Cocoa Powder, in its strictest form, is vegan-friendly as it doesn’t include any animal by-products.
As a vegan, I always stock cocoa powder in my pantry because I like cooking, and it’s useful in many dishes that I make. In case you wonder, cocoa powder is what I always put in my oatmeal. Yum!
Cocoa powder is the finely ground powdered form of dry cocoa solids. The powder, which is rich in flavanols, tastes bitter and acidic when it’s untreated. But most cocoa powder is treated with alkaline to reduce and balance the bitter taste that flavanols give.
Do you also love cocoa powder as much as I do? Then let’s go find out more about it!
Table of Contents
What Is Cocoa Powder?
Cocoa Powder is the unsweetened finished product of dried cocoa solids. This happens after the fat called cocoa butter had been removed from the beans during the process.
These dried cocoa solids are then ground to make cocoa powder
Despite the process of removing cocoa powder from the beans, there are still small traces of cocoa butter in the powder. This allows them to melt easily. Cocoa is naturally rich in flavanols, which give a bitter taste.
The bitter taste only gets balanced when the cocoa powder itself is treated with alkaline.
There are two different processes to this.
Broma Process or Naturally Processed Cocoa
- This is done by hanging bags of roasted cocoa beans in a warm room with a higher temperature. This allows the butter to get extracted from the beans. Once it’s done, the remaining cocoa beans are ground, making them into powder.
- Natural cocoa is light brown in color with 5.3 to 5.8 pH, which means it has higher acidity than Dutch process cocoa.
- Natural cocoa is great for recipes that require baking soda as it can neutralize acidity, especially in baking cakes.
Dutch Process Cocoa
- The process is similar to the Broma Process except for the alkalization. This is to neutralize the bitterness and acidity of the cocoa powder.
- As soon as the cocoa butter is drained off the beans, the remaining solids are soaked in an alkaline solution. The solution is either potassium carbonate, sodium carbonate, or sodium hydroxide.
- This process will make the cocoa solids chemically neutral, which balances the bitter and acidic taste of the powder itself.
- Dutch process cocoa is dark brown in color and is used in baking, ice cream, hot chocolate drinks, and chocolate bars.
The word cocoa originated from the Spanish term cacao, which is also derived from the word cacahuatl, a Nahuatl term meaning kakawa. Nahuatl, also known as Aztec or Mexicano, is a language spoken by those who live in Central Mexico.
The cacao tree was first domesticated in South America about 5,300 years ago before the Olmecs introduced them in Central America. In the foothills of the Amazon, Andes, and the Orinoco basins, you will find lots of cacao trees growing. It is also native to the Amazon rainforest.
Cocoa beans don’t literally mean legumes or beans. They are seeds of cacao or cocoa pod, the fruit of the cacao tree.
Just because it’s just a powder doesn’t mean you can already have it anytime at any amount. Cocoa also has calories, which you also need to keep count.
Here’s the estimated figure for every 100 g of cocoa solids or cocoa powder.
- Calories: 228
- Total Fat: 14 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 21 mg
- Potassium: 1,524 mg
- Total Carbs: 58 g
- Protein: 20 g
- Caffeine: 230 mg
If you notice, 100 g of cocoa powder gives you 228 calories. It’s not high enough for you to get worried, but you also have to consider its high potassium content.
According to health experts, average adults should have between 2,600 mg and 3,400 mg of potassium intake per day. Excessive potassium intake may lead to a heart attack, kidney disease, and more.
So, it’s also important to control your potassium intake to stay healthy.
Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder
Cocoa, from the cacao tree, is rich in vitamins and minerals that help maintain health and mobilize the human body. The first people to use cocoa are the Mayans of Central America.
Since then, cocoa has been a staple in the food industry and is cultivated anywhere in the world.
Cocoa powder has many health benefits that help you in keeping things healthy.
- Rich in Polyphenols
- Polyphenols naturally occur in vegetables, fruits, chocolate, tea, and wine. These are antioxidants known for fighting free radicals, heart disease, cancer, and many more.
