Cocoa Powder 101


Ok, let’s try to make some easy sense of what cocoa powder is, and what it does in your recipe.

I want to first make one note that for some reason people tend to think that Dutched Process Cocoa powder should be used in every single recipe calling for cocoa powder.

This is not really true; although Dutched Process Cocoa Powder may seem to have all of the qualities you have been searching for when it comes to deep, dark chocolate in a recipe.

Using this cocoa powder in a recipe that calls for Natural unprocessed cocoa can actually turn your tall dark & handsome into a dull, lifeless stranger!

Let’s first take a look at what makes one different from the other and why it is important to understand a little bit of science here when choosing which one is best for your recipe.

**Quick tip: Natural unprocessed Cocoa Powder works in ALL recipes, Dutched Process is not so forgiving!

If the recipe has baking SODA in it- you will use Natural Cocoa Powder. If the recipe has baking POWDER in it you will use Dutched Process (or of course- Natural)

How Cocoa Powder is Made:
There are two ways cocoa powder is processed after the initial pressing of the chocolate liquor which removes ¾ of it’s natural cocoa butter.

Cocoa Powder is unsweetened and tastes very bitter, but gives a deep chocolate flavor which makes it great for recipes like brownies, cookies and some chocolate cakes.

Dutch Process (or Alkalized)cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that have been washed with a potassium solution, it is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids.

Because it is neutral it DOES NOT react with baking soda therefore it is necessary to use it in recipes calling for baking powder as the leavening agent.

And remember baking powder is a combination of baking soda and an acid which when a liquid is present it starts the reaction.

(Some recipes may still include baking soda in cocoa powder recipes, it just is not in the quantities relied upon for the main leavening)

Natural Cocoa Powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, then pulverized into a fine powder.

Because natural cocoa powder has not had its acidity tempered it is used in recipes calling for baking soda which will then cause a reaction in your recipe and create leavening of your baked goods.

(Again: natural cocoa can be used in recipes with baking powder as well- so basically NATURAL COCOA POWDER  CAN BE USED INTERCHANGEABLY IN RECIPES NO MATTER WHAT THE LEAVENER)

For Dutch Process Cocoa Powder Substitutions in a recipe that  calls for baking soda: 


 omit the baking soda and salt in the recipe


Dutch-Processed Cocoa:
1 cup = 92 grams

Natural or Nonalkalized Cocoa:

1 cup = 82 grams



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  1. Hi Gretchen thank for the information on black cocoa powder that has been very helpful thank for all wonderful recipe and tips I am so glad you are back on

  2. Was going through all d recipes n wondering which cocoa u use in all d recipes.
    Cocoa which u use is 1 tbspn= 6 GMs rite ? How much is one cup of cocoa when measured in gms?

      1. Hmm saw dat .I wanted to ask when u say unsweetened cocoa in a recipe for e.g as in fudge icing, is that natural or nonalkalinized cocoa? If yes den in fudge icing recipe 1 cup says 90 gm. Just wanted to correct myself from d confusion.

        1. thanks for that- I will always specify DUTCH process – otherwise it is natural (You can alway suse natural in recipes – its the Dutch process that often gives trouble scientifically, although the deep flavor from the alkaline is preferred)

  3. Thank you Gretchen! Exactly the information I needed. I’m going to switch out regular cocoa for Dutch processed cocoa. I love the deep chocolate flavor . Thanks again for sharing your expertise with your “gretchen~ators!

  4. Hi gretchin I am from the uk ( Scotland ) the only cocoa s we can get here is either store brand which is cheaper than the other one is Bournemouth . So completely lost about all those different ones u guys get I use the darker one which is Bournemouth ??? Help x

  5. Sorry Lynnbob again I have been an avid follower since u first started out love and use all ur recipes time and again

  6. I have a recipe I’d like to try which has 1T baking soda and 1 1/2 t baking powder. If I use dutch process would I want to change out all the soda or leave some in? I’d planned on changing it all out, but I thought I’d get your take on it first.

    Thanks for all you do G. You rock!

  7. Hi, thank you for this informative post. One question I have is, does the quality of cocoa powder you have affects the color of the cake/cupcake? I have noticed that whenever I bake with cocoa powder the outcome isn’t black like the ones you do. Mine comes out brown all the time and I use the Hershey’s cocoa natural unsweetened.

    1. The way you are using cocoa powder with baking powder and soda will affect the outcome and color yes! That is why so many people think dutched process is better, but it is not always the case depending on what other ingredients are in the recipe click here for BLACK CHOCOLATE CAKE

  8. Hi Gretchen, this was very helpful..along with all of your other tutorials…thanks a bunch for posting them! Could you please clarify if it’s possible to use Dutch process cocoa in a cake recipe that has baking soda but includes yogurt as well??

    1. Hmm, the yogurt is an acidic ingredient, but Im not sure it is enough, its worth a try – I always hate to say “No” until it’s tested, let me know if it works!

        1. For your chocolate buttermilk cake recipe, the buttermilk is plenty acidic enough to make the cake rise with only baking soda, even if you use Dutched powder. It’s frankly more common to see a blend of natural and Dutched in the stores now instead of straight Dutched (think of Hershey’s Dark), so there are minimal problems.

  9. Hi Gretchen,

    So I have a chocolate cake recipe that calls for 2 teaspoons Baking Soda and 1 teaspoon Baking Powder. Since I am using Dutch process cocoa does that mean I have to change out all of the baking soda? If so, then I would be adding a total of 5 teaspoons of Baking Powder. Just trying to figure this whole conversion thing out, thanks!!

    1. Its best NOT to convert whenever possible (and just use the ingredients best for the recipe- in this case NATURAL cocoa) but if you MUST then yes you are correct.

  10. I only buy Dutch cocoa coz I didn’t know it’s a baking powder and soda story in it. It just looked chocolatey to me was my reason lol. If I’m making a really dense chocolate cake and using Dutch when it’s not mentioned is it effecting my recipe?my end result?

    1. Perhaps, so the best thing to do is always look at what the recipe has for baking powder and or soda. then decide what to use

  11. Hi gretchen my recipe has only 2 tsps baking powder in it there is no baking soda…but…it also has 2/3 cup buttermilk….do I use dutch processed because of the baking powder…..but because of the buttermilk there is an acid …..thank you

    1. If the recipe has baking SODA in it- you will use Natural Cocoa Powder. If the recipe has baking POWDER in it you will use Dutched Process OR Natural your choice
      Yes buttermilk is an acid, so is brown sugar, mollasses etc… but focus just on the leavener not the other ingredients (In a recipe that is already written for you I should say)

    1. HI You are welcome, Im not sure what recipe you are talking about because we are posting on the Cocoa Powder 101 post, but although I do not do any gluten free baking, I have been told that my recipes work great with a 1:1 sub for gluten free flour mix

  12. Hey Gretchen!! Hope you are enjoying the new year. I found this extremely helpful but was hoping you could give some insight. I have a great cookie recipe that calls for DARK cocoa powder and all I can find is the dutch process. This recipe also calls for baking soda.

    Since the recipe itself is brown sugar dominant (68% of the flour weight unless my math is bad today lol), am I safe just sticking with the soda? Would the brown sugar provide enough acid for the soda to work? Thank you as always!

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