Skip to main content

What is Dutch-process cocoa powder?

A reader recently asked me: what is Dutch-process cocoa and where can one find it?  To put it simply, it is cocoa powder that has been treated to make it alkaline, and it can be bought in most supermarkets or gourmet food stores, and, of course, online.

I have a penchant for using Dutch-process cocoa in my desserts because I love its flavor and color.  The beverage in this photo is the last word on hot chocolate.  Click here for that recipe.

Cocoa powder is the cocoa solid end product when cocoa butter is removed from the cacao beans; cocoa butter or cocoa fat is what's used to make bar chocolate.  In its unadulterated state, cocoa powder is light in color (photo above), naturally acidic, and is high in flavonols.  Natural cocoa powder is the most common type found in supermarkets and is not expensive whatsoever (think Hershey's).

Baking recipes for cakes and cookies which use 'unsweetened cocoa' or 'natural cocoa' generally call for baking soda instead of baking powder as part of the leavening agent.  The chemical reaction between the baking soda and the acidic natural cocoa produces carbon dioxide, which does three things to the baked good:  it leavens the batter, it neutralizes the acidity and darkens the color of the cocoa.

Dutch-process cocoa is slightly different.

Dutch-process cocoa powder has been treated with an alkalizing agent, usually potassium carbonate, which renders its pH to neutral.  This cocoa powder is much darker in color, pleasing to the palate and does not work in conjunction with baking soda in baked goods.  Because 'dutched' cocoa does not react with baking soda, recipes for cakes and cookies using Dutch-process cocoa commonly have baking powder as the leavening agent.  It is possible, of course, to have cookies made with Dutch-process cocoa without any leavening agents.  My Chocolate Cookies and Heirloom Chocolate Cookies are such examples.

It is used in many desserts by professionals and is becoming more common among home bakers as well.  Found in most gourmet food stores and even in regular supermarkets, brands that are reliable include Droste, Callebaut, Guittard, Rademaker and, of course, Valrhona.  I've used all of these brands and have been pleased with the results over the years, but if I'm going to be truly honest, I tend to stick with one.

If you have some cocoa in the cupboard and are not sure if it's Dutch-processed, mix some in a bowl with warm water, and sprinkle a pinch or two of baking soda into it.  If it bubbles, then it is natural cocoa, but if it does not react, then it is Dutch-process. Labeling on Dutch-process cocoa packaging will tell you if it has been alkalized.

Valrhona Cocoa powder will always give me consistent results in the kitchen and it is the cocoa powder of choice for me.  I keep it in stock at all times, because I love how it blends into desserts and I can't get enough of its flavor.   

Whether it is hot cocoa, cookies, cakes, frostings or puddings, I always reach for my Valrhona cocoa in the Pantry.  

I buy mine at Whole Foods since it is near my home, but online sources abound for this particular cocoa powder.  If you can, give it a try and see for yourself.

There is one thing that I strongly advise for any baker using cocoa powder to do when preparing their desserts.  

Sift!  Cocoa powder naturally clumps and must be sifted.  When working with a recipe, I measure out the cocoa straight from the jar and place it in a sieve set over a mixing bowl.  I give this a good shake until everything goes through.  Anything that clumps gets pushed through with a silicone spatula.  I then use a whisk to thoroughly blend in the cocoa with the other dry ingredients.  Done and done!  

If you've never used Dutch-process cocoa powder, I encourage you to try it.


  1. David - I really think you must be the fount of all knowledge....the things you seem to know are so interesting and endless.
    Oh....and the word "penchant" - have not heard this for a while.

  2. Ha! I do have a 'penchant' for certain things, Phil, so why not say it? :)

    Thanks for your continued support!


  3. David, so happy to see this post. so many folks do not know the differences in chocolate and are wowed with the black chocolate - I did a post on plain brownies using the black chocolate. Here you go again informing, good for you. I wanted to tell you that MacTaggart's has a wonderful black chocolate and they just introduced Vanilla Bean Fiori Di Sicilia - which is heavenly.

  4. Joy,

    Thanks for the reminder!!! I have been meaning to do a mention of MacTaggart's and your general store!! I hope you're in good health and are doing well my friend.


Post a Comment

Thank You for Posting!

Popular posts from this blog

Antique Salt Cellars

There was a time when salt cellars played an important role on the dining table for the host or hostess.  As a result of it being such an expensive commodity several hundred years ago, salt was seen as a luxury and it was the well to do that made salt cellars quite fashionable & a status symbol for the home.  A single salt cellar usually sat at the head of the table and was passed around throughout the meal.  The closer one sat to the salt cellar, the more important one was deemed by the head of the household.  Smaller cellars that were more accessible and with an open top became a part of Victorian table settings.  Fast forward to the 20th century when salt was no longer a luxury and when anti caking agents were added to make salt free-flowing, and one begins to see salt cellars fall out of fashion.  Luckily for the collector and for those of us who like to set a table with Good Things , this can prove to be a boon. Salt cellars for the table come in silver, porcelain, cut glass

Collecting Jadeite

With its origins dating back to the 1930s, jadeite glassware began its mass production through the McKee Glass Co. in Pennsylvania. Their introduction of the Skokie green & Jade kitchenware lines ushered in our fascination with this jade color.  Glassmakers catered jadeite to the American public as an inexpensive alternative to earthenware soon after the Depression, both for the home and for its use in restaurants.  The Jeanette Glass Company and Anchor Hocking introduced their own patterns and styles, which for many collectors, produced some of the most sought after pieces.  Companies marketed this beautiful glass under the monikers of jadite , jadeite , jade glass , jad-ite , jade-ite , so however you want to spell it, let it draw you in for a closer look.  If you want a thorough history of the origins of jadeite, collectors’ pricing, patterns & shapes (don’t forget the reproductions in 2000), I highly suggest picking up the book by Joe Keller & David Ross called, Jadei

A Tour of Turkey Hill with Martha Stewart and Friends

Martha Stewart led an intimate tour of her former Westport, Connecticut home and gardens for a few of my friends this past weekend.  From the photographs I've seen of that special day, it was an experience that will be remembered for a lifetime by those who were in attendance.  As much as I regret not going to this momentous occasion, my friends were kind enough to allow me to share their amazing photographs here on the blog. Let's take a tour of Turkey Hill with Martha Stewart and a few of my friends. Without the kindness of Jeffrey Reed, Dennis Landon, Darrin David, Anthony Picozzi and Colin Eastland, this post would not be possible.  It must also be stated that the fundraising event was graciously hosted by the current owners of Turkey Hill, the Bergs. Many thanks to the Berg family for opening up the property. Turkey Hill is the Federal style home that was purchased, renovated and landscaped by Martha Stewart and her then husband, Andy, back in 1970.  It was he