Cacao Shell Flour – Using Every Bit of the Functional Benefits Hidden in the Unknown Cacao Fruit

Did you know all parts of the cacao fruit are edible and healthy – including the shell? While the cacao shell is usually discarded once the cacao beans are harvested to make chocolate, it doesn’t have to be! The cacao shell can be dried and ground down into cacao flour, a naturally gluten-free and antioxidant-rich powder which can be used as a supplement to other types of flours and enriches baked goods or cacao breads. Here’s everything you need to know about where cacao flour comes from and the science behind its numerous nutritional benefits.

Cacao Shell Basics

Cacao is more than just beans

While the beans are undoubtedly the most famous part of the whole cacao fruit, there’s a lot more to cacao than just what’s on the inside! Whole cacao is made up of three parts: the beans, the pulp, and the shell. Each one has its own unique uses, but all three parts are rich in the naturally-occurring health benefits of cacao.

  • ? Did you know? Cacao flour has a similar color to cocoa powder, but a totally different flavor of earthy, wild profiles and hints of Caribbean spices.
  • (: Fun Fact Cacao flour has no added sugar, which means it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes, and it’s great for low-sugar diets. Yum!
  • Beans
    • The most famous part of the cacao fruit – the beans – are typically used to make chocolate. However, cacao beans can also be eaten by themselves in the form of cacao nibs, which are simply crushed-up whole cacao beans.
  • Pulp
    • The white pulp found on the inside of the cacao fruit is a really delicious and unique part of the whole cacao. Cacao pulp can be used to make smoothies, granola bowls, jams, jellies, ice cream, and even cacao water.
  • Shell
    • The shell of the cacao fruit can be ground down to make cacao flour. Cacao flour can be mixed with other flours or used on its own to create a variety of healthy culinary creations, including in baked goods, bread, and pastries. Cacao flour is rich in theobromine, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, which make it a much healthier option than traditional flour. It is also gluten-free! With an abundance of healthy components, cacao flour can definitely be considered a functional superfood flour.

Cacao Flour Processing
& Sustainability

  • (: From tough shell to soft flour In order to transform the cacao shell from a tough layer of protection to soft and edible cacao flour, the shell has to be thoroughly washed, processed, dried and ground.
  • ? A sustainable superfood A sad reality of the chocolate business is that more than 70% of the cacao fruit is wasted by chocolate makers who use only the beans and then discard the rest. By using the shell to make cacao flour, we’ve committed to being part of the solution. Making use of the whole cacao fruit reduces our impact on the environment and allows us to provide an equitable working environment and fair compensation to the cacao farmers who supply us.


  • Cracking and separating
    • To isolate the cacao shell and transform it into cacao flour, the shell must first be cracked and separated from the pulp and beans.
  • Power washing
    • The cacao shell then needs to be thoroughly cleaned to remove any sand, pesticides, or other contaminants. This process can take anywhere from one to twelve hours!
  • Drying
    • Following a thorough washing process, the cacao shell must be completely dried in order to be ground down into cacao flour. The drying process uses heat convection, conduction, and steaming methods to dry the shell completely.
  • Grinding
    • Once the cacao shell has been thoroughly washed and dried, it can then be ground down into a soft powder – the cacao flour.

Culinary Uses of Cacao Flour

  • (: Fun Fact Dried cacao bean shells don’t have to go to waste! They can be used to make tea.
  • % Let’s talk numbers
  •  In general, cacao flour can be used as a supplement to other types of flour in just about any recipe. While most people associate cacao with sweet treats like cakes and pastries, cacao flour can do all of that and more. It’s a truly versatile ingredient that can be a staple in any home kitchen.
  • Sweet treats
    • Cacao flour can be used as an essential ingredient in a number of sweet treats, like puddings or chocolate pastry fillings, brownies, cookies, and chocolate candies or truffles.
  • Baked goods
    • Cacao flour is ideal to enrich baking with superfood functional qualities and dietary fibers. It can be used in a variety of baked goods, from cakes, pastries, and pie shells to breads, biscuits, and even savory dishes like empanadas.
  • Energy bars
    • The natural energy-boosting properties of cacao make cacao flour a perfect addition to your favorite energy bar or granola recipe.
  • Beverages
    • Use cacao flour as a nutritional supplement for smoothies or as a healthy dietary fiber addition to a commercial hot chocolate mix.

