blueberries and honey with the redolent richness of cacao, almonds, and oats to create a dessert that is an idyllic balance of tastes and textures.
Ingredients: Raw almonds, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, maple syrup, water, vanilla or almond extract, blueberries, cacao powder, coconut oil.
Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 16 mini bars

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffle

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffle Recipe

If that chocolate truffle sounded good then this we encourage you to give this variation a try. Not only is this confection vegan but it is also fairly healthy with less than 70 calories and no more than 2 grams of total fat per serving.
Ingredients: Jumbo Mejdool dates, almond flour, chia seeds, flaxseed meal, cacao powder, agave or maple syrup, almond milk, unsweetened shredded coconut.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 24 truffles

No-Bake Cheesecake Bites {gluten-free}

No-Bake Cheesecake Bites Recipe {gluten-free}

Another delicious dessert that makes brilliant use of cacao to create a complementary chocolate base to the piquant pumpkin filling, these cheesecake bites will have you reconsidering your diet. Luckily, the bars are both vegan and gluten-free to ensure they are extra accommodating!
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond flour, cacao powder, vanilla extract, almond milk, raw cashews, maple syrup, canned pumpkin, pumpkin spice.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 16 - 20 squares

Mint Chocolate Popsicles

Mint Chocolate Popsicle Recipe {vegan}

Coupling the sharp savors of mint with the rich relish of cacao is no new insight, but to do so in a popsicle that is entirely vegan is nothing short of innovative. Rediscover the delightful pairing in this simple dessert and pop a few into your freeze today.
Ingredients: Coconut cream, cacao powder, cacao nibs, maple syrup, spirulina, mint extract, coconut oil, dark chocolate chips (vegan)
Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 7 popsicles

Chocolate Cake {gluten-free}

Chocolate Cake Recipe {gluten-free}

There’s no doubt that the greatest use of cacao should be true to form. This dessert, which emphasizes the very essence of chocolate, serves as the supreme selection when creating a confection with the palatable powder. Try it today!
Ingredients: Almond flour, brown rice flour, cacao powder, eggs, almond milk, coconut oil, unrefined sugar, vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, hazelnuts.
Total Time: 1 hour | Yield: 8 servings

Cocoa Powder Snacks and Products

For those seeking to enjoy the powder, the treats below employ the product amidst a range of tasty treats to offer simple snacks and sweets right at your fingertips. Try the treats below or find a high quality cacao powder to create your own confections here.
References

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2015). Antioxidants: beyond the hype. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/

Heimbuch, J. (2014). 5 ways to add raw cacao powder to your diet. Mother Nature News. Retrieved from http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/5-ways-to-add-raw-cocoa-powder-to-your-diet

Mercola. (2015). Crazy about cacao. Retrieved from http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cacao.html

One Green Planet (2015). Cacao vs. cocoa: what you need to know. Retrieved from http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/cacao-vs-cocoa-what-you-need-to-know/