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Choice Ingredient: Cocoa Powder

Choice Ingredient: Cocoa Powder



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Add chocolate flavor to dishes both savory and sweet with this pantry indispensable.

Learn: Similar to coffee, cocoa powder starts as beans―cocoa beans, from the cacao tree. After harvest, the seeds are fermented, roasted, and ground to create chocolate liquor. To make cocoa powder, the chocolate liquor is pressed to remove most of its fat, or cocoa butter, then ground again, resulting in a fine, dusky powder. Natural cocoa powder is acidic and slightly bitter, so a 19th-century Dutch scientist named Conrad van Houten found a way to neutralize the beans with alkaline chemicals, creating Dutch process cocoa powder, which has a smooth, mild chocolate flavor and a rich reddish-brown hue. Always check the label before purchasing. Dutch process cocoa may also be called “Dutched” or “alkalized,” while natural may only say “cocoa.”

Purchase: Thanks to variations in cacao trees, growing regions, and processing methods, you’ll find wide variation in flavor between brands of cocoa powder, and there are dozens to try. A good rule of thumb: If you like a particular manufacturer’s solid chocolate, you will probably like their cocoa powder as well.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Use: Cocoa powder is often used in baked goods. It also can be lightly sprinkled on top of tiramisu or other finished desserts for garnish. Cocoa powder has savory applications, too, as in modern versions of classic Mexican moles or the tablespoon that’s the “secret” ingredient in many homemade chili recipes.

Store: Keep cocoa powder in an opaque, airtight container in a cool, dark place; it will last up to two years. Place away from herbs and aromatic spices as it can easily absorb other flavors.


3 Ingredient Healthy Chocolate Cookies

I've been making 3 ingredient banana oat cookies for a while now, in fact, I've tried just about every optional mix-in you can imagine with this simple cookie recipe: white chocolate cranberry, cinnamon raisin, chocolate walnut, raspberry vanilla, you name it! My family eats them a lot for breakfast.

The base of these cookies is very simple, just bananas and oats. Customize to your liking after that.

But, the other day I got to thinking. I make this really good chocolate banana smoothie for my daughter (frozen bananas, cacao powder, greek yogurt, flax-meal, and almond milk), and it hit me. What if I incorporate cacao powder into the banana cookies and make them SUPER chocolatey! How could I possibly go wrong?

Well, they turned out amazing! My daughter loved these 3 ingredient chocolate banana cookies. I would definitely recommend adding in other mix-ins of your choice (like chocolate chips or nuts for added flavor and texture), but even just these 3 ingredients alone are surprisingly delish. They definitely hit the spot when I'm craving something sweet!


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Place the peeled, very ripe bananas, cocoa powder and almond butter in a small food processor or a high-speed blender. Blend away, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container several times, until the mixture is very smooth.

Spoon the batter into the cups of a standard size muffin tin (give the cups a generous coating of nonstick cooking spray).

I love using a muffin tin for these brownies for two reasons:

  1. No messy cutting required. Once done, simply remove the individual brownies from the tin (done!).
  2. Crusty edges, fudgy centers. The brownies cook quickly (yielding fudgy centers), but with lots of edges (for those of use who love the corner pieces from the brownie pan).
  3. Portion control. It&rsquos so easy to cut extra big brownies (oops! I thought I ate two small brownies). The muffin tin method keeps portions clear-cut.

What Can I Replace Cocoa Powder With?

Whether you want to bake or cook, these cocoa powder substitutes are perfect for all your recipes:

Best For Baking, Brownies, and Cookies

#1. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

This chocolate is also made largely from cocoa solids, but unsweetened baking chocolate contains most of the cocoa butter. The butter is what makes the baking chocolate retain its shape, but it also adds creaminess and flavor.

If you decide to use this, then you should know that you will probably also need to adjust the butter or fat in your recipe.

