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Substitute for Cocoa Powder: 12 Excellent Alternatives

Cocoa powder can give baked goods a rich and indulgent flavor, but for those looking for a healthier alternative or simply wanting to change up their recipes, cocoa powder substitutes offer an array of options. This article discusses the best alternatives to cocoa powder.

Substitute for cocoa powder

Cocoa powder is a natural, unsweetened powder made from ground and processed cocoa beans. It is used in cooking and baking to add a rich, chocolatey flavor to cakes, cookies, brownies, and hot chocolate drinks. It can also be used as a topping on desserts and other sweet treats. A substitute for cocoa powder should be suitable for all these dishes.

When looking for an alternative ingredient, it’s essential to remember that powdered cocoa has a deep, rich brown color and a slightly bitter flavor. It has several health benefits, too. For instance, cocoa powder contains magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and antioxidants that help protect the body against disease and improve overall health. Additionally, this ingredient is a great source of dietary fiber and contains no cholesterol or trans fats. It’s low in sodium and sugar but high in flavonoids, which help lower blood pressure.

The best substitutes for cocoa powder are Dutch process cocoa, unsweetened cooking chocolate, carob powder, hot cocoa mix, hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips, dark chocolate, couverture chocolate, chocolate bars, Nutella, chocolate syrup, and molasses. Keep reading to discover more information about each option. Learn more in the FAQs section.

1. Dutch process cocoa

Dutch process cocoa

Dutch process cocoa is a good substitute for natural cocoa powder. It is a form of cocoa powder treated with an alkalizing agent, making it a darker shade of brown and slightly less acidic than natural cocoa.

Dutch process cocoa is great for baking cakes and other desserts, thanks to its rich flavor and dark color. While the two are similar, you shouldn’t use Dutch processed powder as a straight substitute for regular cocoa powder since it’s more concentrated. Instead, use half the amount of required cocoa powder. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, use 1 tablespoon of Dutch process cocoa.

It may be necessary to make small adjustments to baking recipes when using Dutch process cocoa has a milder flavor and higher moisture content than cocoa powder. As such, it may be necessary to add sugar or flour to balance out the ingredient ratio, in order to ensure that you don’t end up with a dry cake or overly sweet pastry. Add an extra tablespoon of flour per each teaspoon of Dutch process cocoa, as well as an extra tablespoon of sugar per each tablespoon of Dutch cocoa.

2. Unsweetened cooking chocolate

Unsweetened cooking chocolate

Unsweetened cooking chocolate is a great substitute for cocoa powder. It has a high content of chocolate liquor and cocoa solids but no sugar. Unsweetened cooking chocolate adds more flavor and a richer texture to dishes, thanks to its fat contents.

To replace cocoa powder, apply a 1:1 ratio. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, use 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cooking chocolate, increase the amount of sugar, and reduce the fat required by the dish.

Melt the unsweetened cooking chocolate in a double boiler or a bowl placed over simmering water. Be sure not to scorch it to avoid ruining the flavor and texture. Once melted, add the unsweetened cooking chocolate to your recipe at the same measurement that you would use cocoa powder. Since melted chocolate has a higher fat content, you may need to adjust other ingredients slightly to account for this.

3. Carob powder

Carob powder

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to cocoa powder, consider using carob powder. This vegan and gluten-free option has a similar texture and flavor as cocoa powder without the added calories and sugar.

Carob has a somewhat different taste compared to cocoa. It’s slightly sweet, yet not overpowering like chocolate can be. Cocoa has some bitterness to it that you won’t find when using carob. If you’re used to baking with cocoa, using carob may take some getting used to at first, but you may end up preferring its unique flavor.

Carob doesn’t have quite the same amount of healthy antioxidants as cocoa, nor does it contain caffeine, so bear this in mind when deciding which type of powder to use in your recipes.

When using carob powder in place of cocoa powder in a recipe, apply a 1:1 ratio. For instance, if the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, replace it with 1/4 cup of carob powder. Carob is naturally sweeter than cocoa, so you must adjust the sweetness accordingly by reducing the amount of sugar or honey required by the recipe.

4. Hot cocoa mix

Hot cocoa mix

Replacing cocoa powder in recipes with hot cocoa mix can be a great way to elevate your desserts or baked goods.

The amount of hot cocoa mix you need depends on the recipe you are making and the amount of cocoa powder it calls for. Generally, a tablespoon of cocoa powder equals about one packet of hot cocoa mix. For more precise measurements, read the specific instructions on the back of your hot cocoa package. Be sure to adjust any additional sugar or sweetener called for in the recipe. Due to the added sugar content in most ready-made cocoa mixes, you may want to reduce the other sugar called for to get the desired sweetness level.

5. Hot chocolate mix

Hot chocolate mix

Hot chocolate mix is a simpler way than cocoa powder to make your favorite desserts. Compared to cocoa powder, hot chocolate mix has a richer chocolate flavor and a thicker texture since it contains cocoa powder, sugar, creamer, and milk powder.

Substitute equal parts hot chocolate mix for the amount of cocoa powder that is called for in your recipe. Add an extra tablespoon or two of water (or other liquid) to help thin out the mixture and give it a smooth texture.

6. Chocolate chips

Chocolate chips

Chocolate chips make a great substitute for cocoa powder when baking. They provide a rich flavor and sweetness, adding a distinctive texture and crunch to the baked goods.

Begin by melting the chocolate chips using the microwave or a double boiler on the stovetop. Then add the melted chocolate chips to your recipe as if it were cocoa powder in a 1:1 ratio. For example, if the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, use 3 tablespoons of melted chocolate chips.

