Cocoa Powder Substitutes

If you’re going to bake something that’s super chocolaty (hey there, ooey-gooey brownies), your recipe likely calls for cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is a quick and easy way to up the chocolate content, creating a yummy dessert. 

So what happens if you don’t want to use cocoa powder or don’t have any on hand? Are you all out of luck? No. You just need a suitable substitution.

There are many wonderful substitutions for cocoa powder. The top three options are Dutch process cocoa powder, carob powder, and powdered peanut butter. However, you can also use hot cocoa mix, melted chocolate chips, or chocolate syrup. However, you may need to adjust the sugar and liquid content with these suggestions.

Hi! My name’s Michelle, and I’m a baking enthusiast! I have made countless recipes that have called for cocoa powder. However, I always seem to forget to buy more when I run out. That said, I have had to be creative many times. I’ve discovered the top cocoa powder subs!

Come on, bakers – let’s find out the best substitutions for cocoa powder!

Top 6 Cocoa Powder Substitutes

Honestly, there are a lot of cocoa powder substitutions out there. Some are great; some aren’t. To help make your job easier, I’ve decided to pinpoint the top six.

Yes, there are some other options out there, but I don’t feel they’re worth mentioning as they don’t render as good results – and I know you don’t want to end up with a sub-par dessert. 

Without further ado, here are my top six ultimate swaps for cocoa powder:

1. Dutch Process Cocoa Powder

Did you know that there are two types of cocoa powder?

While most people have natural, unsweetened cocoa powder in their pantries, there is another option: Dutch process cocoa powder.

Dutch process cocoa powder is washed in a potassium carbonate solution. Then, it is alkalized. This creates a kind of cocoa powder that’s a bit darker than its unsweetened cocoa powder cousin. It also has a less bitter flavor.

Because natural, unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch process cocoa powder are so similar, it’s clear why you can use them interchangeably in a 1:1 ratio.

2. Carob Powder

Carob powder is a fantastic swap for cocoa powder, but many people don’t know about it.

Honestly, the only reason I know about it (and ranked it as the second-best swap for cocoa powder) is thanks to my sweet Grandmother. She cannot consume regular chocolate, so she always eats and bakes goodies with carob powder.

Why should you swap it for cocoa powder, though?

Well, for one, carob is healthier than cocoa. It has more nutrients, higher fiber content, and lower calories and fat. Secondly, unlike cocoa, carob contains no caffeine. So, if you want to avoid caffeine outright, carob is a top-notch swap.

Don’t worry, though – carob has the same great taste as cocoa powder, although it is slightly lighter, and there is a hint of nuttiness.

You can use carob powder instead of cocoa powder in a 1:1 ratio. 

3. Powdered Peanut Butter

Powdered peanut butter has become a hit in recent years. That’s because it’s lower in calories and fat than regular PB. The other perk? It’s easy to use in a slew of recipes, from sauces to salad dressings.

Needless to say, it can also substitute for cocoa powder in your baked goods.

If you don’t mind your treat coming out with a subtle peanut butter flavoring, go ahead and swap cocoa powder for powdered peanut butter in a 1:1 ratio.

Use a no-sugar peanut butter so your sweet treat doesn’t come out too decadent (and end up hurting your teeth and tummy!).

4. Hot Cocoa Mix

I don’t know about you, but I always have a box of hot cocoa mix sitting in my kitchen pantry. It’s a staple for fall and winter nights when it’s chilly outside. Yet, for whatever reason, my family and I can never get through an entire box, so there are always some leftovers.

If you’re anything like us and have a packet of hot cocoa mix in your cabinets, you’ll be glad to know you can use it in place of cocoa powder in your baked goods.

Now, you have to be a little careful with hot cocoa mix. That’s because hot cocoa mix contains sugar. So, you’ll need to reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe by one or two tablespoons. Otherwise, it may end up overly sweet.

To use hot cocoa mix instead of cocoa powder, use two tablespoons of the hot cocoa mix for every tablespoon of cocoa powder. This will help to ensure there is a prevalent chocolate flavor without being too sweet.

5. Chocolate Chips

Another thing that’s always in my pantry?

Chocolate chips

And they make an excellent substitute for cocoa powder!

However, I will tell you that swapping cocoa powder for chocolate chips is a bit trickier. You’ll need to melt the chocolate first before adding it to your wet ingredients. You may also need to adjust the sugar content if you’re using anything but unsweetened chocolate chips.

Melt chocolate into half a cup per every three tablespoons of cocoa powder and incorporate it into your wet ingredients. If you’re using anything other than unsweetened chocolate chips, use one to two fewer tablespoons of sugar. Otherwise, your treat will be way too sweet.

6. Chocolate Syrup

Finally, I had to add chocolate syrup to my top six list. 


Well, simply because I know most people have chocolate syrup in their kitchens. So, if they run out of cocoa powder, they likely have some chocolate syrup they can sacrifice.

To use chocolate syrup, you’ll need to use four times the amount of cocoa powder and add it to your wet ingredients. For instance, if the recipe calls for a tablespoon of cocoa powder, you’ll use four tablespoons of chocolate syrup.

Reduce the sugar content, as chocolate syrup contains a hefty amount of syrup. You may also need to adjust the liquid ingredients, as chocolate syrup is liquidy, and you don’t want your batter too wet.


At this point, nothing is standing in the way between you and your delicious chocolate dessert! If you want to learn more about cocoa powder substitutes, I have included a couple of frequently asked questions to take a look at.

Can I substitute hot chocolate for cocoa powder?

You can definitely substitute hot chocolate for cocoa powder! To use hot chocolate in place of cocoa powder, double the amount of hot chocolate. You will need to reduce the sugar content by a few tablespoons, though, as hot chocolate contains sugar, and you don’t want your treat to be too decadent.

Can I use coffee powder instead of cocoa powder?

You can use coffee powder instead of cocoa powder if you don’t mind a somewhat robust flavor of coffee in your dessert. Only use ¼ of the amount of cocoa powder called for in your recipe. Increasing the sugar content by a few tablespoons is also recommended to combat the bitterness.

Can I use Nesquik instead of cocoa powder?

Technically, you can use Nesquik instead of cocoa powder. However, the chocolate flavor would be very muted. The dessert would also be incredibly sweet. With that in mind, it’s not the best substitute for cocoa powder.

So Many Great Subs for Cocoa Powder!

Needless to say, you don’t “need” cocoa powder to be successful when baking a chocolaty treat. There are many great swaps, from Dutch process cocoa powder to hot cocoa mix. Ensure you use the correct ratios and make any recommended adjustments for the best results.

What is your favorite cocoa powder substitute? Do you use one of these or a different swap? Share in the comment section!

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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