Skip to content
  • Get 10% OFF when you subscribe to our newsletter - Sign up
  • Family Run Business since 1889
  • Free UK delivery on orders £50 or over
What is Natural Cocoa Powder?
Blog / Chocolate / What is Natural Cocoa Powder?

What is Natural Cocoa Powder?

What is natural cocoa powder, and how does it differ from other cocoa powders?

This post aims to demystify this essential baking ingredient, delving into its origins, processing methods, and unique characteristics.

What is Natural Cocoa Powder?

Natural cocoa powder is a form of cocoa that has been processed minimally, retaining much of the original flavour and properties of the cocoa bean.

It is made by roasting and grinding cocoa beans and removing cocoa butter.

The remaining solid cocoa mass is then ground into a fine powder.

Here are some key characteristics and aspects of natural cocoa powder:

  • Less Processed: Unlike Dutch-processed cocoa powder, natural cocoa powder is not alkalized. Alkalization, also known as Dutch processing, is a treatment with an alkaline solution that neutralises cocoa's natural acidity. Natural cocoa powder retains the original acidity of the cocoa beans.

  • Flavour Profile: Natural cocoa powder typically has a sharper, more pronounced chocolate flavour than its Dutch-processed counterpart. It's often described as having a more complex, fruity, and slightly acidic taste.

  • Colour: It is lighter than Dutch-processed cocoa powder, usually a light brown to reddish-brown.

  • Uses in Baking: In recipes, natural cocoa powder is often used with baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), which reacts with the acidic cocoa powder to produce carbon dioxide, helping the baked good to rise.

  • Health Aspects: Natural cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, which are natural antioxidants. Due to the alkalizing process, some of these beneficial compounds can be lost or reduced in Dutch-processed cocoa powder.

  • Solubility: Due to its acidity, it tends to be less soluble in liquids than Dutch-processed cocoa.

Natural cocoa powder is a staple in many kitchens, particularly for baking and making hot chocolate.

Its vibrant flavour and natural properties make it a preferred choice for those seeking an authentic chocolate experience in their culinary creations.

Related Post: Looking for a Chocolate Substitute?

What is Natural Cocoa Powder?

What Are the Health Benefits of Natural Cocoa Powder?

Natural cocoa powder, minimally processed and made from roasted cocoa beans, is renowned for its rich flavour and health benefits.

  • Rich in Antioxidants: Natural cocoa powder contains antioxidants, particularly flavonoids. These compounds help combat free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and potentially lowering the risk of some diseases.

  • Heart Health: The flavonoids in cocoa have been linked to heart health benefits. They can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by maintaining healthy blood vessels and reducing inflammation.

  • Mood Enhancement: Cocoa contains compounds like theobromine and phenylethylamine, which can boost mood and cognitive function. Theobromine has a mild stimulant effect, while phenylethylamine is often associated with happiness.

  • Rich in Minerals: Natural cocoa powder is a good source of essential minerals, including magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium. These minerals are vital for many bodily functions, including maintaining strong bones and supporting the immune system.

  • Lowers LDL Cholesterol: Some studies suggest that the flavonoids in cocoa can help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increase good (HDL) cholesterol, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The antioxidants in cocoa also possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation and benefit conditions like arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

  • Skin Health: Flavonoids in cocoa may improve skin health by enhancing blood flow, improving skin density and hydration, and protecting against sun damage.

  • Regulates Blood Sugar Levels: Cocoa has been found to help regulate blood sugar levels, which can benefit people with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition.

It's important to note that while natural cocoa powder has these health benefits, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

What Does Natural Cocoa Powder Taste Like?

Natural cocoa powder, distinguished by minimal processing, offers a unique taste profile compared to Dutch-processed cocoa.

It features a rich and intense chocolate flavour, more pronounced than cocoa powders subjected to additional processing.

Its natural bitterness, reminiscent of dark chocolate, is due to the absence of alkalization.

Chocolate aficionados often appreciate this bitterness.

Additionally, natural cocoa powder is characterized by subtle fruity and acidic notes, varying with the origin of the cocoa beans, and may include hints of berries or citrus.

