Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Raw cacao beans


Cacao beans are available at our local market in San Juan del Sur for C$38 ($1.36 USD) per pound.  Online prices in the United States are “slightly” more expensive. The average cost is about $17 per pound, but if you buy a 10 pound bag you can get them at a discounted price of $11 per pound.


The first step to eating cacao is to dry roast the beans just long enough so that the shells start to crack. At this stage you can easily peel the shell away making the beans ready to eat.

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Roasted and shelled cacao beans

One of my favorite ways to eat cacao is to add a handful of whole beans and a cut up banana to strawberry yogurt. My second favorite move is blend the cacao beans, banana and yogurt with some ice for an awesomely delicious smoothie.


Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Strawberry Chocolate Banana Smoothie


When you see “90% dark chocolate” advertised on a chocolate bar in the grocery store, the remaining 10% is actually sugar. The cacao bean is pure chocolate. It tastes slightly bitter and goes best with something sweet.

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Roasting cacao beans


Cacao beans are available year round at the market. The price remains the same, regardless of season.


Cacao beans are a superfood.

Most of us believe the highest levels of antioxidants can be found in green tea, red wine and blueberries. Guess again! Cacao has these beat by a magnifier of up to 10.

Antioxidants aren’t the only great thing cacao offers. It has actually been shown to stimulate neurotransmitters in our brain:

  • Serotonin acts as an anti-depressant
  • Endorphins work on our pleasure sensors and give us a natural high
  • Phenylethylamine is created in the brain when we are in love. It works as an anti-depressant and helps increase focus.
  • Anandamide is known as the bliss chemical and helps us feel relaxed and satiated.

Cacao also contains high concentrations of essential minerals like magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

Cacao is fatty, but contains the very best kind of fat. Cacao also contains oleic acid. This heart healthy mono-saturated fat – also find in olive oil – is key in raising the level of good cholesterol found in your body.


It takes several hundred processed beans to make up one pound of chocolate. Unfortunately the health benefits found in raw cacao beans has been greatly diminished by the time it gets to a commercially produced chocolate bar stage.

Posted on January 13, 2014, in Food & Drink, Mercado Monday and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Charlotte Fetzer Lynch

    Wow, Elisha! What great info! I always knew I like these things!

  2. When you mix the beans with something sweet like banana or strawberry, do they *really* taste like good chocolate? I guess I’m going to have to try this myself–am just wondering if the taste is worth the work of roasting the beans. On the other hand, hot weather makes me uninterested in chocolate. I wonder if putting the beans in a smoothie would change that?

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  3. The raw beans don’t taste like chocolate…they taste like Cacao, which has a dry chalky taste. Not the milky smooth taste of 1st world chocolate.
    They are good, but I haven’t found a good way to turn Nica beans into anything like the chocolate that we are used to in the USA.
    If anyone has I’d love to know.

    • Smooth creamy chocolate isn’t dependent on being 1st world. It is dependent on lots of heavy cream and sugar. There are lots of businesses in Nicaragua that can show you how to make chocolate from cacao beans. The beans are ground super fine until they actually turn to a liquid.

  4. That smoothie looks exquisite with the little flecks of chocolate in it! I’ve heard that top chefs add small amounts of chocolate to even meat dishes to enhance flavor. If most of the health benefits of the bean are lost in processing chocolate bars, I guess what you are saying is that I will have to eat MANY more chocolate bars. Do you use the beans on a daily basis as an additive in food prep and drinks?

    • A handful a day is more than enough to take advantage of the health benefits. If I don’t happen to add them to something I will just have some as a snack by themselves.

  5. Ugh, you guys are killing me! I was already missing the seafood market and the central market comedors… now you’re putting close up images of chia and cacao in front of me?

    BTW, you can roast cacao in a few minutes with a hot air popper. You can do the same with coffee beans.

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