If you’ve ever enjoyed the luxury of spreading cocoa butter across pancakes, using it to add delicate flavor to your baked goods, or making the most decadent chocolates you could dream of, you’ll know that there is no true replacement for this special ingredient.
But sadly, cocoa butter is not always available when you need it though luckily there are a few alternatives that can do a great job in a pinch.
Whether you’re using cocoa butter as a condiment, in your cooking or baked goods, or as the star in your chocolate making, you will have to choose the right substitute for the occasion.
What are the best cocoa butter substitutes? The best cocoa butter substitutes are cacao butter, (dairy) butter, coconut oil or butter. Cocoa powder and white chocolate work in limited contexts. Substitutes for cocoa butter should have extremely high fat contents and similar flavors and consistencies.
In this article, you’ll learn the best swaps for cocoa butter in every different application so even if you have to live without it, you’ll still be able to enjoy your kitchen creations.
What is Cocoa Butter?
The concept of cocoa butter sounds a bit strange to anyone who hasn’t yet tried it.
In the cosmetics industry, there is a variety of heavenly-scented beauty products called butters, or body butters. Included among them are shea butter, mango butter, and, of course, cocoa butter.
In the culinary world, butter means something entirely different. So where does cocoa butter fit in when it’s being used in your kitchen?
How is Cocoa Butter Made?
Cocoa butter is made from cacao beans and is one of the main ingredients in most chocolate products, along with cocoa powder.
Most cacao beans are roasted after harvesting, very similar to coffee beans. The beans then have their hulls removed and are ground into a paste.
That paste, called cocoa liquor, is then pressed to separate the solids from the oil, or fat. The solids are dried and powdered, made into cocoa and the oil becomes cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter has 248 calories per ounce and every single one of those calories comes from fat.
Can You Eat Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter is most frequently used in the cosmetics industry, as a common ingredient in lotions for both body and face. There are a few delectable recipes that call for cocoa butter, proving it is not only edible but absolutely delicious
Not all cocoa butter is made to food-grade standards.
However, if you find cocoa butter at your local grocery store, specialty foods market, or at a candy supplies shop, it will likely be food grade and therefore edible. The labeling should also make it obvious.
If you prefer to shop online, always read the description carefully or get in touch with the manufacturer before ordering to be sure the product is food-safe.
Cocoa Butter Vs Cacao Butter
The difference between cocoa butter and cacao butter is very subtle and depends on the temperature used to extract the oil from the beans.
Cacao will usually be applied to any products derived from cacao beans that remain raw and have not been processed at temperatures higher than 115F or 46C.
Rather than roasting, the cocoa beans are cold-pressed to make cacao products, which is thought to preserve the nutritional value better by avoiding the high temperatures that can reduce antioxidant levels.
Cocoa butter and cacao butter taste, feel, and look essentially identical and it will have no effect on your recipe if you swap one for the other. They are entirely interchangeable.
We’ve found the organic, cold-pressed cacao butter from Navitas is beyond compare.
Is Cocoa Butter Chocolate?
Cocoa butter is not chocolate, no, but it is usually one of the main ingredients in chocolate.
What constitutes chocolate can be a highly contentious topic, however, a basic definition is any paste or solid product made from cacao seeds, usually sweetened.
Many types of chocolate, particularly the premium varieties, contain cocoa butter as well as cocoa powder, but as long as there is some cocoa involved, most people will accept the finished product like chocolate.
White chocolate is a bit different. White chocolate does not contain any chocolate solids, which most of us think of as dark chocolate, cocoa powder, or cocoa nibs.
High-quality white chocolate will use cocoa butter, but many brands choose to make their white “chocolate” without any cocoa products at all.
Substitutes For Cocoa Butter in Cooking
When you’re using cocoa butter in cooking there are two main features you have to consider: how it will react in the recipe and flavor.
