You all know what chocolate is and I bet that you have all eaten a ton of it in your lifetime.
Who can resist that perfect combo of sweetness and nutty flavors?
But, did you know that there is one ingredient that stands behind our almighty sweet treat?
Yes, it is cocoa powder and it is not only used for making chocolate, but also for baked goods, including cakes, cookies, and brownies, as well as other sweet stuff like milkshakes and chocolate frostings.
Many of those sweet culinary things that we all love rely on cocoa powder. But what if you don’t have any on hand or what if you just want to make a change? Or, what if you want to avoid caffeine because cocoa is full of it?
Well, keep on reading because below is a list of the 16 best cocoa powder substitutes.
16 Cocoa Powder Alternatives That Won’t Disappoint
If you desperately need a sub for cocoa powder, you shouldn’t worry because below are the 16 best substitutes for cocoa powder, mainly for baking and cooking, but also for some other interesting stuff.
1. Baking Chocolate
Since chocolate is actually made from cocoa powder, baking chocolate is a logical substitute for cocoa powder in baking.
Aside from cocoa powder, there are a few other ingredients incorporated into the baking chocolate and the most important one is cocoa butter which makes it solid, contrary to cocoa powder.
Because of that, it is necessary to melt it before you incorporate it into your cake or any other baked goods.
Also, baking chocolate is unsweetened in most cases, so it is not a good idea to incorporate it into your recipe if you want it to be extra sweet.
However, if your intention is to achieve a dark cake with a rich color, as well as an intense chocolate flavor, there is no better ingredient than baking chocolate.
So, if you eventually decide to use baking chocolate as a cocoa substitute, the ratio is typically 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to 1 ounce (1 square) of baking chocolate.
That should be enough to do the trick.
2. Chocolate Chips
Just like with baking chocolate, chocolate chips can be a good cocoa alternative in cakes and other baked goods, as well as desserts like muffins, cookies, and pancakes.
They also contain cocoa butter but, unlike baking chocolate, chocolate chips are made from sweetened chocolate which makes them much sweeter than baking chocolate.
So, if you want to make a sweeter cake that has a mild chocolate flavor, chocolate chips might be your best bet.
All you have to do is to slice half a cup of ground chocolate chips and replace that amount with 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder in the recipe.
That is the general rule of thumb if you want to substitute cocoa powder for chocolate chips. However, you can still make some adjustments according to your preferences.
For example, if you think that your cake will be too sweet, you can add fewer chocolate chips and vice versa, of course.
3. Cacao Powder
It is a powder, it has a chocolate flavor, and it bears a similar name to cocoa powder. It is not hard to conclude that cacao powder can be a great alternative to cocoa powder.
Cacao powder is actually a version of cocoa powder, but it is more natural because it is unprocessed. Because of that, cacao powder is more nutritious than cocoa powder, especially when it comes to the number of antioxidants.
When you add it to the recipe instead of cocoa powder, you will achieve the same color and a similar level of sweetness.
However, the only problem with cacao powder is that its flavor is more intense and bitter than cocoa powder.
Because of that, I would suggest you use a little less of it in the recipe that requires the same amount of cocoa powder.
4. Carob Powder
Before I started to write this list, I was wondering if I should place carob powder higher on the list. I placed it in fourth place only because it doesn’t contain cocoa powder like baking chocolate and chocolate chips.
Although this powder is made from carob pods that grow on a carob tree, it is the type of powder that can perfectly replace cocoa powder in both baked and cooked dishes, especially if you want a healthier ingredient.
Well, carob powder has the same texture as cocoa powder and a very similar taste. But, that’s not all, it is also naturally sweet, so you don’t have to add extra sugar to your dessert if you add carob powder to it.
Aside from that, it is quite healthy since it contains a lot of nutrients like iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as dietary fiber and strong antioxidants.
Above all that, it is gluten-free, caffeine-free, and low in calories, and even those with chocolate allergies can consume it freely.
When you want to replace cocoa powder for it, you can freely use a 1:1 ratio.
Carob powder is indeed a very exciting ingredient worth trying when you do not have any cocoa powder on your kitchen shelf.
5. Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
Dutch-processed cocoa powder is yet another great cocoa powder substitute because, well, it is a type of cocoa powder itself.
However, it has a few differences from ordinary cocoa powder since it is processed differently. In fact, it is treated with potassium carbonate to neutralize the natural acidity and, because of that, it is less acidic than ordinary cocoa powder.
So, if your recipe requires some acidity and you want to use Dutch-processed cocoa powder instead of ordinary cocoa powder, you should add some acidity like lemon juice or vinegar.
In that case, you should add ⅛ teaspoon of one of these two ingredients for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
If you are not adding ingredients like baking soda or baking powder to your recipe, you can freely use a 1:1 ratio when substituting.
Your dish will achieve a nice dark chocolate color, as well as the true chocolate flavor that you are looking for.
6. Hot Cocoa Mix
As you can see from the name of this ingredient, it contains the term cocoa.t. It means that one of its ingredients is, indeed, cocoa powder. That makes it a good cocoa alternative.
In most cases, this powder is successfully used to quickly make hot chocolate, but it can also be used for making some baked goods that require cocoa powder in the original recipe.
However, when using it as a cocoa powder substitute in your cooking or baking recipes, you also have to know that it may contain some other ingredients like milk powder, vanilla, cocoa butter, and most importantly, sugar.
That makes it very sweet, so it is not a good idea to overdo it in your cakes, cookies, or brownies because that can make them too sweet, which is not such a good thing.
One more note. You also have to be aware of the fact that most hot cocoa mixes are made from artificial sweeteners, which means that they are not so good for your health.
So, it is always better to use natural cocoa powder if you have any or, at least, powdered chocolate milk which is also more natural than cocoa mix.
7. Black Cocoa Powder
Remember Dutch-processed cocoa powder? Well, this is its close relative and it has similar characteristics.
It is also a type of powder and it is made by a process called Dutching (neutralizing acidity) just like Dutch-processed cocoa powder.
However, this type of cocoa powder is even more alkalized and that makes it more intense in terms of chocolate color and flavor, but milder in terms of acidity.
Because of these characteristics, black cocoa powder is used for making dark chocolate, as well as some other chocolate products like chocolate truffles and bars.
When it comes to cooking and baking, black cocoa powder is an ideal candidate for making chocolate cakes and cookies, as well as chocolate frosting with an intense flavor.
When substituting cocoa powder for black cocoa powder, you can use a 1:1 ratio in recipes that don’t require baking powder or baking soda.
If you think that the taste of your cake or cookie will be too intense, you can freely lower the amount of black cocoa powder a little bit.
8. Dark Chocolate
In the previous paragraph about black cocoa powder, you learned that dark chocolate is actually made from the same black cocoa powder. That makes dark chocolate similar to black cocoa powder in terms of flavor.
It has a very dark color, as well as a strong and intense chocolate flavor, especially if the amount of cocoa is over 75%.
Just like with black cocoa powder, this flavor profile makes dark chocolate an ideal ingredient for chocolate cakes and cookies with an intense flavor.
The only difference is in texture. Since dark chocolate is solid, it needs to be dissolved, i.e. melted before adding it to baked goods.
Because of its strong taste, you need to add 2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate where the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
On the other hand, if it is used as a topping for cookies, you can just chop it on top of your cookies, similar to adding cocoa powder. In that case, add the same amount of finely chopped dark chocolate.
9. Couverture Chocolate
The last type of chocolate that can be used as a decent substitution for cocoa powder is couverture chocolate.
However, you have to keep in mind that this type of chocolate is a bit different since it contains a high ratio of cocoa butter compared to other types of chocolate that can be used as cocoa powder substitutes.
Although it is a highly preferable ingredient in making baked goods with chocolate among many professional chefs, couverture chocolate will leave you with a slightly different flavor and texture, as well as a higher level of sweetness in your sweet dish.
But, you shouldn’t be discouraged because there are some efficient ways to successfully use couverture chocolate instead of cocoa powder.
