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Cocoa 101

We’re getting back into the swing of things with a new spotlight ingredient…chocolate! Well, cocoa. Or more formally, cacao. Okay, let’s just jump right to it so I can explain. Prepare yourself for a tasty week!

Chocolate bar on a white background

What is Cocoa?

Cocoa is the delicious result of fermented and roasted cacao beans, which are basically the seeds of the cacao tree. These seeds are native to the Americans, and were even once used as currency (that’s my kind of society). Nowadays, 70% of the cacao in the world is grown in West Africa and is then shipped off to be made into chocolate.

Close up photo of cocoa powder with chocolate bars

How is chocolate made?

The cacao seeds are fermented for about a week, dried, then roasted. After it’s roasted, we call this cocoa! The cocoa seeds, or nibs, are then ground into a paste, sort of like nut butter, consisting of the butter and solids. The solids are what will be used to make chocolate, along with milk, sugar, and a bit of cocoa butter.

Close up photo of cocoa powder

Varieties of chocolate

  • Cacao nibs and powder: This is the raw, unroasted cacao seed. It’s a lot more bitter than roasted cocoa but retains more of its nutrients.
  • Cocoa nibs and powder: Cocoa is the roasted equivalent to cacao. It is less bitter and closer to what you may be used to eating and cooking with.
  • Dutched Cocoa Powder: This is alkalized cocoa powder, meaning it has a more neutral pH and is less bitter than regular cocoa powder. It dissolves easily so it’s great for making hot cocoa!
  • Dark Chocolate: Cocoa + Cocoa butter + Sugar
  • Milk Chocolate: Cocoa + Cocoa butter + Sugar + Milk
  • White Chocolate: Cocoa butter + Sugar + Milk

How to Store Chocolate

Chocolate bars should be stored at around 65 degrees F. Milk chocolate will last for about one year, dark chocolate for 2 years. If refrigerating (like if your house is too warm), keep in airtight container or bag. Cocoa powder lasts about 1 year once opened, though this is really just a best-by date, as it doesn’t really go bad.

Cocoa powder on a spoon on a white background

Cocoa Nutrition Information

per 1 cup (86 g) unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Calories: 196
  • Carbohydrates: 50 g
  • Fiber: 29 g, 114% of Daily Value (DV)
  • Protein: 17 g
  • Fat: 12 g
  • 66% DV of Iron: A major component of hemoglobin, the proteins that make up red blood cells and carry oxygen around the body. This is a non-heme source, meaning it does not come from an animal. It is not absorbed as well as heme iron.
  • 12% DV of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): A water-soluble vitamin that acts as a component of FAD to help your body break down macronutrients in the electron transport chain, creating usable energy.
  • 11% DV of Calcium: 1% of the calcium in your body plays a vital role in vascular contraction/dilation and nerve transmission and signaling. The other 99% supports teeth and bone structure and function.
Everything you need to know about cocoa, including how it's made, varieties, how to store it, and nutrition information for cocoa powder.

Hi, I’m Sarah!

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