Cocoa, also known as natural cocoa powder, is a staple in chocolate-flavored baked goods and other desserts. Use alternatives to cocoa carefully so your dessert will have a flavor and texture that matches the original recipe.
Since Dutch-processed cocoa is neutral and doesn’t react with baking soda, it can only be used in recipes that contain acidic baking powder or other sufficiently acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice. To substitute natural cocoa powder with Dutch-processed cocoa, use equal amounts of Dutch cocoa to natural cocoa plus an additional four to five drops of white vinegar or lemon juice. For example, 3 tablespoons of natural cocoa powder equals 3 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder plus 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Carob powder is naturally sweeter than cocoa powder, but not as flavorful. To substitute carob powder for cocoa powder, replace with equal parts. For example, 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder equals 3 tablespoons of carob powder.
Cocoa powder can also be replaced with unsweetened chocolate. Since unsweetened chocolate naturally contains more fat than cocoa powder, you must reduce additional fats in the recipe. For example, replace 3 tablespoons cocoa powder with 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate and omit 1 tablespoon of butter or oil from the recipe.
Omitting the Chocolate Completely
Cocoa powder not only makes a recipe chocolate flavored, but it also plays a part balancing acidity in recipes. This balance can also be achieve by using a proper ratio of baking powder to flour. If you prefer to omit cocoa powder altogether and make a recipe vanilla flavored, for every cup of flour used in your recipe, add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
References and ResourcesJoy of Baking: Baking Ingredient Subsitution Table
"Baking"; James Peterson; 2009