10 Best Cocoa Powder Substitutes for Baking


Craving a slice of delicious moist chocolate cake but fresh out of cocoa powder? I know how you feel. Instead of running to the store, you might be able to find some good cocoa powder substitutes to replace it.

Some of the best cocoa powder substitutes include unsweetened baking chocolate, carob powder, hot cocoa mix, and, if you’re really in a pinch, Nutella or chocolate syrup!

In this article, we shed light on the best cocoa powder substitutes for baking, so stick around.

Unsweetened Chocolate

The best cocoa powder alternative is unsweetened chocolate. After all, cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate both come from cocoa beans. The only difference between the two is how they’re processed.

For every three tablespoons of cocoa powder your recipe requires, substitute it with about an ounce of melted unsweetened chocolate.

You may want to reduce the amount of fat in the original recipe as well, as unsweetened chocolate contains more fat than cocoa powder. For instance, if you’re using two ounces of baking chocolate, you may want to decrease the amount of shortening or butter by two tablespoons.

If you don’t have unsweetened chocolate available, you can also use a regular chocolate bar. However, since chocolate bars already have quite a bit of sugar in them, you may want to reduce the sugar in your recipe accordingly.

Carob PowderViva Naturals #1 Best Selling Certified Organic Cacao Powder from Superior Criollo Beans, 1 LB Bag

Carob is a well-known vegan chocolate substitute that comes from the flowering shrub of a carob tree. Carob shares just about the same production process as cocoa powder and looks quite similar.

There are many reasons why carob has been dubbed as the ultimate chocolate substitute. For one, it has low amounts of fat and sugar, making it a suitable replacement for those who are partaking in a low-fat diet. It doesn’t have caffeine or gluten, either.

If you’re planning to use carob as a cocoa powder replacement, keep in mind that it doesn’t taste like chocolate. Instead, it has a nutty, almost caramel-like undertone that can be described as earthy.

This chocolate powder alternative is used as a one-to-one substitute. However, as it lacks the distinctive bitterness that’s unique to cocoa powder, you may want to add a teaspoon of instant coffee to your recipe.

If you prefer a stronger, more pronounced flavor, you may want to use a little bit more of the carob powder.

And, finally, as carob is naturally sweet, you may likewise want to slightly adjust your recipe’s sugar level by two to three tablespoons.

Hot Cocoa Mix

The hot cocoa mix works brilliantly well as a cocoa powder substitute if you’re in a pinch. After all, hot cocoa mix is just cocoa powder mixed with milk, sugar, spice, and small amounts of artificial flavors.

Use the same amount of hot cocoa mix as the cocoa powder listed in the recipe. However, you may want to slightly reduce the amount of milk and sugar in the recipe depending on the percentage listed on the packet’s label.

Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder

Ghirardelli Unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa Pouch, 8 Ounce, Brown, Dark Chocolate

Dutch-process cocoa, also known as alkalized cocoa, has a milder taste compared to natural cocoa powder because it’s washed in an alkaline solution that neutralizes its acidity. This is why Dutch-process cocoa doesn’t typically react with baking soda during the baking process.

Cocoa powder falls at around 5 on the pH scale, while Dutch-process cocoa has a pH level of 7 (neutral) to 8 (basic). Other than the taste, Dutch-process cocoa powder is often darker in color. Usually, the darker the cocoa powder, the milder the flavor.

Many bakers prefer the taste of Dutch-process cocoa because it has a more well-rounded and complex flavor. However, some avoid it because it prevents cakes and muffins from rising as high as natural cocoa powder.

This can be remedied by adding 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar or baking powder in the mix for every three tablespoons of Dutch-process cocoa used. If you don’t have either, you can add a drop of vinegar or lemon juice, instead.

[Related Article: 10 Best Storage Containers for Baking Supplies and Buying Guide

Black Cocoa Powder

Green and Blacks Cocoa - Organic Fair Trade 100% cocoa powder

Black cocoa powder is a type of cocoa powder that’s heavily alkalized. It has a strong, robust flavor and a smooth, non-bitter taste. Unlike regular cocoa powder, which is light to dark brown in color, black cocoa powder is extremely black. Black cocoa powder is what gave Oreos its signature dark look.

