Is Cacao Powder Bitter?

Cacao powder in a spoon over a bowl

What does cacao taste like? Is it sweet? Bitter? Something in between? Well, it’s not as simple as that, if we’re being honest. First things first, cacao and cocoa are not the same. They’re different products obtained from the same plant. In fact, there are many different products sourced from the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao). What they taste and look like all depends on how they’re extracted and processed.

Cocoa Vs. Cacao

Cocoa and cacao, at first glance, look very similar. They’re both obtained from the beans of the cacao tree after being separated from the fatty part known as butter — which could be cacao butter or cocoa butter, depending on the treatment (confusing, right?). 

The difference is the heat. Cocoa is obtained from beans that have been roasted and then processed at high temperatures. This results in a slightly darker powder that has lost some of its nutritional value. Cacao, on the other hand, comes from beans that haven’t been roasted and which are processed at lower temperatures. This yields a more natural powder with higher nutritional content.

While cocoa is alkalized, cacao is not. This makes cocoa powder richer in chocolate flavor, whereas non-alkalized cacao retains the unique flavor complexity of the cacao bean.

So What Does Cacao Taste Like?

That depends on whether the beans have been fermented or not, before being processed. Cacao beans are fermented to enhance their flavor and texture, as well as to break down the phytates present in them. Phytic acid binds to the minerals in the beans, making it difficult for the body to properly absorb all the nutrition. Fermenting the beans first makes this easier. It also tends to give the powder a richer and more bitter flavor. 

Unfermented cacao has a slightly milder flavor and is also higher in antioxidant flavonoids. Cocoa powder, given it’s roasted, is even more bitter than fermented cacao unless it comes with added sugar and dairy. Fermented and unfermented cacao is good for consumption. Which one you use depends on your taste buds and possibly the recipe you’re making. You can often use cacao as a 1:1 replacement for cocoa, especially when using fermented cacao as it has a more robust flavor.

What Do Cacao Nibs Taste Like?

Cacao nibs are dried pieces of the cacao bean that are often used as toppings for baked dishes, smoothies, yogurt or ice cream, oatmeal, and salads. They’re also a great addition to trail mix. In general, cacao nibs aren’t as sweet as chocolate but are just as delicious. Fermented cacao nibs are a bit more bitter and offer a richer chocolate flavor. Unfermented cacao nibs are milder to taste and more nutrient-dense.

Buy Them All At Wildly Organic

Cacao newbie? Or cacao enthusiast even? Our collection of cacao products is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Experiment with the different forms of cacao and see which one you like best. Experiment with different recipes and dishes too. What does cacao taste like in vegan chili? What do cacao nibs taste like in a balsamic salad? All of these recipes and many more are available on our wholesome eating blog at Wildly Organic. Sign up for our email newsletters to get new ones right in your inbox, as well as a free cookbook!


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