If you’re a lover of chocolate baked goods, chances are you’ve come in contact with unsweetened cocoa powder before. Cocoa powder is what gives your favorite chocolate cakes, cupcakes, muffins, puddings, and much more its deeply chocolatey flavor and color, and for the regular home baker, is a standard pantry staple. However, if you find yourself without cocoa powder at home and no time to go out to buy more, there are plenty of options that can sub in in a pinch without skimping on flavor, which for the true chocolate lovers out there, is the most important factor when looking for an alternative. Not all cocoa powder alternatives are created equal, so when picking out your backup options, look for the ones that have the right flavor and texture, so your favorite chocolate treats don’t disappoint. Check out our guide for the 5 best substitutes for unsweetened cocoa powder to find out what your options are so your chocolate desserts don’t miss out on their signature ingredient.
1. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
Cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate have several similarities which is why unsweetened baking chocolate is your best choice as a cocoa powder substitute. They both are made largely from cocoa solids meaning they taste similar to one another, and they are both made from cocoa beans. The biggest difference between the two is that baking chocolate contains cocoa butter, while cocoa powder does not, meaning that when using it as a cocoa powder substitute in baking, you’ll need to remove some of the fat from your recipe. For every ounce of baking chocolate, remove one tablespoon of fat from the recipe to get the right ratio.
2. Carob Powder
Made from the pods of the carob tree, carob powder comes from the drying of those pods made into a fine powder making for a decent cocoa powder substitute. The flavor of carob powder doesn’t have the same bitterness that cocoa powder has, but it does have the same look and feel making it a fairly decent substitute in a 1:1 swap if you’ve got it on hand.
3. Hot Cocoa Mix
If you’re truly desperate for a cocoa powder substitute and you simply don’t have the time to run out and buy it, that packet of hot cocoa mix hanging out in your pantry is a great option. Hot cocoa mix is typically made from cocoa powder, spices, sugar, and milk solids, so it will still provide the chocolatey flavor and color you’re looking for in a chocolate dessert without fail. However, because of the added sweetener in the mix you will want to lower the amount of sugar or sweetener in your recipe so you get the right balance.
4. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Similar to unsweetened baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips make for a suitable cocoa powder substitute when melted down and added to your dessert mix. An important note is that semi-sweet chocolate chips contain cocoa butter and sugar, meaning you will need to remove some of the fat (butter, oil, shortening, etc.) and sugar in your recipe to get the correct ratio.
5. Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder
There are two types of cocoa powder, natural and Dutch-process, and if you aren’t sure if you can use one to replace the other, fear not. The main difference between natural and Dutch-process is just that, in the process; cocoa powder in its natural state is simply made from roasted cocoa beans that have been turned to powder, while Dutch-process cocoa beans are washed in potassium carbonate neutralizing their acidity and making the powdered version darker in color and milder in flavor. To replace natural cocoa powder with Dutch-process cocoa powder, add some acid to it like white vinegar or lemon juice to simulate that natural acidity, then use it as a 1:1 swap. For every three tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in your recipe, add ⅛ teaspoon of acid to your Dutch-process cocoa.