Cocoa Powder
– Which Type Is Best for Baking?

Cocoa Powder comes in a variety of forms and from a variety of sources and when you choose to bake, you need to know the difference. There are basically two main types of powder you can use in baking, but do you know what they are and when to use them?

Join us now and learn about cocoa powder in your baking.

There is an easy answer to these questions, but before we get to that, let’s talk about how these two types of cocoa are different from each other and why it’s a good idea to use one over another, depending on the recipe.


How is Cocoa Powder Made?

Dutch processed cocoa and baking or unsweetened cocoa are manufactured with the same process initially.

It all begins with cacao beans! Cacao beans grow within large pods. At the time of harvest, the pods are split open and the beans are removed from the pod. The beans are set aside for a time so they can ferment.

Roasting the cacao beans is next, which brings out the rich flavor of the bean. Once the beans have fermented and have been roasted, the hulls are removed from the bean – this reveals what is called a cacao nib.

The nibs are then ground up to produce a paste-like substance called chocolate liquor. Make no mistake; this is not the chocolate liquor you would want to drink!

Where does the cocoa powder come from? Chocolate liquor, left in this state, is useless because it’s full of fat and grease. In order to make it into something palatable, the liquor is pressed, which produces two products: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

The cocoa powder comes from the solids, which are pressed a second time to produce a product called press cake. Once the press cake has dried completely, it’s ground up to produce cocoa powder.

Dutch Processed Cocoa vs. Baking Cocoa

The Dutch processed cocoa goes through one more step than the baking cocoa. It’s treated with an alkaline solution resulting in a neutral product, or one with no acidity.

This type of cocoa is much darker than the baking cocoa and it has a milder taste.

Natural cocoa does not undergo this final step, so it does have a natural acidity. Baking cocoa, also referred to as natural cocoa or unsweetened cocoa, is lighter in appearance than the Dutch cocoa. It also has a deeper, richer, and stronger chocolate flavor than Dutch cocoa.

One disadvantage of Dutch processed cocoa is that the last step in the manufacturing process strips the cocoa of healthy Flavinoids.

The healthier choice is the natural cocoa, but if you’re using the powder to make a dessert, perhaps that isn’t as important as if you were using the powder in a main dish or vegetable side dish.

Processed and Natural Cocoa

Which One Do You Use in a Recipe?

You may remember that I mentioned there is a quick way to know which cocoa powder to use in your recipe? Here is how I remember it:

A...If the recipe calls for baking soda, then the recipe is calling for Natural Cocoa.

B...Recipes containing baking powder and cocoa require the Dutch cocoa.

An easy way to remember this without having to memorize it is to put an index card or note to yourself either in front of your recipe book or recipe box. Or, if you’re like me, you could post it inside one of your kitchen cabinets for quick reference whenever you’re baking.

Baking soda = Natural Cocoa

Baking powder = Dutch processed Cocoa

Jarrod at Homeschooling Dad had this to say:

As a cook, I would recommend that if your audience sees baking powder in a recipe that calls for natural cocoa they shouldn’t be too concerned.

Baking powder is simply baking soda with cream of tartar and cornstarch and a few trace chemicals that make it double acting (some of the leavening occurs when it comes in contact with liquid but the majority happens when it meets the heat).

Baking soda by itself is single acting (all the leavening occurs when it meets liquid).

Uses for Cocoa Powder

Both of these types of powder are fantastic for baking, but they can be used in other ways too.

  • Make hot cocoa by mixing it with heated water or milk

  • Added to baked vegetables for added flavor

  • An extra ingredient in pie filling for a hint of chocolate taste

  • Marinades for meat

  • Garnish on hot chocolate or specialty coffee drinks

Keep in mind that it's never a good idea to substitute one for the other as if they are interchangeable. See the bottom of the page for a link to baking and cocoa substitutions (if you absolutely have to make a substitution).

Now you’re an expert! That was simple, wasn’t it? Want to try out your new-found knowledge? Try Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe HERE!, Mint Brownies Recipe HERE!, or Chocolate Bundt Cake Recipe HERE! and see how easy it is to make the distinction between these two types of cocoa powder using the simple tip above.

Maybe you don’t have the type of powder you need for the recipe on hand. You can make substitutions (click HERE!) if you don’t want to run to the grocery store right away.

Easy Cocoa Drink Recipe

Jarrod was also gracious enough to share his family's favorite cocoa drink mix!

Mix together 1 spoon of cocoa to 2 spoons of sugar in a coffee mug. You can use just a regular coffee teaspoon to measure. Add a little hot milk to make a paste and then mix the rest of the hot milk, a splash of vanilla, and mix it all together.

He also mentioned that a great way to use up all of those peppermint candy canes from Christmas is to crush them up with the hot chocolate.

Adding 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with the cocoa and milk will give you a thicker consistency if you so desire.

Many thanks to you Jarrod for sharing with us!

And Just One More Thought...

Wondering which kind of chocolate to use in your recipe?

You won't wonder any longer once you read about all the delicious types of chocolate HERE!!

Check it for ideas and suggestions...or maybe just to look at the pictures!

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