4 Cacao Recipes to Nourish Your Heart

4 Cacao Recipes to Nourish Your Heart

It's something of a cliche to associate chocolate with gestures of romance and affection. From heart-shaped boxes of truffles to chocolate-covered strawberries, the cultural cues of love, especially around Valentine's Day, put this food front and center. 

Unfortunately, most chocolate candies, baked goods, and other desserts are heavily processed and full of chemical additives. But the root of the following recipes—raw cacao—possesses natural healing properties that can support both physical and mental health. 

And yes—raw cacao even promotes a feeling of love and connection to self and others. 

Jump to the Recipes:

The Properties of Cacao 

Ayurveda's guna-based perspective allows us to assess the effects of all foods—all matter and beings in the universe, in fact—on our health, depending on our current doshic state.

Looking at cacao, we see the following properties: 

  • Gunas (qualities): tiksna (sharp), laghu (light), usna (hot), ruksha (dry)
  • Rasa (taste): tikta (bitter)
  • Other qualities: rajasic (stimulating), difficult to digest 

This combination of qualities generally makes it more balancing to kapha dosha, and potentially aggravating to vata and pitta. 

Its difficulty to digest means all doshas would do well to have cacao in moderation, as was done in traditional cultures where cacao was part of spiritual rituals (see below for how to use cacao in lunar rituals). 

That said, how we process cacao and what we eat it with will alter its effects on our system. 

A more mainstream chocolate bar—where the cacao has been refined and mixed with copious amounts of fats and sugar—will make it more difficult to digest and add kapha-increasing qualities. 

On the other hand, choosing raw cacao, which is unprocessed, and combining it with balancing herbs and spices can render it a healing addition to your meals. 

Adding small amounts of healthy fats (like plant milk or ghee) and whole-food sweeteners can make it more appropriate for vata and pitta, since those qualities will balance the drying and stimulating effects of cacao. 

Digestive spices will also help agni (the digestive fire) break down cacao more easily, so its spirit-lifting effects can reach your heart and mind.

The Nutritional Benefits of Cacao

Cacao boasts high amounts of magnesium, iron, and antioxidants, which is why some women crave chocolate around and during their menstrual cycle (to account for the loss of blood). 

It also has positive effects on mood and focus, as it contains dopamine precursors that stimulate good feelings along the gut-brain axis.1 

For coffee lovers, cacao can be a wonderful substitute to create the uplifting feeling of a dopamine hit without the caffeine crash. 

Cacao does have trace amounts of caffeine, the addictive psychostimulant many of us hate to love. But what's more interesting is the caffeine-like substance that makes cacao feel like caffeine—without all those negative side effects. 

Theobromine is a stimulant and diuretic that comprises most of cacao's content by weight and contributes to its bitter taste.2 It is different from caffeine in that it works on the body (the heart and muscles, namely), as opposed to the nervous system. 

That's why cacao won't make you crash mid-day, give you jitters, or create withdrawal symptoms. 

Furthermore, theobromine dilates the channels of the body (unlike caffeine, which constricts them)—which can lead to more mental clarity, lower blood pressure, and more ease in elimination, breathing, and digestion.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, theobromine offers powerful balancing medicine to vata and pitta—increasing sattva (clarity) in the mind, and making more space for love of all kinds.

Considering that the channels of rasa (nutrition), prana (life force), and the mind—all things affected by cacao—have their roots in the heart, cacao can serve as an excellent heart tonic.

Cacao opens up our awareness to the presence of love that is always all around us. 

This might indeed be its prabhava—or special action—and a reason to incorporate cacao into your life with respect, intentionality, and joy.

The recipes below offer familiar and unconventional ways to enjoy cacao to uplift your body and spirit. Feel free to modify the spices and ingredients to suit your individual tastes and needs.


mug of sipping cacao

2 Sipping Cacao Recipes for Balancing Energy

The botanical name of cacao, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods,” which speaks to its ability to connect us with higher realms of consciousness and the divine—particularly the moon. From an astrological perspective, the moon governs our emotions (think: waves of feelings, like the ocean tide coming in and out), so working with the moon is an excellent way to support mental and emotional challenges.

The combination of herbs and spices in these two sipping cacoa recipes align with the phases of the moon, but they can also be called upon anytime the body and mind need the qualities of those ingredients.

When you're needing to draw inward and cultivate the patience to work through dark, difficult shadowy emotions or situations—like the new moon—choose the Cooling Rose Cacao, which combines the nurturing, softening qualities of rose with a sweeter, denser coconut milk base. 