A jar with powder in it

What’s the Difference Between Natural and Standard Cocoa Powder?

The difference between natural and standard cocoa powder primarily lies in their processing methods and resulting flavour profiles:


  • Natural Cocoa Powder: This is cocoa in its most unadulterated form. It's made by roasting and grinding cocoa beans into a fine powder without additional processing. It retains the natural acids and bitterness of the cocoa bean.

  • Standard Cocoa Powder (often Dutch-Processed): Standard cocoa powder is typically Dutch-processed, meaning it has been treated with an alkaline solution. This process, known as alkalization or Dutching, neutralises the natural acidity of the cocoa beans.


  • Natural Cocoa Powder: It has a more pronounced, intense chocolate flavour with noticeable acidic and fruity notes. The natural bitterness of the cocoa bean is also more evident.

  • Standard Cocoa Powder: The Dutch processing reduces the acidity and bitterness, resulting in a milder, smoother chocolate flavour. It often has a more uniform and less complex flavour profile.


  • Natural Cocoa Powder: It tends to be lighter in colour, often with a reddish hue.

  • Standard Cocoa Powder: Dutch processing darkens the colour of the cocoa powder, giving it a rich, dark brown appearance.

pH Level:

  • Natural Cocoa Powder: It is more acidic with a lower pH.

  • Standard Cocoa Powder: The alkalization process raises the pH level, making it more neutral.

Uses in Baking:

  • Natural Cocoa Powder: Its acidity reacts with baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in recipes, which can affect the rising of baked goods. It's often used in recipes that require baking soda.

  • Standard Cocoa Powder: Being neutral, it's often used in recipes with baking powder, which doesn't require an acidic environment to react.


  • Natural Cocoa Powder: Less soluble in liquids due to its acidity.

  • Standard Cocoa Powder: The Dutch process increases solubility, making it easier to mix with liquids.

The choice between natural and standard (Dutch-processed) cocoa powder depends on the desired flavour, colour, and the chemical reactions needed in baking or cooking.

Is Natural the Same as Raw Cocoa Powder?

The terms "natural" and "cocoa powder" can sometimes confused, but they refer to different aspects of the product.

Here's how they differ:

  • Natural: When used in cocoa powder, "natural" refers to the processing method. Natural cocoa powder is minimally processed made by roasting and grinding cocoa beans into a powder without undergoing an alkalization process. It retains the natural acids and bitterness of the cocoa beans.

  • Cocoa Powder: This is a more general term that encompasses all types of cocoa powder, including both natural and Dutch-processed (or alkalized) varieties. Cocoa powder is made by grinding cocoa solids (what's left of cocoa beans after the cocoa butter is extracted) into a fine powder.

Therefore, while all-natural cocoa powder is cocoa powder, not all is natural.

The critical difference lies in whether the cocoa powder has been alkalized.

Natural cocoa powder is known for its more intense, slightly acidic chocolate flavour and lighter colour.

On the other hand, Dutch-processed cocoa powder is treated with an alkaline solution to neutralise its acidity, resulting in a milder flavour and darker colour.

How Can You Use Natural Cocoa Powder in Baking?

  • Cakes and Cupcakes: Natural cocoa powder can make chocolate cakes and cupcakes. Its acidic nature reacts with baking soda, helping the cake rise and giving it a lighter texture.

  • Brownies and Cookies: Use natural cocoa powder in brownies and cookies for a deep, intense chocolate flavour. It imparts a rich colour and a robust chocolate taste for these indulgent treats.

  • Chocolate Frosting: You can make a delicious chocolate frosting with natural cocoa powder, which adds an intense chocolate flavour without the need for melted chocolate.

  • Hot Chocolate and Beverages: Natural cocoa powder is excellent for making hot chocolate. Mix it with sugar and milk for a comforting, homemade hot chocolate. It can also be used in other chocolate-based beverages.

  • Dusting and Decoration: Sift natural cocoa powder over desserts for a beautiful and tasty finish. It’s great for dusting on tiramisu, truffles, or whipped cream.

