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Cocoa Powder Substitute: 10 Options to try

It can be beneficial to find a cocoa powder substitute that has similar properties but uses a different type of ingredient. In this article, we will explore the most popular substitutes and discuss their benefits and drawbacks.

Cocoa powder is a classic ingredient for all things chocolate. Its rich chocolatey flavor makes our sweet treats more decadent. This food guide below will tell you what your best cocoa powder substitutes are. We also added some creative swaps for you when you’re out of time or resources.

Bowl filled with brown cocoa powder, raw cocoa beans next to it.

What Is Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is a finely-ground powder made from the solids of roasted cocoa beans. It contains no added sugar and is usually unsweetened.

Cocoa powder can be used in a variety of ways. From brownies and cookies to mochas, cocoa powder can add delicious flavor to many dishes.

It is also commonly used as a topping for ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other desserts.

When baking with cocoa powder, it is important to remember that it behaves differently than regular chocolate.

Cocoa powder has less fat and requires more liquid to achieve the desired chocolatey flavor. When measuring out cocoa powder, remember to use the spoon-and-level method for accurate measurements.

How is a cocoa powder made?

Cocoa powder comes from processed cacao beans. Cacao beans come from the pods of the Theobroma cacao tree.

Cocoa powder manufacturers ferment, dry, and roast the cacao beans, removing at least 75% of the fat. This process leaves bitter and acidic but intensely chocolatey and aromatic cocoa solids. These cocoa solids are then ground into powder.

Due to cocoa’s flavor profile, you need the help of sugar and other sweeteners to appreciate its taste.

Best Cocoa Powder Substitutes

But what do you do if you’re all out of cocoa powder? The answer’s simple. Use a cocoa powder substitute! There are plenty of chocolate-flavored ingredients today. Surely, there is something that will fit the bill.

Here are the top 10 cocoa powder substitutes.

1. Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder

You can use Dutch-process cocoa powder if regular cocoa powder is unavailable. Dutch-process cocoa powder comes from the same cocoa solids.

In the process of Dutching, manufacturers treat the cocoa solids with an alkaline salt. In doing so, the cocoa gets to a neutral pH. In other words, Dutch-processed cocoa powder is not acidic like regular cocoa.

The most noticeable difference is that this alternative has a darker hue. Using this will cause your recipe to get darker, as well.

Dutch-process cocoa powder also has some cocoa butter left. So, it is richer and more decadent.

Tips: Dutch-process cocoa has a neutral pH. This pH level means it will not react with leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda. Adding some vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar will help with the rising.

Use a 2:1 substitution ratio of Dutch-process cocoa to regular cocoa powder.

2. Carob Powder

Carob powder comes from the edible pods of the Ceratonia siliqua tree. This tree is more commonly known as the carob tree.

Once dried and ground, the pods produce a powder. This powder looks and tastes like natural cocoa powder. The biggest difference is that carob powder is sweet, while cocoa powder is bitter. Plus, carob powder has no caffeine or fat.

While this gets plus points from health buffs, these things affect its flavor. Carob powder is not as rich and chocolatey as cocoa powder. It has, indeed, some nutty notes that are missing from cocoa. So, you should expect a slight flavor shift.

Tips: Start with a 1:1 substitution ratio of carob powder to cocoa powder. Do note that since carob is sweeter, you may need to reduce the amount of the other sweeteners in your dish.

Carob powder can be used interchangeably with cocoa powder in recipes, although the taste may be slightly different.

And since carob powder is not as rich, your recipe might lack flavor. If this is the case, gradually add carob powder in little increments until you get the desired taste.

3. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

Another quick substitute for natural cocoa powder is baking chocolate. The unsweetened version especially works well. After all, baking chocolate comes from ground cocoa beans. Because of this, it does have a cocoa flavor.

But it does have fat content. As a result, it has a richer, more intense flavor. The main difference is that unsweetened baking chocolate comes in bars.

To be able to get the exact measurement, you would need to melt it first. This process adds an extra step to your preparation time. That said, this is not the best option if you are in a hurry.

The good thing, though, is that baking chocolate is a common ingredient in baking. You’ll easily find these bars in the baking aisle of grocery stores.

Tips: Because of the flavor differences, the direct substitution of 1:1 will not work. Instead, use 1 tablespoon less of the required cocoa powder in your recipe.

Melt the unsweetened baking chocolate first before measurement to get an accurate reading.

4. Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot chocolate is a classic breakfast drink. For this reason, most households commonly have this item in their pantry.

The main ingredient of hot cocoa mix is natural cocoa powder, so you can expect it to share similar flavor notes.

Hot cocoa mix contains other ingredients like milk and sugar. Because of this, you cannot expect an exact flavor match. Plus, these ingredients can affect the overall texture of your dish.

This option is a perfect swap for recipes that do not call for an intense chocolate flavor. It also serves its purpose when the dish needs lots of sugar.

Tips: To begin with, do not add the sweeteners to your recipe first. Instead, use a 2:1 ratio of the hot chocolate mix to cocoa powder.

After adding the hot cocoa mix, do a taste test and gradually add the sweeteners. Do so until you reach your desired sweetness.

5. Chocolate Chips

Another darling ingredient for the bakers is the good old chocolate chips. The chips we love in our chocolate chip cookies are also great substitutes for cocoa powder.

What you should take note of about chocolate chips are there are different kinds. Each kind will have a different effect on your dish. The closest flavor match to natural cocoa powder is unsweetened chocolate chips. After all, they do not contain any sugar.

