How-To & Diy

How to Identify Good Cocoa Powder (and Not So Good)

January 13, 2014

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich is going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: When a recipe calls for premium quality cocoa powder, what does that even mean? And how do you find it? Alice tells all.

How to Identify Good Cocoa Powder (And Not So Good) from Food52

To get the best flavor from any cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process), buy the good stuff. Premium cocoa powder is 22% to 24% fat, twice the amount of regular cocoa powder. Since we use so little cocoa in recipes, the fat difference is negligible in the scheme of things and it is worth buying the higher fat cocoa for its quality. The fat percentage is not found on cocoa labels, but you can find it yourself by looking at the nutritional panel: look for cocoa with 1 gram (instead of .5 gram) of fat per 5 to 6 gram serving.

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More: Now go bake genius chocolate cake with the best stuff you can find.

How to Identify Good Cocoa Powder (And Not So Good) from Food52

Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.


Photos by James Ransom

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  • Merleen Rice
    Merleen Rice
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    Kels Murdoch
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    Crystal Conway
  • striped beet
    striped beet
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Merleen R. January 24, 2015
I boil cocoa powder with some bay leave and milk that was nice
Mikey September 25, 2018
Okay. Highly informative.
Kels M. January 20, 2014
Awesome! I wouldn't have thought the fat content was the key! I was guessing it would be something more tricky like bean origin or roasting technique or something like that.

Does the higher fat content lead to quicker spoilage?
Dian January 18, 2014
Hi....In the UK I use Detox Your World Raw Cocoa...
Crystal C. January 14, 2014
Where can I find some good cocoa powder? My grocery stores all sell the crappy kind.
Allison T. January 19, 2014
Even though it's a "grocery store" brand, Hershey natural cocoa is really good. A lot cheaper than the fancier kinds and works well in many recipes. Don't like Nestle's cocoa.
striped B. January 13, 2014
And powdered raw cacao? Any reason it can't be used in a recipe that doesn't require dutched cocoa? Thx!
boulangere January 13, 2014
The nutrition label contains the information you need to calculate the fat percentage of any cocoa. Divide the Total Fat per serving by the number of grams per serving. From the information on the label on the bag in my pantry, that is 1 gram divided by 5 grams, which equals 20%.
Mikey September 25, 2018
Interesting. Is that why the article stated the same thing even before you brought it up? Thanks for your valuable input.
loubaby January 13, 2014
Thanks are the chocolate best!