- It can also help reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol and sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and improve blood flow.
- Improves Nitric Oxide Levels
- The high flavanols in cocoa are said to improve nitric oxide levels in the blood. This helps maintain a good function of the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
- Reduces the Risk of Heart Attacks
- Cocoa also reduces bad cholesterol, improves blood sugar levels, and has a blood-thinning effect. It helps reduce the risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
- Improve Blood Flow and Function
- Since cocoa is rich in polyphenols, several studies found that these help fight against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Polyphenols help improve the blood flow to your brain, which helps boost brain function.
- Flavanols are also said to help relax the muscles of the blood vessels, which give enough blood supply to the brain.
- Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- The flavanols in cocoa are found to have helped lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- It also slows down carb digestion and absorption in the gut and improves insulin secretion.
- Lowers Risk of Cancer
- Flavanols that are found in fruits and vegetables may also have anti-cancer properties.
- Since Flavanols are antioxidants, it is said that they can protect the cell against reactive molecules, reduces cell growth, and helps prevent the spread of cancer cells.
- Helps Improve Asthma
- Cocoa contains anti-asthma properties called theobromine and theophylline. These compounds are known to reduce inflammation in the lungs and help alleviate persistent coughing.
- Improve Oral and Skin Health
- The compounds found in cocoa are said to have anti-enzymatic, antibacterial, and immune-stimulating properties that help improve dental health. These properties are helpful to people with gum disease and dental cavities.
- The polyphenols found in cocoa are also found to have contributed to skin health by improving the texture and hydration, sun protection, and improved skin blood circulation.
Cocoa powder is also easy to include in your diet in the form of hot or cold chocolate, baked goods, smoothies, chocolate bars, and much more.
Different Way To Use Cocoa Powder
It might be surprising to you, but there are many different ways to use cocoa powder. Some of them have nothing to do with cooking and baking, and that’s definitely genius!
If you have cocoa powder at home, try these different ways to use it. It’s very useful, especially when you love baking or making your own food at home.
Of course, these must be done the vegan way, especially in baking.
- Homemade Oreos
- Frozen Berries
- Chocolate Mocha Pancakes
- Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles
- Dessert Smoothie
- Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes
- Mug Cake
- Homemade Hot Cocoa
- DIY Face Mask Paste
Best Vegan Cocoa Powder Brands To Buy
While the cocoa powder is vegan in its purest form, it’s still worth checking out the ingredients used, especially when bought from supermarkets.
I have a few brands I like the most, and I’d like to share them with you. Make sure to read the ingredients used before adding anything to your cart to ensure that you’re still doing it the vegan way.
Most of them are non-GMO, Kosher-certified, and gluten-free. So they’re great for those who are sensitive and allergic.
- Black Velvet Cacao Powder
- Organic NuNaturals Cocoa Powder
- Navitas Organic Cacao Powder
- Food To Live Organic Cocoa Powder
- HERSHEY’S Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- Anthony’s Organic Cocoa Powder
- 365 Everyday Value Organic Cocoa Powder
Feel free to grab any other cocoa powder brands I haven’t mentioned in the list. As long as they’re vegan-friendly. you can use them at home for your cooking and any other purposes.
The Bottom Line
Cocoa powder in its purest form doesn’t involve any animal by-products and is suitable for a vegan diet. Cocoa is also rich in flavonol and polyphenols, which you can enjoy from.
Cocoa powder is the finely ground form of cocoa solids after cocoa butter is extracted from the beans. In case you wonder, cocoa butter is vegan-friendly unless it has to go through a process that involves animal ingredients.
I have a comprehensive guide about cocoa butter in this article if you wanna check it out.
Nonetheless, there are several cocoa powder brands to choose from that are vegan-friendly. Remember that it’s important to check the label first before purchasing anything.
Some brands are not labeled vegan but are still vegan and organic. So, that’s another thing that you’ll have to check.