What’s the Difference Between Natural and Dutch-Process Cocoa?

If you’re just starting your baking journey, there are a few should-knows about certain ingredients. Baking is a science, after all! Whether you’re making cookies, brownies, cakes or muffins, there are differences in many ingredients that you’ll choose to bake with based on what they do in a recipe. Today, we’ll be learning about the key differences in cocoa powders. These are not the only cocoa powders but these are the most commonly used amongst home and professional bakers. Let’s dive into the world of cocoa!

What is cocoa powder?

Cocoa powder is produced from leftover roasted cocoa bean particles once cocoa butter has been extracted. It’s an unsweetened chocolate product that adds deep chocolate flavors to many baked goods, desserts and beverages.

What is natural cocoa powder?

Natural cocoa powder is just that. Natural cocoa powder from roasted cocoa beans. It has a lighter, medium brown color. It’s higher in acidity, with a PH level of 5.3-5.8. It yields a fruitier and more astringent taste.

What is Dutch processed cocoa powder?

Dutch processed cocoa powder, or alkalized cocoa powder, is simply cocoa solids that have been treated with an alkalizing agent to reduce the natural acidity. Dutch processed cocoa powder has a PH level of 7 making it a neutral product. Alkalizing cocoa means a darker color, more mellow & smooth in flavor and dissolves more easily into liquids. If you think about how an Oreo cookie tastes, the uniqueness of it, it’s a direct result of using the Dutch-processed cocoa powder.

When should you use each one in a recipe?

We’re glad you asked! When using cocoa powder in any sort of beverage like hot cocoa or in a pudding recipe for example, either one is interchangeable. Meaning, you can use either cocoa powder in any of those types of recipes depending on your flavor preference.

If you’re going to use cocoa powder in a brownie or cookie recipe, it gets a bit trickier as each ingredient works with a specific leavening agent. When looking at a recipe, it simply says “cocoa powder” and doesn’t specify which type, relying on what the other ingredients are will tell you which one to use.

When a recipe calls for baking soda, most of the time, recipes will want you to use a natural cocoa powder. The acidic cocoa powder will react with the alkaline baking soda to create lift in your recipe.

When a recipe calls for baking powder, most recipes will have you use Dutch-processed cocoa powder. This is simply because of how each of them reacts with the leavening agent.

Try this recipe with cocoa powder:

Now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about cocoa powders–consider yourself a professional and get to baking!

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About Corinne Quesnel

Corinne is a Vancouver-based writer and home-baker with a passion for the cooking process. She believes that cooking and baking should be an engaging and fulfilling practice, not just another chore. Through writing about healthy and flavorsome meals, Corinne hopes to inspire others to cherish their time in the kitchen as an adventure in creativity and well-being.

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