What Is The Difference Between Dutch-Process And Regular Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is an unsung hero for many a home cook. Quietly nestled in the back of cupboards and pantries across the land, it is reliable, easy to use, and always delicious. It adds a depth of pure chocolate flavors to baked goods, rich beverages, and even some savory sauces. If you're ever been unclear what exactly "Dutch process" denotes, or if you only use cocoa powder for a batch of brownies every few months, read ahead to learn more about the unassuming pantry staple.

Serious Eats notes that cocoa powder is "the core of chocolate's flavor, without any extra fat, sugar, or milk to get in the way." Sally's Baking Addiction states that cocoa powder is the result of cocoa beans that have been "fermented, dried, roasted and racked into nibs" before being "pressed to remove 75 percent of their cocoa butter." The remaining "chocolate liquor" is then dried and ground, resulting in cocoa powder.

According to King Arthur Baking, natural (or "regular") cocoa is typically the most accessible type of cocoa, as well as the ingredient used in most older recipes. Dutch-process is "natural coca treated with an alkalizing agent to lessen its acidity." Other names for Dutch-process are European style, black, and rouge. Dutch-processed alkalized cocoa is slightly darker and also a bit more mellow, according to Sally's Baking Addiction. Fun fact: Dutch processed cocoa is used to make Oreos. (via Serious Eats)

What's the difference?

King Arthur Baking notes that in the majority of recipes, cocoa powder is easily interchangeable, encompassing both Dutch-process and natural cocoa varieties. Baking, of course, is truly a science, so while we won't get too into the nitty-gritty of the technical aspects, it's important to be mindful of which leaveners are used in your recipe so that you can use the "correct" cocoa. Of course, if you only have one type on hand, it should be fine, although the flavor, baking time, or texture may be off slightly. In many cases, the type of cocoa called for is in direct relation to the leaveners that are used in that particular recipe — either baking powder or baking soda.

No matter if you're making chocolate cake, hot cocoa, or even a rich, complex mole sauce, cocoa is obviously an immensely important ingredient to have on hand. No matter if it's natural or Dutch-processed, cocoa powder is versatile and deeply flavorful. At the same time, it's important to keep in mind that different leaveners can affect cocoa powder in different ways, so make sure to do your due diligence the next time you're baking with cocoa so that you end up with the most delicious product imaginable.

Happy cooking!