Chocolate is enjoyed all around the world and is often incorporated into baked goods to make chocolate-flavored cakes, cookies, and pies. The form of chocolate that is most often used in baked goods and other desserts is cocoa powder.
This is the form that mixes best with other dry ingredients and gives the best texture and flavor. However, depending on where you live it may be difficult to access regular cocoa powder for your favorite recipes.
The best cocoa powder substitutes are:
- Raw cocoa powder
- Dutch process cocoa
- Powdered peanut butter
- Melted chocolate
- Carob powder
- Hot cocoa mix
- Chocolate chips
- Coverture chocolate
Each of these substitutes has its advantages and disadvantages and should be used for different recipes. They also have individual adjustments that will need to be made to your recipe when using them.
What is Cocoa Powder?
Cocoa powder is a chocolate product that is made from ground-up cocoa beans that have had the cocoa butter removed. This allows the product to keep a powder form instead of turning into the paste that occurs when you grind the beans in their full form.
Unlike most other chocolate products, the cocoa powder does not contain any added sugar. This makes it a great option for adding chocolate flavor to dishes without adding an unnecessary sweetness that the dish may already contain.
It is almost always used as an ingredient in other foods. Consumed on its own, cocoa powder can have a strong, bitter taste that is unpleasant to most people.
Cocoa powder is most often used to create sweet desserts such as cookies, cakes, and even ice creams. Some cultures even use cocoa powder to create savory dishes like mole, a popular dish in Mexico.
All you have to do is mix the cocoa powder with the other ingredients and your cookies will have gone from a regular flour base to a rich chocolate flavor.
If you’re adding cocoa powder to ice cream or another liquid base, it’s important to make sure that you pick a very fine cocoa powder. This will allow it to mix in more easily and will avoid creating a grainy texture that is easy to detect in more liquidy desserts. In baking, it doesn’t matter as much because the texture of the dough can disguise the cocoa powder better.
What Can You Use Instead of Cocoa Powder?
Although cocoa powder is considered a common ingredient that is widely available, you may not always be able to access it. Some stores may not carry cocoa powder and, if you live in a remote area, there may be a large chunk of time between shipments.
Fortunately, there are substitutes for regular cocoa powder that you can use. These substitutes will give your favorite foods a rich flavor that is comparable to the one that cocoa powder provides.
Raw Cocoa Powder
The first option if you can find regular cocoa powder in the store is to switch it out for raw cocoa powder. Raw cocoa powder, unlike regular cocoa powder, is not roasted before processing. This leaves it with a more bitter taste but higher nutritional value and contains many more antioxidants.
Overall, raw cocoa powder will provide you with a very similar flavor however, it will be more bitter. You may end up needing to use slightly more sugar in the recipe to counteract the natural bitterness of raw cocoa powder.
Dutch Process Cocoa
Another option if you can find regular cocoa powder is using Dutch cocoa powder. This cocoa powder is additionally processed to make it have a less bitter taste and less acidic. It also has a slightly less intense chocolate flavor.
Dutch process cocoa powder is recommended for foods like ice cream and chocolate milk. Since it is more heavily processed, the mill is finer and will dissolve more easily into liquids, leaving them with a smoother texture.
Since the flavor is less intense, you’ll likely have to add slightly more Dutch cocoa to your recipe than you would with regular cocoa powder.
Powdered Peanut Butter
Believe it or not, some people are allergic to chocolate or just don’t like the flavor. In these cases, none of the previous suggestions will work. That’s where peanut butter comes in.
Although peanut butter does not taste chocolatey, it has some similar characteristics. It is rich and creamy and provides a satisfying texture to desserts.
If you are using peanut butter in baking, it is recommended to use powdered peanut butter. In this form, the peanut butter will more easily mix into the flour mixture. However, if you are looking for melty peanut butter chunks, feel free to mix them in natural peanut butter. This works particularly well for ice cream where the peanut butter will create delicious frozen chunks.
One of the best substitutes for cocoa powder in baking that won’t significantly alter the flavor or texture of the baked good is melted chocolate. Ideally, you’ll want to find unsweetened chocolate. However, if you can’t, you’ll simply need to reduce the amount of sugar that you put in the recipe since the chocolate will sweeten it.
