Best Substitutes for Cocoa Powder

Cacao percents: Many recipes for chocolate confections were developed with a specific chocolate type in mind.

Chocolate cakes and dessert recipes typically call for that which contains 53 to 60% cacao (amount of cocoa solids and cocoa butter as it relates to sugar; ie: more cacao and less sugar or less cacao and more sugar), which is called dark chocolate or semisweet, bittersweet, or sweetened baking chocolate from the grocery store, unless otherwise specified. If you would like to adjust a recipe it is best not vary the percent by more than 5% in either direction. Similarly, recipes are typically developed using unsweetened cocoa powder, whether Dutch-Process (alkalized) or natural. If you use something else, you may need to adjust the recipe's ingredients, especially its leaveners.
NOTE: If the percentage of cacao is not indicated on the chocolate wrapper, it is most likely around 53%; most high-quality dark chocolate contain around 60%.

SARAH SAYS: In baking recipes, it is my professional opinion that when a few ounces of chocolate are being used, you need not be as concerned when substituting one type for anther. The problem for concern comes in when 4 to 6 ounces or more chocolate is called for in a recipe because it is balanced for sugar and fat along with this ingredient, and a substitution could lead to failure. When making chocolate confections, use the chocolate called for in the recipe because it is primarily a stand alone ingredient.

BAKING SUBSTITUTES When you're baking and you want to substitute one chocolate type for another, try these options:

Bittersweet and Semi-Sweet Chocolate can be used interchangeably if the cacao percentages do not vary much.
NOTE: Today many semisweet and bittersweet chocolates in the baking aisle are labeled with cacao percentages (from about 53% to well over 70%).

Unsweetened Chocolate and Chocolate Semi-Sweet Baking Bars: 4 ounces of Semi-Sweet Chocolate equals 2 ounces of Unsweetened Chocolate combined with 2 ounces of sugar.

Unsweetened Cocoa and Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa: For each 1/2 cup of Unsweetened Cocoa, use 1 cup of Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa and decrease the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by 1/2 cup.

Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa and Unsweetened Premium Cocoa: For 1 cup of Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa, use 1/2 cup Unsweetened Premium Cocoa and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix together prior to adding to the recipe.

Unsweetened Chocolate and Unsweetened Cocoa: For every 1 ounce of Unsweetened Chocolate called for in a recipe, use 3 level tablespoons of Unsweetened Premium Cocoa and 1 tablespoon extra of butter, margarine, or vegetable shortening than called for in the recipe.

Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa and  Unsweetened Baking Chocolate: For every 1 ounce of  Unsweetened Baking Chocolate, use 6 level tablespoons of Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa; add 1 tablespoon extra of butter, margarine, or vegetable shorting than called for in the recipe; and decrease the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by 3 level tablespoons.

Natural versus Alkalized (Dutch Processed) Cocoa Powder: adjust your leavening system. When you add cocoa powder to a formula you may need to adjust the leavening system to achieve the correct pH balance (exceptions: Go to the Baking Powder and Baking Soda Switch-a-Roo When Using Cocoa Powder, bottom of this page)

  • For formulas using natural cocoa, increase baking soda and decrease acids to compensate for the cocoa's low pH.
  • For formulas using alkalized cocoa, decrease baking soda and increase acids to achieve the right pH balance.

Chocolate Chips = 1 package or 12 ounces = 2 cups
6 ounces chocolate chips = 1 cup 

1 ounce baking chocolate = 1 or 2 squares (read package instructions)

60 to 62% cacao 8 ounces chocolate to 9 ounces cream (1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons)
63 to 64% cacao 8 ounces chocolate to 10 ounces cream (about 1 1/4 cups)
66% cacao 8 ounces chocolate to 11 ounces cream (about 1 1/3 cups)
70% cacao 8 ounces chocolate to 12 ounces cream (about 1 1/2 cups)
Butter and flavorings: Use high quality. Add about a third the weight of the chocolate in butter and about 1/2 teaspoon liqueur or vanilla extract (up to 1 tablespoon) per ounce of chocolate.
   ex: 6 ounces chocolate, add 1 to 2 ounces unsalted butter (2 to 4 tablespoons) and 1 tablespoon liqueur or vanilla extract

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