For example, you can use it in cookies and cakes that don’t require melting of the chocolate by just chopping the chocolate and adding it to the sweet treat instead of cocoa powder.
You can also use it in recipes that just require melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder, like in chocolate pudding or mousse.
Finally, if your recipe requires only powder, you can make your own powder from couverture chocolate by grinding it until it becomes powder.
Other Less Common But Interesting Cocoa Powder Substitutes
I am sure that most of you must have at least one of these previously listed substitutes for cocoa powder. But, if it happens that you don’t, here are a few more options that can be taken into consideration.
1. Peanut Butter Powder
Although it doesn’t have the same or similar flavor profile as cocoa powder, powdered peanut butter can be a decent alternative for cocoa powder in some recipes.
For example, if you are making peanut butter cookies that require cocoa powder, you can freely add powdered peanut butter instead.
You can also add it to some other baked goods to enrich the flavor, as well as various smoothies.
Just be careful about peanuts because lots of people have an allergic reaction and you don’t want to end up in the hospital because of one cookie.
I don’t have to explain to you what Nutella is because you already know that. But, I assume that you didn’t know that it can be a decent alternative to cocoa powder.
Yes, you can use Nutella in some baked goods instead of cocoa powder and it is a great alternative to cocoa powder when making a filling for your cake.
However, you must take into consideration the fact that Nutella, unlike cocoa powder, has a thick consistency, as well as a higher level of sweetness.
So, if you decide to use it instead of cocoa powder, you will have to make some adjustments, especially in terms of the amount of sugar you use.
3. Chocolate Protein Powder
If you are a gym enthusiast or if you just want to achieve faster muscle growth, then chocolate protein powder could be your best bet if you are searching for a cocoa powder substitute.
However, although it is a powder with a similar flavor profile, chocolate protein powder has a very different nutritional profile from cocoa powder. Well, it is lower in fats and higher in proteins.
Aside from that, it can have some ingredients that are not so suitable for the baking process as well as artificial sweeteners that can make it too sweet and unhealthy, so you should always check the label before using it.
4. Chocolate Milk Powder
This powder is not so often used as a substitute for cocoa powder, mainly because it introduces milk solids into the recipe, which can affect the flavor and texture of the dish.
Aside from that, it also contains a lot of sugar. Because of these two facts, you can add chocolate milk powder to the baked goods instead of cocoa powder in a 1:1 ratio, but you should lower the amount of sugar and milk if the recipe requires them.
5. Espresso Powder
If you don’t have any cocoa powder and you are making the baking dish, and at the same time love to drink lots of coffee, then espresso powder might be your best bet.
However, you should be aware of the fact that espresso powder won’t give your cake or cookie the same chocolate flavor as cocoa powder.
If you are okay with that or you really like coffee, you can add ¼ the amount of espresso powder to replace the cocoa powder called for in the recipe.
6. Chocolate Syrup
Chocolate syrup is not an ideal substitute for cocoa powder. It doesn’t have the same texture and it is much sweeter than cocoa powder.
Aside from that, chocolate syrup is higher in calories than cocoa powder, i.e. it has 22% more calories than cocoa powder.
If you really don’t have a choice but to use it in your recipe, use it only in small amounts.
7. Dark Molasses
The final cocoa powder substitute on this list is dark molasses.
You first have to know that dark molasses doesn’t have the exact chocolate flavor as cocoa powder, but its deep and strong flavor profile can mimic chocolate to some extent and that makes it a suitable substitute.
However, you should be aware of the fact that dark molasses has a much higher level of sweetness than cocoa powder, so it should be used very carefully in any recipe.
Did You Find Your Perfect Replacement For Cocoa Powder?
No matter if you are making a cake (like bento cake or chocolate cake), cake frosting, cookies, or any other type of sweet treat, it is always a great thing to incorporate that amazing chocolate flavor into it.
And the best way to do that is to use good old cocoa powder.
But, if you don’t have any on your hand, there are always solutions in the form of 16 great cocoa powder substitutes that are listed in this article.
You just have to explore them a little bit and I am sure that you will find the one that best suits your preferences.