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 so you know which is the best to pickup before your next heavy deadlift session or squat day.
Best Cacao Nibs
- Best Organic Option: Navitas Cacao Nibs
- Best For Toppings: Terrasoul Cacao Nibs
- Best Bulk Buy: Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs
- Best For Smoothies: Healthworks Cacao Nibs
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. Individual needs for vitamins and minerals will vary.
Best Organic Option
When you open a bag of Navitas Cacao Nibs you’ll likely notice a powerful dark chocolate aroma — certainly not a bad way to be introduced to a product. They texture of these nibs are uneven chunks which evokes a natural feeling. That should go without say since the product is organic, but the breakup of the nibs versus uniform machine cuts is a nice departure from a lot of the competitive market.
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.
Taste-wise, these nibs offer a pleasantly bitter, dark chocolate taste with a slight after taste. Being closer in taste to a bitter chocolate might make this product more approachable for those who haven’t yet given cacao nibs a shot.
Who Should Buy Navitas Cacao Nibs
- People looking for a flavor similar to bitter dark chocolate.
- Those who prefer organic products.
- Folks who was non-GMO, Fair Trade certified cacao nibs.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Navitas Cacao Nibs
- Anyone on a tight budget.
- Those who are looking for small serving sizes.
The labeling mentions that one serving of these cacao nibs offers 28 percent 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. At the end of the day though, they are USDA Organic, non-GMO nibs, which are Fair Trade certified. Each gram of nibs provides just under three milligrams of magnesium — an important nutrient for both lifters and bodybuilders.
Best For Toppings
These nibs have a bit more of a crumbly texture than some of the others we looked at. That crumbly texture makes it a nice topping for things like açai bowls and the like, as well as various trail mix. They are USDA Organic certified and harvested from Peru.
Offering cacao nibs that they market as organic, nutrient dense, and non-GMO, Terrasoul checks in with a tasty and competitively priced chocolatey snack.
This non-GMO, keto diet friendly, and vegan friendly snack is marketed as being capable of replacing chocolate chips. They’re quite tasty, giving off a chocolatey aroma and carrying a nice bitter quality, and do not carry much of an aftertaste. They come packaged in an easy to open and easy to close resealable bag.
Who Should Buy Terrasoul Cacao Nibs
- Those who are happy to avoid a bitter aftertaste.
- Anyone looking for a crumbly texture for toppings and mixes.
- Folks on a vegan diet.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Terrasoul Cacao Nibs
- Those who don’t want to waste time picking out shell pieces.
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. In some ways that evokes a natural feel but it also is not kind on teeth. It was this knock that kept it from being our highest ranked pick, but on the whole, it is still an excellent choice.
Best Bulk Buy
Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs are non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, and organic. They come packed efficiently in a very functional and easy to use resealable bag. We can’t argue with the price point compared to the rest of the market and the taste doesn’t give up any ground.
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.
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. That isn’t to say they don’t taste good, but they that marketing can be a bit deceiving if you expect a smooth chocolate flavor. These nibs are advertised as having various uses, including snacking on them straight up, using them in a smoothie, or mixing in salads, or breakfast cereals, and that sounds pretty good from our perspective.
Who Should Buy Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs
- Anyone on a budget.
- Those looking for a non-chocolate flavored nib to mix into meals and snacks.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs
- Those who would prefer a stronger chocolate flavor.
- Folks looking to dodge a potent aftertaste.
Taste-wise in general, these bear the least resemblance to chocolate and they behind a much stronger and rather sour aftertaste than the other cacao nibs we reviewed. From a texture perspective, these nibs vary widely in size, and include a great deal more shells and husk. Those knocks dropped it a couple of ranks for us, but for the value this is a solid buy.
Best For Smoothies
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 — which helps when tossing them into a blender. These organic nibs are not as crunchy as some of its competitors and do not carry much of an aftertaste.
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.
Marketed as being compatible with smoothies, granola bars, or trail mix, and includes a recipe on the bag for avocado chocolate muffins (they’re quite good).
Who Should Buy Healthworks Cacao Nibs
- Those who are looking for a good nib to bake with.
- Anyone who wants to add cacao nibs to smoothies and mixes.
- Folks who prefer a less crunchy nib to snack on.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Healthworks Cacao Nibs
- People who want a more intense flavor.
- Those who desire label accuracy.
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. They claim to be packed with vitamins, antioxidants, as well as minerals, but there’s little information on the packaging to really back up that assertion. That lack of accurate labeling is a stern knock in our scoring because it’s the type of thing that can get someone to buy and end up disappointed. If used for the recommendations we offered though, it is quite the fine choice.
How We Decided Our Picks
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. Additionally, they aren’t likely to make you feel as heavy as chocolate would after eating them, a subtle but nice benefit for if you’re going to squat or train heavy in the gym shortly thereafter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.