Cocoa powder is something that most of us have in our pantries, but do you actually know what it is and how it’s made? Let’s talk about it.
Cocoa powder is a product we use to give sweets and drinks a deep chocolate flavor and it is most often unsweetened.
For this next part, be sure to read carefully. Cocoa powder is a byproduct of making chocolate. It happens when cocoa butter (the delicious fats) are removed from the cacao beans when it is processed. Those leftover beans (now a dry product) are ground and sold as cocoa powder.
Now let’s be clear here, this is not the same thing as the instant cocoa mix you add to hot water or milk on a cold day. Those typically contain sugar, dehydrated milk, and more. Don’t be fooled and don’t think that they are interchangeable.
When it comes to cocoa powders, you have two types: Dutch-process and natural. The difference between the two is all about pH balance which we don’t have to go into here. Just know that Dutch-process tends to be more mellow in flavor and the natural cocoa powder, which is higher in acidity, has a more sharp and strong chocolate flavor.
The Dutch variety tends to be darker in color and the natural variety comes in different lighter shades of brown.
When it comes to drinks, you are probably fine using either-or, but when it comes to baking, be sure to pay attention to the recipe. Without getting to science-heavy, the pH (read acidity) can do funny things with your leavening agent. For candy, the two are pretty much interchangeable.
This might come as a huge surprise, but cocoa powder tastes like chocolate. Just kidding, I think we all knew that.
Here are some delicious recipes using cocoa powder:
Both are made from the cacao bean after it has been harvested and fermented. Cacao powder is minimally processed and retains the dense nutritionally value of the cacao bean whereas cocoa powder is more highly processed and known for being used in candy, beverages, and more.
What can be used in place of cocoa powder?
If you are fresh out of cocoa powder, unsweetened baking chocolate can be used in a pinch. 1oz of melted baking chocolate can be used to replace 3 tablespoons of the powder. Be sure to cut out 1 tablespoon of whatever fat is used in the recipe (butter, oil, shortening, etc.) because the baking chocolate will be adding some of its own.