Is Baking Cocoa the Same as Cocoa Powder

Chocolate recipes will typically call for some type of cocoa, whether it’s baking cocoa or cocoa powder. Typically, these two ingredients can be used interchangeably. However, if you know the difference between the two types of baking cocoa powders, you can nail your recipe.

Hi! My name is Michelle, and I love making chocolate treats! Whether it’s a batch of my ooey-gooey brownies or a chocolate cake, everyone raves about my chocolate goodies. Obviously, I needed to learn when and how to use the different kinds of cocoa powders on the market.

If you’re struggling to know whether or not baking cocoa is the same thing as cocoa powder, keep reading. This article is diving deep into the world of baking cocoa powders, explaining the two different kinds and how you should know when to use them.

Let’s dive into chocolate! 

Is Baking Cocoa the Same as Cocoa Powder

The best answer to this is – it’s tricky. Commonly, people use baking cocoa and cocoa powder interchangeably because they technically are the same thing. What is more important is using the right kind of baking cocoa powder for your recipe.

You see, there are two types of baking cocoa powders on the market: Dutch-process and natural unsweetened. Knowing the difference between these two kinds of powders will make all the difference in your recipe, whether you know which one you’re “supposed” to use or not. 

Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder

If you see the term “Dutch process” on your product, it refers to cocoa powder that has been washed with potassium carbonate solution and alkalized. As a result, dutch-process cocoa powder has a darker and slightly redder appearance with a mellow, less bitter flavor.

Due to its neutral acidity, dutch-process cocoa powder is often used in recipes where baking powder is used – not baking soda. It is also recommended for recipes where the cocoa powder needs to melt effortlessly into a liquid.

Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Natural unsweetened cocoa powder, on the other hand, retains the natural acid. Therefore, it has a lighter appearance and a far more bitter flavor. Referred to commonly as just “cocoa,” this type of baking cocoa reacts with baking soda to create a leavening agent for certain recipes.

When a recipe calls for “baking cocoa” specifically, it is likely referring to this type of cocoa powder.

Can Dutch-process and Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Be Used Interchangeably?

Technically, yes, although the right type of baking cocoa powder will have the best result for your baked goods. For example, you would need to use natural unsweetened cocoa powder for a recipe such as a cake that requires an acidic reaction for rising.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. If you use Dutch-process for something such as a cake, you can use other leavening agents to try and get the proper rise from your baked goods.

When it comes to recipes that do not need to rise, you can use either option. Of course, the flavor will be altered a bit. For example, if you’re making frosting for that chocolate cake, you might opt for the less bitter dutch-process cocoa.

At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to follow the recipe. If the recipe calls for natural unsweetened cocoa powder, use it. If it requires Dutch-process, use it. If it does not specify, look at the other ingredients. It’s pretty simple:

  • If the recipe uses baking soda – natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • If the recipe uses baking powder – dutch-process cocoa powder


When it comes to baking cocoa powders, things can get a little tricky. But now you know how to make the choice that’s right for you and your baking recipe. If you still have some questions, check out these frequently asked questions below.

Can I substitute baking cocoa for cocoa powder?

To substitute Dutch-process for natural unsweetened, simply add more acidity to the recipe (such as lemon juice or vinegar). To swap natural unsweetened for Dutch-process, reduce the amount of cocoa powder and fat (butter, oil, shortening, etc.). Add the butter and sugar.

What is baking cocoa used for?

Baking cocoa can do two things: enhance the chocolate flavor in a baking recipe, cause leavening to occur, or both. Of course, this all depends on the kind of cocoa powder the recipe calls for.

Is baking cocoa baking powder?

Baking cocoa is not the same thing as baking powder. If the recipe calls for both ingredients, then you need to use both for the best results. Keep in mind that a recipe calling for baking powder needs Dutch-process rather than natural unsweetened cocoa powder.

Final Words

Baking cocoa powder is definitely important for a slew of yummy baking recipes. Knowing which type is right for your recipe is key to ultimate baking success.

Do you use Dutch-process or natural unsweetened cocoa powder?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Raylene

    Questions and answers about substituting always seem so hard to word in a way that makes it absolutely clear to me. So, I’m hoping you can clarify a little more. Perhaps it will be best to state the substituting instructions with this construct: If the recipe calls for _______, and I have ___[the other kind]___, then ___[adjustment(s) to be made]__. I trust that wording will help clear up my confusion, especially since what you’ve said in this post seems to be contradicting what another post said about subbing Dutch and natural cocoas. (I always check a couple of websites for consensus when I do this kind of researching.) Looking forward to your quick reply. Thanks in advance!

    • Michelle

      Hi Raylene,

      If the recipe calls for Dutch-process, and I have natural unsweetened, then you need to add more acidity to the recipe, such as a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar.

      if the recipe calls for natural unsweetened, and I have Dutch-process, then you need to reduce the cocoa powder by about a teaspoon and reduce the fat by about a tablespoon.

      I hope this helps!