Inside the Pod

Experiments in Cooking with Cacao Pulp and a Pod

by Lindsay Tarnoff

A Package of Pods

The last couple weeks of July brought great packages to Laughing Gull Chocolates. 

You may have seen our social media post last week about receiving a red backpack full of goodies as part of our grant package from Sara Blakely and Global Giving. A few days later, another box arrived – a big, long rectangular cardboard box that held treasure inside. open cacao pod box

Chocolatiers with Cacao Pods

Literally. At least for three chocolatiers like us. We knew that what was inside had sated emperors, helped ancient people communicate with gods, and acted as currency so those same people could purchase dinner for their family or a feast. We opened the box, lifting up the top so that the eight bright, colorful cacao pods were visible! 

These bulbous pods were gorgeous, with bright and vivid coloring and unique striations. Carefully, l cut the husk open to reveal slimy white pulp that enrobed all of the pod’s cacao seeds. pod and baba, mucilage

We each indulged in some baba, the pulp’s Spanish name, otherwise known as “mucilage” in English. (I’ll stick with the Spanish translation, thank you)! Viscous, slimy, slippery, glutinous, the baba delighted our taste buds with tropical flavor notes of lychee and mango, though utterly unique.

Cooking with Pods

We spent the next few days peeling, chopping, roasting, frying, sauteing and otherwise cooking the various parts of the cacao pod. Cacao jelly, cacao pulp juice, cacao pod “fries”, mashed cacao; donned with salt and pepper, cinnamon sugar, balsamic vinegar. This was our first attempt at cooking with fresh cacao pods, and we used our imaginations to please our palates to the best of our ability. 

The myriad of flavors. A variety of textures and consistencies. 

z  pulp heating up

Are you wondering what our favorite product was? We LOVED having the pods in our shop, and we LOVED tasting the baba. But to be honest, our favorite product from a cacao pulp is easily still chocolate. We didn’t make chocolate from the beans (since the pulp and beans were not removed right away in Ecuador, they had started fermenting in the pod). The raw pulp was sweet and tangy. The fried chips were intriguing. We may in the future make cacao liquor for ourselves – just to try, of course. 

I think, however, in the future, we’ll stick to chocolate. It takes a lot of work and a lot of community, all around the globe to make chocolate from the pod, but it is so worth it! 


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