Cocoa powder is an unsweetened chocolate product made with cocoa beans that are fermented, roasted, and pressed to extract the cocoa butter. Cocoa powder is produced by grinding the leftover cocoa beans.
Cocoa powder is a flavorful product with a distinct bitter taste. When added to recipes, the cocoa powder gives a rich chocolate taste and dark brown color. Cocoa powder is commonly used in baking and dessert recipes.
Best Substitute for Cocoa Powder: Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
The best substitute for cocoa powder is unsweetened baking chocolate. Like cocoa powder, unsweetened baking chocolate is made with cocoa solids. However, unsweetened baking chocolate contains more fat than cocoa powder, which helps the chocolate to hold shape. Unsweetened baking chocolate has a bitter taste, a rich chocolate smell, and no added sugars, which makes this chocolate a great alternative to cocoa powder.
You can use unsweetened baking chocolate in most recipes that require cocoa powder, like brownies, chocolate cakes, cookies, and fudge. However, cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate are different in texture and fat content. To substitute cocoa powder with baking chocolate, use 1 ounce of chocolate for 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Melt baking chocolate on the stove or in the microwave before adding it to the baking mix.
Other Cocoa Powder Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are many other cocoa powder substitutes you can use when cooking or baking. Some substitutes are powder-based and are easier to substitute. Other substitutes are solid chocolate, which closely resembles the flavor of cocoa powder but are more difficult to accurately substitute.
Dark chocolate is one of the best substitutes for cocoa powder because dark chocolate and cocoa powder have similar flavors. Dark chocolate contains less sugar than other chocolate substitutes and replicates the bitter, rich cocoa flavors of cocoa powder in most recipes. Dark chocolate is made with a higher percentage of cocoa (between 50% and 80%) than milk chocolate and contains a small amount of added sugar and milk.
When using dark chocolate as a substitute, choose the best-quality dark chocolate available. The higher the quality of the dark chocolate, the less sugar and fats the chocolate will have, and the closer in flavor to cocoa powder the chocolate should be. Dark chocolate works well in most chocolate recipes, such as chocolate cakes, puddings, muffins, and brownies.
Melt the dark chocolate before using it in a recipe. Substitute cocoa powder for dark chocolate with a ratio of roughly 1:2. Dark chocolate is naturally fattier compared to cocoa powder, so reduce the amount of oil or butter in your recipe by 20% to 30% when using dark chocolate as a substitute.
Hot Cocoa Mix
Hot cocoa mix is a good substitute for cocoa powder in some recipes. Hot cocoa mix is used for making instant hot cocoa made by adding boiling water. Hot cocoa mix is made with cacao beans, dried milk, and sugars.
Hot cocoa mix isn’t the best substitute for cocoa powder in recipes that require the bitter, aromatic chocolate flavor, like brownies. However, this mix works well in recipes like chocolate pancakes, chocolate mug cakes, chocolate sauces, and drinks like milkshakes.
Use the same amount of hot cocoa mix as a cocoa powder (ratio 1:1). Cocoa mix powder has added sugars, so cut back on sugar in the recipe.
Hot Chocolate Mix
The hot chocolate mix is thicker and richer than the hot cocoa mix. A good-quality hot chocolate mix is made with a higher proportion of cocoa. The hot chocolate mix isn’t as sweet as hot cocoa mix and has distinct bitter notes, making it a better alternative to cocoa powder than hot cocoa mix.
Hot chocolate mix can be used to add chocolate flavor and brown color to cakes, breakfast muffins, and chocolate pancakes. Use the same amount of hot chocolate mix in your recipe as a cocoa powder (ratio 1:1), but reduce the amount of other used sweeteners in the recipe, because the hot chocolate mix has more added sugars than unsweetened cocoa powder.
Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder
Dutch-process cocoa powder is an unsweetened cocoa powder with no added sugars. This powder is made from cocoa beans that are treated with an alkaline solution to reduce the beans’ acidity. Duch-process cocoa powder is darker and less bitter compared to cocoa powder but isn’t sweet as cocoa powder. This makes Dutch-process cocoa powder a good alternative to cocoa powder.
