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What is Cocoa Powder?


What is Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is one of the most common baking ingredients used in several application and recipes, such as cake, cookies, brownies to icing and chocolates. It is very important to be aware of the type of cocoa powder, their application, and usages for an exceptional baking result. Cocoa powder is one of the healthiest and oldest foods in the world.

Let’s take a while to understand about cocoa powder, production process, health benefits, varieties of cocoa powder, storage process, and application.


What is Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is an unsweetened powder produced by crunching the cocoa beans extracted from fruits of the cocoa tree.  The chocolate liquor is pressed to remove cocoa butter and the residual cocoa solids are then processed to create a fine unsweetened cocoa powder.


Nutrition Facts

Let’s take a look at the table below to understand its nutrition profile of unsweetened cocoa powder per 100grms.

Description Amount (kcal / Grams)
Calories: 400 kcal
Fat 13.7 g
  – Saturated Fat 8.1 g
  – Monounsaturated Fat 4.6 g
  – Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Carbohydrate: 57.9 g
  – Fiber 33.2 g
  – Sugar 1.8 g
Protein 19.6 g

As shown in the table above, cocoa powder has a mixture of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. The great number of fat content is saturated and it contains a substantial amount of fiber.

Amount (% RDA)
Riboflavin 14 %
Niacin 11 %
Folate 8 %
Pantothenic Acid 3 %
Vitamin E 1 %
Vitamin B6 6 %
Thiamin 5 %
Vitamin K 3 %

Cocoa powder has a decent range of vitamins, but it is not particularly high in any of them. B vitamins are the most powerful vitamins in cocoa.

Mineral Amount (% RDA)
Manganese 192 %
Copper 189 %
Magnesium 125 %
Iron 77 %
Phosphorus 73 %
Zinc 45 %
Potassium 44 %
Selenium 20 %
Calcium 13 %

As we can see, cocoa powder supplies a good amount of minerals. Particularly, there is an ample supply of the minerals manganese, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Cocoa Powder Health Benefit

Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder

As per scientific research, it is said that cocoa and cocoa powder may help you.  Due to high nutrients and minerals, cocoa powder has an array of health benefits.

  1. Prevent Cancer - Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in this world. Antioxidants can fight free radical damages to lower your oxidative stress and cancer risk. These powerful compounds are found in dark-colored fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, raspberries, and cocoa bean has abundant of it. Hence consumption of cocoa or cocoa products can truly boast your antioxidants than any other antioxidant-rich foods.
  2. Low Risk of Heart Disease - Heart disease is the most common reason for death in the world. Flavanols and polyphenols present in cocoa powder are also anti-inflammatory hence they may help in improving your heart health. They may be able to especially prevent blood clots and build-up from blocking blood flow in your arteries. Since cocoa is rich in healthy fats such as monounsaturated (like oleic acid, also found in olive oil) and saturated fats (like coconut oil), these fatty acids help in improving your cardiovascular health.
  3. Helps in Controlling Blood Pressure - A study of 35 trials revealed that people consuming high volumes of Flavanols-rich cocoa or cocoa powder dropped their blood pressure in the short-term. An alternative study revealed that people consuming cocoa every day have higher nitric oxide circulation in their blood, helping them relax their arteries and blood vessels. Hence, consumption of dark chocolate is more fruitful than milk or white chocolate, as they have less and zero flavanols, respectively.
  4. Improve Cholesterol Level – Eating cocoa flavanols helped several people mend their cholesterol level as per the study of 19 trails. Researchers have learned that people with normal and high cholesterol levels or those with high risk for heart disease saw improved blood lipid profiles after consuming cocoa powder daily. As per experts, cocoa increases HDL cholesterol, this may simply help lower LDL cholesterol. Hence we can say cacao powder may help us lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and prevent heart disease.
  5. Reduce Heart Attack and Stroke – As per the study, it is suggested that higher chocolate consumption relates to a lower chance of forthcoming cardiovascular events. Researchers derived to this assumption as they saw people eating the maximum cacao furthermore had the least incidences of heart disease and strokes. The antioxidants found in cacao help in insulin resistance and obesity resulting in better heart health.

Concerns Related to Cocoa Powder

In general, cocoa is a nutritious and healthy food that is good for us. But, as with various other foods, there are some potential adverse facts worth reviewing too.

  1. Heavy Metal Contamination - Heavy metal contamination can sometimes be problematic for producers of cocoa powder. Cocoa powders might comprise of cadmium, a lethal heavy metal and possible carcinogen, found naturally in high levels in the soil of some of the cocoa-growing countries. The European Union has enforced a limit (starting on 1 January 2019) for cadmium in the cocoa powder of 0.6 µg per gram of cocoa powder, and 0.8 µg per gram for chocolate with ≥ 50% total dry cocoa solids.
  2. Sweetened Cocoa Powders are not healthy - The benefits of cocoa powder consumption are derived on based of unsweetened cocoa powder. There is a variety of cocoa powders available at stores, and many of them are extensively sweetened to offer a better taste. These products will still have beneficial nutrients, but the amount of sugar content will cancel out the health benefits. Hence for health reasons, unsweetened cocoa powder is the best choice.
Type of Cocoa Powder

Types of Cocoa Powder

There are primary 3 types of cocoa powder available in the market today. Let’s take a close look at them below:

  1. Natural Cocoa Powder – As the name suggests natural cocoa powder is made from the processed cocoa solids derived from pressing cocoa liquid. The solid is grounded again into a fine powder and are relatively light in colors, has a somewhat acidic taste and is normally available in stores (Like Barry Callebaut). It’s naturally vegan and gluten-free.
  2. Dutch-process cocoa – This cocoa powder is made from cacao beans that have been treated with an alkalizing agent such as potassium solution this neutralizes the acid in natural unsweetened cocoa powder. Hence Dutch-processed cocoa powder has a smoother, mellower flavor and has a darker color than the natural cocoa powder.
  3. Black cocoa powder – There is a collection of Dutch-process cocoa that vary in flavor, color, and taste. Black cocoa powder stands at the end of this collection, having the lowest acidity and a very dark, rich flavor. If ever noticed an Oreo cookie, the outer cookies are a great illustration of black cocoa powder.

