Cocoa Powder - Which Type is Right for You?

What would brownies be without cocoa powder? Or chocolate cookies, cakes and other desserts? In the United States, 50% of consumers will choose desserts that are chocolate flavored over all other flavors! What many people don’t know is that there are actually a couple of different types of cocoa powder available in the bulk food aisle that will give baked goods an array of different chocolate tastes.

To make cocoa powder, cocoa beans are harvested and turned into a product called cocoa liquor. The liquor then undergoes processing to remove a majority of the fat (cocoa butter) from the product. What’s left at the end of the extraction is ground into fine cocoa powder. While processing removes most of the fat content, many cocoa powders still contain at least 10-12%.

The fine cocoa powder that is left after undergoing the processing method above is known as natural cocoa powder. In some cases, the powder is alkalized, which is an additional process used to raise the pH levels of the powder to improve its color, taste and functionality. The alkalized powder is sold as Dutch processed or Dutch cocoa powder.

Natural cocoa powder is most commonly used in cakes, cookies and brownies because it gives baked goods a deep, rich chocolate taste. In recipes, natural cocoa powder reacts with baking soda to cause the batter to rise in the oven. Processed Dutch powders will not cause this reaction with baking soda, so it can only be used in recipes that call for baking powder or other acidic ingredients. In order to ensure you are picking the right powder for your needs, take a quick peek at the ingredient label. If it says “processed with alkali” it’s a Dutch cocoa powder.

The chocolate flavor resulting from using Dutch cocoa powder is subtler in comparison to those with natural cocoa powder in the recipe. Within the offerings of Dutch powders, there is a range of chocolate flavor intensity. To read descriptions of the flavors of a variety of natural and Dutch cocoa powders, click on the links below for product descriptions. While you’re at it, you might also consider using carob powder, a popular substitute for cocoa powder. But if you do, consider that this substitution may result in a difference in flavor and texture of the finished product.

  • Dutch Cocoa Powder
  • Black Cocoa Powder
  • Aristocrat Cocoa
  • Garnet Dutch Cocoa
  • Russet Cocoa Powder
  • Carob Powder

Remember: the differences between natural and Dutch processed cocoa powders make them unsuitable substitutes for each other. Also, sweetened cocoa drink mixes are not the same product as cocoa powder, so cocoa drink mixes cannot be substituted for cocoa powder in recipes.


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  2. Joy of Baking. “Cocoa Powder.”
  3. Amster-Burton, Matthew. “Cocoa Nut.” Culinate.
  4. 20-20 Site.