Today I am going to tackle the question you’ve all been dying to know the answer to – what is the difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder? But before we start, it is worth learning a bit about the background of the products first.
Where do cacao and cocoa come from?
I guess the key starting point is to mention that both cacao powder and cocoa powder both come for the same plant; the cacao tree. The cacao plant originated in the upper Amazon basin region, but can now be found all over South America and also Africa.
The powder comes from the cocoa beans, found within the fat of the plant – cocoa butter. Well, if they come from the same plant then they can’t be too dissimilar? You’d be half correct in thinking so, however the key difference is the process in which the powder is created and this links to why cacao and cocoa are two very different products.
Are cacao and cocoa processed differently?
In simple terms, cacao powder is a raw version of cocoa powder. Cocoa is created by fermenting and grinding the beans from the cacao plant at an extremely high temperature. This then results in a roasted, bitter powder, often used in rich chocolaty desserts.
Cacao powder, on the other hand, is derived from cold-pressed cocoa beans, resulting in it being the purest form of powder that comes from the cacao plant. This difference in process leads to a number of other distinctions within the cacao powder v cocoa powder debate. I will explore some of these differences throughout the article.
Do cacao powder and cocoa powder taste the same?
As mentioned, the roasting and high-temperature grinding used to produce cocoa powder also creates quite a strong, bitter flavour. However, this treatment also means it gives more of a dense, rich flavour and can often taste slightly sweeter than cacao. In spite of this, people can often falsely believe that cocoa is a lot sweeter than cacao. This is only down to the fact that a lot of packaged cocoa comes with sugar mixed in.
Cocoa powder may also be confused with baking cocoa – cocoa powder that has undergone further treatments to develop a much sweeter and lighter product used for treats such as hot chocolate and icings. Natural cocoa and cacao powder do not vary too much in flavour, but if you are looking for something with a deeper and more intense flavour then you would find this in cocoa powder.
Do cacao powder and cocoa powder look the same?
Not only does the production of each product slightly alter the taste, but it also slightly alters the appearance. The roasting of the beans for cocoa powder causes them to darken and so when the powders are compared, you would find a lighter, softer brown in the cacao powder. This can be a way to distinct the two powders. Although the colours slightly differ, the texture of the powders are still extremely similar and without the slight alteration in tone, it would be hard to distinguish between the two if just using their appearance.
Is cacao powder or cocoa powder healthier?
Although cocoa powder has many nutritional benefits and is a great source of fibre, the high temperatures and roasting process can lower the nutritional value and health benefits of the cocoa beans.
Contrary to this, cacao powder a purer, less-altered product, which also means that cacao maintains all of its natural, healthy and nutritional benefits. As a result, cacao powder does in fact stand as one of the world’s greatest superfoods, being a better source of antioxidants and magnesium than you will find in any other food on the planet! Cacao is packed with flavonoids, resulting in lower blood pressure, improved blood flow and prevents the risk of blood clots and diabetes.
Overall, cacao powder contains more protein and fibre than cocoa powder, but as a result it is slightly higher in calories (although both are still very low in calories). These nutritional differences are ultimately the main distinction in the cocoa vs cacao debate.
Can you substitute cocoa powder for cacao powder?
With all of the nutritional benefits of cacao powder, you must be dying to know whether or not you can simply replace your cocoa powder with cacao powder and get that superfood hit. Well, you will be glad to know that you absolutely can! Despite the slight difference in flavour and colour, the products create almost the same outcome when used in baked goods and drinks. On top of that, the rawness of the cacao powder means that it can be used directly in other food preparations that may result in being too bitter if cocoa is used.
Is it okay to have cacao everyday?
With cacao being such a high source of nutrients, it is an ingredient that I would definitely recommend incorporating into your daily diet. Like anything, make sure you have it in moderation, but the recommended quantities are 30-60g per day.
How can I eat cacao?
As mentioned, you can simply swap your cocoa powder for cacao powder in any of your recipes that call for natural cocoa. Additionally, you can add cacao to your smoothies, porridge or sprinkle it over your fruit to add a chocolatey flavour! Delicious!
You can also buy cacao in the form of ‘cacao nibs’. These are like small chocolate chips that still reap the benefits of cacao powder. These can be used in baking as well, but also used on top of your cereals, you can sprinkle them on toast or you can even just snack on them as a tasty treat!
The Cocoa vs Cacao Conclusion
Life may be like a box of chocolates, but really life would be a lot better with a box of cacao. You can keep your tasty, chocolaty, indulgent treats but kick away half of the guilt that comes with it. With very little difference in the physical taste and appearance of the two products, the nutritional variations are definitely enough to make me a cacao-convert.
Boost your immune system, up that protein and show your gut some love and respect – a spoon of cacao a day really will keep the doctor away!