What is cacao?

You may have heard the word cacao and wondered whether people were misspelling cocoa!

Cacao is actually a slightly different ingredient to cocoa and is often used as a health food.   It is pronounced ca-cow.

In this article I will share with you what exactly cacao is and how you can use this healthy chocolate in some simple recipes.

What is cacao?

What is cacao?

Cacao is similar to cocoa powder, but it is cold pressed and much more unrefined.  Therefore it is a lot better for you.

Cacao powder is purer and because it’s less processed it retains many more nutrients than cocoa powder.  Cocoa powder on the other hand is usually heated by roasting which reduces its nutritional value.

Cacao is often classed as a superfood as it has a very high nutrient content, including many antioxidants.

Cacao could even be defined as ‘healthy’ chocolate!

Chocolate is perceived as bad today because most regular mainstream chocolate bars and drinking chocolates are loaded with sugars, E numbers and other nasties which do make it fattening, bad for teeth and generally unhealthy for your body.

However, raw unrefined chocolate such as cacao powder which can be added to recipes without all the other rubbish is actually good for you.

What is cacao?

What are the health benefits of cacao?

Chocolate actually is healthy for you!  Well, raw unrefined chocolate is like cacao in its most purest form.

After all it does come from a tree, so technically it’s a fruit/veg, right?!

Here’s one answer:

“A cocoa pod (fruit) has a rough leathery rind about 3 cm thick (this varies with the origin and variety of pod). … The Cocao plant is thought of as a fruit plant. The bean itself is a seed and a seed technically is a nut. So it comes from the nut inside the fruit.” Source

So cacao is really a type of nut!

There are many health benefits of raw cacao powder.  Here are a few to give you some insight:

  • More antioxidants than red wine and green tea
  • A rich source of minerals, especially magnesium
  • A source of vitamins including vitamin C
  • Contains Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Can make you feel good thanks to its phenethylamine (PEA which is a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of love) and serotonin content
  • It has a low GI so won’t spike your blood sugar levels
  • Boosts energy and therefore reduces fatigue

cacao milkshake recipe

6 easy ways to use cacao powder

There are so many ways to easily use cacao powder every day in snacks and cooking to reap its health benefits.

1. Hot chocolate

Warm some oat milk or oat cream (I recommend Oatly oat cream) gently in a pan, add a teaspoon of cacao powder and stir until warmed and smooth.

2. Milkshakes and smoothies

It’s so easy to add a spoonful of cacao to a smoothie.  Mix with one banana and some plant based milk in a smoothie cup for a quick, delicious and healthy homemade milkshake.  I use a Nutri Ninja and it makes a smoothie or milkshake in seconds!  I’ve had mine six years and it’s still as powerful as day one!

3. Energy balls

Great added to bliss balls, or energy balls, to make them chocolatey.  Either mix them in with the ingredients or roll the balls into the cacao powder to dust.  Find some cacao recipes here for bliss balls and more.

4. Chilli

Instead of adding regular chocolate to your chilli, replace it with a spoonful of cacao powder for a rich and intense flavour!

5. Raw brownies

Raw brownies are a little different to what you may know as a brownie, but SO delicious, wholesome and moreish.  These raw brownies are made from a bunch of raw and healthy ingredients.

6. Dark chocolate

Making your own chocolate just has to be one of the best things to make ever and it’s so easy!  Click for an easy raw chocolate recipe.


Where can I get cacao powder?

It’s widely available nowadays in supermarkets, online and in health food stores.

Here is a great brand of cacao powder you can order online and support a good cause at the same time:

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