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Cacao vs. Cocoa: What You Need to Know


When it comes to chocolate, there’s never just one or two choices to satisfy your cravings. There’s not only numerous brands of chocolate out there, but also many different forms.

For instance: cacao vs. cocoa – is there a difference and which one is best?

Cacao and cocoa may sound similar, but both of them are unique when it comes to taste, nutrition, and cost.  If you’re unsure if you should buy cacao or cocoa, check out these differences below so you can make a well informed, choco-licious decision!


  • Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume, which means it is raw and much less processed than cocoa powder or chocolate bars. Cacao is thought to be the highest source of antioxidants of all foods and the highest source of magnesium of all foods. It has been used throughout many cultures for years for health purposes and even used as a high trade commodity.
  • The cacao fruit tree, also known as Theobroma Cacao, produces cacao pods which are cracked open to release cacao beans. From there, cacao beans can be processed a few different ways.
  • Cacao butter is the fattiest part of the fruit and makes up the outer lining of the inside of a single cacao bean. It is white in color and has a rich, buttery texture that resembles white chocolate in taste and appearance.
  • Cacao butter is removed from the bean during production and the remaining part of the fruit is used to produce raw cacao powder.
  • Cacao nibs are simply cacao beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces, much like chocolate chips without the added sugars and fats. Cacao nibs contain all of the fiber, fat, and nutrients that the cacao bean does.
  • Cacao paste comes from cacao nibs that have been slowly heated to preserve the nutrients and are melted into a bark known that is a less-processed form of dark chocolate bars. Cacao paste can be used to make raw vegan desserts or you can just eat it as an indulgent snack by itself!
  • Cacao powder contains more fiber and calories than cocoa powder since more of the nutrients from the whole bean is still intact. Cacao is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, cholesterol-free saturated fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, natural carbohydrates, and protein that make it an excellent source of nutrients.


  • Cocoa is the term used to refer to the heated form of cacao that you probably grew up buying at the store in the form of powder.
  • Though cocoa may seem inferior to raw cacao, it’s actually very good for you. It’s also less expensive.
  • Cocoa powder is produced similarly to cacao except cocoa undergoes a higher temperature of heat during processing. Surprisingly, it still retains a large number of antioxidants in the process. It’s excellent for your heart, skin, blood pressure, and even your stress levels.
  • If you buy cocoa powder, be sure you buy plain cocoa powder. Cocoa mixes often contain more sugar. Look for either regular cocoa powder or Dutch-processed (a.k.a. dark) cocoa powder.
  • Dutch-processed cocoa powder (dark cocoa) is cocoa powder that has been processed with an alkalized solution. Which makes it less acidic and much richer in taste. Regular cocoa powder retains a more acidic nature and bitter taste and is used in baking recipes with baking soda where Dutch-processed cocoa powder is not since it has already been alkalized.
  • Cocoa powder is a rich source of fiber, has little fat, and has a bit of protein in it as well.

You can use cocoa powder and cacao powder interchangeably in baking recipes, smoothies, oatmeal, cookies, homemade raw treats, or even stir them into your coffee for a homemade mocha.  Both cacao and cocoa are highly nutritious for you and are sure to satisfy your chocolate cravings. If you want more nutrients, I would suggest you choose cacao. If you want fewer calories and a decent source of antioxidants,  then definitely go with cocoa powder.

Need cacao and cocoa recipes? We’ve got you covered with plenty of recipes to choose from to satisfy your chocolate cravings!

Which one do you prefer — cacao or cocoa?

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Lead image source: Raw Cacao Sea Salt Caramel Cups

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18 comments on “Cacao vs. Cocoa: What You Need to Know”

Click to add comment
2 Months Ago

made me hungry reading it

9 Months Ago

Alkalized Cocoa Shell Powder of a very thin grade - the item of our Mill.

Powdered cocoa shells are produced on an industrial scale and used safely to replace cocoa powder in chocolate, fillings, compounds and beverages.

The powder can also be used as a low-germ food ingredient in dairy products, to impart coloration in food products or as a fat bloom inhibitor in cocoa-based products.

For any questions or concerns /samples/

[email protected]
STAHLMARK Gmbh Austria

Egbuna Chukwuebuka
1 Years Ago

I want to invite you all to this project on phytochemistry. We considering all areas of phytochemistry. Book chapters or co-authorship is welcomed.
[email protected]

David Smith
1 Years Ago

> Surprisingly, it still retains a large amount of antioxidants in the process
About what percent? A fifty percent drop could still be a "large amount" but will mean that I need to double the amount I use when I read that some study or another used 40 grams a day of dark chocolate.

Jonas Ketterle
1 Years Ago

Good article - yes it\'s amazing that chocolate without the sugar is actually a superfood! I\'m a chocolate maker in California specializing in 100% cacao paste ... primarily for making drinking chocolate ... check us out at Firefly Cacao you may enjoy our products, we have single origins from Belize, Ecuador, and Tanzania, as well as unsweetened but flavored blends :-)

1 Years Ago

Is cacao comes in Paleo diet?

1 Years Ago


1 Years Ago

I am trying to find out if it is safe for me as a migraine sufferer to try cacao as I am advised to avoid Cocoa as its a trigger. Help please !

17 Mar 2017

Interesting...I was just researching cacao. It turns out cacao and cocoa are flip sides of the same coin. The only difference (other than people adding sugar and such) is that cocoa is more processed than cacao.
So... I would guess that they would have the same effect on your body.
As I understand it, most migraines are caused by restricted blood flow. If that\'s true in your case you might find some relief from Niacin (vitamin B3) which is a vaso-dilator. The other form of B3 is called Niacinamide and does have the same effect.
Be careful though...it doesn\'t take much to do the job. While it wont cause any actual damage, if you take too much, it can open up everything and cause major discomfort.
Just the right amount will turn you red and tingly and maybe just a little itchy as it subsides. It will also make you feel very calm. 25 to 50 milligrams is the most I would take in the beginning.
If you do take too much...just drink lots of water and things will soon calm down.

17 Mar 2017

oops!! That should say Niacinamide does NOT have the same effect

Destini Ingoldsby
1 Years Ago

Hi Heather,
I like your blog - has a nice healthy vibe to it! Just finished reading your post about cacao vs cocoa. I never knew there was a difference until I was doing research for my blog post about DIY chocolate massages- which you can see if here, if you like: http://destiniingoldsby.com/diy-valentines-day-chocolate-massage-for-you-and-your-spouse/

1 Years Ago

Is this true? Really strange article and can this be confirmed? I think this is a \'bullsxxit\' :)

04 Apr 2017

Rob, not strange at all- sounds like you\'ve been taken in by chocolate industry marketing.. scary the influence this has.. in fact this natural product is healthy and much nicer... and contains no sugar.

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