Use unsweetened baking chocolate when baking brownies, cookies, cakes, and making candy or fudge. Since this chocolate comes in a bar, then you will also need to melt it before using it.

You may also want to reduce the amount you use because this unsweetened chocolate is denser.

#2. Dark Chocolate

Even though dark chocolate contains sugar and fat, it contains at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa solids. The flavor is similar to cocoa powder but has a hint of sugar as well, so you should adjust the amount you use in your recipe.

As with unsweetened baking chocolate, you should always melt dark chocolate before you add it to your dish.

This choice is great in brownies, cookies, cakes, muffins, or more. You can find dark chocolate anywhere these days, especially because people eat it more often since it is considered healthier. Remember that while it contains less fat and sugar, dark chocolate also contains milk.

#3. Chocolate Chips

While not an ideal choice, when you want to bake things like cakes, brownies, cookies, or muffins, using chocolate chips is not a bad idea. As you may already know, though, chocolate chips do have sugar, fat, and milk.

If you choose this option, make sure to reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and possibly milk or cream that you use.

Keep in mind too, that chocolate chips add more calories than cocoa powder, so you may want to watch out how many you use. For every one tablespoon of cocoa powder, use ½ tablespoon of chocolate chips.

Best For Red Velvet Cake, Frosting, and Hot Chocolate

#4. Carob Powder

Carob is a well-known chocolate substitution that comes from the carob tree. This tree gives out pods that have a pulp inside, which is ground into a powder similar to cocoa powder once it dries.

Unlike cocoa powder, though, carob powder tastes more roasted and sweet but much less bitter.

You can find carob powder in most organic grocery and health stores as it is now known as a healthy alternative to chocolate.

Use carob powder when you bake red velvet cake, cookies, and brownies, or when you make frosting or hot chocolate. This choice is very low in calories and contains no sugar or fat.

#5. Hot Chocolate Mix

Using a hot chocolate mix isn’t the best choice on this list, but it may be a good replacement for cocoa powder in some cases. This option contains sugar, milk, and fat, and it is meant to be used in boiling water to prepare instant hot chocolate.

You can use a hot chocolate mix for baking things like red velvet cake, brownies, cookies, and when preparing a frosting.

You can find various brands of the hot chocolate mix at any grocery store, as it is a popular option for this hot beverage.

If you want to substitute hot cocoa, use about twice more hot chocolate mix because the flavor of chocolate isn’t as strong. You should also reduce the amount of fat, milk, and sugar you use in your dish.

#6. Chocolate Syrup

When you are in a pinch, you can use chocolate syrup to prepare plenty of dishes. Chocolate syrup is made from dark chocolate, sugar, and sometimes milk. You can use this choice when you prepare a red velvet cake, fudge, frosting, and hot chocolate.

If you choose to use chocolate syrup, you will want to cut out some of the liquid in your recipe, as well as the sugar. Consider using only a bit at a time and taste as you go, since some brands may be stronger or sweeter than others.

In some recipes, you can certainly replace the cocoa powder with coffee and vice versa. Coffee has a stronger and more bitter flavor, so it will change your final dish, but it works well in some baked goods. Cocoa powder is much denser but also has a strong cocoa flavor.

Just like instant hot chocolate, you can use other types of pre-made mixes that you can use instead of cocoa powder. Make sure to adjust for sugar and fat, as these have more, and your end product may end up being too sweet.

No. Dark chocolate is made with cocoa pieces, sugar, and fat, which makes it healthier than regular milk chocolate but it still has more calories. Cocoa powder is just the cocoa pieces in powder form without fat or sugar added.

Cocoa powder is a great ingredient to have around when you bake or make certain savory dishes.

Still, if you need any substitute, these six choices will add delicious chocolatey flavor to your dish. Always try the choice you pick before adding it and make adjustments to the other ingredients.


