10 Cocoa Nibs Substitutes [In Baking & Other Recipes]

My family has a tradition of making a ridiculous amount of cookies as Christmas and giving boxes of them as gifts.

We have our favorites, but we also like to try out new recipes when we run across them on Pinterest.

Sometimes our cookie-making is spur of the moment, so we don’t have all of the right ingredients.

I am a die-hard milk chocolate fan, but my kids like semi-sweet and dark chocolate more.

So we decided to try some cocoa nib cookies. Of course we didn’t have cocoa nibs in the house so we had to find a substitute. 

Generally, the best substitute for cocoa nibs is semi-sweet, dark chocolate chips, or carob chips. They have the same slight bitterness and a similar texture as cocoa nibs. Chopped nuts like walnuts and hazelnuts are also good choices for texture, although they don’t add a dark chocolate flavor. If you want to try something with an interesting flavor, try adding some coarsely ground coffee beans in place of the cocoa nibs.

You’ll get a nice caffeine burst along with the texture. Consider using chocolate infused coffee beans to get a closer to cocoa nib flavor. 

You can also substitute chocolate callets, cocoa powder, or chocolate liquor to incorporate the flavor of cocoa nibs into your baking, but the texture will not be the same.

Because we associate cocoa nibs with chocolate, we tend to think of ways to include them in sweet recipes.

Cocoa nibs are a delightful addition to scones, cookies, brownies, waffles, banana bread, zucchini bread, and muffins.

You can also add them into your smoothie, mix them into your granola, or top your oatmeal and yogurt with cocoa nibs.

Consider, however, that you can also use cocoa nibs in savory recipes. Sprinkle them in a salad for a crunchy, chocolatey bite. Add them to a marinade with some coffee for a steak or a brisket.

Use them in a mole sauce for grilled chicken. Cocoa nibs would also make a good topping for baked acorn squash or sweet potatoes.

Keep reading for additional information on what you can use to substitute for cocoa nibs when you run low or can’t find them in your local shop.

Cocoa Nibs Substitutes

1)Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 

Chocolate chips are an easy substitution for cocoa nibs
Semi-sweet chocolate chips will substitute well for cocoa nibs in cookies or banana bread

Since cocoa nibs offer both chocolate flavor and a nutty texture, a suitable substitution will also offer both of these benefits.

Chocolate chips are an easy substitution for cocoa nibs. Reach for semi-sweet chocolate chips to avoid the bitterness that comes with dark chocolate.

Chocolate chips will return to their slightly crunchy texture when they return to room temperature giving you a chocolatey taste and texture in a cup for cup substitution as cocoa nibs.

Semi-sweet chocolate chips will substitute well for cocoa nibs in baked goods like cookies or banana bread, as a sweet bite in your homemade granola, and as the topping for your morning oatmeal or yogurt.

2)Dark Chocolate Chips

If you wanted to use cocoa nibs to avoid extra sugar and you need a substitute that is easy to find, use dark chocolate chips or a chopped-up dark chocolate bar.

The dark chocolate may be a bit more bitter than cocoa nibs, but will still have some sweetness in it. Therefore you can still use dark chocolate chips in a 1:1 ratio for cocoa nibs. 

Use the dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate bar in cookies, zucchini bread, or as a topping on your yogurt or ice cream.

3)Unsweetened Baking Chocolate In Small Chunks

Small Chunks of Unsweetened chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate chunks are great substitute when making cakes

Perhaps you were baking away in your kitchen and suddenly realized you didn’t have any cocoa nibs.

When you frantically dig through your cabinet, all you have is unsweetened baking chocolate.

No worries, you can use the baking chocolate. Chop it into small pieces for your recipe. 

Unsweetened chocolate is quite bitter, much more so than dark chocolate or cocoa nibs.

Therefore, you may want to add some additional sweetener to your recipe and cut down on the chocolate.

Try ½ to ¾ of the total about of cocoa nibs called for in the recipe to reduce the bitterness.

4)Roasted Walnut Or Hazelnut Pieces

When you are looking for something to substitute for cocoa nibs that will add a similar texture to your baked goods or homemade granola, try using chopped and roasted walnuts or hazelnut pieces.

Including these will maintain the height and texture of cookies and dessert breads, and the nutty flavors will add interest to the recipes. 

The disadvantage of using walnuts or hazelnuts as a substitute is that they don’t add a chocolatey flavor.

However, the flavor of these nuts is fairly mild so they don’t change the overall flavor of the dish.

One other difference is that cocoa nibs contain caffeine and nuts do not. You can use chopped nuts in the same amount that the recipe calls for cocoa nibs.

5)Chopped Roasted Peanuts

Peanuts will add a similar texture to cocoa nibs and will keep the height of your baked goods.

Peanuts are also a tasty ingredient in your homemade granola or topping for ice cream or yogurt. You can use chopped peanuts in a 1:1 ratio with cocoa nibs.

Peanuts have a distinctive flavor that is definitely not chocolatey, but does blend well with many other flavors.

One concern to be aware of is peanut allergies. Some people have serious allergic reactions to peanuts or even peanut dust.

6)Coarsely Ground Coffee Beans 

Coarsely Ground Coffee Beans as a substitute for cocoa nibs

Another interesting option is to substitute coarsely ground coffee beans for cocoa nibs.

