What is Dutch Processed Cocoa

Posted on Nov 27, 2013 in Baking Tips | 3 comments

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa? I actually get this question a lot. Especially this time of year, what’s Christmas without Peppermint Chocolate Cookies!!??  I’ve totally been there.   You’re following a recipe just as it states (good baker 🙂 ) and then it says you need dutch processed cocoa and you think “I have Hershey’s cocoa”….that’s the same right? Well, not really. Dutch Processed Cocoa is actually quite different than the most common found Natural Unsweetend Cocoa Powder creating different results in your finished cookie.

Dutch processed cocoa is sometimes also referred to as alkalized or alkaline cocoa which is the big difference between dutch processed cocoa and the more common natural unsweetened cocoa, or natural cocoa.  The dutch processed cocoa beans are soaked in a low-acid (alkaline) solution before being dried and ground whereas the natural cocoa is not.  This results in a low acidic cocoa powder vs. an acidic natural cocoa powder.  Most often, recipes that only call for baking soda typically use natural cocoa powder since the acidity is in the cocoa powder whereas recipes that call for dutch processed cocoa powder, use baking powder because the baking powder provides the acid for leavening.  I know I know, you don’t want to know all the science-y stuff, you just want to know what does this do to my cookie? Well, the low acidity dutch processed cocoa actually results in a darker richer color, a slightly denser chewier cookie & a more mellow smooth and less bitter flavor. And for these reasons when I can, it is my preferred choice when it comes to cocoa powder.

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa


But does it really make that big of a difference?  This is the big question that has been debated by baker’s for decades. And in my opinion it is up to the baker’s personal preference.  As you know, I prefer dutch process because I think darker cookies look tastier and the dutch processed cocoa produces a richer, deeper more chocolately flavor…but I will admit it is subtle.  If you have a favorite recipe that uses natural cocoa powder you probably think it taste plenty chocolately and decadent and you are probably right.  The color is definitely much more noticeable than the taste but it’s there. Which is why I say, it’s up to the baker.

If substituting natural cocoa powder for dutch processed in recipe for cookies, the biggest difference you will experience is the color and the rise, which is more vital in baking cakes & cupcakes but really not so much in cookies. I did a little experiment to see what would happen if I took the same exact cookie recipe and the only thing I changed was the cocoa powder, one with dutch processed cocoa powder and one with the natural cocoa powder.

What is dutch processed cocoa

Can you tell which is baked with what?

What is dutch processed cocoa


As you can see the cookie made with dutch process cocoa is definitely darker and it definitely had a more rich chocolately flavor, but the rise wasn’t effected at all.  But when leavening is more important than in a cookie, there is a general rule of thumb to substituting the two different cocoa powders.

Substitute Dutch Processed Cocoa for Natural Cocoa
Substitute equal amounts of dutch processed cocoa for natural cocoa. Leave out any baking soda called for in the recipe & double it with baking powder.

Substitute Natural Cocoa for Dutch Processed Cocoa
Substitute equal amounts of natural cocoa for dutch processed cocoa. Leave out any baking powder called for in the recipe & half it with baking soda.

Always keep in mind when substituting ingredients called for in a recipe, you may end up with different results. But some of the best recipes I think happen by mistake. Which reminds me, don’t forget ground chocolate is completely different from them all! Ground chocolate is not cocoa powder at all but typically used as a mix in drinks.  However,I have most definitely baked with it and I love it in cookies! But again never substitute it for cocoa powder directly.  What do you guys prefer? Do you have a preference in cocoa powders?

If you want to learn more about baking cookies, check out my FREE ebook How to Bake Cookies.


  1. What cookie is that?

  2. Thank you SO much for this informative post! I recently baked a cake that used vinegar and baking soda and it came out dense and did not rise. I thought my baking soda was old, which is really wasn’t and left it at that. The cocoa powder is the answer!!! I just looked at the box and it’s not dutch processed and does not have alkaline – ah ha! Mystery solved! Thanks again!

    • Thanks Paula!!! Yay!! It’s so helpful when you understand why things react the way they do when you put them into a cookie or a cake 🙂

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