Cocoa butter is pure fat, so it acts in a very specific way in recipes. To substitute for it you will have to find one or more ingredients that can combine to provide the right balance of fat your recipe needs.
Cocoa butter also has a very high smoke point, remaining stable at temperatures as high as 450F or 230C.
This should be taken into consideration if your recipe is using cocoa butter as a frying agent, but in most cases, the smoke point isn’t much of an issue.
Flavor, of course, is subjective. Some people may be trying to avoid the flavor of the cocoa.
While it’s rare, it is possible to not care for the taste of chocolate. In some recipes, the flavor of cocoa butter is too light to really shine and only the sweetness and creaminess is noticed, so finding a direct comparison for flavor is unnecessary.
In most cases, the substitution for cocoa butter is not one ingredient, but a few selections combined. We’ll discuss some of the closest comparisons and how to adapt them to fit your recipe seamlessly.
Cocoa Butter Vs Butter
If you look up the nutritional data of pure, unsalted butter you’ll find that it has a tiny bit of protein and an even smaller amount of carbohydrates but is otherwise purely fat.
This makes it a very reliable substitute for cocoa butter in baking. Your recipes will react the same way they would to cocoa butter, providing the same level of moistness and soft texture.
Where it will differ is in flavor.
Cocoa butter is sweet and tastes distinctly like chocolate. Butter has a mild sweetness to it, but the more forward flavor is milky.
In many recipes you won’t be able to tell the difference but, if you’re concerned, adding a bit of cocoa powder or vanilla extract to your recipe along with your butter substitution can boost the sweetness and enhance the flavor.
If you’re making pancakes or another type of fried food that used cocoa butter in a pan or deep-fryer, butter can be a good substitute but it’s important to remember that it has a much lower smoke point.
Avoid using butter to deep fry, but don’t hesitate to use it as a swap for low to medium temperature stovetop cooking, up to 265F or 130C.
Of course, butter is a dairy product, which makes it not vegan-friendly or ideal for the lactose intolerant. Cocoa butter is plant-based and, if that’s your primary concern, you may want to consider one of the following options.
Cocoa Butter Vs Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another good substitute for cocoa butter because it is once again pure fat.
Cocoa butter, butter, and coconut oil are all solid when cooled, but coconut oil will melt to a more liquid consistency than either of the butters and at a lower temperature.
This can make a slight difference in how your recipe reacts, but to compensate, instead of melting your coconut oil, try creaming it so it has a slightly thicker consistency.
The flavor match is not identical, but coconut and chocolate both have a nutty, tropical sweetness that reminds us of vanilla without actually tasting like vanilla.
If you hate coconut, as some people do, this may not be the best substitution for you but the flavor of coconut oil is very mild compared to the flesh of the fruit or even coconut butter, which we’ll talk about next.
In most recipes, you won’t notice the flavor of coconut at all, but the rich variety of sweet undertones will still give depth to your baking.
If your recipe calls for cocoa butter to be used for frying or high-temperature cooking, refined coconut oil is a reasonable substitution, as it has a smoke point around 400F or just over 200C.
Extra virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil has a much lower smoke point, however, and shouldn’t be used for frying.
Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in chocolate and white chocolate making, which we’ll discuss a bit later in the article.
Cocoa Butter Vs Coconut Butter
Coconut butter, not to be confused with coconut oil, is a good substitute for cocoa butter but not as exact as coconut oil.
Coconut butter is made using the entire coconut, rather than just exclusively the fat. This has many nutritional and flavor benefits, but it does change how the ingredient will act in a specific recipe.
The product is still considered 95% fat, which is a near-perfect substitution but it does contain a few carbs, mainly from fiber, and a tiny amount of protein. It is unlikely this very minimal difference will affect your recipe in any way.
The texture is very similar to cocoa butter, more so even than coconut oil.
The flavor of coconut butter is also stronger than coconut oil, which will shine through better in recipes. It tastes like coconut, not chocolate, but the sweetness and balance are very similar.