  • Mousses and Puddings: For a chocolate mousse or pudding with a pronounced chocolate flavour, natural cocoa powder works wonderfully, contributing colour and taste.

  • Flavouring for Bread: Add natural cocoa powder to bread for a chocolate twist. It works well on sweet breads like banana bread or zucchini bread.

Remember to pair natural cocoa powder with baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in recipes, as the cocoa's acidity reacts with the alkaline baking soda to produce carbon dioxide, which helps baked goods rise.

When substituting natural cocoa powder for Dutch-processed in a recipe, you may need to adjust the type and quantity of leavening agent to ensure the desired texture.

What Can You Use Instead of Natural Cocoa Powder?

If you don't have natural cocoa powder on hand or prefer an alternative, there are several substitutes you can use in your recipes:

  • Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder: This is the most direct substitute. However, since Dutch-processed cocoa is less acidic than natural cocoa powder, you may need to adjust the leavening agents in your recipe. Generally, Dutch-processed cocoa works well with baking powder, whereas natural cocoa powder is often used with baking soda.

  • Unsweetened Chocolate: You can substitute unsweetened chocolate for natural cocoa powder. Use one ounce of unsweetened chocolate for every three tablespoons of natural cocoa powder. You'll also need to reduce the fat in the recipe, as unsweetened chocolate contains cocoa butter.

  • Chocolate Bars or Chips: In a pinch, you can use a regular chocolate bar or chocolate chips, preferably dark or semi-sweet. Melt the chocolate and let it cool before adding it to your recipe. Be aware that this will add sugar and fat to your recipe, so adjust other ingredients accordingly.

  • Carob Powder: Carob powder is a caffeine-free alternative with a naturally sweet, slightly nutty flavour. It can replace cocoa powder in equal amounts but impart a different flavour profile.

  • Cocoa Mix: If you only have a sweetened cocoa mix, it can be used as a substitute, but it will add sugar and possibly other flavourings to your recipe. Reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe accordingly.

  • DIY Mix: You can substitute your cocoa powder by mixing one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder with two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of vegetable oil or melted butter. This mix approximates the flavour and texture of natural cocoa powder.

When substituting for natural cocoa powder, it's essential to consider the other ingredients in your recipe, mainly the sweeteners and leavening agents, as these may need to be adjusted to account for differences in acidity, sweetness, and fat content.

Where Can You Buy Tasty Chocolate?

Whitakers Chocolates, renowned for our long history in crafting delicious and affordable chocolates, offers a range of options suitable for everyone, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices.

Our top-selling products, such as indulgent Coffee Creams, Neapolitans, Chocolate Wafer Thins, Stem Ginger and Luxury Chocolate Truffles, are the perfect accompaniments to enhance your mocha coffee experience.

Some Notes From an Expert Chocolatier

As an expert chocolatier, one of the fundamental aspects of our craft is the meticulous selection of ingredients, including cocoa powder.

The choice of cocoa powder, whether natural or alternative, significantly influences the flavour, texture, and overall quality of our chocolate products.

In our chocolate-making process, we place immense importance on sourcing the highest quality cocoa.

This involves selecting the right type of cocoa powder and ensuring it comes from sustainable and ethical sources.

The origin of the cocoa beans, the processing methods, and the purity of the cocoa powder are all carefully considered to ensure that our chocolate products meet our high standards.

When substituting natural cocoa powder, we maintain this rigour in selection.

Final Notes On Natural Cocoa Powder

Natural cocoa powder stands as a pivotal ingredient in baking and chocolate-making, prized for its rich, authentic chocolate flavour and its ability to impart depth and complexity to various culinary creations.

Its less-processed nature, retaining the natural acids and bitterness of the cocoa bean, makes it a preferred choice for those seeking an intense, pure chocolate experience in their recipes.

Understanding the unique characteristics of natural cocoa powder, from its flavour profile to its chemical properties, allows bakers and chocolatiers to harness its qualities effectively.

Whether it's used in cakes, brownies, beverages, or as a dusting for desserts, natural cocoa powder adds a dimension of flavour that is both distinctive and desirable.