Expert Tips

  • Use your favorite chocolate or chocolate chips, I prefer 70% chocolate.
  • Make extra to gift or have more for later. Adjust the number of servings in the recipe by clicking the number of servings in the recipe card & sliding the bar until the recipe is the right size.
  • Add more sugar to cocoa if desired.
  • Choose whole milk for the creamiest hot chocolate.

How do you make the best instant hot chocolate?

The best way to make delicious instant hot chocolate is to start with great chocolate. Use your favorite chocolate bar and cocoa powder. And of course sugar too! Start with ingredients you like on their own, then you'll end up with great hot cocoa.

What is hot chocolate mix made of?

Hot chocolate mix is usually made with different types of chocolate, sugar, salt and depending on the brand, preservatives or other ingredients. Hot chocolate mix is usually mixed with hot milk or water.

What can you add to hot chocolate mix to make it better?

I wrote a whole article about making hot chocolate even better with delicious toppings. Check it out here.

How much hot chocolate equals a cup of mix?

Most hot chocolate mix recipes call for 1.5-3 tablespoons of mix per cup of milk/water. You can use more if you like it more chocolatey, or less if you like it less chocolatey.


Cocoa Powder and Chili Go Very Well Together

Cocoa powder might seem like an odd choice, but the combination of chocolate and chilis is actually quite old. Both chili peppers and chocolate are native to Mexico and Central America — and they were often combined, as they are in Mexican mole sauce.

Adding chocolate to chili lends depth and richness to the spicy dish, making it both more savory and more satisfying. That’s especially the case for vegetarian and vegan chilis, when the hearty flavors from meat aren’t part of the equation.


What Can I Replace Chocolate With?

If you need to prepare a dish and can’t use this ingredient, these chocolate substitutes will be a perfect addition to your recipes:

For Baking Brownies, Cake, and Cooking

#1. Cocoa Powder

This choice may seem obvious, but many of us don’t use cocoa powder regularly. This alternative is the product of the extraction of cacao beans so it has a strong cacao flavor but without the fat, sugar, or calories.

You can use cacao powder when baking things like cakes and brownies, but also if you are cooking and want to add flavor.

You can surely find cocoa powder in any grocery store, usually by the baking section. To substitute for chocolate, add about ½ teaspoon for every tablespoon. You can also consider adding a dash of cream, milk, or a dairy-free substitute for creaminess.

#2. Cacao Nibs

Cacao nibs are the cacao beans themselves after being roasted and broken into small pieces. These nibs are crunchy and taste like chocolate without the added sugar or milk.

You can find them in most grocery stores, by the baking section, but you may have better luck at an organic supermarket.

Use these nibs as you would chocolate by grinding them to a powder or simply baking the pieces as they are. Cacao nibs are a great addition for brownies, cakes, muffins, and other baked goods.

#3. Dark Chocolate

While technically still chocolate, this kind of chocolate is 70% cacao, so the flavor is strong and not too sweet. Eating this chocolate is not bad for your health when consumed in moderation, as it is high in antioxidants.

Use dark chocolate when baking cakes, brownies, cookies, and melt it for use in sauces.

You can buy dark chocolate in any grocery store, but there may be more variety at an organic or health store. Use the same amount as the recipe indicates, but keep in mind that you may need to add more sugar to counterbalance the bitterness.

For Smores, Ganache, and Cookies

#4. Carob

You may have never heard of carob, but this is a tropical pod originally from the Mediterranean. The pulp is first roasted and then ground into a powder that looks and tastes similar to cocoa. This choice is naturally low in calories and fat, and it is vegan-friendly.

Use carob when making ganache, cookies, brownies, and when cooking sauces or marinades. You can find carob in most health or organic stores, either as a powder, liquid, or chips. Use the same amount as you would chocolate, but consider adding a sweetener too.

#5. Almond Butter + Cocoa

While the flavor of almond butter is completely different, you can mix in cocoa powder and make for a tasty butter. Use this mix when baking brownies, cookies, or when you want to make healthy smores.

You can buy almond butter anywhere these days, as it is a high protein snack that also has a good amount of essential fatty acids.

