The question seems simple — is cocoa powder vegan? Added ingredients can complicate the answer. Let's get the low-down on cocoa and hot chocolate powders.
What would we do without cocoa? It’s the source of much-loved candy bars, drinks, and any number of tasty chocolate-based recipes. But is cocoa powder vegan?
In its pure form, cocoa powder is simply ground cocoa solids, which are a byproduct of the process of removing cocoa butter from cocoa beans. At this point, the solids are 100% vegan. However, sometimes sugar and dairy are added when cocoa is roasted before grinding. So, check the ingredients list if you’re trying to stick to vegan products.
Reading the ingredients is particularly important when buying hot chocolate powders, which often contain dried milk. However, “plain” cocoa powder can also contain unexpected additives. Some powders, often labeled cocoa mix, can contain dried milk, soy lecithin (which is vegan), and other emulsifiers — so it is always best to check.
It is also easy to get cocoa powder confused with cacao, which is derived from cocoa beans as well. Cacao tends to come in the form of raw powder, as it is roasted on low heat and doesn’t contain additional ingredients. It can be a bit more bitter but retains greater nutritional value.
Other issues to consider include ethical cocoa production, and the possibility of cross-contamination. Some vegan products are produced in facilities that also handle non-vegan items.
Is Cocoa Powder Vegan? Brand Matters
Many brands of cocoa powder appear the same, but they can be very different. Some key words to watch for include organic, plant-based and (of course) vegan.
When choosing what to buy, it is worth examining the ethics behind our purchases. Buying certified fair trade minimizes unjust farming and production methods, and helps ensure fair pay and improved labor conditions. Workers at cocoa farms and other production facilities can be subjected to long hours, hazardous conditions, low pay and exposure to pesticides. Buying certified fair-trade and ethically produced cocoa also avoids funding child labor, which has been historically common in the industry.
Here are a few brands that are 100% vegan friendly:
- Nativas Organic Cocoa Powder. This product comes from a small business and is fair-trade certified, protecting farmers, workers and the planet.
- Organic NuNaturals Cocoa Powder. Another high-quality, fair-trade certified product. Available on Amazon**.
- Viva Naturals Organic Cocoa Powder. USDA-certified organic, Non-GMO Project verified and contains just one ingredient: organic cocoa powder.
For a hot cocoa vegan mix, try:
- Coconut Cloud: Dairy-Free Instant Hot Cocoa Mix. A vegan, natural, minimally processed and oh-so-creamy chocolate drink.
A discussion about cocoa just wouldn’t be complete without some delicious recipe inspiration. Not many things beat homemade hot chocolate, but you may be swayed by vegan truffles, or chocolate zucchini bread (yes, it is a thing).
Wondering if your other baking ingredients are vegan? Check out our guides:
- Is Cocoa Butter Vegan?
- Is Brown Sugar Vegan?
- Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?
- Is Nutella Vegan?
- Is Almond Milk Vegan?
- Is Beeswax Vegan?
- Bonus: Why Figs Are Not (Always) Vegan
- How to Make Chai Tea Latte: 3 Easy Recipes
- Matcha vs. Coffee: Which Is Healthier & More Sustainable?
- A Basic Guide to Vegan Halloween Candy
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