Best Cocoa Powder Reviews 2019: Top 5+ Recommended
Looking for the best cocoa powder on the market? Take a look at my article where I present the top five brands!
Cocoa is arguably the most magical food in that man ever came across the world. Don’t believe me? Try imagining live without chocolate. Horrible, I know!
Just like any other “sweet toother” out there I adore this brown powder, but at one point I realized that I simply didn’t know my cocoa. What do I mean by this?
Well, not all cocoa powder is made equal, and it does matter what kind you buy as it will significantly affect the flavor of what you’re making.
Compare it to coffee - a single origin medium roast will give you a completely different brew than an over-roasted blend that they serve in your local diner (no offense diners!).
So, I decided to try and educate you on all that you need to know about this ingredient, and I also reviewed some of the best cocoa powder brands available today.
What is cocoa powder?
“Cocoa powder, that’s that the brown stuff you buy in the supermarket, right?”
Well yes, but there’s much more to the story, and now we’re going to learn some of it.
The powder is made from cacao pods, which come from a fruit that grows in tropical regions, each of which contain around 20 to 50 beans or seeds.
The seeds are removed, fermented, processed and the end result is the separation of cocoa butter and solids which are then ground into powder.
What to know before buying cocoa powder?
Before you head out to get yourself some cocoa powder, here are the things you should look for and compare before making a final decision (this is especially important if you’re ordering online). By order of importance, here are the factors & features of a good cocoa powder:
1. Natural or Dutch process
Depending on the process used to make it, we have two different kinds of cocoa powder - natural and Dutch process, and it is essential to know the difference between them.
Cocoa is acidic by nature, and this gives the natural powder its fruity and bright flavor. The Dutch process uses an alkalizing agent to neutralize some of the acidity and creates a powder that tastes somewhat earthy and mellow.
Besides flavor, the type of powder that you use will also influence the texture of the cookies or cakes you’re making. The natural powder will make the cake more airy and dry, while the Dutch process one will make it fudgy and dense.
There’s no good or bad here as it is merely a matter of preference, but it will make a massive difference if you use the wrong type with a specific recipe.
I’d suggest that you always go for organic powder as it brings loads of benefits for you, as well as the planet.
- First off, organic is healthier (duh!) since no chemicals are used in the production of the plant, so most people would agree that it’s better to feed this to their kids.
- Second, organic farming is good for the soil as natural fertilizers are used to replenish its richness and mineral content.
- Last, organic cocoa powder also tends to be less processed than the non-organic kind.
To make sure that you’re buying the real deal, check if the product has a USDA Certified Organic label. If it does, you’re good to go!
3. Fair trade
I always aim to buy brands that are Fair Trade certified, meaning that the workers at the plantations are paid fair wages and are by no means exploited.
When you think about it more closely, this is a very important thing as nobody wants to be contributing to the exploitation of impoverished workers in some distant land! So my conclusion is - always go for fair trade if you can, it is an ethical thing to do.
4. Raw or roasted
Another factor that ties into the whole organic-natural story is whether the cocoa is raw or roasted.
In the case of the former, the beans (seeds) are not thermally processed in any way, so they retain many of their naturally occurring minerals and substances, as well as their natural flavor.
Besides this, there are many health benefits that raw cocoa yields so you might want to look into this aspect too.
Roasted cocoa has a different taste, and its molecular structure gets changed by the exposure to high temperatures, but still, this kind is much more common in the chocolate and sweets industry.
Now, it seems that raw cocoa means good and roasted cocoa means bad. Well, not necessarily.
The nutritional profile of roasted cocoa is less rich than that of the raw one, but it doesn’t mean that it's bad for you. Also, many folks prefer the roasted taste, so this also needs to be taken into consideration too.
The last thing that you need to realize is that you’ll probably be using the raw powder for baking, so it can’t be considered raw after that.
5. Cadmium levels
Cadmium is a heavy metal that’s toxic for our bodies and is present in many foods including beans, cereals, root vegetables, and, you guessed it, cacao.
Since nobody can prevent cadmium from entering our food, certain regulations have been made to define how much of this metal can a given product contain and still be considered safe to eat.
The current limit prescribed by the WHO is 0.3 mcg of cadmium per 1 gram of cocoa powder, so be sure to check if the product you’re buying meets this regulation.
6. Fat content
No matter if you choose roasted or raw, natural or Dutch-process, the chances are that you’ll be buying a low-fat cocoa powder.
You see, cacao beans contain quite a bit of fat but it is separated from the dry bits during processing, and that’s why we have cocoa powder and cocoa butter sold separately.
You might have also noticed that the butter tends to be expensive and that’s another reason why you won’t find much fat in most cocoa powder brands.
However, if you want, you can find high-fat cocoa powder, and it will usually have somewhere around 24% of fat content. It’s going to be creamier and a bit more flavorful than the low-fat variety, but it’s also going to cost more and isn’t an ideal choice for folks who are trying to lower their fat intake.
7. Added sugar, chemicals, or artificial sweeteners
Being naturally acidic and having its distinctive aroma and taste, cacao itself can often be strong for consumption & usage, so it’s often mixed with sugar or other sweeteners in order to blend it into a recipe. Furthermore, various chemicals are used in mass production in order to set the cacao powder products to comply with the international standards & regulations.
