Cocoa Butter 101: Nutrition Profile, Health Benefits and Tasty Recipes

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Picture of Cocoa Butter Chunks On a Wooden Spoon.Cocoa butter is the fat in dark chocolate that makes it taste so delicious and creamy.

While it is not widely available, it is possible to buy isolated cocoa butter for use in cooking/recipes.

It gives pretty much anything you make a deliciously creamy taste, but is it good for us?

This article takes a look at the nutrition profile, potential health benefits, and a few tasty recipes.

What Is Cocoa Butter?

Otherwise known as theobroma oil, cocoa butter is the edible fat that is present in cocoa beans.

Despite the “butter” in the name, cocoa butter has nothing to do with the dairy ingredient. Cocoa butter is a single ingredient food product extracted directly from the cocoa bean.

We can find cocoa butter in numerous chocolate bars, truffles, recipes, and also personal skin care products.

Typically, cocoa butter is quite expensive and so it is usually in higher quality products.

For example, budget-priced chocolates from Hershey and Cadbury usually use vegetable fat as a cheaper alternative.

What is the Difference Between Cocoa Butter and Cacao Butter?

It quickly gets confusing when we see cocoa butter as an option alongside cacao butter.

Are they the same or is there a difference?

The truth is that they are almost identical, but there are some slight differences between the two;

  • Cacao butter is technically a raw food, while cocoa butter is not.
  • A “cold-press” is used to extract cacao butter. However, the temperature is not really “cold” and will vary by manufacturer, but raw food is heated at lower than 46°C (115°F).
  • On the other hand, cocoa butter can be extracted at any temperature.
  • Aside from the temperature used in processing, there are no other differences during manufacture.
  • Products labelled as cacao butter generally sell for a slight premium compared to the lower-priced cocoa butter.

Regarding the nutritional profile, there are no major differences between the two.

Key Point: Cocoa butter is the delicious-tasting fat found in cocoa beans.

Nutrition Facts

The tables below examine cocoa butter’s macronutrient and micronutrient values per 100 grams (1);

Calories and Macronutrients

Macronutrient / CaloriesAmount (Grams / % RDA)
Calories884 kcal
Carbohydrate0 g
Fiber  –
Sugar  –
Fat100 g
Saturated Fat59.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat32.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat3.0 g
Omega-3100 mg
Omega-62800 mg
Protein0 g

Cocoa butter is a pure fat, so it doesn’t contain a varied nutritional profile.

As shown above, it provides a combination of mainly saturated and monounsaturated fats.

Micronutrients

Vitamin / MineralAmount (% RDA)
Vitamin K31% RDA
Vitamin E9% RDA

Isolated fats are never going to be nutrient-dense, and this is the case for cocoa butter too.

The only vitamins that it contains are vitamins E and K.

Other Compounds

Unlike other cocoa products, cocoa butter contains virtually no stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.

Although there are small trace amounts present, the concentration is less than 0.1% of the amount in cocoa powder (2).

Is the Fat in Cocoa Butter Healthy?

The table below show the four major fatty acids in cocoa butter and in what concentrations they are present (1);

Fatty Acid TypeAmount (%)
Stearic AcidSaturated33.2%
Oleic AcidMonounsaturated32.6%
Palmitic AcidSaturated25.4%
Linoleic AcidPolyunsaturated2.8%

Between them, these four fatty acids make up more than 97% of the total composition.

Only trace amounts of other fatty acids make up the remaining 3%.

Stearic Acid

  • Stearic acid is found in cocoa butter and shea butter (3).
  • Compared to other saturated fats, a systematic review shows that stearic acid lowers LDL cholesterol and has a neutral effect on HDL (4).
  • Another clinical study confirms this finding, with stearic acid lowering the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol (5).
Key Point: In clinical trials, stearic acid improves the LDL to HDL ratio. 

Oleic Acid

  • Oleic acid is the most widely distributed fatty acid in nature, and it is the predominant fat in olive oil (6).
  • Studies suggest that oleic acid has a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance (7).
  • Oleic acid appears to be important for immune health and may have anti-inflammatory activity (8).
Key Point: Oleic acid has a lot of research behind it and it is well known for being the main fatty acid in olive oil.

