Cocoa is one of the world’s most influential substances and was first used by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans as a ceremonial and celebratory drink.
It’s become increasingly popular among Americans due to the growing trend of “cocoa ceremonies” as well (more on that below!). The only question that remains… Is cocoa powder vegan?
Yes, cocoa powder is 100% vegan! Cocoa powder is derived from raw cocoa beans and contains no additives whatsoever. It’s plant-based, healthy, and is great for baking or brewing hot beverages.
While the raw cocoa powder is completely vegan, not all cocoa products are. For example, some pre-mixed cocoa powders come with non-vegan additives like milk powder or refined white sugar.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you a full rundown of what type of cocoa powder is vegan, as well as some cocoa powder additives that you should watch out for.
Then, I’ll take a few minutes to answer some cocoa-related questions and even show you how to make the world’s best vegan hot cocoa!
Is Cocoa Powder Plant-Based?
By itself, cocoa powder is 100% plant-based. It comes from cocoa beans which are naturally harvested from cocoa trees every year. The large cocoa beans are separated from the moist cocoa butter that surrounds them and they are then dried and roasted.
Next, the cocoa beans are cooled and they’re processed through special machinery that removes the thin, bitter-tasting outer skin.
Next, the freshly-peeled cocoa beans are crushed and ground into a fine powder. The resulting product is cocoa powder.
If you want to see the whole process from start to finish, check out this cool video showing you the behind-the-scenes processing at a cocoa factory:
The entire process is ethical, sustainable, and uses all parts of the cocoa bean. Even the excess cocoa butter is processed and sold to cosmetic companies as a moisturizing agent!
Compared to many of the other more processed baking ingredients on the market, cocoa powder is about as vegan as it gets!
Is Hot Chocolate Powder Vegan?
The misconception that cocoa powder isn’t vegan-friendly comes from the fact that many of the hot cocoa powders on the market aren’t vegan. That’s why it’s important to differentiate between hot chocolate powder and hot cocoa powder.
Many hot chocolate powders are NOT vegan because they contain added milk powder, whey, and refined white sugar (processed with animal bone char).
While cocoa powder is usually the main ingredient in hot chocolate powder, the two should not be confused.
Cocoa powder consists of roasted ground cocoa beans and has a strong, bitter flavor; hot chocolate powder is so sweet that you could eat it with a spoon (something I used to get in trouble for as a kid all the time).
The same goes for many brownie mixes, which contain lots of cocoa. While there are plenty of vegan brownie mixes on the market, some mixes contain non-vegan milk solids.
To make your shopping easier, here’s a quick table outlining some of the most popular vegan and non-vegan cocoa products:
|Vegan Cocoa Products||Common Non-Vegan Cocoa Products|
|Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder||Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Cocoa Powder|
|Hershey’s 100% Unsweetened Cocoa Powder||Betty Crocky Milk Chocolate Brownie Mix|
|Nestle Toll House 100% Pure Cocoa||Nesquik Chocolate Powder|
|King Arthur Fudge Brownie Mix|
How To Make The Best Vegan Hot Cocoa
Since we’re on the topic, I figured that this would be the perfect place to show you guys my favorite vegan hot cocoa recipe!
Unfortunately, many of the pre-packaged hot chocolate mixes on the market aren’t vegan (or even healthy, for that matter).
Not only is it healthier to make your own homemade hot cocoa, but it’s fun and allows you to tap into the ancient ritual of making hot chocolate drinks…
- 2 Tablespoons of 100% pure cocoa powder
- 1.5 Tablespoons of raw, unrefined sugar
- 1 Cup of your favorite non-dairy milk
- 1/4 Teaspoon of natural vanilla extract
Simple Vegan Hot Cocoa Recipe:
- Start by pouring your non-dairy milk in a small pot and turning the heat to ‘Medium.’ Make sure that you don’t let the milk boil, as that can cause it to have a burned flavor. Instead, it should simmer at a low to medium heat setting.
- When a little bit of steam starts rising from the top, the milk is warm enough. Pour in your cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and raw sugar.
- Using a whisk or small spoon, gently mix your cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract into the warm milk. You may need to stir the mixture for two or three minutes to ensure that all the powder and sugar are dissolved.
- Let the mixture brew for two to three more minutes, and then pour it into a mug!
- If it’s not sweet enough, you can always add a little bit more sugar to your mug until you get the flavor you desire.
There you have it! If you want to make enough vegan hot cocoa for two, simply double the portions and follow the same process.
Is Cocoa Powder Healthy?
Cocoa powder, in moderation, can be very healthy. Some of the top health benefits of cocoa powder include:
- Rich in antioxidants, which are known to contribute to anti-aging, immunity, and lower blood pressure.
- Contains flavanols that help your body convert tryptophan into serotonin, which can increase mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Reduces appetite and promotes a feeling of “fullness,” which can make it beneficial for weight loss.
- Contains theobromine and theophylline, which can relax your lungs and airways, reducing symptoms of coughing or asthma.
- Theobromine is considered a mild stimulant and can act similar to a low dose of caffeine.
Of course, if you add tons of sugar to it and eat it with every meal, it can cause problems. However, if you consume it responsibly and in moderation, raw cocoa powder is incredibly healthy!
Cocoa Rituals: Are They Vegan?
Yes! Cocoa rituals are 100% vegan. Just make sure that you don’t add dairy or refined white sugar to your individual cocoa beverage.
Cocoa rituals have become very popular and are a fun meditational experience that I recommend everyone try at least once. You can perform your own cocoa ritual at home or attend a group cocoa ritual if you want to socialize a bit.
Essentially a cocoa ritual involves drinking highly-concentrated hot cocoa while involving aspects of mediation, tantra, aromatherapy, and chakra release.
It can be as simple or involved as you make it. I recently did one with a few of my girlfriends and it was an amazing spiritual experience that left me feeling happy, energized, and relieved.
If you’d like to learn more about the cultural origins of cocoa ceremonies, check out this cool video:
Not only is cocoa 100% vegan and plant-based, but it also has a number of notable health benefits!
Whether you’re using it for baking, making your own sweet hot cocoa, or performing a cocoa ceremony, I definitely recommend including it in your diet from time to time.
If you use cocoa powder in your vegan baking, then you’ll love my post answering whether or not all-purpose baking flour is vegan here!