Definition of cacao in US English:


nounPlural cacaos

  • 1Seeds from a small tropical American evergreen tree, from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made.

    • ‘Where are silver, platinum, tin, wool, wheat, palm oil, furs and cacao got from?’
    • ‘As we have seen, cacao was popularized in Iberia in the late 1580s, perhaps 70 years before tea or coffee became popular items of consumption in Europe.’
    • ‘It also has factories processing palm oil, rubber products and cacao.’
    • ‘Coffee, sugar, cacao, and coconuts from the coast are widely distributed.’
    • ‘The cocoa mass itself is naturally made up of about half cocoa butter and half dry cocoa solids, but since the ratio varies among beans, two brands labeled 70 percent cacao may not have the same percentage of cocoa butter.’
    • ‘Both of these desserts were vegan and ‘raw’, made with nuts, cacao and fruit.’
    • ‘Esmereladas is their chocolate made from Ecuadorian cacao, that had a surprising tropical banana-like aroma and flavor.’
    • ‘Additions which could be made to posole, to improve its basic pleasant but sharp taste, include honey, cacao, ground sapota seeds, green maize.’
    • ‘West African nations such as Ivory Coast and Ghana are now the world's leading exporters of cacao, with at least 40 percent of the world's supply produced in Ivory Coast alone.’
    • ‘The homemade tiramisu was just as should be, fluffy and not too sweet, with a dusting of cacao on the layers of ladyfingers and mascarpone.’
    • ‘For dessert, the tiramisu looks like it was scooped from a fluffy snow-peaked mountain and sprinkled with fresh raspberries and cacao.’
    • ‘The Kuna Indians of Panama consume up to five cups of cocoa a day and include cacao in many of their traditional recipes.’
    • ‘The first commercial quantities of coffee to enter Europe came through Venice in 1640, sixty years after cacao was commercialized in Spain.’
    • ‘Fair trade is a mechanism through which fair-trade companies try to ensure a guaranteed price to the producers of some specific primary commodities - such as cacao and coffee - regardless of price on the world market.’
    • ‘The mole chicken was pretty authentic, perfectly cooked white meat in a rich brown sauce of cacao mingled with spices.’
    • ‘The consumption of cacao in New Spain remained an important market throughout the colonial period, supplied largely by the Guayas and Caracas plantations.’
    • ‘This type of mole gets everyone excited because it's made with chocolate, but cacao is only one ingredient in the mix of four kinds of chillies and musky spices that create its distinct and complex flavour.’
    • ‘Chilly nights, I like nibbling small pieces of chocolate with a cup of hot, spicy mulled wine, enjoying the aroma of cacao, spices, and wine blending together.’
    • ‘To those fortunate people, the cocoa drink made from cacao was, as reflected in the genus name, indeed the ‘food of the gods.’’
    • ‘By the mid-sixteenth century cacao had acquired status as an elite beverage in New Spain, and a material culture and vocabulary had been developed or acquired to accompany it.’
  • 2The tree that bears cacao seeds, which are contained in large, oval pods that grow on the trunk. It is now cultivated mainly in West Africa.

    Theobroma cacao, family Sterculiaceae

    • ‘Made from the beans of the tropical plant Theobroma cacao, cocoa was a favorite drink of ancient Maya and Aztec people in Mesoamerica.’
    • ‘Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the seeds of Theobroma cacao, an ‘understory’ tree that evolved beneath the canopies of Latin American rainforests.’
    • ‘Historically, cacao itself has been a vagabond crop.’
    • ‘But chocolate is manufactured from the cocoa plant Theobroma cacao, which literally translates as ‘food of the gods’.’
    • ‘The cultivation of cacao, which had been pursued on Jamaica by the Spaniards, was persisted in by some English planters, and it was the profits made from cacao that made it possible for some of them to become involved with sugar production.’
    • ‘For centuries, the Aztecs of central and southern Mexico cultivated cocoa beans - the seeds of Theobroma cacao.’
    • ‘This winning concoction came from the variety called Rim - 100, selected from Mexican plants that still look much like cacao's wild ancestors.’
    • ‘Wild cacao grew in many parts of tropical America, including the coast of what is now Ecuador.’
    • ‘The area under coconut production increased from 7,816 to 40,000 acres, while that of cacao increased from 1,231 to 11,474 acres.’
    • ‘Mature fruits of Theobroma cacao were harvested from a Malaysian plantation.’
    • ‘Both sugar and cacao (plant whose seeds are used to make chocolate) were produced in Bahia, a state in northeastern Brazil.’
    • ‘The leaves of mangos and cacaos do the reverse, turning scarlet when they first sprout.’
    • ‘Learn how cacao is grown and processed, and roll your own chocolate truffle.’
    • ‘Edible plants rich in flavanols include cacao, tea, grapes and grapefruit.’


Mid 16th century: via Spanish from Nahuatl cacaua.