- Culinary uses of cocoa butter
- Purchasing - storage
- Ingredients - nutritional values - calories
- Health effects
- Ecological footprint - animal welfare
- Worldwide occurrence - cultivation
- Additional information
Cocoa butter (organic? raw?) is a vegetable fat made from cocoa beans. It contains a lot of saturated fatty acids and is mainly used for making chocolate products.
What is cocoa butter? The pale yellow to whitish cocoa butter is a vegetable fat that has a mild but distinctive cocoa flavor in its natural state. The smell is faint, but still pleasantly cocoa-like. Steam treated (deodorized) cocoa butter is odorless and tasteless. Cocoa butter is in a brittle solid form at room temperature. It melts at body temperature, which is why products made with cocoa butter melt in your mouth.
Cocoa butter is primarily used to make various chocolate products, e.g., milk chocolate, white chocolate, melted chocolate, pralines, dark nougat, couverture, spreads, tarts, cakes, biscuits and muffins. It is responsible for the typical chocolaty aroma, the creaminess and the smoothness. Cocoa butter is also a popular ingredient in vegan dessert creations and ice cream. Fruit smoothies can be refined with natural cocoa butter, giving it a light cocoa note.
An advantage of steaming and lightly searing is that you only need very little cocoa butter. Tofu gently fried in cocoa butter with vegetables is one possible method of preparation.
Since cocoa butter is purely plant-based, i.e., vegan, it can also be used as a butter substitute in vegan dishes. Cocoa butter is not very suitable as a fat spread due to its hard consistency at room temperature. Alternatively, you can make vegetable margarine with just a few ingredients.
Is cocoa butter raw? Cocoa butter is only suitable for raw food nutrition if the starting product (fermentation and drying of the raw cocoa bean, without roasting) and the manufacturing process (milling and pressing) meet the criteria for raw food quality. However, controlling raw food products is difficult because there is no recognized raw food label.
Vegan recipe for Amaranth Chocolate Bars with Cocoa Butter
Ingredients (serves 8): 200 g cocoa butter (organic), 160 g amaranth (puffed), 120 g macadamia nut purée, 50 g agave syrup (or less), 80 g cranberries (dried), 60 g hazelnuts (chopped), 50 g figs (dried), 30 g cocoa powder (unsweetened), 1½ tsp vanilla powder, 1½ tsp cinnamon powder, 1 pinch salt.
Procedure: Gently heat the cocoa butter in a water bath until it is liquid. Place all remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour the melted cocoa butter over them. Mix everything together well. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper - you should have a smooth layer that is not too thick. Place the baking tray in the fridge for approx. 30 minutes until the mass is firm. Cut the mass into fine bars. The vegan bars are good as quick energy snacks for in between meals, and, depending on how the cocoa butter is made, may be considered raw.
To find vegan recipes with cocoa butter, follow the reference: "Recipes that have the most of this ingredient".
|Not only vegans and vegetarians should read this: |
A Vegan Diet Can Be Unhealthy. Nutrition Mistakes.
Cocoa butter can be found in well-stocked supermarket chains and in the local farmer’s markets, including Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods Market, Target, Albertsons and Safeway (United States); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, and Holland & Barret (United Kingdom); Metro, Extra Foods, Real Canadian Superstore and Goodness Me (Canada); and Coles, Woolworths, and Harris Farm (Australia). Online stores, drugstores and pharmacies also offer cocoa butter. You can find them in jars, in bowls, as fragments, powdered or packed in small bags as flakes, chips or drops.
Cocoa butter has a high proportion of saturated fatty acids compared to the low amount of unsaturated fatty acids, which leads to a long shelf life - provided the cocoa butter is stored correctly.
How to store cocoa butter? Cocoa butter should be stored airtight, in a cool, dark place that is protected from light.
How long does cocoa butter keep? Shelf life is approximately two years. If you want to use them beyond that, you should subject them to an odor test before use. As long as cocoa butter still has its typical scent and does not smell rancid, you can eat it without any problems.
The energy content of cocoa butter is very high at 884 kcal/100 g. 100 g of cocoa butter consists of 100 g of fat, of which 60 % are saturated fatty acids - comparable to palm oil (49 %). Coconut oil/coconut fat clearly surpasses the values with 82 % saturated fats. Canola oil, on the other hand, has a much better ratio at just 7.4 % saturated fats.1
The main saturated fatty acids in cocoa butter are palmitic acid (16:0) and stearic acid (18:0); unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid and linoleic acid are also present. Omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio is 28:1.
