The savoury side of chocolate
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
If you think chocolate is only for desserts—think again! Surprise your taste buds (and any special person in your life) with these unexpected savoury chocolate recipes made with love.
For the month of love, chocolate is inescapable. Come V-day (or let’s be honest, really any day) you can’t go wrong adding some chocolate to the mix. Although chocolate is known as a key ingredient for sweet and decadent treats, you shouldn’t limit it to the end of the meal: when incorporated judiciously into recipes, the various guises of cacao lend a rich complexity to a myriad of savoury dishes. And if you needed another reason to embrace your inner Willy Wonka, modern research demonstrates that the correct type of cacao may bring on a number of impressive health perks. From a deeply flavoured soup to a plant-based twist on taco night, these recipes turn cacao into way more than just candy in a heart-shaped box; they prove it’s a savoury, sophisticated culinary weapon. Time to see the food of the gods in a whole new light.
If you shop for chocolate products, you’ve likely noticed that some labels say they contain cacao while others say cocoa. The various types of chocolate are made from fermented and dried cacao beans from the Theobroma cacao tree. While there’s not a universal agreement on when manufacturers will use the terms cacao and cocoa, in general, the term “cacao” is reserved for less processed forms of cacao bean such as cacao nibs (simply smashed-up roasted cacao beans) and natural or “raw” cacao powder. Dark chocolate bars seem to waver between using the two terms. Generally, for a bar to be considered “dark” it should contain at least 60 percent cacao.
Chocoholics rejoice! A bundle of research studies suggests that consuming a few servings of chocolate weekly can help lessen the risk for various forms of cardiovascular disease. And it can even benefit your ticker to consume a mere 100 g in any given week—certainly for most of us that’s not hard to do. Researchers have also discovered that certain compounds found in cocoa may help in the fight against insulin resistance.
The body-benefitting powers of chocolate can likely be chalked up to its lofty levels of potent antioxidants, which can work at improving various health markers in the body, including levels of inflammation. Certain chocolate products are also a source of several vital minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
Generally, the darker the chocolate—meaning the higher the cacao content—the greater the antioxidant and mineral content and the lower the amount of sugar. So you’ll reap more health rewards from consuming unsweetened cacao nibs containing 60 percent or more cacao versus stingy milk chocolate products.