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11 Best Substitutes for Cocoa Powder in Frosting/Baking/Brownies

Ahh, it’s a holiday, finally! It’s time to get rid of lean proteins and tasteless green vegetables and give yourself a wonderful treat.

If you’re a diehard fan of chocolate, you’re probably thinking of treating yourself with any chocolate-flavored recipe. Right?

But what if you don’t have the primary ingredient for baking, “cocoa powder”? Don’t worry; this article will offer you the best substitute for cocoa powder.

30-Second Summary

  • Carob powder can be substituted in equal amount (add sweetener if necessary)
  • Carob molasses can be substituted (no sweetener needed), though liquid in recipe may need to be slightly reduced

Pure (or “natural”) cocoa powder can be bought alkalized (also known as Dutch-processed or “dutched”) or non-alkalized; alkalized cocoa has a higher acidity than non-alkalized cocoa and an allergy to the alkali used (e.g. potassium carbonate) may manifest itself as an allergy to cocoa rather than to the alkali.

Chocolate as sold in candy and drink-mix form generally contains other ingredients beside cocoa, such as milk, sugar, soy lecithin, and vanilla; an allergy to any of these ingredients may manifest itself as an allergy to chocolate rather than to cocoa.

Things About Cocoa Powder You Should Know

What is Cocoa Powder?

cocoa powder

Derived from the Spanish word “cacao,” the cocoa powder is a magical unsweetened product made by fermenting, roasting and cracking cacao beans to get enough cocoa butter.

Its flavor is just like chocolate, but it doesn’t contain fats. Cocoa powder is packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients, theobromine, fats and proteins, which offer many benefits to humans.

There are two methods for preparing cocoa powder [1]; the Natural process and the Dutch process.

History of Cocoa Powder

Let’s look at the history of our love – the cocoa powder! In 1828, a Dutch chemist named Casparus van Houten experimented on cocoa beans and excluded the fat from them.

Usually, the nib of cocoa bean holds almost 54% of cocoa butter; but Houten decreased this content to 50% by a hydraulic press. It led to the formation of a “cake,” which was then ground to make “Cocoa Powder” (the king of all chocolate products).

Then it never looked back and became popular throughout the world.

Interesting Facts About Cocoa Powder

  • The Mayan Culture was the first to use cocoa or chocolates as a romantic sign.
  • It is said that approximately 2-3 million tons of cocoa is produced every year in the whole world.
  • The countries that yield enormous cocoa beans are Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia, Ecuador, etc.

What Can You Substitute for Cocoa Powder?

1. Carob Powder

carob powder

Carob powder, also known as carob flour, looks like cocoa powder. It owns a lovely flavor, and people use it as a natural sweetener for baking. The process of production of both is the same.

It doesn’t contain harmful ingredients like gluten, caffeine and tyramine, which negatively affects the small intestine, stomach and brain function. Instead, the carob powder is enriched with dietary fiber, antioxidants and essential minerals, which are beneficial for human health.

It’s the best substitute for cocoa powder. Remember that as carob powder already has a sweet flavor, you should be very conscious about the amount of sugar in your recipe.

How to Substitute

The carob powder is substituted with the corresponding amount of cocoa powder.

The carob powder is only slightly bitter, unlike the unique bitterness of cocoa powder, so it will be good to add a small amount of instant coffee to your recipe.

2. Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a beautiful form of chocolate with no less than 50-70% cocoa solids and a little cocoa butter.

How to Substitute

Although its flavor is synonymous with cocoa powder, dark chocolate has an additional touch of sugar and fat. Therefore, if you use it as a cocoa powder substitute, it’s good to adjust the quantity of these two in your recipe.

It would be best to go for melted dark chocolate to make the best chocolate-flavored recipe. This makes it the best substitute for cocoa powder in brownies.

3. Baking Chocolate

baking chocolate

Baking chocolate or cooking chocolate is produced by ground cocoa nibs and has a crunchy appearance.

It comes up in numerous varieties, i.e., unsweetened, semi-sweet and sweet based on added sugar. So yes, you can substitute baking chocolate for cocoa powder.

How to Substitute

You can do this substitution by adjusting the sugar level in your recipe. Keep in mind that two tablespoons (1 ounce) of unsweetened baking chocolate can substitute for three tablespoons of natural cocoa powder.

4. Chocolate Chips

chocolate chips

Chocolate chips, also called chocolate morsels, are tiny pieces of sweetened chocolate used as a favorite ingredient in many desserts.

When it comes to any substitute for unsweetened cocoa powder, chocolate chips also raise their hands. But how do you replace cocoa powder with chocolate chips?

How to Substitute

The answer is that you can use 7-8 tablespoons (nearly half a cup) of semi-sweet chocolate chips to substitute for 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

5. Couverture Chocolate

couverture chocolate

Couverture refers to the chocolates that make their place in the list of high-quality chocolates.

