Cacao v cocoa: I get the question a lot whether cacao powder can be subbed for cocoa powder in chocolatey dessert recipes. Let’s discuss!
What is cacao powder?
In short, cacao is a raw, less processed form of cocoa. They come from the same plant the main difference is when they are turned into a powder: before or after roasting.
The process looks something like this:
Harvested. Both cocoa and cacao start out as beans from the cacao plant.
Separated. The beans are separated from the white fatty part surrounding the beans (cocoa butter).
Fermented. The beans are then fermented to develop flavor before they are roasted. Cacao powder is processed at a low temperature and made from ground up beans that have been fermented but not roasted.
Roasted. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is processed at higher temperatures and made from ground up beans that have been both fermented and roasted.
Taste Differences with Cacao v. Cocoa
Cacao powder tends to be a bit more bitter than cocoa powder. Roasting the beans develops the sweet flavor a bit more making cocoa powder a sweeter option. No wonder it’s so popular in desserts!
I’ve heard rumblings that cacao powder is healthier and more nutritious than cocoa powder because it’s less processed. There isn’t much research to support this though I’m a big proponent of doing whatever makes you feel good.
If you like the earthy, bitter flavor of cacao powder and it makes you feel good to use it, go for it!
Chocolate, in general, has time and time again come through with health benefits like antioxidants that can help lower blood pressure and help increase blood circulation to the heart. So rest assured that whether you’re grabbing for cocoa powder or cacao powder, the nutritional benefits of chocolate are forever in your favor 🙂
When to Choose Cacao or Cocoa
They can be used pretty interchangeably, though it will have an effect on the flavor.
If you like a slightly bitter, earthy flavor, you won’t mind subbing in cacao for cocoa in your favorite recipes.
I personally like my desserts sweet so I use cocoa powder for all my baked goods and save cacao powder for healthier, no bake treats. I’ll give you some ideas below!
Ways to Use Cacao Powder in Recipes
Smoothies. Try a chocolate smoothie! Add a tablespoon of cacao powder in your favorite peanut butter banana smoothie for a rich, chocolatey dessert!
Balls. Energy balls, bliss balls. Whatever you want to call them, no bake balls are great for incorporating some cacao powder!
Pudding. I have this chocolate avocado pudding recipe which is so fun.