Origins, Flavor, and Uses
Cacao, which is used to make chocolate, comes from the pods of the Theobroma cacao plant, whereas carob comes from the pods of an evergreen Mediterranean tree. The pods of both are generally roasted, cracked, and ground into a fine powder for use in recipes.
Due to its natural bitter taste, cacao is commonly made into chocolate by adding sugar, vanilla, and an emulsifier to hold the ingredients together. Many chocolate varieties include milk to make them creamier and counteract the bitter taste.
On the contrary, carob is naturally sweet and can even be used as a replacement for sugar in certain recipes. It has a dark roasted chocolate flavor that is ideal for people that are sensitive to caffeine. One of the great things about carob is that it’s naturally caffeine free.
Carob powder can be substituted for cocoa powder as a one-to-one replacement in recipes although it lends a more subtle, roasted taste. It’s a great low-fat alternative to cocoa powder. Try carob chips in your recipes for cookies, muffins, and other baked treats to add a unique flavor. For the full-blown chocolate richness, there are always good old chocolate chips, of course!
Carob naturally contains more carbohydrates and sugar than cacao, and is low in fat. Naturally sweet, carob is sometimes used as a sugar replacement. Both carob and cacao are an excellent source of dietary fiber, to support digestive health and provide a sense of fullness. Cacao is unique in its rich mineral content, boasting high levels of iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium. Iron and copper help deliver oxygen-rich blood cells throughout the body, while phosphorus and magnesium support strong bones.
For those that are sensitive to caffeine and other stimulants, carob is an excellent option that provides a subtle chocolate flavor to recipes. Naturally caffeine-free, carob is a safe choice for those who are sensitive to chocolate due to its stimulants. On the other hand, cocoa is the reason eating chocolate makes us feel so good. Rich in mood-boosting compounds like endorphins and serotonin, it’s no wonder chocolate always puts a smile on our face.
Cacao is also chock-full of antioxidants, the protective compounds that fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Per cup, cacao has nearly twice the amount of antioxidants found in red wine, and nearly three times the amount in green tea. Studies suggest that regular cacao intake may have some heart-healthy benefits, such as lowering blood pressure.
Carob or chocolate? Which one do you prefer?