Substitute for Cocoa Powder in Brownies

Confession: I make brownies at least once a week, and they fly out of the pan within the first few hours. But what happens when there’s no cocoa powder for these beloved treats on hand? Don’t worry – unsweetened chocolate, chocolate chips, or hot cocoa can be used.

Hi! My name is Michelle, and plenty of people know me as the brownie queen. I make them so often; you can almost expect them on my kitchen countertop. But sometimes, I don’t go grocery shopping as often as I should. That’s why I needed to find a good cocoa powder replacement.

If you’re in the predicament of being in a cocoa powder-free home but have a craving for hot, ooey-gooey brownies, don’t panic. Here are some of the best cocoa powder substitutes for brownies that will get the job done.

Who’s ready for a fresh batch of brownies?

1. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

One quick solution to a cocoa powder mishap is unsweetened chocolate. To use unsweetened chocolate to replace cocoa powder, you will need one ounce per every three tablespoons of cocoa powder. 

Keep in mind that the unsweetened chocolate must be melted to use as a substitute. It should be mixed with the other wet ingredients.

And, since unsweetened chocolate contains more fat, you will need to reduce the other fats in your recipe. For example, use one tablespoon less butter.

2. Chocolate Chips

One thing I never forget to buy is chocolate chips. I’m a huge fan, whether I eat them by the handful or use them in several delicious recipes. That said, I almost always have them in my pantry. How about you?

If you’ve got chocolate chips (unsweetened, semi-sweet, or sweet), you can use them as a great cocoa powder replacement. The biggest detail to consider is how sweet your chocolate chips are. 

If you’re using unsweetened, then you don’t have anything to worry about. However, since semi-sweet and sweet chocolate chips have high sugar content, you should reduce the amount of sugar used in your recipe.

Just like the unsweetened chocolate listed above, you should reduce the amount of fat in your recipe for the best results.

3. Carob

Carob is not for everyone. Seeing as I have a Grandmother that can’t consume chocolate, I always make sure to have carob somewhere in my kitchen cabinets. And it comes in handy in situations where I’m cocoa powder-free. 

How do you use it? Well, carob measures 1:1 with cocoa powder, making it a simple fix. However, carob does have a slightly different flavor. So, while the brownies will look exactly the same, the taste may be altered.

4. Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder

Natural cocoa powder and Dutch-process cocoa powder are essentially the same things. Although, you will need to add some acid to Dutch-process cocoa powder for the same desired result.

To use Dutch-process cocoa powder, use a 1:1 measurement. Add the necessary acidity to the recipe by using the cream of tartar, lemon juice, or white vinegar. Use ⅛ teaspoon for every three tablespoons of Dutch-process cocoa powder.

5. Hot Cocoa Powder

When all else fails, you can also use hot cocoa powder. Will the result be the same? Probably, but it might not be exactly what your taste palettes were craving. This is because hot cocoa mix doesn’t have a high amount of cocoa powder, and it’s riddled with other ingredients.


Still have questions about using a substitute for cocoa powder in brownies? Look below to find the most frequently asked questions and their respective answers.

Can I use hot chocolate instead of cocoa powder in brownies?

Essentially, yes, you can use hot chocolate instead of cocoa powder. This should be a last resort, though, and it might not render the same results as the other cocoa powder substitutes. That’s simply because there is not a large amount of cocoa powder in the mix.

How do I substitute chocolate for cocoa powder?

Depends on the chocolate. With unsweetened baking chocolate, you need to melt and reduce the number of fatty ingredients. For chocolate chips, you will need to melt and reduce the sugar content (if using semi-sweet or sweet chocolate chips).

Can you substitute flour for cocoa powder?

Nope! Flour and cocoa powder are two entirely different things. Swapping flour for cocoa powder will not create delectable, dreamy brownies.

Can I use Nesquik instead of cocoa powder?

You can. However, you will need to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe and be careful to make sure your batter isn’t overly liquified.

Final Thoughts

When you’re in a pinch for cocoa powder replacements, you’ve got options. While unsweetened baking chocolate and chocolate chips are the best substitutes, you can get by with carob, dutch-process cocoa powder, or hot cocoa mix. 

Have you ever used one of these cocoa powder replacements? Which one is your favorite?

About Angie
I am a self-taught baker. I’ve been baking for over 10 years and started my own home baking business as a side hustle. I was born in Hong Kong and spent a pretty big chunk of my life in Canada. If you’re ever looking for me, I am probably there whisking vigorously away in the kitchen.

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