Because Dutch-process cocoa powder has low acidity, this powder is non-reactive to baking soda. An acid ingredient must be added to the recipe alongside baking soda when substituting cocoa powder with Dutch-process cocoa powder. Use 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, lemon juice, or white vinegar for every 3 tablespoons of Dutch-process cocoa powder in the recipe. Alternatively, replace regular milk with buttermilk for additional acidity.
When substituting cocoa powder with Dutch-process cocoa powder, use the same amount of powder in the recipe (ratio 1:1). Dutch-process cocoa powder is a good alternative to cocoa powder when making cakes and cookies.
Raw Cacao Powder
Raw cacao powder is the main ingredient in chocolate. Raw cacao powder is minimally processed, so the powder contains many of the nutrients and minerals found in cocoa beans. Most of the fatty cocoa butter is already removed from the beans when raw cacao powder is made.
Raw cacao powder has the rich, bitter flavor of chocolate and a dark brown color. Use raw cacao powder as a substitute for cocoa powder in most recipes, such as chocolate cakes, brownies, cookies, and hot chocolate. Cacao powder is a healthier alternative to cocoa powder, and one tablespoon of raw cacao powder contains 12 calories, around 1 gram of fat, and minimal sugar.
When substituting cocoa powder with raw cacao powder, use the same amount (ratio 1:1).
Carob powder is made from roasted carob tree pods and is similar to cocoa powder in color and texture. The carob tree is an evergreen tree that originated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Carob powder is frequently used as a substitute in vegan chocolate products. Carob powder has a different taste to cocoa powder, with sweet caramel, nutty and earthy flavors. Carob powder has lower levels of fat and is gluten-free and caffeine-free. The powder is higher in fiber and sugars but is less bitter compared to cocoa.
Carob powder can be used in most recipes as an alternative to cocoa powder, including bakes, desserts, and chocolate drinks, like milkshakes. When using carob powder as a substitute, add the same amount of carob powder as a cocoa powder (ratio 1:1). Carob powder lacks the distinct chocolate bitter taste, and you can add bitterness with a teaspoon of instant coffee. Because carob powder is sweeter than cocoa powder, you should cut back on sugar in the recipe.
Chocolate chips are a useful alternative to cocoa powder in most baking recipes, like brownies, cookies, and muffins. Chocolate chips come in many different kinds, and low-sugar chocolate chips are ideal. Unsweetened chocolate chips best match the bitter flavor of cocoa powder.
When substituting cocoa powder with chocolate chips, melt the chips to achieve the right consistency in the recipe. For every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, use half a cup of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are higher in sugar and fat than cocoa powder, and add less bitterness to the recipe compared to cocoa powder. Adjust your recipe as necessary to balance out the differences.
Chocolate couverture is high-quality chocolate used by professional chocolate chefs. Unlike regular chocolate, couverture is made from cocoa beans ground to a finer texture and contains a much higher proportion of cocoa butter. Chocolate couverture contains between 31% and 39% cocoa butter, so chocolate couverture is fattier than other substitutes.
Chocolate couverture has a rich chocolate flavor, which makes it a great alternative to cocoa powder. Use this substitute in recipes like brownies, cakes, and puddings, or finer desserts that require crafting decorative elements.
Substitute three tablespoons of cocoa powder with 1 ounce of couverture. Melt the couverture beforehand to achieve smoothness.
Chocolate syrup can be used to substitute cocoa powder in small amounts. Chocolate syrup isn’t made entirely out of chocolate and contains ingredients like corn syrup, fructose syrup, and various preservatives. These ingredients make the chocolate syrup a less predictable substitute for cocoa powder in most recipes.
Use chocolate syrup in recipes that don’t rely on the bitter chocolate flavor, like chocolate pancakes, brownies, or mug cakes.