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7 Easy to Use Substitutes for Cocoa Powder

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

Baking is a science, but sometimes it’s okay to experiment. You may not always agree with every ingredient a recipe may have. This is why most ingredients in a recipe have a substitute, even cocoa powder.

Whether you’ve forgotten to buy the ingredient or you don’t like the taste, below we describe different substitutes for cocoa powder.

Cocoa Powder
Cocoa Powder

What is Cocoa Powder Nutritional Value?

While cocoa powder doesn’t provide a good source of many nutrients, it has a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Cocoa powder is an unsweetened powder that derives from cocoa beans. When used in baking, it gives anything a rich chocolate flavor.

When it comes to nutritional value, cocoa powder is low in calories. A 2-tablespoon serving of cocoa powder has 25 calories.

Examples of vitamins and minerals you can find in a serving of cocoa powder include:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Niacin

Since cocoa powder comes naturally unsweetened, it’s low in sugar and fat. This makes it versatile when it comes to more health-conscious baking.

Cocoa powder comes in multiple different percentage levels when added to things like chocolate bars. If you’re looking for the most beneficial, it’s best to use 72% cocoa or more. The level of cocoa you add alters the flavor of the powder.

What Does it Taste Like?

Cocoa powder is naturally unsweetened, so it doesn’t have the chocolate bar flavor you might be used to. It comes in many levels, as low as 50% to 100%. This percentage alters the taste slightly depending on how much cocoa is in the product.

On its own, cocoa powder has a chocolate flavor. It’s bitter since it doesn’t have any natural sweetness. As you go lower on the percentage level, other ingredients, like sugar, are added to sweeten the cocoa powder.

In its natural form, cocoa powder has an earthy chocolate taste, followed by a bitter after-taste. The bitterness is not everyone’s cup of tea.

If cocoa powder isn’t your favorite, there are a variety of other ingredients you can use as an alternative.

Cocoa powder is great for adding a chocolate flavor to any dish, but alternatives are often needed. Whether you just ran out of your favorite tub of cocoa powder or want to use something else for that chocolate flavor, there are various alternatives you can use.

1. Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Mix
Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot cocoa mix is a great substitute for cocoa powder. The main difference between the two is hot cocoa mix has sugar and milk already incorporated into it, along with some artificial flavors.

Since hot cocoa mix is also a powder, you can use the same amount of it as you would cocoa powder in any recipe.

It’s best to keep in mind that hot cocoa mix has added sugar. So to not make your recipe too sweet, you should adjust accordingly.

2. Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Chips
Chocolate Chips

Chocolate chips can be used as a substitute for cocoa powder, although the flavor in your recipes will be slightly altered. Cocoa powder has a dark chocolate flavoring compared to sweeter chocolate chips.

To incorporate chocolate chips into your recipe, you must melt them before adding them in. Half a cup of chocolate chips would be equivalent to three tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Like the previous substitute, it’s best to lower other sugar-based ingredients in your recipe, so your dish doesn’t come out too sweet.

3. Baking Chocolate

Baking Chocolate
Baking Chocolate

Baking chocolate, like cocoa powder, is unsweetened. This makes baking chocolate a great substitute for cocoa powder in your recipe.

You don’t have to worry about adjusting the sweetness levels. Like cocoa powder, baking chocolate also has a deep chocolate flavor.

To substitute baking chocolate into your recipe, you should melt it and incorporate it with the butter in your recipe.

The equivalent of 2 tablespoons of melted baking chocolate is 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

4. Carob Powder

Carob Powder
Carob Powder

Carob powder and cocoa powder are produced in similar ways. Rather than a chocolate flavor, it has a more nutty flavor to it.

While the taste is not quite the same, since it’s also low in sugar, it’s a good 1-to-1 substitute. If the flavor of carob isn’t prominent enough for you, you can always add more.

5. Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has a very similar taste to cocoa powder. Dark chocolate is processed and does contain sugar but not enough that you would have to alter your recipe much.

Since dark chocolate comes as a bar, you would need to melt it down. This would make 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate equivalent to 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

6. Chocolate Syrup

Chocolate Syrup
Chocolate Syrup

Chocolate syrup is a quick alternative to cocoa powder if the recipe only calls for a small amount of cocoa powder. Chocolate syrup is very different in terms of how it’s processed and flavored.

If you have to use a lot of chocolate syrup to replace cocoa powder, it will likely alter the outcome of your recipe. If you plan to substitute with chocolate syrup, 5 spoons of chocolate syrup are equivalent to a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Since chocolate syrup is a liquid, your recipe may be more liquid than needed. You may need to alter the flour amount or water amount.

7. Raw Cocoa Powder

Raw Cocoa Powder
Raw Cocoa Powder

Raw Cocao Powder is very similar to Cocoa Powder, except it’s less processed. Since it’s essentially the same ingredient but with more nutrients and health benefits, it’s a great substitute for regular cocoa powder in your recipes.

It can be used in a 1-to-1 ratio when replacing cocoa powder in whatever dish you’re cooking.

Since it’s less processed, it is more absorbent. This absorbancy may result in you needing to adjust the amount of liquid in your recipe.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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