IS COCOA POWDER VEGAN?
First off, what exactly IS cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder is used in cooking and baking to add a rich and intense chocolate flavor to beverages and desserts.
Cocoa powder is made from cocoa (or cacao) beans. When the fat (or cocoa butter) is removed from the cocoa bean during processing, dry solids are leftover. These dry solids are then ground into a powder – and this powder is called cocoa powder.
Is cocoa powder vegan? Is cacao vegan?
Pure, unsweetened cocoa powder IS vegan. Since cocoa powder only contains ingredients from the cacao bean, it is a vegan and plant-based product.
Cocoa powder should not be confused with cocoa beverage mixes, however, as these will usually contain dairy milk in some form, and would NOT be considered vegan.
What is the difference between cocoa powder and cacao powder?
Cocoa powder and cacao powder are very similar, and you can substitute one for the other in recipes. Both are made from cocoa or cacao beans, which grow in pods on the cacao tree. The processing of each is slightly different, however:
Cocoa: in the making of cocoa, the beans are first left alone for several weeks to ferment. This fermenting darkens the beans and helps to develop their flavor even more. After fermentation, the beans are roasted. Roasting helps make the bean easier to process and it also helps to deepen its flavor.
Cacao: in the making of cacao, the beans are also fermented. The beans are then processed at a much low temperature than cocoa powder. And unlike cocoa powder, the beans are not roasted.
Because of this difference in processing, cacao powder is slightly more bitter in taste than cocoa powder. And because it is less processed than cocoa, cacao maintains more of the nutrition found in the cocoa bean.
And what is “Dutch cocoa”?
Dutch cocoa powder is processed in a way that makes it tastes smoother and less bitter than regular cocoa. It also makes the cocoa much darker in color, and helps the cocoa dissolve more easily in liquids.
To Dutch-process cocoa, the cocoa beans are treated with a solution of potassium carbonate. This neutralizes cocoa’s acidity to a pH of 7.
You might also see Dutch cocoa labeled as “alkalized,” “European style,” or “Dutched”.
When it comes to cooking and baking, cocoa powder, cacao powder, and Dutch cocoa powder can all be used interchangeably. You can choose based on the flavor you prefer.
Is cocoa powder healthy?
Yes! Cocoa beans are a plant-based food, high in nutrients, and sometimes referred to as a “superfood”. Both cocoa and cacao are excellent sources of antioxidants (which help to prevent disease), as well as iron, magnesium, and fiber. As mentioned earlier, however, because of the difference in the way they are processed, cacao tends to be slightly higher in nutrients than cocoa,
Studies including this one, have shown that both cocoa and cacao not only have cardiovascular benefits, but they also have immunomodulating effects – which means that they may stimulate or suppress the immune system – helping the body to fight cancer, infection, or other diseases.
Cocoa and ethical concerns
It should be mentioned that there are concerns about how cocoa beans are grown, farmed, and produced.
Cocoa beans are primarily grown in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And there are ethical concerns around slavery and forced labor (including child labor), as well as the use of harmful pesticides and deforestation (particularly involving the destruction of rainforests).
To find ethically sourced cocoa, look for products labeled with Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certification. By purchasing certified products, you are not only ensuring that farmers and farmworkers are paid fairly and that they work in safe conditions, but you are also helping to protect our planet from the effects of deforestation and climate change.
Pure, unsweetened cocoa powder is vegan. But make sure to not confuse cocoa powder with cocoa beverage mix, which will likely have milk ingredients added.
Whenever possible, please support ethically sourced cocoa products.
If you liked this post, you might also be interested in these posts:
Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?
5 Vegan Kitchen Must-Haves
5 Common Arguments Against Veganism (And How to Respond)