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Is Cocoa Powder Vegan? What You Should Know

Cocoa powder is a powdery, brown substance that is created from cocoa beans. It’s unsweetened with a chocolatey flavour and is often used in baking recipes. But is cocoa powder vegan? Keep reading to find out.

A Woman Placing Vegan Cocoa Powder Into A Bowl

I’m slowly working my way through various baking ingredients to create an ‘Is It Vegan?’ section on my blog. I hope this will be helpful for beginner vegan bakers. Next up on my list is cocoa powder- let’s get into it!

What is cocoa powder?

Cocoa powder is the dry cocoa solids that are leftover from the process of extracting cocoa butter from cocoa beans. Unsweetened cocoa powder has a bitter, chocolatey taste. You can use it to add a chocolate flavour to desserts or drinks such as chocolate cake, cookies, hot cocoa or chocolate milkshake.

There are three different types of cocoa powder: natural cocoa powder, Dutch process cocoa powder and black cocoa powder.

Natural cocoa powder is the type that you’ll most likely find on the supermarket shelf and it’s probably the most common variation of cocoa powder. This has an acidic nature that works well in recipes without eggs- the acid reacts with bicarbonate of soda to create gas bubbles that make your makes tall and fluffy.

Dutch process cocoa powder is more alkaline in nature. During processing, the cocoa is washed with a neutralising potassium carbonate solution. This means that if you’re using Dutch process cocoa powder in a baking recipe, you’ll also need to make sure you use baking powder to help it rise because it won’t react with bicarbonate of soda. Adding another acid such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice will help to boost rising power if you’re baking without eggs. Dutch process cocoa has a milder flavour than natural cocoa powder.

Finally, black cocoa powder is a highly alkaline cocoa powder- similar to Dutch process but even more so! It has a strong, dark black colour and an intense cocoa flavour. In fact, it’s so dark that it can be used as a natural black food colouring in baking!

Is it the same thing as hot chocolate powder?

No, cocoa powder and hot chocolate powder are not the same thing. Hot chocolate powder is also sometimes known as instant cocoa powder which is why it can be a little confusing!

Both can be used to make hot chocolate but hot chocolate powder is much sweeter and usually has milk added to it. Hot chocolate powder should not be used as a substitute for cocoa powder in baking, especially in recipes where you need high quality ingredients, like brownies.

Is cocoa powder vegan?

Yes, pure cocoa powder is vegan-friendly. It’s free from dairy and other animal products. The cocoa powder you can buy in supermarkets also tends to be vegan most of the time- just make sure to double check the ingredients list before purchasing.

Cocoa powder is also gluten-free and does not contain any gluten-derived ingredients. As with everything, it’s best to check for cross contamination risk before buying it as this risk can vary from brand to brand.

Is Cadbury cocoa powder vegan?

Yes, Cadbury’s cocoa powder is suitable for vegans. It does not contain milk, milk powder, or any other animal-derived ingredients. The only two ingredients are cocoa powder and potassium carbonate, which is an ingredient used to help regulate acidity.

Cadbury’s hot chocolate cocoa powder is also vegan-friendly. It is essentially just cocoa powder with some sugar and flavouring added. Please note that it’s only the hot chocolate cocoa powder that’s vegan, and not the Highlights version, as the latter contains milk. Again, while hot chocolate is nice to drink, it should not be substituted for unsweetened cocoa powder in baking recipes.

Ways to use cocoa powder

Now that we know cocoa powder is vegan, how can we use it in baking recipes? I’ve made a small list of my favourite vegan desserts using cocoa powder for you to try out:

Dairy-free Chocolate Bar Made With Cocoa Powder


Cocoa powder is vegan-friendly and gluten-free. Unsweetened cocoa powder does not contain milk, gluten or any other animal or gluten-derived ingredients. As with everything, it’s best to read the packaging before purchasing as this can vary from brand to brand.

Cocoa powder comes in three varieties- natural, Dutch process and black. Natural cocoa powder is the one you’ll most commonly find in the supermarkets and is the best kind to use for vegan baking due to its acidic nature.

Hot chocolate powder and instant cocoa powder are not the same as cocoa powder. They are typically not vegan because they tend to have milk added to them. They are also a lot sweeter than natural cocoa powder. Hot chocolate powder is not a good substitute for cocoa powder in baking.

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