Last Updated on July 10, 2022
Cocoa powder is a must-have ingredient in kitchens. But, you always run out when you need it most! Here are the best substitutes for cocoa powder.
All of the alternatives on our list are easy to find, even easier to use, and relatively affordable. So, let’s have a look at the best up to date substitutes for cocoa powder!
What Exactly Is Cocoa Powder?
We are fascinated by chocolate and the entire process of making different products from simple cocoa beans. Cocoa powder has become one of the most used ingredients in baking. But, few people actually appreciate what it is and where it comes from. So, we are here to change that!
Cocoa powder is essentially the dried and powdered form of cocoa solids. So, what exactly are cocoa solids then? Well, when chocolate is made and processed, the cocoa beans are worked in such a way that separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids.
Once separated, the different components are worked, reblended, and ultimately made into different types of chocolate.
Cocoa powder specifically can also undergo various processes. When it is untreated, it has a very bitter and acidic flavor profile. Then, you also get Dutch-processed cocoa powder which is still bitter but without the acidic flavor. This cocoa powder has been neutralized with an alkaline component.
So, when any recipe calls for cocoa powder, always go for unsweetened forms or Dutch-processed powders. They will give you the best chocolate flavor without overly sweetening the recipe.
And, if you are looking at substitutes for cocoa powder, always go for those with a similar flavor profile to the cocoa powder the recipe calls for.
The 6 Best Substitutes For Cocoa Powder
Below we have compiled a list of the best substitutes for cocoa powder. All of our options are relatively easy to find and even affordable. And even more importantly, all of these make easy and excellent alternatives for when you are in a pinch.
1. A Different type of cocoa powder
So, if your recipe calls for “cocoa powder”, there is more than one option. You would be surprised at how easy it is to find any of them if you simply allow yourself to look at alternative options.
But, just because a recipe calls for Dutch-processed, doesn’t mean that you cannot use sweetened cocoa powder. After all, they are closer substitutes for cocoa powder than any in the list below!
So, if it is at all possible, try to use any type of cocoa powder before looking at more unconventional alternatives.
2. Chocolate powder
You may be completely confused right now. But, chocolate powder and cocoa powder are not the same ingredients! They are often used interchangeably, which is likely why so many people think of them as the same thing.
The main difference between these two powders is how they are made. Cocoa powder, as we have mentioned, is made from dried and powdered cocoa solids. Chocolate powder on the other hand is made from chocolate (which is made from a mixture of cocoa solids and other ingredients).
The powdered form of chocolate is similar to hot chocolate powder. But, it is commonly sold unsweetened and also contains some milk-based powders too. Unsweetened hot chocolate powder is also a form of chocolate powder.
This makes one of the best substitutes for cocoa powder because it simultaneously gives you a chocolate flavor and creamy texture. And, there is no need to many any adjustments. As long as you use unsweetened chocolate powder instead of unsweetened cocoa powder. The same goes for the sweetened alternatives.
3. Chocolate slabs or chocolate chips
If you have access to a food processor or blender, we highly recommend trying this substitution next. Chocolate slabs, and even chocolate discs or chips, are very accessible – even more so than cocoa powder.
And, they work as a substitute because they are made using cocoa powder, just in a different form. So, they will give you a similar chocolate flavor, dark color, and rich consistency.
To use whole pieces of chocolate, place them inside a food processor or blender. Then, pulse them for a couple of seconds at a time. This will turn them into fine granules that will be suitable as a powdered substitute.
To use this substitute, however, you will need to make adjustments to the recipe. 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder will be equivalent to 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate or chips.
4. Carob powder
Carob powder, also known as carob flour, is a great vegan alternative. Unlike chocolate which contains milk-based ingredients, carob powder also comes directly from plant pods. The seeds are finally dried and ground into a fine powder.
This product is easily mistaken for cocoa powder, but it has a slightly lighter color and a sweeter flavor. And, it can be used in a one-to-one ratio.
You also get carob chips, which are like chocolate chips. You can follow the method we laid out above to create powders from them.
This powder can be easily found at most health shops or vegan markets, but it usually comes at a more expensive price tag.
5. Chocolate protein powder
Now, while this may seem like the last thing you can use, these powders have saved us in a pinch. They do have a very artificial chocolate flavor, so don’t expect your item to be decadent or rich.
You can combine this product with some of our above-mentioned substitutes for cocoa powder as well. This comes in especially handy when you only need a tablespoon or two extra “cocoa powder”.
6. Chocolate spreads
When looking at substitutes for cocoa powder, thus far we have only used powdered alternatives. Naturally, they make the best options.
But, if you have nowhere else to turn to, you can use a chocolate spread or even chocolate sauce. But, try to always use a product that has the purest chocolate flavor.
And, keep in mind that this substitution won’t work in all instances! They contain a lot more moisture than cocoa powder, so you will need to make sure that your recipe can take on this change. Otherwise, you will have to make some adaptations.
Final Thoughts – Our Ultimate List On Substitutes For Cocoa Powder
As you can see from our in-depth list above, there is no shortage in substitutes for cocoa powder. And, with a little bit of imagination, you can use an even broader list of ingredients commonly found at your supermarket.
If you have enjoyed this article or want to learn about some other topic, let us know in the comments below!
What can I use instead of cocoa powder?
There are loads of great alternatives for cocoa powder. Some may seem like obvious options, while others will require major adjustments to your recipes. The best options to choose from is a chocolate powder (like hot chocolate powder), chocolate chips or slabs, carob powder, or a chocolate spread.
Can I use hot chocolate instead of cocoa powder?
You can definitely use hot chocolate powder as a substitute for cocoa powder. they are similar in consistency and can be used in a one-to-one ratio. However, a hot chocolate powder often contains milk-based ingredients, making it non-vegan. Just keep that in mind.
Can I use coffee instead of cocoa powder?
You can because it is a powder. But, it will give your recipe a completely different flavor, which may not be what you were going for. But, it will also give the item a dark color like a cocoa powder would have.
What can I use instead of cocoa powder in a cake?
The best and easiest substitutes for cocoa powder in cake recipes are other types of chocolate powder. This can be a different type of cocoa powder, chocolate powder, carob powder, or chocolate-flavored protein powder. But, you can also make your own chocolate powder from choc chips at home.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.