Yes, you can definitely blend cacao nibs. Blending them is a great way to incorporate cacao nibs into smoothies, desserts, and more. When blended, the cacao nibs will break down into smaller pieces and release some of the cocoa butter, resulting in a smooth texture with chocolate flavor.
Why Would You Want to Blend Cacao Nibs?
There are a few key reasons why someone may want to blend cacao nibs:
- To add chocolate flavor and nutrients to smoothies or shakes – Blending the nibs helps distribute the flavor and nutrients throughout the drink.
- To use in baking recipes – Blending the nibs gives you powdered cocoa-like texture that incorporates well into cookies, cakes, brownies, etc.
- To make cacao nib butter – Blending the nibs while warm releases the cocoa butter and creates a spreadable cacao butter that can be used like nut butters.
- To grind them into smaller pieces for topping desserts or using in trail mixes – Though they don’t fully powder, blending breaks the nibs into smaller chunks with more surface area for flavor.
In all cases, blending cacao nibs helps break them down so their flavor and nutritional compounds are better dispersed into recipes.
Are Cacao Nibs easy to Blend?
Cacao nibs are relatively easy to blend, especially when compared to whole cocoa beans. However, they are harder and more brittle than typical nuts or seeds. Here are a few tips for successfully blending cacao nibs:
- Use a powerful blender – A regular blender may struggle to break down the nibs. A high-powered blender like Vitamix or Blendtec works best.
- Blend in small batches – Don’t overload the blender. Blend 1-2 cups at a time for even grinding.
- Grind to desired texture – Blend for just 10-20 seconds for coarsely ground or up to 1-2 minutes for a finer powder.
- Consider adding oil – A touch of cocoa butter, coconut oil, or MCT oil helps the nibs grind more smoothly.
- Strain out nib pieces if desired – For ultra-smooth results, pour the blended nibs through a fine mesh strainer.
With the right blender and technique, it’s pretty straightforward to grind cacao nibs into anything from small bits to a powdery texture.
What is the Nutrition of Blended Cacao Nibs?
Cacao nibs are packed with antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients. Blending them doesn’t significantly affect their nutritional value. Here is the nutrition breakdown for 1 ounce (28g) of blended cacao nibs:
|Manganese||0.6mg (30% DV)|
|Magnesium||64mg (16% DV)|
|Iron||3.4mg (19% DV)|
|Copper||0.5mg (26% DV)|
As you can see, cacao nibs provide significant fiber, healthy fats, minerals like iron and magnesium, and antioxidants like polyphenols. Blending them makes these nutrients more bioavailable so your body can access and absorb them better when you consume the ground nibs.
What Type of Blender Works Best?
To successfully grind hard cacao nibs, you’ll need a powerful high-speed blender. Here are the best options:
- Vitamix – Vitamix blenders are frequently used for grinding tough ingredients. Models like the Explorian, A2300, and 7500 are great choices.
- Blendtec – Similar to Vitamix, Blendtec makes great blenders specifically designed for grinding. The Total Blender Classic or Designer models work well.
- Cleanblend – For a more budget-friendly option, Cleanblend blenders offer Vitamix-quality at lower prices. The Cleanblend 1200 or 1800 are ideal.
- Ninja – Select Ninja models like the Foodi or Pro also have the power to grind cacao nibs. Use their pitcher blenders, not the single serve cups.
In general, look for a blender with a 3+ horsepower motor, specialized grinding blades, and a pitcher capacity of 32oz or more. This will give you the power and batch size needed to properly grind the nibs.
What Speed and Duration for Grinding?
Most quality high-speed blenders will grind cacao nibs within 15-90 seconds, depending on the texture you want. Follow these tips:
- Start on a lower speed to get the nibs moving and prevent flyaways.
- Gradually increase the speed to 50-80% power over 10-20 seconds.
- For coarsely ground, blend for 15-30 seconds total. The nibs will be chopped but still in small granules.
- For a finer powder, blend up to 1-2 minutes, stopping to stir or scrape sides as needed.
- Add up to 1 tablespoon of oil if the nibs aren’t breaking down well or are sticking.
Listen and watch closely, and grind in short intervals. It’s better to blend for a few seconds, check texture, and do another few seconds than to over-blend into a paste.
Does Order of Ingredients Matter?
Yes, the order of ingredients can make a difference when grinding cacao nibs. Best practice is to:
- Add any liquids to the blender first.
- Add any soft or pulpy ingredients second, like bananas, avocado, dates, etc.
- Add the cacao nibs third so they have liquid and friction to grind against.
- Add any harder ingredients like ice or frozen items last.
Following this order helps create the right environment and texture for the nibs to grind properly. The liquid and soft items cushion the nibs while the hard ingredients get adequately chopped once the nibs are broken down.
Do You Need to Soak Cacao Nibs Before Blending?
Soaking cacao nibs is not required prior to blending, but can be helpful. Soaking softens the nibs so they grind more easily and release more flavor. Ways to soak include:
- Soak in warm milk or your preferred milk for 30 minutes up to overnight.
