The Cocoa Exchange is an online marketplace for all things cocoa. The Exchange’s parent company, Mars, is the largest chocolate maker on the planet and, judging from the products on the Cocoa Exchange, they know a thing or two about using chocolate to make everything from sauces to baking mixes to cocktails better. They contract with top chefs to develop their products using top-quality ingredients and they never add preservatives or artificial ingredients.
The Cocoa Exchange sent RFT Editors four of their sauces to try: Pod & Bean BBQ Sauce Kansas City; Pod & Bean Hot Sauce Green Chili; Pod & Bean Chipotle Sauce; and Stone Ground Mustard. We weren’t sure what to expect and what we found surprised and convinced us that everything really is better with chocolate.
Pod & Bean BBQ Sauce Kansas City. We’ve traveled to Kansas City and sampled their delectable BBQ sauces, which are generally served on the side. The Cocoa Exchange’s Kansas City-style BBQ Sauce stacks up nicely to those we sampled in this BBQ town.
This sauce is a deep rich red/brown. It’s super thick. In fact, so thick I had to use a knife to coax some of it out of the bottle. (I later realized that if I put the entire bottle in the microwave for a few seconds, the sauce heats and thins nicely.) Our first test of this sauce was on some large, freshwater shrimp we were grilling. We slathered some on about half the shrimp and the result was terrific—deep, rich smoky flavor that didn’t overwhelm the shrimp. Instead this BBQ sauce brought out the natural briny sweetness of the shrimp. When compared with the shrimp we hadn’t used sauce on, the BBQ sauce shrimp was so much better.
BBQ Sauce Kansas City contains cane sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, semi-sweet chocolate, mustard powder, salt, spices, natural smoke flavor, salt, spices, onion powder, molasses, garlic, and tamarind concentrate. You notice there’s no preservatives or artificial flavors listed? That’s because there aren’t any, which is true for all The Cocoa Exchange’s sauces/condiments we sampled.
The following day, we headed up some of the left over shrimp (non-sauced) for shrimp tacos and RFT Editor Anne Weaver, who fell in love with this BBQ sauce, added some of the sauce to her taco. Sauce being added after cooking is more traditional KC-Style. Anne says, “The thing about this BBQ sauce is it comes out thick, but you put it on hot food and it just melts. It complimented the shrimp beautifully—thick, rich, without being too sweet or too tomatoey.”
Our final test for Pod & Bean BBQ Sauce Kansas City was on a beer can chicken we cooked on the grill. The BBQ sauce kept the skin moist while cooking and added a wonderful smoky flavor to this chicken when cooked. The sauce by itself, just heated in the microwave, also made a nice addition to this dish.
Pod & Bean Hot Sauce Green Chili. The first ingredient on the list for this green hot sauce is jalapenos and you can tell. It’s hot, but it’s also smooth with plenty of flavor. The cocoa ingredient in this one is white chocolate and it evens out the chili flavor, softening the chilies.
Unlike the BBQ sauce, this is a pourable sauce that comes in a flask-shaped bottle. Tasting this sauce straight from the bottle, I immediately registered HEAT. But when I added it to my shrimp taco, it was soft and delicious with just the right amount of chili flavor and tongue-tingly heat. I’m going to love using this one regularly.
Blackberry Chipotle Sauce. Open the jar on this thick, dark purple sauce and you immediately smell rich blackberries and dark chocolate. Those two flavor notes continue on the palate with subtle notes of smoky heat. We tried this one on shrimp tacos too and it offered some sweet goodness.
On the label, they suggest this sauce is perfect for fowl, sandwiches, and BBQ. We also used it on vanilla ice cream. The berry-forward flavor carried nicely with the ice cream with just a hint of heat on the finish. Because this one isn’t overly sweet, it makes for a sophisticated ice cream topping.
Pod & Bean Stone Ground Mustard. Deeply colored, grainy, chocolate softens the mustard flavor. Too often, stone ground mustards can be overwhelmingly sharp and vinegary. Not this one. The chocolate has moderated the sharp notes and left a lovely mustard that’s both hearty yet subtle. Love this.
Real Bottom Line: When The Cocoa Exchange package arrive in our RFT offices, someone immediately said, “Why didn’t they send us chocolate?” However, we’re glad they sent us these deliciously surprising sauces instead. All of the sauces we sampled are quite delicious. The addition of with chocolate—both semi-sweet and white chocolate—gives them a soften, more nuanced flavor. These sauces would make a perfect culinary gift for yourself or your foodie friends. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor; photos by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor