Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Substitute

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Substitute. Photo © Erin Huffstetler
  • Prep Time
    2 min
  • Cook Time
    0 min
  • Total Time
    2 min
  • Yield

Out of unsweetened cocoa powder? Here's are two substitutions you can make, if you don't have time to run to the store for more. Just pick the one you'd like to use, and your recipe will be back on track in minutes.


  • Dutch-process cocoa powder + an acid (cream of tartar, white vinegar, lemon juice) or unsweetened baking chocolate


Option 1: Replace the unsweetened cocoa powder called for with an equal amount of dutch-processed cocoa. Then, bump up the acidity by adding 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, white vinegar or lemon juice for every three Tablespoons of cocoa powder used.

The main difference between dutch-process cocoa and unsweetened cocoa is the acidity. Dutch-process is pH neutral, while unsweetened cocoa is acidic.

So, if you add an acid to dutch-process cocoa, it will react very similarly in a recipe. You may find that your recipe comes out a bit darker than usual, since dutch-process cocoa is darker in color, but when is a more chocolaty-looking recipe ever a bad thing?

Option 2: Swap in one ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate for three Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Then, omit one Tablespoon of butter, oil or shortening from the recipe to account for the higher fat content in the baking chocolate. To make this substitution work, melt the unsweetened chocolate, and add it to the recipe when you add the sugar and butter. This will ensure that it gets well-integrated with the other ingredients.

Just know that your recipe probably won't taste quite as chocolaty as usual. Unsweetened cocoa has more cocoa solids, and that's where the flavor comes from.Your recipe will still taste good, if you make it with unsweetened baking cocoa, but it won't have that off-the-charts chocolate flavor that the author of the recipe likely intended, and you may notice other subtle differences in the texture of the finished product.

Can You Substitute Cocoa Mix for Cocoa Powder?

You can in a pinch, but it's a poor substitute. Cocoa mix contains only a small amount of cocoa powder, along with a lot of sugar, powdered milk and who knows what else, so if you replace it measure for measure, you'll only be getting a small portion of the intended cocoa powder in the recipe, along with a bunch of extra ingredients.

That can -- and will -- have all kinds of unintended affects on your recipe. 

More Chocolate Substitutes:

Print these chocolate substitutes, and add them to your recipe book, so it'll be easy to find a stand-in the next time you find you're out of a particular chocolate that you need. A substitute will never be as good as the real thing, but if it saves you a trip to the store, sometimes that's okay.

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