Cocoa Butter Vs Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder does not make a good substitution for cocoa butter on its own, but it can be used sparingly to add the chocolate flavor to another substitute of your choice.
It’s important to realize that raw cocoa powder is very bitter and tastes nothing like the milk chocolate you may be used to, which actually tastes much more similar to cocoa butter.
However, if you add a sweetener like sugar or maple syrup to cocoa and pair it with your fat of choice from above, you’ll be able to enjoy the flavor of chocolate you may be craving.
Cocoa Butter Vs White Chocolate
If you can’t find cocoa butter where you live but you have discovered you love the taste, you can probably find yourself some good quality white chocolate which is made from cocoa butter to a great degree.
White chocolate will not replace cocoa butter in most recipes because the sugar content is much higher, but if it’s the flavor you’re searching for, it may do the trick.
Rather than buttering your pancakes with cocoa butter, try drizzling melted white chocolate over top.
Of course, if you’re trying to make your own chocolate or white chocolate, buying store-bought pre-made chocolate isn’t what you’re looking for.
Let’s discuss how to make homemade chocolate and white chocolate without cocoa butter.
Substituting Cocoa Butter When Making Chocolate
Making homemade chocolate is surprisingly easy, some recipes calling for as few as 3 ingredients. In many cases, one of those ingredients happens to be cocoa butter.
If you don’t have cocoa butter, you can still make your chocolates, but you may need an extra ingredient or two.
How to Make Dark Chocolate Without Cocoa Butter
Dark chocolate can be made without cocoa butter if you use coconut oil or coconut butter instead. Regular butter won’t work as well because it won’t create the glossiness or crisp bite of chocolate, but coconut oil will.
To get the flavor of the chocolate, you’ll also need cocoa powder, of course, which is the key ingredient in any true chocolate.
Just those two ingredients would be a very bitter chocolate, so you will also need a sweetener or some type, preferably liquid. Maple syrup and honey both work very well.
Many people will also add vanilla to their chocolate, primarily to enhance the mouthwatering fragrance, but also to add depth and flavor.
How to Make White Chocolate Without Cocoa Butter
Good quality white chocolate will always contain cocoa butter but there is plenty of delicious white chocolate that has no cocoa of any sort involved.
Though butter doesn’t work well for regular chocolate, it does suit white chocolate perfectly.
It’s much more complicated to make it vegan, but if you’re not opposed to dairy, you can make white chocolate using a combination of butter and milk, flavored simply with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla.
Coconut oil and/or coconut butter won’t provide the creamy, soft, and smooth consistency you want from white chocolate because it melts at a much different temperature.
If you want to make a white chocolate glaze, icing, or drizzle, coconut oil mixed with vanilla and confectioner’s sugar will work well, but unfortunately not for solid white chocolate.
Is Cocoa Butter Vegan?
Butter is not vegan because it’s made from dairy, but is cocoa butter dairy? No!
There is no dairy in pure cocoa butter. The creamy, cocoa-flavored product is purely plant-based fat and therefore vegan.
Does Cocoa Butter Have Caffeine?
Chocolate is known for having caffeine, and since cocoa butter is derived from cacao beans, which are the primary ingredient for chocolate, it’s natural to wonder if cocoa butter has caffeine as well.
But cocoa butter does not have caffeine.
This may be disappointing for some and a relief for others, but the truth is that the process that separates cocoa butter from cocoa powder removes all traces of caffeine from the end product.
Can Dogs Eat Cocoa Butter?
Though cocoa butter does not contain any dairy or caffeine it does have a compound called theobromine, which is the compound that makes chocolate of all forms toxic to dogs.
For safety, dogs should not eat any product that is derived from the cacao bean.
While it may seem easy to put the cocoa butter you use for making homemade chocolates safely out of your dog’s reach, it’s also important to make sure all beauty products that contain cocoa butter are kept safely locked up as well.