With countless types of chocolate to choose from, there’s never just one or two to satisfy cravings. Cacao and cocoa, for instance, sound similar in name, however, they’re unique in taste, texture, nutrition and cost. If you’re unsure whether to buy cacao or cocoa, check out the qualities and differences of each below so you can make a well-crafted decision.
What is Cacao?
Cacao is a raw chocolate base that’s less processed than cacao powder or chocolate bars. Cacao is well-known for its high source of antioxidants, and its high amount of magnesium. For many years, cacao has been used for health remedies, and even in traded commodity.
How is Cacao Made?
Cacao comes from the cacao fruit tree, or the Theobroma Cacao, which produces cacao pods that are full of cacao beans. When the cacao pods are cracked open, the cacao beans are released, and then processed in a number of ways.
Cacao Butter makes up the outer lining of the inside of a cacao bean and is the fattiest part of the fruit. During production, cacao butter is made by removing the cacao bean; the leftover fruit is used to make raw cacao powder. Cacao butter has a white color and rich, smooth and buttery texture. The taste and appearance of Cacao butter resembles white chocolate.
Simply put, cacao nibs are chopped, edible cacao beans. Similar to chocolate chips, cacao beans are crunchy and rich, but without the extra sugar and fat. Cacao nibs are highly fibrous and nutritious, just like the cacao bean.
Additionally, cacao beans can also produce cacao paste, which is melted cacao nibs. When cacao nibs are gradually heated, they preserve the natural flavors and nutrients of cacao. Cacao paste is less processed than dark chocolate bars, which makes it an excellent ingredient in raw vegan desserts or dairy free snacks.
Lastly, cacao powder contains higher amounts of fiber and nutrients than cocoa powder. Cacao powder is an incredible source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and bad cholesterol-free fats, which makes it an essential ingredient in vegan desserts or meals.
What is Cocoa?
Cocoa is a heated form of cacao that most people purchase at grocery stores for baking, such as cocoa powder. Though raw cacao is well-known for being healthier than cocoa, cocoa powder is actually healthy for you, without excess fats, sugars, calories, or oils. Cocoa powder is also much more affordable than raw cacao at the store.
How is Cocoa Made?
Cocoa powder is actually made similarly to cacao, except cocoa is heated at a higher temperature during processing. Despite the heating, cocoa powder still has plentiful antioxidants and is fantastic for your heart health, skin and blood pressure.
When purchasing cocoa at the grocery store, it’s important for you to buy plain cocoa powder, without the artificial flavors and ingredients. Be on the lookout for regular cocoa powder or dutch-processed, which is dark cocoa powder.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been processed with an alkalized solution, which makes it less acidic and higher in richness. Regular cocoa powder, on the other hand, is more acidic and has a bitter taste, which is why it’s used in baking with baking soda. Overall, cocoa powder makes an excellent baking ingredient or substitute to artificial chocolate powders.
Next time you’re cooking, try using cocoa powder or cacao powder as an ingredient in dessert recipes, smoothies, cookies, oatmeal bars, or homemade raw vegan snacks. Cacao and cocoa are both very healthy and full of essential antioxidants to satisfy your cravings all day.