Everything You Need to Know About Cocoa Powder

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Cocoa powder is a flavorful, nutritious, concentrated, and unsweetened chocolate. It is made from cacao bean solids. It is versatile and is used in a wide range of recipes both commercially and for home use. This article will take a detailed look at this amazing ingredient, how it is made, its health benefits, and sample recipes it can be used in.

What Is Cocoa Powder Made Of?

Cocoa powder is the solid ground residue from roasted cocoa bean particles left behind after the cocoa butter is extracted. It is the most concentrated form of chocolate. It is a versatile ingredient that is used in a wide range of recipes.

How Is Cocoa Powder Made?

During processing, cocoa beans are fermented, dried, and roasted. They are then cracked into nibs and passed through a colloid mill to make them into cocoa liquor. The cocoa liquor goes through a defatting process to separate the cocoa butter leaving a cocoa cake-solid form of cocoa powder.

The defatting process involves pressing the cocoa liquor using a mechanical or hydraulic press at 400-500 bars of pressure at 90-100°C to separate the fat from the solid. The cocoa cake obtained is then ground into powder. The derived powder has 10-25% fat content.

Depending on the processing method, there are two main types of powder: natural and Dutch-processed. Cocoa products are labeled as natural blends or Dutch/alkalized.

Natural cocoa powder is made through the broma process. It has a PH of 5.3-5.8. Therefore, it is more acid making it bitter. It has a higher level of healthy cocoa polyphenols. It is lighter in color. It is also less costly than Dutch powder.

Dutch cocoa powder is made from treated cocoa beans. The beans are treated with an alkaline substance before or after roasting to neutralize the high acidity level in natural cocoa beans. The process of alkalizing the beans is known as dutching. In most cases, potassium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate is used for dutching cocoa powder.

Dutching raises the PH of the cocoa powder between 7 and 8. As a result, the powder is less bitter, has a milder flavor, and is darker in color than natural cocoa. Dutch cocoa powder is preferred for baking recipes that use baking powder rather than baking soda. This is because it does not react with baking soda due to its almost neutral PH. It also has a mellow flavor that blends in with most recipes well.

Natural cocoa powder is best suited for recipes that use baking soda. Its acidity reacts well with the alkalinity of the baking soda to enable the recipe to rise. If a recipe does not use baking powder or baking soda, you can use natural and Dutch powder interchangeably.

However, if the recipe calls for baking powder or baking soda, use Dutch and natural cocoa powder, respectively. Otherwise, your recipe may not rise or have an awful taste.

Hershey’s Cocoa Powder

Hershey’s Cocoa Powder

Hershey’s cocoa powder is one of the US’s most trusted and popular cocoa brands. You can easily order it on Amazon, through their website, or buy it at your local store. The company offers a wide range of products, including 100% natural unsweetened cacao powder and special dark cacao powder.

History of Cocoa

The history of cocoa dates back to 1500-400 BC among the ancient Olmecs of Southern Mexico. Archeologists and historians believe that the Olmecs were the first to discover the cocoa fruit as edible. They crushed the cocoa beans and mixed them with water, herbs, and spices to make a drink.

Over time, the knowledge and consumption of cocoa were passed down to the Mayans in 600 BC and the Aztecs in 400AD, who started cultivating cocoa beans. The Aztecs placed a high value on cocoa beans and believed they were given to them by the gods. They put monetary value in it and used cocoa beans as a means of levying a tax. They also used it for religious rituals.

During the conquest of the world, as Europeans entered South America, they learned of cocoa and brought it with them to their respective countries. Soon, the demand for cocoa across Europe blew up. Cocoa plantations were established, with thousands of enslaved people working in them. Europeans discovered new ways of making the beverage, including adding cane sugar, cinnamon, and other spices.  

Eventually, it entered North America in 1765 and soon spread throughout the world during the Industrial Era. The Europeans brought cocoa beans to Africa during the colonization era. Since the start of the 20th century, Africa has taken the lead in cocoa production across the globe.

Who Invented Cocoa Powder?

Although the early societies made cocoa in one form or the other, Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented the process and machines used to mass produce cocoa powder.

The cocoa beans would be ground into fine mass and used to make a beverage. In 1828, the chocolate maker invented a patented, inexpensive method of making cocoa powder. He invented a hydraulic press to remove cocoa butter from the cocoa beans.

The cake-like solid residue would then be pulverized to make powder. Coenraad further made improvements in cocoa production by introducing Dutching.

Cocoa Powder Substitutes

There are several substitutes you may consider, depending on their compatibility with your recipe. These include powdered unsweetened peanut butter, carob powder, chocolate chips, baking chocolate, dark molasses, espresso powder, chocolate malted milk powder, and chocolate syrup, among others.

Can You Use Chocolate Syrup Instead of Cocoa Powder?

It depends on the recipe. If making hot chocolate, you can. However, using it for baking may offset how well the ingredients come together. This is because chocolate syrup has a mix of ingredients—cocoa, sugar, powdered milk, additive, and corn syrup—that can alter your recipe. It is also a wet ingredient compared to powder, which is a dry ingredient.

