How to Make Cacao Ash Soap


Cacao ash soap, often called African black soap, traditionally comes from West Africa, where it has been used for centuries to treat skin conditions such as acne and excess oil. Recipes for the soap vary by region, but most contain plantain, shea bark, coconut and cacao pods. Create your own African black soap from ingredients widely available in the United States. African black soap benefits most skin types and can be given as gifts to to family and friends.

Things You'll Need

  • 10 to 15 cacao beans
  • 2 to 3 pieces shea bark
  • Plantain skin
  • Baking sheet
  • Kitchen torch
  • Rubber gloves
  • Protective glasses
  • Fine strainer
  • 15 oz. palm oil
  • Double boiler
  • Kitchen thermometer
  • Essential oils
  • Cooling container
  • Soap mold
  • Remove the cacao beans from their pods. Burn the pods, shea bark and plantain skins on a baking sheet with a kitchen torch until they become ash.

  • Wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear and add 2 oz. ash to a bowl containing 6 oz. water to create lye. As you mix the ash and water, it will make a hissing noise. The mixture will be very caustic at this stage and will burn your skin on contact, so take extra care. Filter the mixture through a fine strainer to remove any large pieces. Set the ashy water aside.

  • Cook the palm oil in a double boiler to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix in the ash water and cook over low heat, stirring frequently. Cook the mixture until the texture is creamy and smooth.

  • Add any desired essential oils once the mixture starts to froth. After about 45 minutes, the soap should start to foam at the top of the boiler. Scoop it into a container to cool.

  • Allow the soap to cool, making sure it does not harden completely. Pour the cooled mixture into soap molds and allow it to dry for at least 2 weeks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make your own palm oil by pressing the husks of coconuts with a hand press.
  • Use extreme caution when working with lye. Make sure to mix your ash and water in containers not used for cooking.
  • Do not use aluminum cookware with lye.

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  • Photo Credit Cocoa Pattern image by Hector Fernandez from
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