Semi-sweet chocolate chips are still bitter. They can still give you that hint of bitterness from cocoa. But they have some sugar. Lastly, milk chocolate chips have sugar and cream or milk. These chips are the sweetest and need the most adjustment in your recipe.

Note that these chocolate chips contain fat that can change the texture of your dish.

Tips: Do not melt the chips before measuring them. Use ½ cup of chocolate chips to replace 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. After measurement, you can grind or melt the chips as you like.

Chocolate chips can affect the dish’s texture, so it is best to add them first. This way, you can reduce the amount of butter and milk to compensate.

6. Carob Chips

If you can use chocolate chips to replace unsweetened cocoa powder, you can also use carob chips. As the name suggests, carob chips are like chocolate chips; only they come from carob.

Because of this, like carob powder, carob chips are naturally sweet. They can also contain extra ingredients like milk, sugar, and fat.

Of course, these components will also call for adjustments in your recipe. And, of course, as they do not have cocoa content, expect a shift in flavor.

Tips: Use as you would chocolate chips. Measure before melting or grinding. Use ½ cup of carob chips for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Add them first before butter or sugar. Adjust the amount of fat and other sweeteners to get a closer flavor.

7. Powdered Peanut Butter

If you’d like some twist to your dish, try using powdered peanut butter instead of cocoa powder. As it is in a similar form, it can work well without affecting the texture of your recipe.

Manufacturers make powdered peanut butter by roasting peanuts first. Then, the next process involves pressing to remove the oil. Lastly, the processed nuts are then ground into a powder.

Some brands have added sugar and salt to mimic the peanut butter taste. That said, you can expect a very different flavor.

You might have to make significant adjustments to your recipe. But powdered peanut butter does well in recipes that need the peanut taste.

The biggest consideration here is that peanut is a known allergen. It would be best to exercise caution when you use it, ensuring that the people you’ll feed do not have allergies.

Tips: Use 1 tablespoon of peanut butter powder to replace an equal amount of cocoa powder.

Do not use peanut butter powder as a replacement in recipes where the cocoa powder is the key ingredient.

8. Chocolate Syrup

If you’re in a pinch, chocolate syrup is another creative cocoa powder substitute you might want to try.

It does have the chocolatey taste that you need in your recipes. However, it is really sweet and lacks the rich flavor of cocoa powder.

For this reason, chocolate syrup only works in dishes were only a little cocoa powder.

It is a quick fix, as you most likely have it in your pantry or fridge. This accessibility makes it a great alternative when you’re really in need of one.

Tips: Use 5 spoonfuls of chocolate syrup to replace a tablespoon of cocoa powder. Because it is liquid, reduce the amount of water or flour in your recipe to arrive at a similar texture.

Only use this alternative if the main ingredient in your dish is not cocoa powder. Using a lot of chocolate syrup will yield a very different outcome.

9. Nutella

This trusty hazelnut cocoa spread can also be a decent option for a cocoa powder substitute. It has the rich taste of cocoa, and you might already have it.

Like chocolate syrup, Nutella has a lot of sugar and fat. You’ll need to alter your recipe and reduce sugar. This way, you’ll avoid ending up with an overly sweet recipe. Reducing the amount of butter also works to get a closer texture to the original.

Just like peanuts, hazelnuts are also common allergens. So, you should watch out for who you’re going to feed and ensure that they are not allergic.

Tips: Do not add sugar to your mix before adding Nutella. Use 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of Nutella to replace one tablespoon of cocoa powder. Then, do a taste test. Add sugar if still necessary.

10. Cacao Powder

Cacao powder is made from cold-pressed cacao beans and contains more of the antioxidants, fiber, and minerals than cocoa powder.

It also has a more intense flavor than cocoa powder and it is naturally sweeter so it is best suited for use in recipes that require bolder flavored items such as brownies, cookies, and hot chocolate.

Cacao powder can be used as a substitute for cocoa powder in many recipes. To substitute cacao powder for cocoa powder, you’ll need to use the same amount called for in your recipe, but you may need to make some adjustments depending on how bitter or sweet the recipe is intended to be.

Can You Use Hot Chocolate Powder Instead Of Cocoa Powder?

Yes, the hot chocolate powder is an excellent cocoa powder substitute. It is accessible and has similar flavor notes. You need to reduce the amount of sugar in your original recipe, though. Hot chocolate powder already contains a significant amount of sweeteners.

Can I Substitute Flour For Cocoa Powder?

Yes, you can substitute flour for cocoa powder, as they have the same properties and texture. But note that you’ll end up with an entirely different dish, as flour does not taste anywhere near cocoa powder. For this reason, you should only use flour in recipes that only need a small amount of cocoa powder.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Cocoa Powder For Brownies?

Unsweetened baking chocolate is the best substitute for cocoa powder in a brownie recipe. You’ll get a similar appearance and flavor. For best results, use a combination of carob powder and melted chocolate chips.

Can I Use Chocolate Instead Of Cocoa Powder?

Yes, you can use chocolate as a cocoa powder alternative. The best chocolate to use would be baking chocolate. But in a pinch, you can opt for dark chocolate. If the dark version is not available, regular milk chocolate will do. Remember to melt the chocolate before adding it to your recipe to get a similar texture. Adjust the amount of sugar if you’ll use sweetened chocolate.


If you’re in the middle of baking and realize you don’t have any cocoa powder left, don’t fret. There are multiple swaps you can use as a cocoa powder substitute.

The best alternatives include cacao powder, carob powder, baking chocolate, and chocolate chips. Options that need a bit of creativity to work are powdered peanut butter and chocolate syrup. Remember, anything with chocolate, even if it is your breakfast hot chocolate mix, can easily step in for cocoa powder in most recipes.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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