Unlike regular chocolates, couverture chocolate is made by grinding it until it gets a smooth texture. The couverture chocolate contains a relatively high cocoa butter content than cocoa powder.

It is estimated that couverture has nearly 30% cocoa butter compared to 10% of cocoa powder. It has a very high amount of fats and gives your recipe a shiny, glossy, and pleasing look. The couverture chocolate is also filled with 31% cocoa powder and 35% cocoa solids.

How to Substitute

It can be an excellent substitute for regular cocoa powder, but you should be conscious about the amount of oil you add to your recipe (due to couverture chocolate’s high fat/butter content.)

6. Chocolate Drinks

chocolate drinks

Although chocolate drinks are not an excellent alternative to cocoa powder, you can still use them in an emergency. It is packed with cocoa, artificial flavors, fiber, salt, colorings, proteins, milk, etc.

Even if it contains cocoa as an ingredient, its flavor still lacks intensity.

How to Substitute

So, if you’re going to use chocolate drink as a replacement for cocoa powder, you need to add a high amount of chocolate drink to adjust the sugar level of the recipe and give it a smooth texture.

7. Carob Chips

carob chips

Carob chips are a molded form of carob powder(a caffeine-free substitute to cocoa powder) with additional ingredients like butter as a source of fats, erythritol as a sweetener, sunflower Lecithin as an emulsifier and vanilla extract for flavoring.

It can successfully be used as an alternative to cocoa powder in your homemade recipes. As carob chips are sweet, they can probably change your desired results; so adjust the amount accordingly.

8. Molasses


After reading this word, the first thought that comes to your mind might be, “Ooh! Now, how can molasses alternate cocoa powder”? Seriously? The short answer is yes, they definitely can!

Molasses, sometimes called black treacle, are an uncommon substitute for cocoa powder, but they are often taken for granted.

It is a dark-colored, viscous liquid drawn out by grinding sugar beet and sugar cane into refined sugar. Its taste is quite sweet and thick; that’s why it’s considered the weird alternative to cocoa powder. But, it would be best to give this substitution a try once.

How to Substitute

One tablespoon of molasses is enough to substitute for two tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Bonus: if you’re preparing cookies but don’t have molasses, here are some top molasses substitutes for you to choose.

9. Black Cocoa Powder

Black cocoa powder is a modified form of cocoa powder, synthesized by passing cocoa powder through an “Ultra-Dutch-Process.”

This unsweetened and dark-colored cocoa powder is alkalized to reduce its acidity.

How to Substitute

When used as a substitute for regular cocoa powder, we suggest a 1:1 ratio for black cocoa powder.

10. Nutella


Although hazelnut cocoa spreads couldn’t take their place in the most prioritized cocoa powder substitutes, no one can deny its deliciousness and sweet flavor.

Nutella is the most popular hazelnut spread, which contains sugar, 50% palm oil, cocoa solids, skim milk powder, soy lecithin, and vanillin flavor. These ingredients can compel you to use it as a cocoa powder alternative.

How to Substitute

Usually, the 8 tablespoons of Nutella can replace the 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Due to its high sugar and fat content, you should be vigilant about the amount of sugar and oil you add to your recipe.

11. Espresso Powder

espresso powder

The last on our list is espresso powder! Although it’s an unpopular option, you can still use it when you run out of any other substitute mentioned above.

The espresso powder is a dark and intense product made by roasting, grinding, brewing and drying coffee beans.

It shares many similarities with cocoa powder, like a very bitter taste, dark color and acidity. Therefore, it can alternate with cocoa powder.

Further reading: Best Espresso Powders for Baking & Drinking

Other Substitutes

Here are till some uncommoon substitutes for you:

  • Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder (use in a 1:1 ratio)
  • Raw Cacao Powder
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Hot Cocoa Mix
  • Hot Chocolate Mix.
  • Chocolate Protein Powder

FAQs About Cocoa Powder

Can I use chocolate syrup and cocoa mix instead of cocoa powder?

No. You can’t replace the cocoa powder with these ingredients.

The chocolate syrup has a watery consistency, and the cocoa mix is full of sugar, powdery substances and harmful additives. They can alter the results of your recipe in a shocking way you’d never thought.

Can I use melted chocolate as a substitute for cocoa powder?

Yes, you can try this substitution. Use semi-sweet melted chocolate with 40 to 60% cocoa solids and melt it to substitute.

Can I substitute Dutch-processed cocoa powder for natural cocoa?

The short answer is yes! You can alternate one form of cocoa powder with other without worrying about the adjustments in ingredients.


Wrapping it up, we hope this article successfully guides you about the substitute for cocoa powder. All you need is to adjust the amount of sugar and fat in your recipe accordingly. Keep tasting your recipe after some moments to avoid any mishap. Good luck!

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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