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What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder vs Natural Cocoa Powder?

what is dutch processed cocoa powder

Curious about dutched cocoa and what it’s about? In this article, chocolatier Simon Knott explains what is dutch processed cocoa powder, and how it compares to natural cocoa.

As a chocolate enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of dutch-processed or dutched cocoa. If you’ve been wondering what is dutch processed cocoa compared to regular cocoa, then you’re not alone. A quick read of the packaging reveals nothing, so you’re left to wonder, is it just a nice sounding name to sell cocoa or is there really something to ‘dutch processing’?

Well, there actually is a difference, and it is definitely worth knowing about if you use cocoa in baking and other cookery. In this article, you’ll learn how dutch processed cocoa is produced, and how it differs from natural cocoa powder in terms of flavor profile and baking applications.

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder?

By Simon Knott, Chocolatier

As the market for cocoa products grew throughout the 19th C, manufacturers invented new processes, such as Dutch-processed cocoa, to counteract the natural limitations of cocoa powder. These improvements included reducing the natural bitterness and increasing the solubility of cocoa.

Today, of all the types of cocoa powder available, natural and dutch-processed cocoas are the most common. First, we’ll look at the major differences between the two, then delve into the nuances of dutched cocoa.

what is dutch processed cocoa powder used for

Dutch Process vs Natural Cocoa Powder

Dutch Process Cocoa Qualities

  • Milder flavour – caused by the neutralisation of free acids
  • Less acidic (neutral pH7-8)
  • Darker colour
  • Dutching swells the cocoa particles, making them more soluble
  • Dutching can cause setting problems in baking

Natural Cocoa Powder Qualities

  • Intense, fruity chocolate flavour
  • Lighter colour
  • Naturally acidic (pH 5.5)
  • The acidity helps to set proteins in baking

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder? Nutrition and Flavor Profile


Critics claim the Dutching process significantly lowers the nutritional content of cocoa powder. However, even if Dutching removes 60% of antioxidants, it is still a rich source, as natural cocoa has such high levels of antioxidants.

Flavour and Colour

The Dutching process creates a milder, smoother flavour that is earthy and woody. The alkali treatment makes cocoa darker, which bakers capitalise on to produce decadent chocolate cakes, etc.

dutched cocoa is used for dark rich cakes
Dutched cocoa is used for dark rich chocolate cakes, where an almost black color is desirable.

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Used For?

How Dutch Processed Cocoa is Utilised in Baking

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Used For in Baking?

During baking, Dutch-process cocoa isn’t acidic, so it won’t react with alkaline raising agents like baking soda to produce carbon dioxide. Consequently, a recipe using Dutch-process cocoa works better with baking powder with a neutral pH.

Ideally, use the cocoa powder and the raising agent the recipe stipulates. That way, you will match ingredients that complement rather than work against each other.

The combination can be summarised as opposites. For natural, acidic cocoa powder, match it with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), while for alkali, Dutch process cocoa, match it with acid, baking powder (sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid).

Dutch processed cocoa is best combined with baking powder (neutral pH).

Natural cocoa is best combined with bicarb soda / baking soda (alkaline pH).

dutch processed cocoa powder is darker than natural
Dutch processed cocoa powder is darker than natural cocoa.

Why was Dutch Processed Cocoa Created?

The 19th century was a formative time in the evolution of cocoa products, which stimulated cocoa markets for drinking, chocolate, and cocoa butter cosmetics. The Dutching process was developed by the Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten in 1828.

Houten Jr. built on his father’s legacy of creating a hydraulic press to extract cocoa butter from cocoa beans. The remaining cake was finely ground into cocoa powder, which his company sold as a drink. Pressing beans and the Dutch process for cocoa are still widely used today.

Houten Jr. recognised that the bitterness and sourness of cocoa beans needed to be reduced, so he started washing the cocoa powder with potassium carbonate, a mild alkali. This improved the cocoa flavour and made the powder more soluble and less gritty in drinks.

What is Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder Treated With?

The Modern-Day Process: Neutralising the Acidity in Cocoa Powder

The most common Dutching process is Nib Alkalisation. Cracked cocoa nibs are treated with alkali early in the process, producing flavour and colour benefits. Changing the temperature, duration, and aeration will all affect the grade of cocoa produced. After roasting and cooling, they are ground into chocolate liquor. This is separated into cocoa butter and cocoa cake, ground into cocoa powder.


That wraps up our guide to dutch cocoa powder. You should now have the answers you need for what is dutch process cocoa powder, and how you can best use it in baking.

For more information on cocoa powders, make sure to check out Simon’s article discussing the different types of cocoa and cacao powder, and which cooking applications each one is suited to.

Or, if you’re ready to dive into something more hands-on, try out our guide to making cocoa powder from scratch using cacao beans with Chef Prish.

Happy chocolatiering!

Article Author

  • Simon Knott

    Simon Knott studied a BSc Hons in Catering Management, Food Science, and Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University and started writing in 2006, specialising in food and drink. He worked as Food & Drink Editor for two county magazines, interviewing chefs and local food producers. In 2010 Simon started a company making traditional fudges and chocolate products. The company quickly grew, supplying local outlets and Simon was awarded five Gold Great Taste Awards for his products. Simon recently completed a Diploma in Copywriting, and continues to write about food and drink, business and skiing.

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