Can You Use Hot Chocolate Mix Instead of Cocoa Powder?

You can use hot chocolate mix in most recipes that require cocoa powder. However, the chocolatey flavor may not be as intense as if you used cocoa powder. For substitution, use two teaspoons of hot chocolate mix for one teaspoon of powder.

Is Cocoa Powder the Same as Hot Chocolate Mix?

No, they are not the same. Cocoa powder is pure and does not contain any additives. It has a strong, bitter taste. On the other hand, the chocolate mix contains sugar and powdered milk. It is sweeter and has a milder chocolate taste.


According to the USDA database, cocoa powder contains 585 carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 14% fat. It also has a 3% moisture content. Therefore, 100g contains approximately 57.90g of carbohydrates, of which 33g are fiber, 19.60g of protein, and 13.70g of fat.

Cocoa powder is also rich in many minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, and sodium. It also contains caffeine and theobromine. Notably, 100g of powder provides 107% daily recommended iron, 141% magnesium, 183% manganese, and 105% phosphorous.

Calories in 2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

2 tbsp contains 24 calories

Calories in 1 Cup Cocoa Powder

1 cup contains 196 calories

Is Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Vegan?

Unsweetened cocoa is vegan. It does not contain dairy or any milk products. Neither does it contain any animal products such as eggs, meat, and honey.

Is Cocoa Powder Gluten-Free?

Yes, cocoa powder is gluten-free.

Are There Any Health Benefits?

Cocoa powder has numerous health and nutritional benefits as follows:

  • Boosts brain and cognitive health
  • Improves mental health
  • Improve symptoms of type-2 diabetes
  • Supports weight loss
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Boosts immunity
  • Improves skin health and gives you a radiant look and feel
  • Improves digestion and boosts gut health
  • Boost your metabolism
  • Balances hormones

Cocoa Powder Recipes

How to Make Chocolate Syrup From Cocoa Powder

chocolate syrup


  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 11/2 water


  1. Put the sugar, salt, water, and powder in a saucepan
  2. Place the saucepan on the stove over low heat
  3. Whisk continuously until the mixture begins to thicken
  4. Once thick enough, remove from the stove, add the vanilla extract, and whisk until well-mixed
  5. Let it cool. Note that the syrup becomes thicker as it cools
  6. Put it in your preferred storage container and store it in the refrigerator

How to Make Chocolate Syrup

It is possible to make chocolate syrup without cocoa powder. Follow the steps described above for making chocolate syrup with powder but replace the powder with dark chocolate or chocolate chips. Since the chocolate chips or dark chocolate already have sugar, use 1 cup of sugar instead of 1 1/2 cups.

How to Make Chocolate Sauce


  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup white or caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup milk (You can substitute with water)
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch/ wheat flour (optional for thickening)


  1. Put the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a saucepan
  2. Add the water
  3. Place the pan over heat and bring it to boil at medium to low heat for 2 minutes while stirring
  4. Add butter and continue to whisk
  5. If you want to thicken the sauce further, add the corn or wheat flour and stir until well-mixed
  6. Remove from the heat and let it cool down
  7. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

How to Make Chocolate Frosting


  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ melted margarine or butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar


  1. Put cocoa and melted margarine in a bowl. Beat them until well combined
  2. Then add milk and vanilla extract, and beat until smooth
  3. Gradually beat the confectioner’s sugar in until you achieve your desired consistency. You may add more milk if it is too thick or more sugar if the consistency is too runny

Homemade Chocolate Icing


  • 1 cup ice sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 40ml milk


  1. Sift the sugar and powder into a bowl
  2. Add the butter and beat at low to medium speed using an electric mixer or whisk until mixed properly
  3. Add milk gradually as you mix. 1-2 tablespoons of milk at a time.
  4. Once you reach your desired consistency, whisk at high speed for about 1-3 minutes to ensure all the ingredients are well mixed and to make the icing light and fluffy. The longer your beat, the fluffier and lighter it becomes
  5. Spread it onto your cake, cupcakes, or cookies, and enjoy

How to Make Chocolate Drizzle


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 40-50ml warm water


  1. Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl
  2. Add the powder to the mix
  3. Add butter or margarine and vanilla extract
  4. Whisk until well mixed
  5. Add water one tablespoon at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. The drizzle should be runny and thin



  • 1 ¼ granulated sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Melt the butter. While still warm but not hot, add the sugar and beat thoroughly
  3. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the bowl and whisk or mix until the ingredients are all well combined
  4. Add the eggs one at a time while stirring
  5. Add the cocoa powder
  6. Then gradually beat flour into the batter until it is thick. Use a wooden spatula for this step instead of an electric whisk. Overbeating the batter will make it airy and give it a cake-like texture
  7. Line up an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper
  8. Spread the batter on the pan
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes
  10. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely before removing it from the pan to prevent crumbling

Ganache With Cocoa Powder


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 -1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon strong-brewed coffee
  • ½ tsp vanilla


