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What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder?

dutched cocoa powderThere are two types of cocoa powder: natural and dutch processed. Natural cocoa powder is made from the solids of a roasted, dried cocoa bean, which are very finely ground into a powder for packaging. The powder is slightly acidic and has a very sharp taste to it, though it usually contains fruity or smokey notes just like dark roasted coffee beans do. Natural cocoa powder will react with leavening agents like baking soda, which depend on the presence of an acidic ingredient to activate them.

Dutch process cocoa powder is natural cocoa powder that has been alkalized to remove its acidity and make it neutral. For many, this deepens the flavor of the cocoa powder because sugar (or other ingredients) don’t have to overcome the slightly acidic taste of the cocoa before enhancing its flavor. It also means that dutch processed cocoa powder will not react with baking soda in the same way that non-alkalized cocoa powder does; there should be no additional leavening effect when using dutch process cocoa in a recipe that uses baking soda.

When it comes to baking, the general rule is that if a recipe doesn’t specify, it calls for natural cocoa powder and it will specifically state it if it was designed with dutch processed cocoa powder in mind.

That being said, the reality is that natural and dutch processed cocoa powder are mostly interchangeable. There are very few recipes that would be thrown off by the presence or absence of the acidity of cocoa powder. In fact, many of the ingredients you regularly use in baking are slightly acidic (have a pH < 7) so even recipes that seem to rely on the acidity of cocoa powder to produce leavening are getting that acidity from milk, butter, egg yolks, honey (sugar is neutral, in case you were wondering), etc., and the recipe should turn out to be just fine if you use dutch process instead of natural cocoa powder, or vice versa.

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20 Comments
  • bakingblonde
    January 6, 2009

    Great article, I love the baking information you provide, I check in daily just to see what recipes you have!

  • Avanika
    January 7, 2009

    Thanks for this super-informative post. I’ve always wondered about the difference between the two, though I always use normal cocoa since Dutch processed doesn’t seem to be available here. πŸ™‚

  • Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)
    January 7, 2009

    So helpful — I’m always, always, always confused and have to look this up each time I bake.

  • bj3gv
    January 7, 2009

    Hi Nicole. I always visit your site and enjoy your write-ups. I’ve had difficulty finding Dutch cocoa. Can you please advise what stores carry them? I’ve checked out Vons, Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, Smart & Final, but can’t seem to locate it. Thanks much.

    P.S. I love your sour cream pound cake. It’s the best! Thanks for all the recipes you share. You’re awesome.

  • Marjoke
    January 8, 2009

    Thank you so very much for this explanation. This winter I’ve got a few american magazines with recipes in which natural cocoa powder is recommended. Living in Holland, the only cocoa powder available is de Dutch processed. Thanks to you I know it’s mostly possible to interchange.

  • Lose Belly Fat
    January 9, 2009

    I for one can’t tell the difference between the two.

  • Michie
    January 21, 2009

    I too have trouble finding dutch processed cocoa. In fact, I have looked at fancy grocery stores and regular grocery stores and have yet to find it. It has been a 3+ year quest. I keep forgetting to see if I can mail order it from somewhere.

  • VitΓ³ria
    August 6, 2009

    Thanks a lot for the info! I live in Brazil and we don’t have dutch processed cocoa here… good to know they’re pretty much interchangeable!

  • NewcoJohn
    October 28, 2009

    Marjoke, Since you have access to Dutch processed cocoa and can’t find natural, and we have the opposite here, we should do some trading. You send one of us some Dutch processed and one of us will send you some natural. πŸ™‚

  • deb
    December 16, 2009

    I found Ghiradelli brand cocoa that states in the ingredients list that it is processed with alkali but it is not called dutch processed. Sounds like Dutch process to me.

  • Loopy
    February 28, 2010

    I have found Droste dutch processed cocoa at Whole Foods. It’s the only place I’ve been able to locate it!

  • Katie
    April 24, 2012

    Thanks do much for this helpful article!! I’m so glad there aren’t noticeable differences!
    I was able to find Dutch processed cocoa powder at Wegmans near me – and it’s surprisingly comparable in price to Natural Ghirardelli cocoa powder.

  • Thiago
    January 13, 2013

    Thanks for the help! πŸ™‚

  • Suzanne
    February 6, 2013

    We sell the Dutch processed Cocoa powder from Amedei.

  • mertyce
    September 25, 2013

    Thank you, I never knew the difference.

  • Narcel
    November 16, 2013

    Thank you, it help me a lot. πŸ™‚

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