Cocoa butter also contains 25 µg of vitamin K per 100 g (33 % of the daily requirement). Agave syrup (22 µg/100 g) and soy cream with rapeseed oil (24 µg/100 g) have a similar amount. In comparison, cold-pressed rapeseed oil has significantly more vitamin K with 71 µg/100 g. Chard as an unprocessed product has a multiple of this vitamin, with 830 µg/100 g.1
100 g of cocoa butter also has 1.8 mg of vitamin E (15 % of the daily requirement), which is comparable to hazelnut milk (1.8 mg/100 g) and sesame oil (1.4 mg/100 g). Hazelnut oil contains a large amount of vitamin E with 47 mg/100 g.1
You can find the total ingredients of cocoa butter, the coverage of the daily requirement and comparison values with other ingredients in our nutrient tables above.
Is cocoa butter healthy? According to a study, cocoa butter contains significant amounts of vitamin D2. This is because cocoa beans are susceptible to fungal attack. Mushrooms have a high concentration of ergosterol, so contaminated beans often have large amounts of ergosterol. Ergosterol is a precursor to vitamin D2. After fermentation, the cocoa beans are often dried in sunlight, which may result in the conversion of ergosterol into vitamin D2.2 The vitamin D2 content varies greatly depending on the food. However, due to the high fat and sugar content, it is not recommended to obtain the daily requirement of these vitamins with products containing chocolate.10
See the next section for more adverse effects.
Dangers - intolerances - side effects
Cocoa butter should only be consumed in small amounts, since the high calorie content and fat content can promote weight gain and obesity if consumed in excess.
Replacing saturated fat with healthier fats reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is based on a recommendation by Prof. Dr. Rachel K. Johnson (Nutritionist at the University of Vermont).14 Read more on this topic in our article on coconut oil under health effects.
Traditional medicine - naturopathy
Cocoa butter has long served as a base for suppositories and is included in some ointments.3
Various methods have been established for the cultivation of cocoa trees for commercial use. The trees usually grow in monocultures, for which purpose existing primeval forests are often cleared to create enough space. Alternatively, there is agroforestry, in which cocoa trees grow in a system of other plants. As a result, they are not directly exposed to the sun and therefore require less water. Compared to monocultures, there is more potential for preserving biodiversity in agroforestry systems.6
The ecological footprint in terms of the amount of CO2 emitted for the production of cocoa butter depends on the cultivation method (organic or conventional cultivation), and on the farm management system (monoculture or agroforestry). Compared to conventional agroforestry or the cultivation of cocoa trees in monocultures, organic agroforestry produces the lowest amounts of CO2 emissions.11 Overall, however, the ecological footprint is high, mainly because of the long transport routes from Africa or South America and the many production steps.6 In addition, carbon is released when the trees are cleared for monocultures. This increases the ecological footprint even more.12 It is difficult to understand under what management type the cocoa trees for the production of cocoa products grow. However, you can look for the Rainforest Alliance certified products. Farms with this certification are encouraged to plant more native trees on their land and to practice local agroforestry. The Alliance and Fairtrade certifications also ensure that child labor is not used for production.13
Cocoa butter has a poor water footprint: it takes around 34,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of cocoa butter. In comparison: 18,900 liters of water are used for 1 kg of coffee and 15,400 liters for 1 kg of beef.5
When buying cocoa products, you should give preference to products that are as sustainable as possible. Organic logos indicate environmentally friendly cultivation (pesticide-free) production, while fair trade seals indicate that the product is produced under fair conditions and without child labor. Biological methods do not use fumigation during transport and alkalizing of the cocoa mass (you can have additives such as sodium carbonate, potassium carbonate and magnesium oxide, tartaric acid and citric acid - without labeling requirements).8
Animal protection - species protection
The deforestation of the rainforests for cocoa cultivation takes away many animals, such as monkeys, from their habitat. Côte d'Ivoire is the world's leading producer of cocoa and has greatly expanded its cocoa agro-industry between 1961 and 2000. A large area of the jungle was sacrificed for this expansion. This has resulted in a worrying decline in many primate populations.7
The cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) comes from South and Central America (see cocoa bean). The plant is cultivated in many tropical areas, with a large part of the plantations being in the tropical rainforests of West Africa. The largest producers are Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia.3,4
How is cocoa butter made? Cocoa butter is made from fermented, cleaned and shelled cocoa beans. These are often roasted (at 130 °C). In cocoa mills, the beans are ground into a sticky cocoa mass. There is often an intermediate step, alkalizing (Dutching / Dutch Process), in which the mass or the curd is treated with alkali salts to facilitate the separation of cocoa mass and fat. The mass goes into a grease gun, where the fat separates from the remaining components. The residue is processed into cocoa powder (often just called cocoa), and the fat is the desired cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is usually subjected to steam purification (deodorization). This removes undesirable accompanying substances from the fat and makes it tasteless.8 This cocoa butter is called 'refined'.
