These are cacao nibs. Get to know them. They’re pretty awesome. These little guys are all-natural bits of ground cocoa beans. Cacao nibs have a nice crunch factor, major amount of antioxidants, and a subtle chocolate flavor, making them perfect for chocoholics who are looking for a healthier or more exotic option. They also happen to be my after-dinner snack that I nibble on with red wine or coffee (and when I say after-dinner, I’m actually referring to all day).
How about we nibble on these little nibs in a batch of homemade caramel corn? Caramel corn can be kind of daunting since candy thermometers, rapid boiling, and extended baking times are typically involved. For this recipe, though, everything is made in the good ole microwave (for the most part). Not only are we popping popcorn that way, but we are also nuking the caramel. It’s so simple! And it’s made even better when our little nib friends jump into the equation. Let the nibbling begin!
Cacao Nib Caramel Corn
5 cups popped lightly salted popcorn
¼ cup salted sweet cream butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup cacao sweet nibs (found at health food stores or online here)
Sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Microwave popcorn according to package instructions and pour into a large microwave-safe bowl. In a separate glass bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Microwave for one minute, stir until melted, and then microwave for 45 seconds more until boiling. Quickly add baking soda and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour over the popcorn, add cacao nibs, and toss. Return to microwave for 1 more minute. Spread popcorn onto a prepared baking sheet and place on the oven for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. The caramel corn will harden as it sits and cools. Once cooled, break popcorn clumps apart and enjoy!