The BEST Cocoa Powder Substitutes To Use

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In this article will cover the best cocoa powder substitutes and how you can use them in your kitchen.

Have you ever experienced being in the middle of making a recipe, only to find out that you were missing one crucial ingredient? I know I have, and I’ve kicked myself for it. But If it so happens that your recipe calls for cocoa powder, don’t worry!

Plenty of substitutes are available that can be just as delicious and will save you from abandoning your baking plans. We’ll discuss the best substitute options for cocoa powder–from unconventional pantry staples like carob powder to decadent sweeteners like Nutella and melted chocolate. Discover which subs fit into different recipes and learn how to use them with confidence!

But before we dive in, let’s make sure we understand what cocoa powder is. This will help use find the perfect replacement for it.

What Is Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be used to make delicious treats. From cakes and brownies to hot chocolate, cocoa is a staple in many recipes.

Cocoa powder is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter. It has a strong, bitter flavor often complimented with sweeteners like sugar and milk when used in baking or chocolate drinks.

Cocoa powder is the key ingredient of hot chocolate and other chocolate desserts. It can also be used as an alternative to regular flour for thickening sauces, biscuit mixes, and other delicacies. It’s also great when adding it to a meat rub.

I have done this countless times, and it’s great for steaks. If you are curious about this, then check out this awesome recipe from Ree Drummond’s: Spicy Cocoa Steak Rub

Cocoa power isn’t just an amazing ingredient that can go sweet or savory it’s also pretty good for you. It contains important vitamins such as magnesium, phosphorus, iron, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. This is why you hear all the time that chocolate is good for you!

Key Cocoa Powder Flavors

These are the very flavor profiles you will be looking for when finding a substitute for cocoa.

  • Bitter – Cocoa also has a bitter flavor, which is caused by the presence of certain compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of compound that can provide health benefits, but can also contribute to the bitter taste of cocoa.
  • Aromatic – Volatile compounds are responsible for the characteristic aroma of cocoa and can include compounds such as coffee and vanilla.
  • Nutty – Cocoa also has a nutty flavor, which is caused by certain compounds known as amino acids.
  • Fruity – Cocoa also has a fruity flavor, which is caused by certain compounds known as flavonoids.

Cocoa Powder Substitutes

Since cocoa powder is tricky when swapping and converting measurements. I have done my best to give you my suggested amounts.

substitutes for cocoa powder

Unsweetened Chocolate

Unsweetened chocolate is made from cacao beans and cocoa butter, so it has the same rich flavor as cocoa but without the added. You may need to decrease the fat in the recipe since it contains cocoa butter, but it yields a richer flavor than other substitutes. It’s perfect for making truffles, brownies, and other chocolate confections that require a deep, dark flavor. YUM!

For 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder use 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate

For 16 tablespoons of cocoa powder (1 cup) use 5.3 oz of unsweetened chocolate

Semisweet Chocolate

Semisweet chocolate combines both sweeteners and cocoa beans, giving it a milder flavor than unsweetened chocolate. Since this type of chocolate contains both sugar and fat, you’ll need to reduce those two components in the recipe when using semisweet as a substitute for cocoa powder. It can be melted down into a ganache or used in baking and drinks to add sweetness without overpowering deeper flavors.

For 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder use 1 oz of semisweet chocolate

For 16 tablespoons of cocoa powder (1 cup) use 5.3 oz of semisweet chocolate

Carob Powder

Carob powder is made from ground carob pods, which are naturally sweet compared to cocoa powder. This means you might need to decrease the sugar in a recipe when substituting carob for cocoa. Carob does not contain caffeine as its counterpart does, making it ideal for those who wish to avoid stimulants in coffee, tea, and chocolate. Additionally, carob is naturally gluten-free, so those with allergies or sensitivities can also enjoy desserts made with carob.

I do want to point out that carob does have a different flavor than chocolate. Some people love it, while others don’t. I personally love both chocolate and carob. I find them similar yet different.

For 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder use 3 tablespoons of carob powder

For 16 tablespoons of cocoa powder (1 cup) use 16 tablespoons of carob powder

Dutch Process Cocoa Powder Plus Cream of Tartar

Dutch process cocoa powder has been alkalized (or “dutched”) to remove its acidic properties and create a mellower flavored product than regular unsweetened cocoa powder or natural cocoa powder. Combining Dutch process cocoa powder with cream of tarter will help make it similar to regular unsweetened cocoa powder.

If you don’t have the cream of tarter on hand, you can also use baking soda as an alternative option for adding acidity back into your recipe when using Dutch process cocoa powder as a substitute for unsweetened cocoa powder.

Use equal amounts of Dutch cocoa with regular cocoa

For 3 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa powder add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tarter or baking soda


This one is a little stretch, but if you are in a bind and don’t have any other alternatives. Then Nutella to the rescue! The hazelnut spread is full of cocoa powder, sugar, and vegetable oil. Remember that it has a different flavor than cocoa and is sweet, so adjust the sweetness levels of your recipes accordingly. You will also need to adjust the fat level as Nutella is made with oil and nuts. Additionally, Nutella does contain a small amount of dairy, so if that’s an issue, don’t use it.

If you are going to use Nutella, make sure it’s for a recipe that it will work for. For example, making hot chocolate with Nutella would work well and taste amazing. But don’t use Nutella if the recipe asks for a lot of cocoa powder. It won’t work; Nutella is a spread and functions differently than chocolate.

substitutes for cocoa powder infograph

My Final Thoughts On Substitutes for Cocoa

No matter what type of substitute you decide to use for your next baking endeavor, keep the above information in mind before embarking on your journey! With these ingredients, anyone can turn their favorite recipes into something even more delicious without having actual cocoa on hand! Happy Cooking! And don’t forget to check out our other substitutes!

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