For cleansing, courage, and lightening—like the energy of the full moon—choose the Warming Chai-Spice Cacao, which will kindle your inner fire and inspire you to turn your heart's passions into skillful action.

Cooling Rose Cacao

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 1 


  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk 
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • ¼ teaspoon shatavari powder
  • ½ teaspoon rose powder 
  • Dry rose petals, for garnish (optional)


In a small pot, add the dates, water, coconut milk, cacao, nutmeg, cardamom, and shatavari. 

Cook over medium heat until the liquid comes to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about three minutes. 

Remove from heat and add the rose powder. Blitz with an immersion blender to blend the dates (optional). Sprinkle the top with rose petals and enjoy as part of your new moon meditation. 

Warming Chai Spice Cacao

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 1 


  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup almond milk 
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  •  ½ tablespoon tahini 
  • ½ teaspoon Chai Spiced Ghee
  • ½ teaspoon reishi powder (optional)
  • Raw honey, to taste (optional)
  • 2–3 saffron threads, for garnish (optional)


In a small pot, add the water, almond milk, cacao, tahini, ghee, and reishi.

Cook over medium heat until the liquid comes to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about three minutes. 

Remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender to blend the tahini. Add honey, sprinkle the top with saffron, and enjoy as part of your full moon meditation. 


bowl of lentil stew

Hearty Cacao Lentil Stew

Perfect for a cold winter day, this stew is a hybrid between an Indian dal and a Mexican mole. Featuring a host of pungent spices to support vata and kapha, it will keep agni active without weighing it down. 

Here, the cacao offers a bitter-sweet richness to the tomato base, mellowing out some of the sharper ingredients and creating an alluring—irresistible, if I do say so myself—aroma and flavor. 

This stew will capture your loved ones' (or aspirational loved ones') hearts by way of their stomachs, as the poets like to say. 

Prep time: 15 minutes 
Cook time: 40 minutes
Serves: 6


  • 1 cup dry green or brown lentils
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or coconut oil 
  • 5–6 curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger 
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of hing 
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons reishi powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes 
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • ½ teaspoon mineral salt
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Lime juice 


Place the lentils in a bowl and cover with water, soaking while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (about 5–10 minutes). 

Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ghee, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, shallot, mustard, turmeric, black pepper, and hing. Stir to coat evenly, and cook for 2–3 minutes or until you hear the mustard seeds popping. 

Add the celery and bell pepper. Stir to coat and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables. 

Add the cacao, tomato paste, reishi, and cinnamon. Stir to evenly distribute the paste and spices.

Strain the lentils. Add them to the pot with the diced tomatoes (with juices), broth, and salt. Stir to combine. Loosely cover the pot with a lid and cook over medium heat (at a gentle boil) for about 40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and plump and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Serve with cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days. 


plate of cookies

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Who says gingerbread is only for Christmas? Its unique flavor, and the spices that comprise it, are an ideal support for agni any time of year, but especially in the winter months when digestion can be variable to slow.

For anyone who wants to share a treat while honoring digestion, turn to these cookies for a gesture of food-love that's as delicious to give as it is to receive. 

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 18 minutes 
Makes: 9 cookies


  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 ½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flax meal with six tablespoons of warm water. Let sit for about five minutes to gel. Add the molasses and tahini. 

Add the cacao, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper. Stir to combine. 

In ¼-cup increments, add the flour, then the salt, baking soda, and baking powder, stirring to totally incorporate all the dry ingredients. The dough should be stiff and slightly sticky. 

Place a heart-shaped cookie cutter on the prepared baking sheet. Use a spoon to fill the center of the cookie cutter and press down with your fingers to fill the shape evenly. 

Repeat for the remaining dough, leaving about an inch of space around the cookies (they will expand in the oven). Top each cookie with chopped ginger and gently press so it sticks. 

Bake the cookies for about 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The cookies should be somewhat firm to the touch with cracks on the top and a smooth bottom. Don't overbake!

Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire baking rack to cool. Enjoy with your favorite tea or warm drink, and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Notes: If you don't have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, you can simply scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. Depending on the size of your cookies, the bake time may differ, so start with 12 minutes and add from there so as to not overbake.

About the Author

Jennifer Kurdyla

Jennifer Kurdyla is an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, yoga teacher, and writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Plant-based since 2008, she learned to love...

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