Functional Compounds
& Wellness Benefits

  • ? Did someone say Superfood? it is almost hard to believe the amount of naturally occurring substances cacao is full of.
    It has so many that it is considered to be one of the leading superfoods on earth (“food of the gods, remember?). They are all found in their most basic form in the cacao bean itself, thus consuming it in its raw form means you get the full potential of health benefits it offers:

  • ! King of Antioxidants Cacao flour has an antioxidant value of 18,788 μ mol TE per 28 gram serving. A hundred grams of cacao flour therefore has more than 10x as many antioxidants as 100 grams of blueberries. Antioxidants are essential in the fight against damage and disease-causing free radicals.
  • ? Did someone say Superfood? Like other products that come from whole cacao, cacao flour is rich in a number of health benefits that make it a true superfood.
  • Theobromine- An Energy Pioneer
    • A one-ounce serving of cacao flour has 577 milligrams of theobromine, an energy-boosting compound similar to caffeine, which can provide all-day energy but without the negative side effects like jitters or crashing.
  • Plant-Based Nutrients
    • Whole cacao is rich in plant-based essential nutrients like potassium and magnesium. Potassium helps to regulate the nervous system, promotes good blood circulation, and decreases the likelihood of strokes, kidney stones, and osteoporosis. Similarly powerful magnesium repairs our DNA, converts food into energy, and is essential to muscle health. An ounce of cacao flour contains 35% of the recommended daily intake of potassium.
  • Balanced Microbiome
    • The gut microbiome is the catch-all term for all of the healthy bacteria that resides in our gastrointestinal tract. Cacao is a superior source of dietary fibers that can help maintain the balance of your gut microbiome; just a single ounce of cacao flour can supply you with 71% of your recommended daily intake of dietary fiber.

Cacao Flour: Questions and Answers

Though they may look similar, cacao flour and cocoa powder are definitely not the same!  For starters, cocoa powder is made from the beans of the whole cacao fruit, whereas cacao flour is made from the shell. Cocoa powder is also made using a process nearly identical to the actual chocolate-making process, only the cacao butter is removed from the cacao solids to leave behind the cocoa powder. Unlike the cacao beans used to make cocoa powder, the cacao shell is neither fermented nor roasted when making cacao flour; it is simply washed, dried, and ground. Finally, cacao flour is more neutral in flavor than cocoa powder (which has a pronounced bitter taste) and is not water-soluble, which is what makes it a great supplement to other flours.

“Superfood” is a term used to describe food that has above-average health benefits due to high nutrient density. Superfoods are mostly plant-based, and they tend to be rich in things like antioxidants, healthy fats and omega-3s, fiber, and phytochemicals. All of these nutrients are vital to maintaining good physical health and warding off many modern illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. While some dieticians and other experts claim that the term “superfood” is largely a term used in marketing, they do agree that consuming high quantities so-called superfoods is an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Yes! Cacao flour is incredibly healthy, because it comes from whole cacao, one of nature’s biggest superfoods. Cacao flour is rich in antioxidants, vital minerals, and soluble and insoluble dietary fiber for microbiome health. The antioxidants in cacao flour help keep your cells healthy, and the electrolytes potassium and magnesium help you remain hydrated, while also keeping your muscles and circulatory and nervous systems in balance. Finally, cacao flour is a great source of dietary fiber, which helps promote good health by maintaining the good bacteria of the gut microbiome.

We just know, as it was for ancient cultures which appreciated this magical plant, that there’s a way to use every part of the whole cacao in a way that is good for you, good for the cacao farming community, and good for the planet. That’s why we’re committed to a whole cacao revolution, and to crafting recipes that live up to the standards of our three-part “trilosophy” of wellness, equity, and sustainability.