- Soak in coffee, coconut water, juice, or other liquids for 1-2 hours.
- Soak in alcohol like rum or bourbon for 2 hours to multi-day infusions.
After soaking as desired, simply drain off any excess liquid before adding the softened nibs to your blender. The nibs will blend more smoothly for drinks, baked goods like brownies, and even nut butter.
Should You Grind Nibs Wet or Dry?
Cacao nibs can be ground either wet or dry with slightly different results:
- Dry – Grinding dry keeps the nibs and powder very concentrated in cocoa flavor and oils. It results in a thicker paste or butter.
- Wet – Grinding with liquid dilutes the oils and texture, create a smoother consistency. Wet grinding is great for drinks.
For a versatile cacao nib powder, consider grinding half dry and half wet. Remove half the nibs, grind dry. Then add back with some liquid to grind the other half wet. This gives you powder that can dissolve into liquids but also retains thickness for baking.
Can You Make Cacao Nib Butter by Blending?
Yes, one of the most popular ways to enjoy cacao nibs is to grind them into cacao nib butter. Here’s a simple process:
- Toast 1 cup of nibs in the oven or skillet until fragrant, about 7 minutes. This enhances the flavor.
- Pour the warm toasted nibs into your blender. Add up to 1 tbsp cocoa butter or coconut oil.
- Blend on high for 1-2 minutes, until a smooth thick paste forms.
- Optional – Strain through mesh strainer for ultra smooth butter.
- Store cacao butter in the fridge up to 1 month.
Use the cacao nib butter like you would nut butter. It’s delicious spread on toast, added to smoothies, or mixed into overnight oats!
Troubleshooting Tips for Cacao Nib Butter
Here are some tips if your cacao butter isn’t blending smoothly:
- Use more oil – Try 2 tbsp for more moisture and smoother blending.
- Soak the nibs first before blending into butter.
- Add a mashed banana, coconut butter, or tahini for more fat and friction.
- Sift out any remaining whole pieces after blending.
- Store in the fridge to firm up the texture after blending.
What Are Some Delicious Ways to Use Blended Nibs?
There are endless sweet and savory ways to enjoy blended cacao nibs! Here are some tasty recipes to try:
Smoothies and Drinks
- Chocolate smoothie – blend nibs with banana, milk, peanut butter
- Mexican hot chocolate – blend nibs with warm milk, cinnamon, chili powder
- Mocha/chocolate milkshake
- Paleo protein shake – nibs, banana, cocoa powder, collagen powder
- Cookies – chocolate chip, double chocolate, oatmeal
- Pancakes and waffles
Sauces, Dips and Dressings
- Mixed into hummus
- Swirled into nut butter
- Blended into vinaigrettes and dressings
- Chocolate sauce
- Mole sauce
- Queso dip
Snacks and Toppings
- Overnight oats
- Yogurt bowls
- Granola and trail mixes
- Ice cream topping
- Popcorn sprinkle
Let your imagination run wild with all the sweet and savory ways to enjoy cacao nibs! Blending them unlocks even more possibilities for using these antioxidant-rich superfood nibs.
Should You Store Blended Nibs in the Fridge or Freezer?
Like most nut butters and chocolate products, blended cacao nibs will stay freshest when stored in the refrigerator or freezer. The cool temperatures prevent the healthy fats in the nibs from going rancid and preserve the flavor. Follow these storage tips:
- Pantry – Keep whole unblended nibs in a cool, dark cupboard up to 2 years.
- Refrigerator – Store ground nibs or cacao butter in the fridge up to 6 months.
- Freezer – For long term storage of 1+ years, keep blended nibs in the freezer.
Make sure to portion ground nibs into airtight containers or bags before refrigerating or freezing. And leave a bit of headspace in containers for expansion as the coconut oil may solidify. Properly stored, blended cacao nibs will stay fresh for many months to enjoy in recipes!
Are There Any Downsides to Blending Cacao Nibs?
Blending cacao nibs has mostly advantages. However, there are a couple potential downsides to keep in mind:
- Nutrient loss – A very small amount of antioxidant capacity may be degraded by blending, but minimal.
- Oxidation – Once ground, the increased surface area of the nibs can speed up oxidation and rancidity of the healthy oils.
- Messy – Cacao nibs can fly all over your blender and kitchen if not blended carefully.
- Difficult to grind – Cacao nibs are very hard and can wear down regular blenders over time.
Overall though, the upsides of better flavor and nutrition incorporation far outweigh these risks as long as you use proper storage after blending.
Blending cacao nibs is an easy, tasty way to incorporate the nutrients and bold chocolate flavor of cacao into your diet. With the right techniques and blender, you can grind cacao nibs into a powder, paste, or butter to add chocolate goodness into smoothies, baked treats, snack toppings, and more. Store your blended nibs properly in the fridge or freezer to retain freshness. With so many options for use, blended cacao nibs are a versatile superfood ingredient that lets you reap the antioxidant power of chocolate in healthy homemade recipes.