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8 Best Substitutes for Cocoa Powder

Last Updated on May 2, 2024

Cocoa powder, with its distinctly rich and chocolatey flavor, is often used as a staple ingredient in baking and cooking. However, if you run out of cocoa powder or want to try something different, there are several cocoa powder substitutes you can use instead.

Experiment with these alternatives to find the best one for your recipe. Always remember to adjust the quantities of your substitute accordingly and to keep in mind the distinct flavors of each replacement. 

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is a dark, fine powder that is typically used in baking and cooking recipes. Made from roasted cocoa beans, the powder contains no sugar and has a bitter taste on its own.

cocoa powder

However, when mixed with other ingredients, cocoa powder can unleash a rich, chocolate flavor and lend a deep, dark color to foods.

Cocoa powder is a natural source of flavanols, which are antioxidants that may benefit heart health, and brain function, and lower the risk of chronic diseases. It can also be used as a dietary supplement for those looking to increase their intake of essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Along with its use for baking and for hot cocoa, cocoa powder is also gaining popularity as an ingredient in smoothies, ice cream, and other chocolate-flavored treats.

Different Types of Cocoa Powder

cocoa powder replacement

There are two types of cocoa powder – natural and Dutch-processed. Natural cocoa powder is acidic and has a slightly fruity taste, while Dutch-processed cocoa powder is less acidic and has a smoother flavor.

Both types of cocoa powder can be used interchangeably in recipes depending on personal taste preferences. It is made by grinding cocoa beans into a paste and separating the cocoa solids from the fat (cocoa butter).

The solids are then dried, ground, and sifted to make the powder. Natural cocoa powder has a rich chocolate flavor but is acidic in taste and has a lighter color.

Dutch-processed cocoa powder or alkalized cocoa powder is treated with an alkalizing agent to neutralize the acidity of natural cocoa powder. This results in a milder flavor and a darker color, making it preferable for baked goods and chocolate drinks. 

When baking or cooking with cocoa powder, be sure to use the appropriate type for your recipe to achieve your desired taste and texture.

Why Use Cocoa Powder Substitutes?

cacao powder

Health Reasons to Consider Substitutes

There are numerous health reasons to consider substituting cocoa powder in your diet. Cocoa powder contains cocoa butter which is high in calories, and fat, and can trigger migraine attacks in some individuals.

According to NutritionValue.Org, there are nearly 12 grams of fat in 86 grams of cocoa, which is about 15% of fat.

Availability and Cost

It’s a popular ingredient used in baking and cooking, but its availability and cost can sometimes make it difficult to obtain. There are several substitutes for cocoa powder that you can use in your recipes without sacrificing taste or texture.

As for the cost, carob powder is often less expensive than cocoa powder, and unsweetened chocolate and Dutch-processed cocoa powder are usually comparable in price.

8 Best Substitutes for Cocoa Powder

Here are a variety of cocoa powder alternatives that you can use:

1. Carob Powder


Carob powder is the best cocoa powder substitute, especially for those who are allergic to chocolate or are looking for a healthier alternative.

While substituting, be sure to adjust the quantity accordingly as every substitute has a different flavor intensity and sweetness.

2. Raw Cacao Powder 

cocoa hot

Raw cacao powder is becoming increasingly popular as a substitute for traditional cocoa powder in baking and cooking.

One of the main reasons for this is that raw cacao powder is less processed than cocoa powder, which means it contains more nutrients and antioxidants.

The processing of cocoa powder often involves high heat and alkali treatment, which can reduce its nutrient content.

In addition to being a healthier option, raw cacao powder also has a more intense and complex flavor than cocoa powder, with a slightly bitter taste that can be tempered with other ingredients like sweeteners and milk.

However, raw cacao powder does not always behave the same way as cocoa powder in recipes, and it may require adjustments to the amounts used or cooking methods. 

3. Black Cocoa Powder

black cocoa

Black cocoa powder: This deep, rich cocoa powder has been heavily processed, giving it a more intense flavor than traditional cocoa powder. Use it in small amounts as a substitute for cacao powder in recipes.

4. Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder

dutch cocoa

Dutch-processed cocoa powder, also known as alkalized cocoa powder, is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acidity levels.