Difference between Cocoa Powders

Using the table below let's understand the basic difference between each of these cocoa powder discussed above.

  Natural Cocoa Powder Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder Black Cocoa Powder
Process Prepared using pure cocoa solids Treated with alkalizing agent Treated with highly alkalizing agent
Colour Light Brown in Colors Dark Brown Colors Darkest Brown in Color
Acidity High Low Low
Leavener Baking Soda Baking Powder Baking Powder
Flavour Bold, Acidic Flavour Mellow, Rich Fudge Flavour Highly Chocolatey
Bitterness High Moderate Lowest
Propositions 1:1 1:1 Not as a straight 1:1 

When do you use Cocoa Powder?

The simplest reply is every time you wish to increase the chocolate flavor in a dish. But it’s not just for desserts; it can be added to smoothies, hot chocolate, fruits and some even use in meat rubs. Cocoa Powder is a great ingredient if you want something rich and chocolatey but not completely unhealthy.


How to choose Cocoa Powder for your recipe?

It’s a general belief that you can replace the cocoa powder with one another, this is not true and you need to understand their properties before choosing them for your next recipe. Let’s look at the factors that you need to consider before selecting cocoa powder for your next recipe.

  1. Activation of the leavening agent in the recipe is can depend on the acidic properties of cocoa powder; hence the type of cocoa does matters a lot.
  2. Based on the leavening agent the recipe calls, you need to choose your cocoa powder. Hence if the recipe calls for baking soda, natural cocoa powder is perhaps fine. But if the recipe calls for baking powder or both then it perhaps it calls for Dutch-processed cocoa.
  3. The powders are substitutable for some extent; this means if a recipe does not call for a leavener like baking powder or baking soda, you can go ahead with either natural or Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Such as sauces, hot cocoa, frostings, ice cream, pudding, etc.
  4. Dark Cocoa Powder is not used as a straight 1:1; this means you need to mix it with Dutch Process Cocoa Powder due to extensive dark color and lowest bitter profile.

How to add Cocoa Powder to Your Diet?

Now as we know the health benefits of cacao powder, be aware that a little goes a long way.  Now, let’s try using cacao powder in these daily diets to harness its useful properties.

  1. Cocoa with your Coffee:  Add one tablespoon of cocoa powder to a mug of hot coffee (sugar as per taste) to give your cup of coffee a boost of beneficial antioxidants.
  2. Smoothie with Cacao Powder:  Blend your favorite fruits (bananas, strawberries, mango, blueberries, etc.) with Greek yogurt and a little ice, add 1 tablespoon of cacao powder for a rich, chocolatey burst of flavor.
  3. Cacao Powder & Fresh Fruit: The powerful flavour of cacao powder pairs seamlessly with the natural sweetness of fruits. Just slice your choice of fruit and sprinkle it with a dusting of cacao powder for an antioxidant-rich treat. Pineapple, bananas, raspberries, and mango are the perfect pairing for cacao powder.
  4. Cacao Brownies: Simply switch natural cacao powder with the cocoa powder in your favorite brownie recipe. You might have to adjust the sugar or leavener agent to counter the intensity & acidic properties of the cacao powder. These rich cacao brownies are the ideal treat for chocoholics.
  5. Elevate your yogurt: If you’re yogurt fan, cocoa powder is a pleasing way to enhance the taste. Go creative by simply layering cocoa powder, fruit, and yogurt to create a wonderful healthy parfait.

How to store Cocoa Powder?

  1. You should store the cocoa powder in a dark, cool, dry place, sealed against vermin in an airtight container.
  2. It is important to restrict its contact with humidity, heat, and oxygen to keep the cocoa powder from spoiling.
  3. Don't keep it in the fridge without vacuum-packed, because fridges are fairly humid environments resulting in fungus, even on cocoa.

How do you know if Cocoa Powder is bad or spoiled?

  1. Cocoa powder is safe to use even after the "best before" date on the package, provided it is properly stored and the package is undamaged. The date on product packaging is not a safety date; it is the manufacturer's calculation of time the cocoa powder will remain at peak quality.
  2. The best technique is to smell and look at the cocoa powder, if cocoa powder has developed a bad odor, flavour or appearance has changed, or if fungus appears, it must be thrown away.

Where to buy Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is readily available in India across the retail and online store. Popular varieties of cocoa powder such as Callebaut Cocoa Powder, Barry Callebaut Natural Cocoa Powder, Cacao Barry Plein Arome Cocoa Powder, Van Houten Cocoa Powder are available in the market and can be bought online from Bakerykart. Available in 850grm, 1kg, 10kgs and 25kgs packs subsequently from popular brands.



Cocoa Powder can easily be included in our diet and is a healthy way to increase our consumption of essential minerals. Moreover, a series of the study suggests that the polyphenols in cocoa may provide benefits to cardiovascular health prevent cancer and control cholesterol level.

Hence, cocoa powder is one of the most nutritious plant foods we can eat.