How to Substitute Cocoa Powder for Semisweet Chocolate


For best results, you should follow a recipe exactly as written. If you need to make an emergency substitution, you can successfully substitute cocoa powder for semisweet chocolate in most recipes. Dutch-process or alkalized cocoa powder has a mild flavor. On the other hand, natural unsweetened cocoa powder has a stronger, slightly bitter flavor. Both types of cocoa powder can serve as a substitute for chocolate when combined with the proper ingredients.

Things You'll Need

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Granulated white sugar
  • Butter, shortening or margarine
  • Determine how much semisweet chocolate is included in the recipe. For each ounce of semi-sweet chocolate, you need 1 tbsp. plus 1 3/4 tsp. of cocoa powder, 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. of melted butter, shortening or margarine.

  • Dissolve the cocoa powder in at least 1/4 cup of hot liquid from the recipe, to enhance the chocolate flavor.

  • Add the granulated sugar to the cocoa mixture. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved.

  • Add the melted butter, shortening or margarine. A light cooking oil can also be used, but this will affect the texture of baked products. Stir until well incorporated.

  • Use the cocoa mixture as a replacement for semisweet chocolate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep cocoa powder in your pantry as an emergency substitution for semisweet, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder has little fat and no sugar. Never substitute equal amounts of unsweetened cocoa powder in a recipe that includes chocolate, because this will create a dry texture and more intense flavor than desired.

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  • Photo Credit chocolate image by Norberto Lauria from
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