This process results in a smoother, more mild chocolate flavor, darker color, and less bitter taste.

5. Espresso powder

expresso coffee

Espresso powder is finely ground coffee beans that have been roasted and brewed. It can be used as a replacement for cocoa powder to add depth of flavor and richness to chocolate desserts.

Use 1 tablespoon of espresso powder for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.

6. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

best cocoa powder

This substitute works best for recipes that call for melted chocolate, such as brownies or cakes.

Simply melt the same amount of unsweetened baking chocolate as the cocoa powder called for in the recipe such as chocolate cake.

7. Dark Chocolate Chips

choco chips

Dark chocolate chips can be used as a substitute for cocoa powder. As dark chocolate contains a high cocoa content and adds a rich flavor and slight sweetness to your dish.

Simply melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave and use the melted chocolate in place of cocoa powder. 

Keep in mind that the texture of your dessert may change slightly with this substitution, but the taste will still be delicious.

8. Hot Cocoa Mix 

black cocoa powder

Hot cocoa mix contains cocoa powder, sugar, and sometimes other ingredients like vanilla extract and salt.

The added sweetness can help balance out bitterness in recipes that call for unsweetened cocoa powder. The convenience of already measured and mixed ingredients can also save time and effort in the kitchen.

Hot cocoa mix is especially useful in hot chocolate recipes, where the mix already contains sugar and other flavors that complement the cocoa.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that using hot cocoa mix will alter the flavor of the recipe because it’s sweeter than cocoa powder.

Adjusting the amount of sugar in the recipe and reducing any other added sweeteners may help mitigate this effect.

Overall, hot cocoa mix can be a convenient and tasty alternative to cocoa powder for many recipes. 

How to Choose the Right Substitutes

Understanding the different types of substitutes and how they may affect the outcome of the recipe is important in order to choose the best substitute for cocoa powder. We will discuss how to choose the right one for the following reasons:

🧇 Baking and Cooking Requirements

You can use these substitutes to achieve similar results.

Unsweetened chocolate: Use 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate can also be melted and used as an alternative to cocoa powder. Use 1 ounce of dark chocolate for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.

Carob powder: Carob powder is a popular cocoa powder substitute that has a similar taste and texture. Use the same amount of carob powder as cocoa powder called for in the recipe.

Espresso powder: Espresso powder can be mixed with hot water and used as a sub. Use 1 tablespoon of Espresso powder for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.

These substitutes can work well in some recipes, but it’s important to note that they may alter the taste and texture of the final product.

🧇 Flavor and Taste Considerations

Here are some popular substitutes that have similar flavor profiles:

Carob Powder – Carob powder is similar to cocoa powder, with a naturally sweet flavor and a hint of nuttiness. However, it is not as intense as cocoa powder, so you may need to adjust the quantity used.

Cacao Powder – Cacao powder is made from ground cacao beans and has a deep chocolate flavor and a slightly bitter taste profile. It works well as a substitute in recipes that call for unsweetened cocoa powder.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa – Dutch-processed cocoa powder is treated with an alkaline solution, creating a milder flavor and a darker color. It works well in baked goods or chia pudding that require a smooth texture.

Dark Chocolate – Melted dark chocolate can be used as a replacement for cocoa powder in recipes that call for unsweetened cocoa powder. However, it adds more richness and sweetness to the recipe.

Be sure to taste the recipe when using a substitute for cocoa powder to determine if you need to adjust the quantity or make any other modifications.

To Sum Up

In conclusion, while cocoa powder is a delicious and essential ingredient in many recipes. There are several substitutes available for those who cannot consume it or prefer to try something new.

Each substitute has its unique taste and texture, so you should start by using small amounts and adjust the recipe as needed.

Don’t let the absence of cocoa powder deter you from making your favorite dessert. With these cocoa powder substitutes, you can still indulge in a delicious treat without compromising on the taste.

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Recipes Using Cocoa Powder

cocoa powder substitutes

8 Best Cocoa Powder Substitutes

If you're looking for a cocoa powder substitute for baking or cooking, here are 8 of the best substitutes for cocoa powder.
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 people


  • Understanding the different types of substitutes and how they may affect the outcome of the recipe is important in order to choose the best substitute for cocoa powder.

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