To obtain raw cocoa butter, not only must the starting product, the cocoa bean, be unroasted, but the temperatures during cocoa fermentation and drying must also be closely monitored. The temperature limits for raw food are not obvious and are not the same everywhere: For example, in Europe they stick to 42 °C and in the USA everything below 45-47 °C is considered raw in many places. However, temperatures above 50 °C are not uncommon during fermentation and drying the cocoa beans in the sun. It is difficult to control temperatures during these steps.
There is actually no clear cocoa butter melting point. Rather, cocoa butter has a melting range that is between 27 and 35 °C. This can be explained by cocoa butter polymorphism: cocoa butter is a polymorphic fat and can crystallize in different crystal forms, each with a different melting point. This ability comes from the triglycerides it contains. There are usually multiple crystal forms present in cocoa butter, resulting in a melting range.9
Are there cocoa butter substitutes? For technological and economic reasons, there are cocoa butter equivalents (CBE), i.e., substitutes for cocoa butter. These vegetable fats are very similar in composition and properties to cocoa butter. You can use them to replace cocoa butter or mix them in any ratio. Palm oil and shea butter are common equivalents, but olive oil or sunflower oil is also used.8 Such imitation cocoa butter is required to be labeled in Europe
Cocoa butter can also be referred to as cocoa fat or cocoa oil. The name for cocoa butter in Latin is Cacao oleum (formerly Oleum cacao). You can also find Adeps cacao, Theobromatis oleum or Butyrum cacao (Butyrum de Cacao).
In English it is known by the names cocoa butter, theobroma oil or theobroma cacao butter.
Because of its moisturizing and protective properties, cocoa butter can be found in all kinds of cosmetic products, such as lip balms, creams and lotions. It is particularly suitable for dry, chapped skin and unruly hair. But you need to be careful: it should not be used on oily or acne-prone skin, as it weighs down the skin and can clog pores. They are also used as a component of soaps. In soaps, it ensures a pleasant consistency and a creamy foam. Cocoa butter is said to reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. However, this effect has not been scientifically proven.
According to popular claims, cocoa butter can be used as a repellent against insect bites. The smell of the cocoa butter rubbed onto the skin is said to keep the insects from biting. However, we could not find any study that confirms this.
|1.||USDA United States Department of Agriculture.|
|2.||Kühn J, Schröter A, Hartmann BM, Stangl GI. Cocoa and chocolate are sources of vitamin D2. Food Chem. 2018;269:318–20.|
Pahlow M. Das grosse Buch der Heilpflanzen. Gesund durch die Heilkräfte der Natur. Nikol Verlagsges. mbH: Hamburg; 2013: 451.
|4.||Pini U. Das Bio-Food Handbuch. Ullmann Verlag: Potsdam; 2014: 361-362.|
Efanews.eu World Water Day: chocolate, cocoa and coffee at the top of footprint. 2021.
Blog.wwf.de Schokolade und Umwelt: die dunkle Seite. 2020.
|7.||Bitty EA, Bi SG, Bene J-CK, Kouassi PK, McGraw WS. Cocoa farming and primate extirpation inside cote d’ivoire’s protected areas. Tropical Conservation Science. 2015;8(1):95–113.|
|8.||Chemie-in-lebensmitteln.katalyse.de Gewinnung von Kakaopulver und Kakaobutter.|
Reposit.haw-hamburg.de Worin unterscheiden sich Kakaobuttersorten und inwiefern wirken sich diese Eigenschaften auf das Kristallisationsverhalten aus? 2021.
|10.||Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Kakao: Eine leckere Quelle für Vitamin D? Pressemitteilung 119/2018.|
Pérez-Neira D, Copena D, Armengot L, Simón X. Transportation can cancel out the ecological advantages of producing organic cacao: The carbon footprint of the globalized agrifood system of ecuadorian chocolate. Journal of Environmental Management. 2020: 276.
|12.||Melillo JM, Houghton RA, Kicklighter DW, McGuire AD. Tropical Deforestation and the global carbon budget. Annu. Rev. Energy Environ. 1996; 21:293-310.|
Rainforest Alliance. Rainforest Alliance-zertifizierter Kakao. 2022.
Johnson RK. Front-of-pack labelling - healthier diets and better health or confused consumers? Editorial. Nutrition Bulletin. 2014 Aug;39(3): 235–7.