The Savory Side of Chocolate

Get more of the health benefits of chocolate without increasing your sugar intake.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
3-minute read
Episode #380

How to Use Cocoa in Savory Dishes

Most people I know have a tin of unsweetened cocoa powder in their cupboard but rarely use it for anything besides making hot chocolate, brownies, or chocolate frosting. I’d like to suggest moving your cocoa powder from the shelf where you keep your baking ingredients and putting where you keep your spices instead. Thinking of cocoa powder as a spice opens up a whole new world of uses that don’t increase your sugar intake.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1.       Cocoa + chile peppers. Central American cuisine often combines unsweetened chocolate with hot chili peppers. This is the basis for a classic mole sauce. But you can also just throw a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder into your favorite chili recipe. (There’s also a recipe for Chili con Cocoa in my book Secrets for a Healthy Diet.)

2.       Cocoa  spice rubs.  Dry spice rubs offer an alternative to wet marinades for meat. They add flavor and also help prevent the formation of harmful compounds when meat is grilled. Try combining cocoa powder, black pepper, kosher salt, and freshly ground coffee beans for a dark and complex spice rub for a pork or beef tenderloin. 

3.       Cocoa + beans. Try adding a spoonful of cocoa powder to black bean soup for an unexpected treat. This works equally well with soup out of the can or homemade. You can also stir cocoa powder into bean dip or refried beans to excellent effect.

4.       Cocoa + balsamic.  The bitterness of  cocoa powder pairs brilliantly with the sweetness of balsamic vinegar. Try whisking some cocoa powder into a good aged balsamic and then drizzling in some walnut oil for a homemade vinaigrette. It’s especially good over a roasted beet salad—or (dare I say it?) over vanilla ice cream.

5.       Cocoa + curry. Curry powder typically includes turmeric, cumin, ginger, and other assertive flavors. Cocoa’s slightly bitter astringency fits right in and adds an unexpected twist. Try mixing a little cocoa powder into your curry powder. It would be particularly good in a curried eggplant dish.

I’ve created a Pinterest board for savory recipes using cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate that you can browse for more inspiration. Feel free to send me any others you find (or invent) and I’ll add them!  


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.