This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for more information.
Cacao is pure chocolate, in its natural state, without any sugar added. It smells divine, tastes very bitter, and is oh-so-chocolatey.
If you’ve ever tasted unrefined chocolate then you’ll know that it really doesn’t taste wonderful on its own. You need to combine it with something else to really enjoy it.
This recipe for hot spiced cacao balances out cacao’s intense bitterness with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and optional unrefined sugar.
Each ingredient in this drink is loaded with powerful health benefits. Finally you can enjoy your chocolate knowing that you are doing a great thing for your body.
Cacao health benefits
Cacao is a great source of the following vitamins and minerals.
- Soluble fiber
- Iron, magnesium, copper, manganese
- Potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium
- Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids
- Very high in antioxidant polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins
From an Ayurvedic perspective, cacao is best for Kapha dosha, since it is warming, stimulating, mobile, and liquid.
These are all qualities that support Kapha, since they invigorate the mind, thin the blood, improve circulation, and help to relieve chest congestion. Kapha’s will do better with a plant-milk option and when avoiding the added sugar.
Cacao is going to be aggravating for both Pitta and Vata types.
It aggravates Pitta due to the hot, mobile, and liquid qualities, and Vata due to the mobile and liquid qualities with the bitter taste.
To ease your mind, know that cacao’s heat is generally welcome for Vata, and the many nourishing qualities are also beneficial. Use cow’s milk and be sure to include some sugar to balance out the bitter taste more.
The bitter taste is generally beneficial for Pitta, although cacao still has a warming effect due to the fermentation of the beans during processing. Pitta’s will benefit by reducing the quantity of the spices and including some sugar as well.
Spice health benefits
CARDAMOM: An aromatic spice that has an antispasmodic and relaxing effect on the body. It accelerates gastric emptying, and helps to combat heaviness and stagnation in the stomach.
As a counter to the stimulating effects of chocolate, we appreciate cardamom’s grounding quality that keeps digestion moving in a downward direction.
Cardamon is a powerful mucus destroyer that also assists with fat digestion. This means that cardamom will support the digestion of milk, or almond milk, in this recipe.
GINGER: Ginger is one of the best all-around digestive spices. It stimulates digestive juices, and relieves nausea and indigestion. It’s warming, but not too warming. It also helps to burn away heaviness and congestion.
CINNAMON: Demulcent, heating, and light, cinnamon also helps to reduce the mucus provoking qualities of dairy by supporting the digestion of sugars. Its anti-microbial qualities also reduce gas and fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract.
NUTMEG: Nutmeg is an aromatic that helps to digest fats and promotes digestion overall. It is also a mild sedative and nervine. Nutmeg has a balancing effect when mixed with some of the other aromatics.
Analyzing the flavor
According to the traditional system of healthcare from India that I practice, there are six tastes that need to be in every dish, or meal.
Since the six tastes contain the five elements that comprise all matter in this universe, including all six tastes supports overall health and helps you to feel more satisfied.
Things don’t taste good when they are overly sweet or overly salty.
Sometimes I like to list out the ingredients in a recipe so that you can see how the six tastes show up, so here it is.
- Sweet: cinnamon, almond or cow’s milk, sugar
- Sour: n/a
- Salty: salt
- Bitter: chocolate
- Pungent: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger
- Astringent: cinnamon, nutmeg
Since this drink is missing the sour taste, the perfect pairing would be with something that has a sour taste, such as cooked apples, apple pie, or apple crisp. Cooked apples are sweet, with a secondary sour taste.
Still, five tastes is pretty good, and we got in quite a bit of sweet to balance out the cacao’s bitter taste.
For those of you who have the Ayurvedic herb amalaki on hand, try a pinch of it in this drink to add the sour taste. It would actually taste great.
Hot Spiced Cacao
Combine in a small bowl
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- tiny pinch Himalayan pink salt
Prepare cardamom pods
- 3-4 cardamom pods (sub with 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder)
- 1 cup almond milk (sub with cow’s milk or another plant-based milk of your choice)
- 3 slices ginger freshly sliced
- 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons raw sugar (sub with brown sugar, coconut sugar, turbinado, raw sugar, maple syrup, or honey)
- Combine cacao powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons of milk and stir well to incorporate into a paste.
- If you are using the cardamom pods in this recipe, crush them in a mortar and pestle first to release their flavor and aroma. Alternately, crush with the flat edge a knife, or grind them in a coffee grinder reserved for spices.
- Heat milk, ginger slices, and crushed cardamom pods (or cardamom powder) in a small pot over medium heat. Watch carefully, and reduce the heat just as it comes to a boil.
- Add the spiced cacao paste into the hot milk, and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes with the heat on very low. The time will allow the cacao and spices to develop their flavors and harmonize together.
- Choose your favorite mug and pour the spiced cacao through a strainer and into the mug. Add optional sugar if desired. Enjoy the taste, aroma, and experience.