You may also want to reduce the amount of butter or oil that you put in the recipe. Chocolate contains cocoa butter which is another fat and could be too much if your recipe already contains a lot of butter and oil. The exact amount of cocoa butter in chocolate varies so it may require some trial and error to get the ratios just right.
Another good option for people who cannot eat chocolate is carob powder. This powder is made from dried carob pods and, when ground up, looks very similar to cocoa powder.
It does not have an exact chocolatey flavor, but it is earthy and similar in color. However, the texture can be an issue for some people as it is very dry and can be slightly grainy, even when cooked with enough moisture.
If you are allergic to peanut butter or other nuts, carob powder can be another great chocolate substitute option that won’t trigger your allergies.
Hot Cocoa Mix
Hot cocoa mix isn’t the best cocoa powder substitute as it tends to contain lots of extra ingredients like marshmallows and mint flavoring. However, if you’re in a pinch it can do the trick and has a fine grain that will easily mix into most baked goods. After all, hot cocoa mix is designed to dissolve into milk and leave it with a perfectly smooth consistency.
When you use hot cocoa mix it is important to use less sugar in your recipe. Hot cocoa mix is already sweetened and if you add the regular amount of sugar to your recipe in addition to the hot cocoa mix, your dessert could come out too sweet.
Of course, if you’re using chocolate in a savory dish, this substitute won’t work since it will make the recipe too sweet and taste more like a dessert.
Chocolate chips can be another good substitute for cocoa powder that works similarly to melted chocolate.
With chocolate chips, you have two options for how to use them. You can either just mix the chocolate chips in a let them create melty pockets of chocolate or you can melt them and mix them in. To melt them you will want to use a double boiler to gradually melt the chocolate and prevent it from scorching.
It is generally pretty difficult to find chocolate chips without added sugar so the best you’ll be able to find is semisweet. This will mean that you’ll need to reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe to prevent it from being overly sweet.
The last, and quite possibly best, option on this list of substitutes for cocoa powder is Coverture Chocolate. If you were to take a trip to any of the famous, high-end bakeries around the world you will notice a lack of cocoa powder. This is because, instead of using cocoa powder to flavor their chocolate desserts, they use melted Coverture Chocolate.
This chocolate has an extremely high proportion of cocoa butter which helps it to melt and mix into baked goods perfectly. However, because of this, you will need to greatly reduce the amount of fat that you put in your recipe. If you don’t do this, the recipe will become oversaturated with fat.
How to Choose the Best Cocoa Powder Substitute
To choose the best cocoa substitute you will need to consider the food that you want to use it in.
If you are making a cake, the best substitutes will be raw cocoa powder or Dutch process cocoa. They have very similar compositions so they won’t negatively affect the texture of the cake.
If you’re making ice cream, a better cocoa substitute will be a finer powder like Dutch process cocoa or hot cocoa mix. These will dissolve into the ice cream mixture without creating a grainy texture or chunks of undissolved cocoa.
Powdered peanut butter and carob powder are good replacements for cocoa powder if you are allergic to or don’t like the flavor of chocolate. They still have a rich flavor that can give your baked goods just the flavor that they need without having to add chocolate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does cacao powder taste like?
Overall raw cacao powder has a very similar taste to cocoa powder. However, it has more bitterness and tends to be more acidic. To counteract the bitterness, you may have to add more sugar to your recipes than you normally would with cocoa powder.
Is cocoa powder just chocolate?
Cocoa powder is made from roasted cocoa beans that are ground up into a powder. The cocoa butter is removed to make the product a powder instead of a paste. For cocoa powder to be made into chocolate it needs cocoa butter and sugar mixed in. From there, it will be molded into a bar and sold as chocolate.
Can I grind chocolate to make cocoa powder?
No, grinding chocolate will not make cocoa powder. To turn chocolate into cocoa powder you would have to remove the cocoa butter and sugar from the chocolate and then grind the remainder into a fine powder. This is difficult to do without specialized machinery.