For these purposes, cacao powder might contain sugar or other artificial elements inside - which might affect your diet & health in a way you wouldn’t like. So, please be careful when browsing for products and have the additional sweeteners in mind before making the decision.
Most Recommended Cocoa Powders: Detailed Reviews 2019
After we’ve learned what makes a good cacao powder, let’s see what market has to offer.
I’ve browsed the web for a while and some brands have started to pop up, so I’m going to review them using the features listed above. Let’s see how they fare!
The first brand on the list is one of the most popular brands online with thousands of happy customers returning for another dose. Meet Viva Naturals cacao powder, and let’s see what it’s all about.
This is a natural powder, not the Dutch-processed one, which means that it retains most of its original acidity as well as the bright and fruity flavor notes.
One would expect the powder to be raw too, but this is not indicated on the label, so it probably underwent some kind of thermal processing.
Now, what’s special about this powder is that it is made from Criollo beans, a high-quality variation of cacao that’s prized for its naturally low bitterness. The powder is USDA certified organic and non-GMO so you can rest assured knowing that this is as healthy as it gets.
An important thing that’s missing from this brand’s label is the fair trade certification, so this might be a concern for some consumers.
When it comes to the nutritional value, Viva Naturals is low fat with only 0.5 grams per serving. It is also unsweetened and contains no added chemicals or flavor enhancers.
What I Liked
What I Didn’t Like
Here we have another leading brand in the natural cocoa powder world, and it’s made by Terrasoul Superfoods.
Just like the previous brand, this is a natural powder, so the pod to powder process has been reduced to the bare essentials. To make things even more “unspoiled,” this powder is raw, so it hasn’t been exposed to high temperatures and retains much of its living enzymes.
The cocoa powder is USDA certified as organic and non-GMO which, I’m sure, many people will be happy to hear. Terrasoul also promotes sustainable farming that’s good for the environment, but they do not have the Fair Trade label which always raises my suspicion.
Some customers have complained that they received an expired, funky smelling powder so you might want to look into that before buying. However, to make things better, the company offers a 100% money back guarantee within 30 days in case you don’t like what you get.
The powder can be bought in three different packages - 1 pound, 1.5 pound, and 2 pounds, all of which are sold at very reasonable prices.
What I Liked
What I Didn’t Like
Third time’s the charm, right guys?
It might be so as the following product is one of the best of its kind. Navitas Organics cacao powder is up for a review, so strap yourself tightly and enjoy the ride!
Here we have yet another natural cocoa powder made from unroasted cocoa beans. Notice how the label doesn’t say “raw” but unroasted. This is because the beans have been fermented at relatively low temperatures, so the company is trying to be as fair as possible by letting you know.
Navitas Organics ranks really high on the ethics-meter as their powder is USDA certified organic, non-GMO, as well as Fair Trade.
The company also B Corporation certified which means that it has to follow very rigorous standards in terms of sustainability, fairness, and quality.
The fat content per serving is about the same as with the previous two brands, which means that it's quite low. The powder is unsweetened and also loaded with magnesium, iron, and fiber.
The powder is sold in packages of 8 ounces, 16 ounces, and 24 ounces and it is significantly more expensive than the previous two.
What I Liked
What I Didn’t Like
Healthworks is a company that works with small, family-owned farms in Latin America to bring you the best of what cocoa has to offer.
Their powder is natural, which means that it goes through the process of natural fermentation before it's dried and separated from the butter. As you know, this process won’t kill any of the good stuff in cocoa, so it stays nutritious.
The Healthworks cacao powder is USDA certified as organic, but it doesn’t have any other important labels like non-GMO or Fair Trade. I know that this will throw many people off, but it’s crucial that I mention it.
The powder is tasty, it has a slight bitterness, and it can be eaten raw or included in baking recipes. It is unsweetened and contains very little fat (around 1.5 grams per 15g serving).
Similar to some other brands, Healthworks cacao raised some concerns over lead or cadmium levels, but to be fair, the company did include a warning on the back of the package. Also, a few buyers were disappointed by the bad-smelling powder that arrived at their addresses.
What I Liked
What I Didn’t Like
Despite the dodgy name (Anthony’s), this cocoa powder is in the same league as all of the products included in today’s article.
Unlike all the other items on the list, Anthony’s is a Dutch processed powder, which means that its heat treated and alkalized. So before you spend your money on it know that this one is not “natural” (not that its a negative thing though).
However, there is one more thing that sets this one apart from others, and that is its high-fat content, which is regarded as a sign of quality. This brand contains 22-24% fat which makes it extra creamy and rich, and thus perfect for culinary use.
The cocoa is USDA certified organic and non-GMO but doesn’t have a Fair Trade label included on the package. All we know is that it is imported from Peru.
The powder can be bought in 1 pound, 2 pound, and 5 pound bags and its price is more than acceptable.
What I Liked
What I Didn’t Like
Best Cocoa Powder - Final Verdict
So, my cocoa nuts (see what I did there?), it’s time for us to part ways once again. But, before we do that, let’s take a look at the winning product!
It was a tough decision to make, but I decided to award Viva Naturals with the first place because they only use the top-quality Criollo beans which are Organic and non-GMO. Also, the powder tastes amazing, and the cadmium levels are brought to the bare minimum.
As you can see friends, buying quality cocoa powder is tricky business as they are just so many factors that one needs to consider. But, we have no choice but to do it if we want to enjoy the unforgettable taste of this marvelous plant.
Until next time, sweet dreams!