Cacao nibs are bits of dried, roasted, and crushed cacao bean. They are crunchy little nuggets of condensed chocolate flavor. When used in baking, cacao nibs add a texture similar to nuts. In Chocolate Nibs Cookies, cacao nibs give the soft, ultra-chocolaty cookie an extra chocolate boost and a contrasting crunch.
Food sensitivities and allergies can be difficult (not to mention dangerous), especially when attending large catered events. In May, I attended the Everything Food Conference in Salt Lake City. The organizers of this food blog conference tried so hard to accommodate all of the special food concerns of the participants. For every meal there were vegetarian options and gluten free options. For those of us with additional concerns (like my nut allergy), the chefs were available to detail the ingredients in each dish. It’s just not possible to perfectly accommodate the needs of almost 400 individuals at every meal, but they certainly tried. I was impressed.
When baking at home, I look for recipes with ingredients that are safe for my whole family. Many cookie and bar recipes include nuts. I leave them out. The result is usually good, but not the same as the original recipe. I don’t care about the flavor difference, but the idea of added crunch is appealing to me. I’ve tried to substitute alternative crunchy ingredients with mixed success. For these Chocolate Cookies (adapted from a recipe that calls for chopped walnuts), cacao nibs provide the crunch I have been looking for. I can’t tell you what these would taste like with walnuts, but sprinkled with dark chocolate coated cacao nibs (from Trader Joe’s), they are delicious.
Whether you are looking for a soft nut-free cookie with a bit of crunch, or are baking for the chocoholics in your life, Chocolate Nibs Cookies will make everyone happy. A great care package cookie, they keep their softness for at least 2 weeks. Made with desert safe ingredients, Chocolate Nibs Cookies are ideal for warm weather military care packages as well.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening (Crisco), melted**
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
- ¾ cup chocolate coated cacao nibs (I used a 3.5 oz. bag from Trader Joe’s)
- Optional: Reserve 1 Tablespoon of cacao nibs for decorating
- **Note: If butter is used instead of vegetable shortening, the cookie will be flat instead of puffy and cake-like. Also, for military care packages, butter is not considered desert safe for warm weather shipping.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine melted shortening and sugar.
- In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in the milk.
- Mix the milk mixture , eggs, and melted chocolate into the shortening and sugar .
- Add flour mixture and stir until combined.
- Fold in the cocoa nibs.
- Chill dough for at least one hour or overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using medium (2 tablespoon) scoop to place balls of dough 2” apart on the prepared pan. With the palm of your hand, press the balls into thick discs.
- Bake for 7-10 minutes until top is dry.
- Optional: Immediately after removing from the oven, gently press a few cacao nibs onto the top of each cookie.
- Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then move to wire racks to cool completely before storing at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Looking for more luscious chocolate treats? Click on the photo for the recipe!