Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer – Natural and Dutch Process Cocoa

If you’re a baker knowing the difference between cocoa powders is crucial. Not all cocoa powders are the same and today I’m sharing with you the differences. 

Dutch-processed and Natural cocoas are both unsweetened cocoa powders and are from cocoa beans. They are fermented, dried and then roasted but that’s where the similarities stop and science comes into play. Yeah I know, science – blech, but if you’re going to bake AND you want stuff to turn out right, you kind of have to pay attention. It’s all about alkalinity and pH levels. I know, stuff that makes your brain hurt (or at least mine).

You see Dutch-processed cocoa powder is washed with a potassium solution to neutralize its acidity. Chocolate is acidic. By neutralizing it, you end up with a darker cocoa powder and one that is typically paired with baking powder. Remember my whole post on the difference between baking powder and baking soda?  Yeah, you need to use baking powder with Dutch-processed cocoa.

So then what’s natural cocoa? Why use it?

Natural cocoa powder is just that; natural. The acids are not neutralized thus you always reach for the baking soda. As you may have noticed, natural cocoa is lighter in color.  Natural cocoa is more acidic,  it’s very bitter and has a more concentrated chocolate flavor.

So are they interchangeable? Eh, not really. If your recipe calls for one type of cocoa and you only have the other on hand, be sure to adjust your leavening agents appropriately. I would say the only time they are more interchangeable is when you have a recipe that doesn’t call for any leavening agents. But for the baked goods that do, definitely think back to high school chemistry and think how it reacts with the leavening agents.

In a nutshell it’s like this:

  1. Dutch-Processed is darker in color, no acids thus reach for baking powder
  2. Natural Cocoa is lighter in color, acidic thus reach for baking soda

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