  1. Put the cream in a saucepan and cook it on low to medium heat while stirring. Allow it to simmer, and take it off before it starts to boil. You could also warm it in a microwave
  2. Whisk the powder directly into the hot cream. It helps to mix properly and prevents the formation of lumps
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk them until they are well combined and smooth
  4. Allow the ganache to cool. It should be a thick, easily spreadable consistency

Chocolate Milkshake


  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 cups of full-fat milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Ice cube


  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender
  2. Blend until well-mixed, smooth, and frothy
  3. Serve and enjoy

Chocolate Pancakes With Cocoa Powder


  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract


  1. Add the flour, powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl and mix them
  2. In another bowl, beat the eggs and butter, then add milk and vanilla extract
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Then fold in the chocolate chips
  4. Cook your pancakes on a griddle at medium to high heat
  5. Serve with chocolate ganache, fresh strawberries, or however else you like

Chocolate Soufflé


  • 100g unsalted butter
  • ½ cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 0.5 tsp cream of tartar or vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Butter the ramekins
  3. Put the butter in a bowl and then place it in the microwave or warm bath to melt it
  4. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks
  5. Then add the egg yolks, vanilla, powder, and salt and mix
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar or white vinegar to form stiff peaks
  7. Fold the egg white mixture into the cocoa mixture, a portion at a time
  8. Mix all the ingredients properly while being cautious not to deflate the egg whites
  9. Put the mixture in ramekins and bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes until the soufflés rise and are well cooked
  10. Allow them to cool down and serve as desired

Making Chocolate Milk With Cocoa Powder


  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (or any other sweetener)


  1. Put the water and powder in a cup and place them in a microwave
  2. Warm for 15-20 seconds
  3. Mix until smooth
  4. Add the sugar and a ¼ portion of the milk into the cup and put it back into the microwave for 20-30 seconds
  5. Add the remaining portion of milk and stir until all the ingredients are well mixed.

Alternatively, blend all the ingredients in a blender until well-mixed. Or put the ingredients in a jar and mix with an immersion blender.

How Do You Make Homemade Cocoa Powder?

If you have some cacao beans at home, you can use them to make powder. The process is simple and bypasses the fermenting and defatting stage. Therefore, the powder will have the full flavor of cacao beans.

What you Need

  • Skillet
  • Grinder
  • 2 bowls
  • Cacao beans


  1. Wash the cacao beans and drain them
  2. Heat the skillet in medium to high heat
  3. Put the cacao beans in the skillet and roast them. Regularly turn the cacao beans when roasting to prevent them from burning
  4. Once roasted, allow them to cool
  5. Separate the nibs from the shells. Simply twist the beans with your fingers to crumble the shell
  6. Put the nibs in a grinder and grind them
  7. Sieve the powder and put it in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place

How to Make Your Own Hot Cocoa Powder


  • 1 ½ cups dry milk powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch


  1. Sieve all the ingredients
  2. Mix them well
  3. Store in a cool, dry place

Does Cocoa Powder Go Bad?

Cocoa powder does not necessarily go bad and will not make you ill, even if it is expired unless it has mold. However, it loses its potency over time. In this case, its taste and flavor become bland and lose their chocolatey taste. The powder may also become clumpy and lumpy.

If exposed to moisture, it may become moldy, making it unsuitable for human consumption.

Dispose of it if you notice a bad odor, distinct change in color, or mold.

How Long Does It Last?

Typically, cocoa powder lasts three years if unopened and about one year when opened. Manufacturers usually indicate one to two years expiration or best-by date from the manufacturing date. It is best to use your powder before the expiration date.

How Do You Store Cocoa Powder?

You should store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Can Dogs Eat Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is toxic to dogs. It contains relatively high levels of theobromine and caffeine —known as methylxanthine—which cause a wide range of mild to severe symptoms in dogs, including increased heart rate, seizures and tremors, rapid breathing, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness, among others.

Of all types of cocoa and chocolate powders, natural powder has the highest level of methylxanthine, making it the most toxic to dogs. An ounce of natural powder contains 807mg of methylxanthine. The toxicity level depends on the dog’s weight and the amount of powder consumed. It would take about 4g of cocoa powder to cause severe toxicity in a 10-pound dog.

Can Cats Eat Cocoa Powder?

Similar to dogs, the powder is toxic to cats. Since cats are generally smaller than dogs, it takes about 35mg of methylxanthine per kg weight of a cat to cause severe toxicity. 55mg/kg can be fatal. Therefore, it is best to keep it away from your cat.

Where to Find Cocoa Powder in the Grocery Store

Most grocery stores stock cocoa in the baking aisle. Check on the upper shelves. You can also find it in the section where teas and coffees are.


Cocoa powder has a rich history, just like its flavor and texture. It is made through a simple but intricate process that includes roasting, fermenting, defatting, and grinding or crushing the cocoa cake. It has numerous health benefits for humans but is toxic to cats and dogs.

There are unlimited ways to use it, including making pancakes, hot chocolate drinks, cakes, brownies, milkshakes, and many more. You can find it in the baking aisle in most grocery stores or buy it online.