What’s The Best Cocoa Powder Substitute? Our Ultimate Guide!

Who doesn’t like chocolate? If you don’t, then get out of here! We can’t believe anyone who abhors chocolate actually exists.

We’re just kidding! But seriously, chocolate is life. And if you love hot chocolate, chocolate cake, and other deliciously decadent chocolate desserts, chances are, you’ll need cocoa powder. This main ingredient gives off the rich chocolate color and flavor to all your favorite recipes.

If you’re about to whip up a dish calling for cocoa powder, but you have none of it at the moment, what can you do?

You can use cocoa powder substitutes to achieve the similar color and flavor you desire.

Check out what you can use here on our list!

What is a Good Substitute for Cocoa Powder?

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Cocoa powder is a result of processing beans from cocoa trees. After extracting cocoa butter from dried and roasted cocoa beans, it’s obtained as residual products. (*)

Unsweetened cocoa powder provides intense chocolate flavor to many recipes without the fat or sugar. Because this is a slightly acidic ingredient, it acts as a leavening agent in baked goods containing baking soda. This would cause your batter to rise as it bakes.

You can use unsweetened cocoa powder for many pastries and desserts, such as cakes, brownies, and puddings, and it’s even the main ingredient when creating chocolates.

1. Dutch-processed Cocoa

Dutch-processed cocoa, which we also call alkalized cocoa, tastes milder than natural cocoa powder since the former has been washed in an alkaline solution, which neutralizes the acidity. That’s why Dutch-processed cocoa doesn’t react with baking soda.

Natural cocoa powder sits at 5 on the pH scale, while Dutch-processed cocoa is 7-8, falling between neutral and basic. Besides the taste, Dutch-processed cocoa powder is darker, and the darker, the milder.

Numerous bakers prefer using Dutch-processed cocoa powder to have a more complex and well-rounded flavor.

We like how it tastes in cookies, but we avoid using it in cakes and muffins since it won’t rise as high compared to unsweetened cocoa powder.

If you do have to use Dutch-processed cocoa on your cakes or muffins, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder or cream of tartar to your batter for every three tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder you add. Alternatively, you can add a drop of lemon juice or vinegar.

2. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

The second-best cocoa powder substitute is unsweetened baking chocolate.

Cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate are from cocoa beans, though the main difference is their process.

For every three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, the recipe requires, please use one ounce of melted unsweetened baking chocolate. Because unsweetened chocolate has more fat than cocoa powder, we suggest reducing the amount of fat the recipe asks for.

If you have no unsweetened chocolate, you can opt for regular chocolate bars, too, though they reduce both the sugar and fat, if ever.

You can also use chocolate chips, though we recommend semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Your dish may not be as rich as expected since chocolate chips don’t contain the signature rich and chocolatey flavor.

It may result in a slightly different but unnoticeable texture.

If you have no time to melt your chocolate, you can try Nutella. Use four ounces of Nutella for every three tablespoons of cocoa powder required. Since Nutella is very sweet and has 15 grams of fat per serving, you’ll need to decrease the fat and sugar in the recipe.

3. Carob Powder

Carob is a vegan chocolate substitute coming from flowering shrubs of carob trees.

Carob has the same production process as unsweetened cocoa powder, which looks similar.

Many consider carob as the best chocolate substitute. For starters, it’s low in fat and sugar, making it suitable for people on low-fat diets. Furthermore, it contains no gluten or caffeine, ideal for vegans or those going gluten-free.

That said, take note that carob doesn’t taste like chocolate.

It has a nutty and almost caramel-like flavor note we can describe as slightly earthy. Furthermore, carob is naturally sweet, so do lessen the sugar level in your recipe by 2-3 tablespoons.

You can use a 1:1 ratio when using carob powder, though you might want to add a bit of instant coffee as carob doesn’t have that distinct bitter flavor cocoa powder has. If you wish to have stronger flavors, you can use a bit more carob powder.

4. Black Cocoa Powder

Black cocoa powder is heavily alkalized and has a robust flavor. However, it tastes smooth without any bitterness. Compared to regular cocoa powder, black cocoa powder is… Well, black, and what gives Oreos the signature dark appearance.

You can use black cocoa powder as a substitute if your recipe doesn’t require more than ¾ cup. You can use a 1:1 ratio when replacing unsweetened cocoa powder.

That said, black cocoa powder contains no fat, so your baked good might end up being drier than expected. Prevent that by adding a tablespoon of sour cream or Greek yogurt to the recipe.

If you use it in cakes, muffins, or anything that contains baking soda, add a teaspoon of baking powder to encourage your food to rise.

5. Raw Cacao Powder

Manufacturers create cocoa powder by roasting raw cacao beans at scorching temperatures. That’s why raw cacao is a less processed version, so we can say it’s more natural and healthier.

Raw cacao offers more health benefits than cocoa powder as it has flavonoids, a nutrient known to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure. It also contains protein, iron, fiber, magnesium, and potassium.

Raw cacao is more absorbent and tastes stronger, so we recommend adding more liquid and sugar to balance the texture and flavors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are more things to learn about this powder and how to substitute it adequately:

1. Does cocoa powder come from cocoa butter?

Yes, as mentioned, cocoa powder is derived from the residual products of cocoa butter. Cocoa nibs would be ground into a paste and pressed to release fat. The fat is the cocoa butter, while the solids are made into cocoa powder!

2. Can I use coffee as an unsweetened cocoa powder substitute?

Coffee has a different flavor than cocoa powder, but it’s a quick substitute. Just be wary that the finished product may have a strong coffee aftertaste.

3. Can I use chocolate syrup or cocoa mix as a cocoa powder substitute?

No, we do not recommend either cocoa mix or chocolate syrup. The chocolate syrup contains water, and the cocoa mix contains sugar, and powdered milk, among other additives. Those extra ingredients may alter the recipe for the worse!

Using the hot cocoa mix when you’re in a pinch is possible, but we recommend slightly reducing the amount of sugar and milk the recipe asks for.

4. Is flour or hot chocolate another good cocoa powder substitute?

It’s possible to use flour as a cocoa powder substitute, but you won’t get the expected color and flavor.

As for hot chocolate, you can also use it like you would with hot cocoa mix. While you can use this in cakes and cookies, you’ll have to use less sugar in the recipe.

5. Is drinking chocolate a good cocoa powder substitute?

Drinking chocolate tastes weaker than cocoa powder, but it’s still possible to use this in a cake. You’ll just need to lessen the sugar in the recipe since drinking chocolate is much sweeter.

You might also ask: 

Wrapping It Up

Regardless of what chocolate desserts you plan to make, you can always use a good substitute for cocoa powder as needed. As long as you know how to alter the fat and sugar content, you can still get the right flavor you want.

Use any of these other ingredients listed above for your recipes that ask for cocoa powder. Happy cooking!

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