When buying cocoa powder, a lot of people focus only on the brand name, color, or if it’s Dutch process or natural.
Although two of those things are actually important, one thing matters the most. And this one thing is what’s most often overlooked. In fact, most people aren’t aware of it at all!
The SECRET behind the BEST cocoa? FAT!
The FDA stipulates that cocoa powder must contain at least 10% cocoa butter. However, cocoa butter is pricey so you’ll find most grocery store brands contain just that amount. This leads to powder that tends to be starchy and chalky. Those starches zap moisture. In fact, they can absorb up to 100 percent of their weight in moisture!
This can lead to dry cakes, cakey brownies, crumbly cookies, and chalky or bland chocolate frosting. Overall, the less fat the less chocolate flavor.
What should you buy instead?
HIGH FAT COCOA POWDER IS MAGIC!
High fat cocoa powder contains at least 22% cocoa butter, double the amount of most grocery store cocoa products!
This results in a richer chocolate flavor with cakes that are ultra moist and tender in texture, brownies and cookies that are chewy and fudgy, and ultra smooth buttercream frosting. In fact, one of the secrets to my Best Chocolate American Buttercream recipe is high fat cocoa powder!
How to tell if a cocoa powder is high fat?
High fat cocoa powder is often labeled as such and comes at a higher price point. Look at the nutrition label on the packaging to be sure:
Look for 1 gram of fat or more (instead of .5 grams) per tablespoon (5 to 6 gram) serving.
Where to buy high fat cocoa powder?
Amazon or King Arthur Flour, Penzey’s, and I’ve seen Ghirardelli and E. Guittard found at Whole Foods & Target. Links below.
What are the best brands of cocoa powder?
This depends on a lot on personal taste preferences! Below are some of my favorites including some of the cocoa powder products used in the photos throughout this article. As you’ll see, most Dutch process cocoa has far more fat content than natural! It’s not just about pH levels.
- Bensdorp (24-26% fat)
I just love this cocoa! It makes amazingly rich, dark, and tender cakes, fudgy and moist brownies and cookies, and incredibly luscious frosting.
- Penzeys (22% fat)
When I can’t wait for Bensdorp to be delivered, I’ll usually stock up on cocoa at Penzey’s because this particular one as well as the Natural version (listed below) are both great. Though I will say the Dutch process Penzey’s seems to have less chocolate flavor.
- E. Guittard (22% fat)
This is one of the more easy-to-find Dutch cocoa powders. I usually see it at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or even Target. It makes for really chewy brownies with a slightly less sweet more refined chocolate flavor for adult palettes. Not to mention very tender and fudgy cake!
- Droste (20% fat)
I have not been able to use this brand, but it’s Cooks Illustrated pick so I’m sure it’s fantastic!
- Valrohna (20% fat)
More difficult to source, but an amazing chocolate company used in many high end professional kitchens and bakeries.
- Penzeys (22% fat)
I find Penzey’s Natural High Fat Unsweetened Cocoa Powder to provide a classic clean and pure chocolate flavor and ultra moist texture. Kind of like the classic Hershey’s below but without the drying properties. That added fat lends richness that can reduce chewiness in recipes like brownies but it lends fudginess instead. I’d use this for just about anything, especially special occasion treats since it’s more expensive.
- Ghirardelli (20% fat)
This is one of my favorite grocery store brands of natural cocoa powder. As you can see, it has a surprisingly high fat content and bold chocolate flavor. Stock up on this one when you see it! I’d use it for everything.
- Nestle Toll House (11% fat)
Nestle is actually what I typically test my blog recipes with when I want to make sure they’re work with basic and easily accessible ingredients. I don’t want to give myself a leg up when I test recipes for publication. That doesn’t seem fair to expect everyone must use difficult to find or expensive ingredients. Nestle is a great basic product, but if I’m struggling with dry cakes or cakey cookies, I’ll use one of the above options instead.
- Hershey’s (10% fat)
Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder to many is the quintessential mild chocolate flavor of American childhoods. It’s homey and familiar, but can result in brownies and cookies that are a little more crumbly than moist but still chewy. I would not use it for cake or frosting.
Best cocoa powder recipes:
- Brown Butter Brownies (Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder)
- Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder)
- Chocolate Brownie Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting (Natural Cocoa Powder)
- Cosmic Brownies (Unsweetened Cocoa Powder)
- Gooey Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls (Unsweetened Cocoa Powder)
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.
I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)
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