Cacao nibs are small pieces of crushed cacao beans. Typically harvested in South America, these beans come from the cacao tree. While chocolate makers take this cacao and process it further to create confectionary, cacao nibs are raw, small bits. Cacao nibs have a lot of uses and are often used as a tasty and sugar free alternative to chocolate.

Cacao nibs have their own flavor, quite distinct from the sweetened milk chocolate folks may be used to. However, these nibs do pack a rich flavor profile. They smell like chocolate and carry a bitter, almost savory taste, reminiscent of a super dark chocolate. Though they may not fully satisfy your sweet tooth, they make a great snack or addition to smoothies or other foods. We reviewed some of the top cacao nibs on the market to see what sets one brand apart from another. 

Best Cacao Nibs

Editors’ Choice:

Pros:

  • When you open a bag of Navitas Cacao Nibs you’ll notice a powerful dark chocolate aroma. 
  • These nibs are broken up into uneven pieces, giving you the impression that they are indeed a very natural product. 
  • Taste-wise, these nibs offer a pleasantly bitter, dark chocolate taste with a slight after taste. 
  • These USDA Organic, non-GMO nibs are Fair Trade certified. Each gram of nibs provides 2.8mg of magnesium.

Cons:

  • The labeling mentions that one serving of these cacao nibs offers 28% of the daily value of fiber. However, it’s important to note that that value is referring to a three tablespoon serving, a pretty hefty amount of nibs. 
  • On a cost per ounce basis, these nibs were a bit pricier than some of the other products we looked at. 
Navitas Cacao Nibs
Navitas Cacao Nibs
Navitas Cacao Nibs

Folks looking for a natural and fresh tasting cacao nib option should consider Navitas’ offering. These Fair Trade certified nibs are USDA organic and non-GMO, and even offer a bit of magnesium.

Contender:

Terrasoul Cacao Nibs

Pros:

  • Terrasoul Cacao Nibs are USDA Organic certified and harvested from Peru.
  • This non-GMO, keto, and vegan friendly snack is marketed as being capable of replacing chocolate chips. 
  • These cacao nibs are quite tasty, giving off a chocolatey aroma and carrying a nice bitter quality,  and do not carry much of an aftertaste.
  • Packaged in an easy to open and easy to close resealable bag.

Cons:

  • Compared to some of the other cacao nibs we looked at, this brand did seem to have a few more pieces of shell in the mix.
Terrasoul Cacao Nibs
Terrasoul Cacao Nibs
Terrasoul Cacao Nibs

Offering cacao nibs that they market as organic, nutrient dense, and non-GMO, Terrasoul checks in with a tasty and competitively priced chocolatey snack. These nibs have a bit more of a crumbly texture than some of the others we looked at. 

Best Value:

Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs

Pros:

  • Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs are non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, and organic. 
  • Packed efficiently in a very functional and easy to use resealable bag.
  • Though these sugar free nibs are billed as “nature’s chocolate chips,” they pack a pretty bitter taste to go along with a particularly crunchy texture. 
  • Advertised as having various uses, including snacking on them straight up, using them in a smoothie, or mixing in salads, or breakfast cereals. 

Cons:

  • Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs left behind a much stronger and rather sour aftertaste than the other cacao nibs we reviewed. 
  • Taste-wise in general, these bear the least resemblance to chocolate.
  • From a texture perspective, these nibs vary widely in size, and include a great deal more shells and husk than some of the other nibs we looked at.  
Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs
Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs
Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs

For high quality cacao nibs at a competitive price point, consider Viva Naturals’ offering. These non-GMO, vegan snacks are sourced from Peruvian Criollo beans and pack a punch.

Also Consider:

Healthworks Cacao Nibs

Pros:

  • Healthworks cacao nibs are a bit smaller in size than some of the competing cacao nibs, indicating that they may have been crushed a bit more. 
  • These organic nibs are not as crunchy as some of its competitors and do not carry much of an aftertaste. 
  • Marketed as being compatible with smoothies, granola bars, or trail mix, and includes a recipe on the bag for Avocado Chocolate Muffins. 

Cons:

  • Taste-wise, these nibs are not quite as potent as some of the other products we looked at. Though they are very natural tasting, there’s not as much of a flavor profile.
  • Though they claim to packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, there’s little information on the packaging to really back up that assertion.
Healthworks Cacao Nibs
Healthworks Cacao Nibs
Healthworks Cacao Nibs

Packed in a rather unassuming, utilitarian transparent bag, Healthworks Cacao Nibs carry a delightful chocolaty smell. This certified organic snack is a product of Latin America and is marketed to be used in smoothies, granola bars, or trail mix. 

Methodology

For folks looking to cut down on added sugars while still getting some of the richness and bitterness of dark chocolate, cacao nibs may be a great alternative product to check out. Commonly used in salads, smoothies, trail mix, and in a variety of other foods, cacao nibs are a quick and easy way to add rich, bitter flavor to your menu. While claims of their ability to replace chocolate chips may be a bit of a stretch, these sugar-free, raw nibs do offer some of the delightful bitterness of chocolate in a crunchy, small form. Before adding one to your cart, consider a few key factors. 

Taste

Not all brands of cacao nibs carry the same flavor profile. Some possess a stronger aftertaste while others have particularly bitter notes reminiscent to dark chocolate. It may be worth taste-testing a few for yourself to figure out which brand of cacao nibs you really jive with. 

Consistency

Since cacao nibs are a natural, raw product, their texture is not uniform. While part of the charm of these nibs is their uneven texture, on the flipside, some bags seem to include a few too many shells and bean husks. 

Packaging

Most cacao nibs are packed in resealable plastic bags. While these don’t need to be refrigerated, take into account how much space you have in the pantry before committing to a particularly large bag. 

Cost

The best way to determine how much bang you’re getting for your buck is in dividing the total cost by the number of ounces in a given bag. Be sure to check for total ounces as opposed to servings, as individual serving sizes will vary widely. 

Nutrients

Some cacao nibs include more vitamins and nutrients than others, and that information is typically reflected in the Nutrition Facts section of the bag. While a typical portion of cacao nibs certainly won’t take the place of a daily vitamin, finding a brand with a nice boost of vitamins or magnesium may be appealing to some. 

BarBend Tips

  • If you’re expecting cacao nibs to be a dead ringer for chocolate chips, you’re going to be sorely mistaken. However, cacao nibs can be a delightful addition to a variety of foods – their size, bitter taste, and texture makes it easy to add them to yogurts, cereals, or even salads.
  • Try out different recipes with these nibs to see what works for you. Some folks prefer to grab them by the handful, while others find they add a nice bitter quality and rich aroma to baked goods. 

Natural, raw, cacao nibs are an interesting alternative to chocolate. While you’d certainly never confuse cacao nibs for a candy bar, they do share some of the bitter tasting notes of a rich dark chocolate.