What’s the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa?

What’s the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa?

Cacao and cocoa are derived from the same plant, but have several notable differences in nutrition, processing, and usefulness in baking and other recipes. Click to know more about the difference between cacao and cocoa, and the health benefits of substituting cocoa with cacao and cacao nibs

9 Superfoods to Improve Your Immune System Reading What’s the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa? 3 minutes Next Delish Crepes and Strawberries Recipe

Cacao vs Cocoa

What is Cacao?

Cacao refers to any of the food products derived solely from the cacao bean. These products include cacao nibs, cacao butter, cacao mass or paste, and cacao powder. At Natierra, our cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans; this process retains more nutrients and removes most of the fat (cacao butter). For example, one serving (3 tablespoons) of our cacao nibs contains a whopping 31% of your daily value of dietary fiber and 4 grams of plant-based protein.

 Cacao powder and cacao nibs natierra

Natierra organic cacao powder and cacao nibs

What is Cocoa?

Cocoa looks the same, however there is a big difference. Cocoa powder is cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. By roasting the cacao, the molecular structure of the cacao bean changes, lowering its overall nutritional value and reducing its benefits.



Are all Cacao Powders the Same?

Importance of Cacao Beans

But there’s more that distinguishes our cacao from other products. All our cacao products are derived from organic, Non-GMO verified and kosher certified Peruvian criollo beans. We use these beans to create a low-fat cacao powder, with a cacao butter content between 10% and 12%.

Additionally, our cacao powder is unalkalized.


Difference Between Unalkalized Cacao and Alkalized Cacao

Unalkalized Cacao

This is usually referred to as a “natural cacao”, while alkalized cacao powder is sometimes called “Dutch-process cacao”.  “Natural cacao” is lighter in color, with a milkier flavor and cocoay notes

Alkalized Cacao

Alkalized cacao powders, which are treated with an alkali solution before being dried and roasted, have a higher pH. The use of this type of cacao can result in overspreading of cookies, larger air bubbles in cakes, and interference with the thickening of puddings and pie fillings. Unless a recipe specifies otherwise, “natural cacao” is generally preferable for most types of baking.


Substituting Cacao in Baking

cacao nibs mango smoothie

Substituting Cacao Powder for Cocoa Powder

Cacao powder can be substituted for cocoa powder in any recipe. No need to adjust quantities, just use the same amount as you would cocoa powder!


Substituting Cacao Nibs for Chocolate Chips

Additionally, cacao nibs can be substituted for chocolate chips, however it’s worth noting that cacao nibs are not as soft, and will not melt like chocolate chips. Nibs are also less sweet than chocolate chips, which is usually not a problem as long as the recipe contains a sweetener elsewhere, such as in a cookie dough.

Many people use cacao nibs intentionally to reduce the amount of sugar in their recipes, or because they prefer the dark chocolate taste.

If you’ve never tasted cacao nibs before, think back to the last time you had dark chocolate. It probably mentioned the cacao percentage somewhere on the packaging, such as “80% cacao dark chocolate.” Cacao nibs can be thought of as 100% cacao. They have a complex chocolate flavor, with hints of espresso.


cacao nibs organic natierra 

Now you know everything about the difference between cacao and cocoa, and why, at Natierra, we choose organic criollo beans and only cold pressed cacao, preserving its fiber and protein.


Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to send us your feedback and recipes on instagram @natierrasuperfoods