Cacao powder is a healthy way to give your dishes a strong chocolate flavor but not all grocery stores carry it. In addition, its powerful flavor can be an acquired taste. If you want a substitute that provides many or all of cacao powder’s benefits without the drawbacks, consider one of the cacao powder substitutes below.
Your best bet: Dutch processed cocoa powder
Dutch processed cocoa powder has been washed with an alkaline solution to neutralize its acidity. The result is a cocoa that is less bitter and that will taste richer. In addition, Dutch processed cocoa is darker in color compared to other forms of cocoa powder. Dutch process cocoa is a closer match to cacao powder in terms of its antioxidant content than other cocoa powders. This is important since antioxidants are one of the reasons that people use cacao powder. Even though cacao powder is an antioxidant superfood with an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 95,500 µmol per 100 g, Dutched cocoa’s score is still impressive at 40,200 µmol. This is far higher than other superfoods such as acai berries, which have an ORAC score of 18,500 µmol.
You can use Dutch processed cocoa powder as a substitute for cacao powder, but bear in mind that cacao powder has undergone minimal processing and is very strong as a result. Use twice the amount of Dutch process cocoa that your recipe requires for cacao powder. Note also that because the acidity in this type of cocoa powder has been neutralized, it will not react with alkaline leavening agents like baking soda. You will need to use baking powder instead.
A decent second choice: Cacao paste
Cacao paste is a great way to add a natural cacao taste and smell without the bitterness that can come with cacao powder. Cacao paste consists of cacao beans that have been crushed and liquefied. The liquid solidifies at room temperature due to its high cocoa butter content. The process used to crush the beans does not involve the use of heat, which means that it does not affect the nutrients in the cacao beans.
Cacao paste still has all of its fat, unlike cacao powder. This means that other fats in your recipe will have to be adjusted to compensate for the fat in cacao paste.
Because cacao paste is more than 50 percent cocoa butter, you will have to use more of it than your recipe requires for cacao powder. Use twice as much cacao paste as your recipe indicated for cacao powder.
In a pinch: Natural cocoa powder
Natural cocoa powder is similar to cacao powder in that both have had their fat removed and neither has been Dutch processed. This means that natural cocoa powder retains its acidity and can be used exactly as you would use cacao powder; for example, you can use it with baking soda. It differs from cacao powder with respect to the amount of heat used to treat it. Natural cocoa powder is processed at temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit; cacao powder is not supposed to exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit during its processing. This helps to preserve the antioxidants and enzymes that are responsible for its status as a superfood.
Use twice as much natural cocoa powder as your recipe requires for cacao powder.
Carob powder has been used as a cocoa alternative for a long time and provides a similar appearance and flavor as well as quite a few nutrients. It can be used in most of the dishes that require cacao powder.