As long as your recipe calls for no more than 3/4 cup of cocoa powder, you’ll be able to substitute it with equal amounts of black cocoa powder without any issues. Keep in mind that black cocoa powder has little to no fat, meaning your baked good may turn out drier than expected. To avoid this, add a tablespoon of Greek yogurt or sour cream to your recipe.

Similar to Dutch-process cocoa, black cocoa powder doesn’t react to baking soda. Therefore, you may need to add an extra teaspoon or two of baking powder to encourage rising.

Raw Cacao Powder

As we know, cocoa powder is made by roasting raw cacao at extremely high temperatures. Therefore, raw cacao is the less processed version of cocoa powder, implying that it’s more natural and healthier than its counterpart.

Indeed, raw cacao powder contains more health benefits than regular cocoa powder. For one, it’s packed with flavonoids, a nutrient that’s believed to help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and improve blood flow. It’s also an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, protein, iron, and fiber.

Compared to cocoa powder, raw cacao is stronger and much more absorbent. For these reasons, it’s best to increase the sugar and liquid measurements of your recipe to balance the taste.

Chocolate Chips

For every three tablespoons of cocoa powder, half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips can be used. Similar to unsweetened chocolate, you’ll want to reduce your recipe’s fat content by one tablespoon. You might also want to decrease the sugar content of your recipe.

Thoroughly melt the chocolate chips in your microwave or over a double boiler, and pour it after the sugar and butter have been added to the bowl. Doing so ensures that the melted chocolate chips are fully integrated with the rest of the ingredients.

Chocolate chips don’t have that signature deep, chocolaty flavor, so your dessert might not be as rich as your recipe originally intended. You may also notice a slight change in the dessert’s texture, but it’s subtle enough to go unnoticed.

Nutella

Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Perfect Topping for Valentine's Day Treats, 7.7 oz (Pack of 12)

Nutella is a type of chocolate and hazelnut spread that’s commonly used as a topping for breakfast toast, waffles, pancakes, icecreams, and more. You’ll also find Nutella being used as the main ingredient in chocolate cakes, brownies, cheesecakes, and similar desserts.

For every three tablespoons of cocoa powder, use about four ounces of Nutella. Nutella is already extremely sweet, so you’ll want to decrease the amount of sugar needed in your recipe. It also contains about 15 grams of fat per tablespoon, so it’s important to add your ingredients carefully until the consistency is right.

Chocolate Syrup

Hershy's Chocolate Syrup, 2 / 48 oz. bottles

Chocolate syrup can be used in recipes that call for a tiny amount of cocoa powder. In no circumstance should you use chocolate syrup in cakes, brownies, or any other dessert that has cocoa powder as the main ingredient. This is because chocolate syrup isn’t 100% pure chocolate and may alter your recipe in ways that are difficult to predict.

With that said, for every tablespoon of cocoa powder, use about five to eight spoons of chocolate syrup. You might also need to greatly reduce the amount of water required in your recipe by about the same amount.

[Related Article: What Is a Good Substitute for Chocolate Syrup?]

Molasses

When you think of cocoa powder substitutes, molasses is probably the last thing that comes to mind. However, it’s actually a great cocoa powder substitute for recipes that call for small amounts of cocoa powder.

Molasses has a flavor unique to its name: nutty, with a slightly acidic caramel-like aftertaste. It adds a subtle smokey element to your recipe, so it’s important to add it in moderation.

For every tablespoon of cocoa powder required, add about two tablespoons of molasses. You may also need to alter the amount of sugar and water needed in your recipe, as molasses is quite sweet and hygroscopic.

Final Thoughts

When using a cocoa powder substitute, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your recipe’s texture might be altered, so some adjustments need to be made. However, some recipes require cocoa powder specifically, meaning substitutes won’t work.

Notice that chocolate is often used for mousses, ganache, puddings, and other rich but light desserts. While cocoa powder can be used as a replacement, it won’t give the recipe its deliciously luxurious silky taste. The same is said for cocoa powder.

If you want your cake to have a deep, moist, chocolatey flavor, use cocoa powder. But if you’re in a pitch, all the above substitutes work quite well as a cocoa powder alternative.

Jessica Blythe

Jessica Blythe is a passionate home cook, preparing delicious home cook meals daily for her family, She also enjoys baking as her favorite hobby.

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