The benefit of coffee beans is that they offer a similar texture and the caffeine boost of cocoa nibs. 

If you do choose to add coffee beans, you will notice a distinct change in the flavor of your baking or cooking. This can be either distracting or enticing, depending on the recipe.

One benefit of using coffee beans is that if you choose chocolate-infused beans, you still can add that flavor to your recipe.

Coffee beans work well in chocolate cakes and dessert breads, adding depth of flavor.

You may be surprised to know that coffee and chocolate make an excellent marinade for steak or brisket.

A food truck in my town makes fantastic tacos from brisket marinated in espresso.

7)Carob Chips 

If you have nutrition concerns like food allergies and you are trying to avoid caffeine, you might take a look at carob chips. Carob pods have a sweet pulp that is dried and roasted.

After it is ground into powder, it is made into chips, like chocolate chips. You can find them in the baking aisle in the grocery store.

Carob chips have a naturally sweet, nutty flavor. Substitute this ingredient 1:1 for cocoa nibs in your favorite recipe. 

One of the biggest benefits of using carob chips is that they are a great ingredient for people who have food allergies.

Check the manufacturer’s packaging and you will find some that are gluten-free, dairy-free, caffeine-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, egg-free, soy-free, fish-free, and shellfish-free.

8)Chocolate Liquor

The ingredient that has the closest flavor to cocoa nibs is chocolate liquor. Obviously, a liquid will not add the texture that the slightly crunchy cocoa nibs bring to a recipe.

To get the same flavor, you can use almost the same amount of chocolate liquor as your would cocoa nibs.

However, you may need to add some extra flour or other dry ingredients if you are baking. 

You could re-create the flavor and texture of carob nibs by adding both chocolate liquor and chopped nuts to a recipe. 

9)Callets (Chocolate Melting Wafers) 

Chocolate Callets are small circular wafers that are made for melting and pouring into molds for candy shapes. You may find these chocolates with varying amounts of cocoa, fats, and sugars.

For the closest substitute to chocolate nibs, choose callets that are semi-sweet with about 57-60% cocoa solids.

Chop the callets to your desired consistency and incorporate them at a 1:1 ratio for cocoa nibs in your recipe.

Callets are not a good substitute for texture in baked goods like cookies because they melt and mix into the dough in layers rather than retaining their shape and adding height to the cookie. 

On the other hand, chopped callets work well as a topping for oatmeal, ice cream, or mixed into granola.

10)Cocoa Powder 

Cocoa Powder In Baked Goods

Like the chocolate liquor and the callets, cocoa powder can replicate the taste of cocoa nibs, but it will not add a crunchy texture. 

If you are using cocoa powder in a baking recipe for cookies or brownies, you will also need to add some fat since cocoa powder doesn’t have any fat.

Use about ½ the amount of cocoa powder for the quantity of cocoa nibs that are called for.

Then, add additional fats (an extra ¼ of what is already in the recipe) to compensate for the lack of fats in the cocoa powder. 

Cocoa Powder In A Cocktail 

So far, we have only discussed foods that we might use cocoa nibs in. But for a little fun, consider that you can use cocoa nibs or a substitution in a cocktail as well. 

You can make a simple syrup with cocoa nibs, strain it, then add it to a cocktail. Then, crush the cocoa nibs even further and use them to coat the rim of the glass. Try it in this cocoa nib rum cocktail

But what if you don’t have cocoa nibs? You can make the syrup with cocoa powder instead. It will add a similar flavor, but it will make the cocktail cloudy instead of clear. 

What Are Cocoa Nibs?

Cocoa Nibs are dried and crumbled pieces of cacao beans that come from the Theobroma cacao tree.

The harvested beans are dried, fermented, and crushed to produce cacao nibs. Some producers roast the beans while others do not. Raw cacao nibs are not roasted. Cocoa nibs have been roasted.

Cocoa nibs have a slightly crunchy texture similar to nuts. They are the purest form of chocolate, so they have a dark chocolate, slightly bitter flavor.

Are Cocoa Nibs Nutritious?

For those chocolate lovers who are trying to watch out for their overall health, cocoa nibs make a great snack.

They are full of nutrients and they don’t have all the added sugars associated with processed chocolate. 

A one-ounce serving of cocoa nibs has only 1 gram of sugar. In addition to low sugar, cocoa nibs have 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 6% of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake) of iron, 16% of the RDI of magnesium, and 25% of the RDI of copper.

They are also high in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, making cocoa nibs a delicious and healthy snack choice.

Are Cocoa And Cacao The Same Thing?

Essentially, yes. They come from the same plant and the same part of the plant, the cacao bean.

Specifically, cacao refers to the bean and products made from it before any high temperatures have been applied.

After producers roast the beans or otherwise treat the cacao products with high heat the resulting products are called cocoa.

Final Thoughts

While cocoa nibs are a tasty addition to your baking and a delicious stand-alone treat,  you can make substitutions if you need to.

Carob nibs, chopped walnuts, and even coarsely ground coffee beans can substitute for the texture of cocoa nibs, but the taste will be different.

If the taste is what you are looking for rather than texture, try chocolate liqueur, chocolate callets, or cocoa powder. Experiment with different ingredients to find which one you like best.

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