It’s a good idea to taste the end product because substituting chocolate chips for cocoa powder will alter the flavor slightly. The dish may require additional sugar or another ingredient to create your desired flavor.

7. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is an excellent substitute for cocoa powder. There are several benefits to using this ingredient. Firstly, dark chocolate is sweeter, ideal for desserts where you must increase sugar without compromising the flavor. Secondly, the richness and creaminess of dark chocolate make it a great addition to baked goods that need extra body and moisture, such as brownies, cake, cookies, hot chocolate, and mousse. Finally, the high fat content of dark chocolate provides more buttery notes in cakes and brownies that cannot be achieved with cocoa powder.

To replace cocoa powder, start by melting the dark chocolate into a liquid form over low heat in a double boiler or microwave. Measure the amount of required dark chocolate and add it to the recipe, adjusting any other wet ingredients accordingly. For example, for natural sweetness, add honey or maple syrup. For a boost of flavor, throw in a pinch of sea salt or a teaspoon of vanilla extract. To get an even richer texture and flavor, mix the melted dark chocolate with coffee liqueur or espresso powder.

8. Couverture chocolate

Couverture chocolate

Couverture chocolate is a good substitute since it has a higher content of cocoa powder than other options. It is a common ingredient in chocolate bars, cakes, barks, brownies, and candy. Couverture chocolate is also great for tempering or dipping.

When making the substitution, use 2 tablespoons of couverture chocolate instead of 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

9. Chocolate bar

Chocolate bar

A chocolate bar is a good alternative to cocoa powder, especially since you can choose from various types, such as milk or dark chocolate. When looking for a suitable replacement, it’s best to choose a chocolate bar with 70% or higher cocoa powder content.

When replacing cocoa powder with a milk chocolate bar, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, use 1 tablespoon of grated or melted chocolate bar. To create a robust chocolate flavor, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of instant granulated coffee.

10. Nutella


Nutella is a decent substitute for cocoa powder. It is a chocolate and hazelnut spread used as a topping for waffles, breakfast toast, ice-creams, or pancakes. Nutella can also be used for chocolate cakes, cheesecakes, and brownies.

For every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, use 4 ounces of Nutella. Since Nutella is already sweet, you should reduce the sugar required by the recipe. Additionally, Nutella contains 15 grams of fat per tablespoon, so adjust your ingredients carefully to get the right consistency.

11. Chocolate syrup

Chocolate syrup

Chocolate syrup is a good substitute for recipes that need a small amount of cocoa powder. It has less fat than cocoa powder and can add extra sweetness to your recipes. 

For every tablespoon of cocoa powder in a recipe, substitute two tablespoons of chocolate syrup. If you are making cookies or a cake that calls for melted butter or oil and cocoa powder, melt one part butter and mix it with one part chocolate syrup before adding it to the batter. This helps prevent clumping and ensures the finished product has an even texture.

When replacing cocoa powder with chocolate in frostings or glazes, add a little extra liquid (such as cream) to thin it out. You may also need to require the amount of sugar or honey required by the recipe.

To make quick hot cocoa, stir two tablespoons of chocolate syrup into one cup of hot milk until dissolved. Add a sweetener like honey or sugar if desired.

12. Molasses


Like chocolate syrup, molasses is a decent replacement for recipes that need a small amount of cocoa powder. It has a nutty flavor with an acidic caramel-like aftertaste and a smokey hue.

Replace every 1/4 cup of cocoa powder with 1/3 cup of molasses and reduce the amount of sugar by 1/4 cup. If the recipe calls for baking soda, add an extra pinch to balance out the acidic taste of molasses. For best results, look for unsulfured molasses, which has a lighter flavor than sulfured varieties.


Discover more details about cocoa powder and its substitutes.

What’s the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch cocoa powder?

The key difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch cocoa powder is the processing mode. Unsweetened cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are roasted, then separated into cocoa butter and cocoa solids before being ground into a fine powder. Meanwhile, Dutch-processed (or alkalized) cocoa powder is similarly made from roasted beans, but they are treated with an alkaline solution to reduce acidity before the grinding process. As a result of this process, Dutch-processed cocoa has a richer flavor, darker color, and milder taste than traditional unsweetened cocoa powder. Because of its lower acidity, Dutch-processed cocoa blends better with baking soda in baked goods recipes.

Can I use coffee in place of cocoa powder?

Yes, it is possible to use coffee instead of cocoa powder when baking. However, you should consider that the taste and texture won’t be the same as baking with cocoa powder. Coffee will produce a stronger flavor and a drier texture.

Can flour be a substitute for cocoa powder?

Yes, it is possible to substitute flour for cocoa powder in some recipes, though it is not recommended. Flour doesn’t provide the same flavor as cocoa powder and may result in a far different texture. If you choose to use flour as a replacement, be sure to adjust the other ingredients accordingly and monitor the results carefully.

Can I substitute cocoa powder with drinking chocolate?

Yes, It is possible to substitute cocoa powder with drinking chocolate in certain recipes. However, drinking chocolate contains sugar, milk, and other ingredients that will alter the flavor and texture of the dish. Additionally, cocoa powder tends to be more bitter than drinking chocolate, so you may want to add extra sugar to counteract this.


Cocoa powder is an important ingredient in desserts and other chocolate treats. However, you may not always have this ingredient when you want to make your favorite treat. Having a substitute will go a long way in saving your recipe, and there are so many cocoa powder substitutes you can use. Some have the same color and flavor as cocoa powder, while others require adjusting other ingredients to balance the recipe.

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