What can I use instead of unsweetened cocoa powder? The best substitutes for unsweetened cocoa powder are similarly intense chocolate ingredients like Dutch-processed cocoa powder, unsweetened baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, or cacao powder, with acid, liquid, and fats adjustments. Carob powder and chips are good alternatives for caffeine intolerance, replacing cocoa 1:1. Drinking cocoa is a last resort because of additives.
If you’re making brownies, muffins, or cake but have no unsweetened cocoa powder, there are everyday pantry items to use instead. We recommend these substitutes for unsweetened cocoa powder.
The best alternative to unsweetened cocoa powder is Dutch-processed cocoa powder, as it has a similar flavor and color.
Natural or unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-processed cocoa powder undergo slightly different production processes.
Natural cocoa powder comes from roasted cocoa beans. Cocoa beans for Dutch-processed powder undergo roasting and washing with potassium carbonate, making the powder mellow and less acidic.
Substitute equal amounts of Dutch-processed cocoa powder for unsweetened cocoa powder as they contain the same sugar and fat levels, with one caveat.
If you use a recipe requiring baking soda, you will need to add a dash of acid if you use Dutch-processed cocoa. Baking soda needs the acid in cocoa powder to function as a rising or leavening agent, and Dutch processing removes acid from cocoa.
Add ⅛ teaspoon acid (white vinegar or lemon juice) for every three tablespoons of natural cocoa powder.
Black Cocoa Powder
Ever wondered what makes Oreos so dark? They’re made with a variation of Dutch-processed cocoa powder called black cocoa powder.
Black cocoa powder undergoes Dutch processing, whereby the acids are removed, but to a far greater extent. The process makes the powder as dark as charcoal, intensely chocolatey, and completely alkaline.
Replace unsweetened cocoa powder with black cocoa powder in equal ratios as the fat and sugar levels are similar. Your bake will be darker and may taste even more chocolatey.
However, only use black cocoa powder in recipes that use baking powder as a leavening agent. Black cocoa powder has no acid at all – adding acid as for Dutch-processed cocoa won’t work if baking soda is the leavening agent.
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
Another excellent substitute in terms of flavor and color is unsweetened baking chocolate.
Unsweetened baking chocolate and cocoa powder are made from cocoa bean solids. However, chocolate also contains cocoa butter, making it richer and creamier.
To replace cocoa powder with chocolate, you first need to melt the chocolate, preferably over a double boiler.
Substitute one ounce of unsweetened melted baking chocolate for every three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.
Ideally, add the melted chocolate when creaming sugar and butter or adding wet ingredients to your mixing bowl.
Because chocolate contains a lot more cocoa butter than cocoa powder does, you will need to decrease the quantity of fat in the recipe.
Omit one tablespoon of butter, shortening, or oil per ounce of chocolate to prevent the mixture from becoming too oily.
The best chocolate chip substitutes for unsweetened cocoa are unsweetened or semi-sweetened chocolate chips, but you can use any chocolate chips.
Chocolate chips contain cocoa bean solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, making their taste and consistency different from cocoa powder.
As with baking chocolate, melt the chocolate chips before adding to the sugar and butter or wet ingredients. You can also grind or pulverize the chocolate chips in a blender (or with a rolling pin) and add them as you would cocoa powder.
Substitute half a cup of chocolate chips for every three tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Reduce the amount of fat in your recipe by one tablespoon for every half cup of chocolate chips.
Depending on the kind of chocolate chips you’re using (e.g., milk chocolate), you may also want to reduce the sugar in your bake.
Raw Cacao Powder
Another substitute for unsweetened cocoa powder is raw cacao powder.
Cocoa and cacao are both manufactured from powdered cocoa beans. However, cocoa undergoes more processing and roasting, while cacao is a “raw” or less processed and unroasted product.
Health foodies enthuse about raw cacao powder for its nutritional value and lack of processing – it’s a more natural product. It does have a noticeably different flavor to cocoa powder, more robust and bitter.
You can use cacao powder instead of cocoa powder in baking, but the high temperatures tend to destroy the desirable antioxidants it has in its raw state.
Use less cacao than cocoa powder as it is far more potent in flavor and tends to absorb more liquid. You may need to adjust the amount of fluid in the recipe to make up for this.
Ideally, use cacao instead of cocoa for uncooked cookies, desserts, and smoothies, or cacao nibs to decorate a cake.
If you want to omit cocoa powder because of caffeine sensitivity, the ideal substitute is carob powder.
Carob powder comes from the dried pods of the carob tree, is caffeine-free, and tastes similar to cocoa. It is nutritionally similar to cocoa as well.
You can replace cocoa powder with equal quantities of carob powder, as it contains similar amounts of fat. Carob is a little sweeter than cocoa powder but won’t influence the recipe.
Carob chips are a further substitute for cocoa powder.
Carob chips combine carob powder, butter or coconut oil, a sweetener (sugar or stevia), and flavoring (vanilla). These chips were intended as a healthier alternative to chocolate chips.
The additional ingredients in carob chips mean that you will need to adjust your recipe if you want to use carob chips as a substitute for cocoa powder.
Substitute one ounce of melted carob chips for every three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Add the melted carob with the sugar and butter or wet ingredients.
Adjust for the extra fat by reducing the oil or butter by one teaspoon. If you prefer a dark chocolate flavor, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.
Sweetened Cocoa Powder Or Drinking Cocoa Mix
A last-resort alternative for unsweetened cocoa powder is the cocoa powder used for making winter beverages.
Cocoa powder intended for warm drinks is not the same as unsweetened cocoa powder. Drinking cocoa contains cocoa powder but has additional spices, sugar or sweeteners, flavoring and coloring agents, and milk solids.
Hot chocolate is another type of drinking cocoa but is entirely unsuitable as a substitute because it contains too little cocoa powder and too much sugar.
Substitute drinking cocoa in the same ratio as cocoa powder but be aware that it doesn’t have the same chocolatey punch – you will need to add more cocoa mix to get the same flavor intensity.
Although drinking cocoa mix will add the chocolatey flavor and color cocoa provides, it will make your bake much sweeter, so you may want to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, especially if you up the cocoa mix.