If you want to replace chocolate, your best bet is mixing ½ teaspoon of cocoa powder with 1 ½ tablespoon of almond butter. Keep in mind that almond butter has a nutty taste and is very dense.

#6. Chocolate Milk

This is not a vegan option, but using chocolate milk can work great in place of chocolate.

Use chocolate milk when making ganache, brownies, cookies, cake, and other baked goods. However, keep in mind that this is a liquid, so you may have to change the number of liquids in the recipe.

You can find chocolate milk in any grocery or convenience store, as it is a common drink for children. You may want to reduce any sugar you use because chocolate milk is very sweet. If you want, mix in a bit of cocoa powder to make the flavor stronger.

Carob is the only other choice that truly tastes like cocoa but doesn’t contain any. This pod is also roasted and ground into a powder or liquid, which makes it similar to cocoa powder. It is also low in calories and fat.

You can eat dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa, but if you prefer to spare the sugar, eat something sweet like yogurt or whole fruit. Another good snack idea is almond butter or peanut butter with apples. In moderation, you can eat chocolate when you crave it.

If you don’t have any semi-sweet chocolate, use the same amount of unsweetened chocolate or cocoa and add a bit of sugar. You can also add milk chocolate, but keep in mind that it is much sweeter.

Chocolate is a treat for most of us, and sometimes we indulge in desserts and sauces that use this ingredient. Yet, these days we are all trying to be healthy, and that may mean no more chocolate. Use any of these 6 alternatives for all your chocolate-rich recipes and for very tasty flavors.


Another important adjustment to the pancake batter involves the leavener you plan to use. Traditional baking powder includes an alkaline ingredient -- sodium bicarbonate -- and one or two acids -- cream of tartar and sodium aluminum sulfate. Cocoa powder may also include an acid, making three acids in the batter. The resulting pancake will be overinflated. You must adjust for the extra acid from the cocoa powder by substituting the baking powder for baking soda -- sodium bicarbonate. For every 1 teaspoon of baking powder, you substitute 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Experiment with this to get the level of fluffiness you like.

Not all cocoas are the same. The Dutch-processed cocoa is processed to neutralize the acid in the powder. It has a mild flavor that won't overpower the flavors in the pancakes. Natural unsweetened cocoa has some acid in it, and this cocoa also has a stronger chocolate flavor. Dutch cocoa has a slight red color, while natural unsweetened cocoa is brown.


Chocolate and coconut—talk about a decadent combination. Make a homemade candy bar for a more wholesome tropical treat.

About the Author: Holli Ryan is a food and nutrition expert, Registered and Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist, health and wellness writer, blogger, and social media specialist based in South Florida. In her free time she enjoys photography, cooking, art, music, and nature.


Side Effects

  • There are no potent side effects of consuming moderate amounts of cocoa powder on a daily basis.
  • However, consuming higher amounts of cocoa (above 60 grams/day) can cause caffeine-related side effects like nervousness, excess urination, sleeplessness and increased heartbeat.
  • Few people have also experienced issues like constipation, headaches and skin reactions if they are allergic to cocoa powder. Also, individuals complain of digestive issues of intestinal discomfort, nausea, stomach aches and gastric problems.

What Happens if You Use the Wrong Cocoa Powder?

On the other hand, the wrong choice of powder could interrupt the leavening process. Cakes may have a tougher time rising if the wrong powder is used. If you add Dutched cocoa to a recipe that relies on the acidity of natural cocoa as a balancing agent, the end result will also taste a bit more bitter and soapy — which makes sense given that soap is tilted toward the basic end of the pH scale. 

So hopefully you&aposre now an expert in the two types of cocoa powder. While that chemistry crash course might feel complex, just remember that this is ultimately about choosing between only two different types of cocoa powder. Even if you retained none of what you just read, you&aposve already got a 50-50 chance of getting things right. The odds could certainly be worse.