cocoa powder substitute

Top 6 Substitutes For Cocoa Powder To Make Delicious Desserts

Cocoa powder is a must when the holidays are here. From hot chocolate to cake, this ingredient is essential in my kitchen. But, what happens if you suddenly run out of it when you’re about to bake?

While it may seem impossible, you can replace the cocoa powder with other ingredients. The key part is knowing what you need cocoa powder for so that the flavor and consistency are right. So don’t worry, there are plenty of options, and we will tell you all about them.

What Is Cocoa Powder?

This unsweetened chocolate product is produced after the cocoa butter, or fat is removed from the cacao beans. These solids are then ground into a fine powder that is sold as cocoa powder. Unlike chocolate, cocoa powder contains only about 15 percent fat.

Not to be confused with instant cocoa mix, this product is bitter and very dark. The flavor is strong and will last a while in your mouth, almost like coffee grounds do. There are two types of cocoa powder, either natural or Dutch.

cocoa powder alternative

The natural cocoa powder retains the natural pH level of cocoa beans and has almost a red color. The Dutch cocoa powder is produced with an alkaline solution, which results in a darker brown color and a neutral pH between six and eight. 

Cocoa powder is a common ingredient in baking, whether it is to add flavor, color, or even act as a leavening agent. However, for cocoa powder to work in leavening, it has to be acidic, which means you’ll need to use the natural kind. 

Other uses for cocoa powder include cooking sauces, marinades, and stews. This ingredient is also used in skincare products, candles, candy-making, and more.

What Can I Replace Cocoa Powder With?

Whether you want to bake or cook, these cocoa powder substitutes are perfect for all your recipes: 

Best For Baking, Brownies, and Cookies

#1. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

This chocolate is also made largely from cocoa solids, but unsweetened baking chocolate contains most of the cocoa butter. The butter is what makes the baking chocolate retain its shape, but it also adds creaminess and flavor.

If you decide to use this, then you should know that you will probably also need to adjust the butter or fat in your recipe.

Use unsweetened baking chocolate when baking brownies, cookies, cakes, and making candy or fudge. Since this chocolate comes in a bar, then you will also need to melt it before using it. 

You may also want to reduce the amount you use because this unsweetened chocolate is denser. 

#2. Dark Chocolate

Even though dark chocolate contains sugar and fat, it contains at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa solids. The flavor is similar to cocoa powder but has a hint of sugar as well, so you should adjust the amount you use in your recipe.

As with unsweetened baking chocolate, you should always melt dark chocolate before you add it to your dish.

This choice is great in brownies, cookies, cakes, muffins, or more. You can find dark chocolate anywhere these days, especially because people eat it more often since it is considered healthier. Remember that while it contains less fat and sugar, dark chocolate also contains milk. 

See more: Substitute for Chocolate

#3. Chocolate Chips

While not an ideal choice, when you want to bake things like cakes, brownies, cookies, or muffins, using chocolate chips is not a bad idea. As you may already know, though, chocolate chips do have sugar, fat, and milk.

If you choose this option, make sure to reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and possibly milk or cream that you use.

Keep in mind too, that chocolate chips add more calories than cocoa powder, so you may want to watch out how many you use. For every one tablespoon of cocoa powder, use ½ tablespoon of chocolate chips. 

Best For Red Velvet Cake, Frosting, and Hot Chocolate

#4. Carob Powder

Carob is a well-known chocolate substitution that comes from the carob tree. This tree gives out pods that have a pulp inside, which is ground into a powder similar to cocoa powder once it dries.

Unlike cocoa powder, though, carob powder tastes more roasted and sweet but much less bitter.

You can find carob powder in most organic grocery and health stores as it is now known as a healthy alternative to chocolate.

Use carob powder when you bake red velvet cake, cookies, and brownies, or when you make frosting or hot chocolate. This choice is very low in calories and contains no sugar or fat. 

#5. Hot Chocolate Mix

Using a hot chocolate mix isn’t the best choice on this list, but it may be a good replacement for cocoa powder in some cases. This option contains sugar, milk, and fat, and it is meant to be used in boiling water to prepare instant hot chocolate.

You can use a hot chocolate mix for baking things like red velvet cake, brownies, cookies, and when preparing a frosting.

You can find various brands of the hot chocolate mix at any grocery store, as it is a popular option for this hot beverage.

If you want to substitute hot cocoa, use about twice more hot chocolate mix because the flavor of chocolate isn’t as strong. You should also reduce the amount of fat, milk, and sugar you use in your dish.

#6. Chocolate Syrup

When you are in a pinch, you can use chocolate syrup to prepare plenty of dishes. Chocolate syrup is made from dark chocolate, sugar, and sometimes milk. You can use this choice when you prepare a red velvet cake, fudge, frosting, and hot chocolate. 

If you choose to use chocolate syrup, you will want to cut out some of the liquid in your recipe, as well as the sugar. Consider using only a bit at a time and taste as you go, since some brands may be stronger or sweeter than others.


Can I substitute coffee for cocoa powder?

In some recipes, you can certainly replace the cocoa powder with coffee and vice versa. Coffee has a stronger and more bitter flavor, so it will change your final dish, but it works well in some baked goods. Cocoa powder is much denser but also has a strong cocoa flavor.

Can drinking chocolate be used instead of cocoa powder?

Just like instant hot chocolate, you can use other types of pre-made mixes that you can use instead of cocoa powder. Make sure to adjust for sugar and fat, as these have more, and your end product may end up being too sweet.

Is dark chocolate the same as cocoa powder?

No. Dark chocolate is made with cocoa pieces, sugar, and fat, which makes it healthier than regular milk chocolate but it still has more calories. Cocoa powder is just the cocoa pieces in powder form without fat or sugar added.


Cocoa powder is a great ingredient to have around when you bake or make certain savory dishes.

Still, if you need any substitute, these six choices will add delicious chocolatey flavor to your dish. Always try the choice you pick before adding it and make adjustments to the other ingredients.

Up next: How long does cocoa powder last?

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