3 Simple, Savory Ways to Use Cocoa

Lentine Alexis
by Lentine Alexis
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3 Simple, Savory Ways to Use Cocoa

When we think of chocolate, we think of dessert. While a chocolate bar is typically sweet, cocoa —  the compound that comprises chocolate and gives it its distinct flavors — is a master of savory disguises.

Chocolate on its own has a lovely, roasted, bitter, earthy flavor that complements all sorts of delicious savory dishes and itself can be used as a savory ingredient. So, how do you incorporate chocolate into your next meal? Here, a few tips:

GET DEEP (AND DARK)

Look for high-percentage dark chocolates or even raw chocolates — they’ll be bitter and delicious. That said, you’d never want chocolate or cocoa to be the star of your meal, rather an ingredient that works in concert with other flavors on the plate. Bitter tastes do a lovely job of offsetting creamy, rich or or spicy flavors elsewhere in your meal. Think about anywhere roasty, charred, rich, deep or earthy bright flavors are — that’s a great place for chocolate to go, too.

DON’T GET STUCK BEHIND (CHOCOLATE) BARS

When you think of using cocoa, think about cocoa powder, nibs and bars alike. Nibs are great as a finishing textural component for salads, bowls or composed dishes, use them on their own (snack!) or in the Cacao Nib Dukkah (recipe below) to sprinkle just about anywhere. Cocoa powder is a great dust to finish with — we used it to cut the richness of brioche croutons below, and it whisks easily into marinades or dressings such as the Cocoa + Coffee Steak Marinade below.

IF YOU WANT TO USE … CHOCOLATE BARS

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (235ml) hot, strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 ounce (15g) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) kosher salt
  • Pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • About 2–3 pounds (900–1,400g) steak of choice

Directions

Stir together coffee, chocolate, sugar, salt and chili powder or cayenne, until chocolate is fully melted and sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Let cool.

Transfer marinade to a large zip-top bag, add steak, press out air from bag and seal. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours. When ready to cook, remove steak from marinade, blot dry with paper towels, and grill as desired. Makes 6 4-ounce steaks.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 376, Total Fat: 18g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 133mg; Sodium: 732mg; Carbohydrate: 12g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 2g Protein: 41g

IF YOU WANT TO USE CACAO NIBS

Ingredients

  •       1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and finely chopped
  •       1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  •       1/4 cup cacao nibs
  •       1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •       1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  •       1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  •       1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  •       2 tablespoons raw turbinado sugar
  •       2 tablespoons dried culinary-grade rose petals, optional
  •       1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Directions

In a skillet, set over medium heat, add the sesame seeds and cacao nibs and toast until sesame seeds are golden and fragrant. Meanwhile, crush the fennel and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle if you have one, or place in a resealable bag and give them a good whack with your rolling pin. They don’t need to be a fine powder, just roughly crushed. Add the sesame seeds and cacao nibs to a bowl with the pistachios, cinnamon, cardamom, raw sugar, crushed fennel and coriander seeds, rose petals (if using) and flaky salt. Toss gently to combine. To serve, sprinkle over salads, toasts, yogurt, hummus or anywhere you could use a savory crunch!

Serves: 20 | Serving Size: 1 tablespoon

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 28; Total Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 67mg; Carbohydrate: 3g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 1g

IF YOU WANT TO USE … CACAO POWDER

Ingredients

  •       4 slices brioche, crusts removed and cut into cubes or torn into small pieces
  •       2 tablespoons butter
  •       2 tablespoons olive oil
  •       Salt, to taste
  •       2 tablespoons cocoa powder (we recommend Pralus)
  •       1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  •       Sweet pimentón or sweet paprika, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC) and place brioche in a bowl. Melt butter in a pan and toss with brioche until well coated. Place on a sheet-pan and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. When the croutons come out of the oven, toss immediately with the powdered mixture and season with salt. The croutons should be served warm with salads, soups or grain bowls.

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 234; Total Fat: 16g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Monounsaturated Fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 28mg; Sodium: 264mg; Carbohydrate: 20g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 6g; Protein: 3g

About the Author

Lentine Alexis
Lentine Alexis
Lentine is a curious, classically trained chef and former pro athlete. She uses her bicycle, raw life and travel experiences and organic ingredients to inspire athletes and everyone to explore, connect and expand their human experiences through food. She previously worked as a Chef/Recipe Developer/Content Creator and Culinary Director at Skratch Labs – a sports nutrition company dedicated to making real food alternatives to modern “energy foods.” Today, she writes, cooks, speaks and shares ideas for nourishing sport and life with whole, simple, delicious foods.

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