Palmitic Acid

  • Palmitic acid is a common saturated fatty acid and it occurs in both animal foods and plant foods (9).
  • The current evidence is inconclusive on whether palmitic acid has positive or negative effects on health (10).
  • Palmitic acid may cause problems alongside an excessive intake of dietary carbohydrate (11).
  • Palmitic acid was viewed in a negative way for a long time due to the fear over saturated fats. However, more research is necessary to determine its relative effect on health and potential confounding factors.
Key Point: Palmitic acid has a mixed bag of evidence behind it.

Linoleic Acid

  • Linoleic acid is a major fat from the omega-6 family of essential fatty acids.
  • This fatty acid is present in most foods in varying proportions, but it is highly concentrated in nuts, seeds and “vegetable” (seed) oils.
  • Linoleic acid plays an important pro-inflammatory role in our body and it is responsible for proper wound healing (12).
  • Although this fatty acid is essential to our health, excessive amounts can have a negative effect. This is because the overproduction of inflammatory compounds can contribute to chronic disease risk (13).
Key Point: Linoleic acid is an essential – and healthy – omega-6 fatty acid providing that it is not over-consumed.

Cocoa Butter Contains a Healthy Range of Fatty Acids

As the fatty acid profile of cocoa butter shows, there is a nice balanced range of fatty acids.

On the positive side, the two predominant fatty acids (stearic acid and oleic acid) have a lot of positive health research behind them.

Therefore, consuming cocoa butter in sensible amounts can be supportive of good health.

How Is Cocoa Butter Made?

Picture of Cocoa Butter Chunks Next To Cocoa Beans and Nibs.

The production process of cocoa butter is relatively simple but time-consuming.

Here is a summary of the production process;

1. Picking the cocoa fruit

For those who were not aware, cocoa is a fruit.

Cocoa farmers pick the fruit and remove the cocoa beans (seeds) from inside.

2. Farmers prepare the cocoa beans for processing

During this stage of the process, the farmers clean the beans and then roast them to increase the depth of flavor.

After roasting, the beans are removed from their shells and broken down into smaller pieces (cocoa nibs).

3. The cocoa nibs are melted into cocoa liquor

In the next stage of the process, the cocoa nibs are melted down into a liquid known as ‘cocoa liquor’.

4. Cocoa liquor enters a hydraulic press to separate it into cocoa butter and cocoa solids/powder

Next, the cocoa liquor is transferred to a hydraulic press.

A hydraulic press is a piece of machinery that exerts tremendous pressure to press food and separate the fat from the solids.

Once the machine starts pressing the cocoa liquor, the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa mass and runs out to a storage compartment.

This cocoa butter is then collected and solidifies as it cools.

After this final stage, the cocoa butter is ready for packing, sale and distribution.

Key Point: To extract cocoa butter, cocoa beans are cleaned, melted, and then pressed.

Health Benefits of Cocoa Butter

As mentioned earlier, cocoa butter isn’t the most nutritious food in the world.

Large Chunks of Cocoa Butter and Cocoa Butter Shavings.

That said, it does have a few benefits and these are listed below;

1. A Source of Healthy Fats

Fat intake is vital to our overall health and plays a role in hormonal and energy processes in the body (14).

As seen in cocoa butter’s fatty acid profile, the predominant fats are also associated with a better cholesterol profile (higher HDL to LDL) and reduced inflammatory markers.

Although cocoa butter is very high in energy/calories, the fat profile it contains is quite healthy.

2. Cocoa Butter is Very Heat Stable

Some fats (such as polyunsaturated vegetable oils) are a terrible choice for high-heat cooking because they break down into toxic compounds at high heat (15).

Fortunately, the fatty acids in cocoa butter have good oxidative stability at high heat.

The monounsaturated fat oleic acid has shown on numerous occasions that it stands up to being heated well.

Additionally, the other prevalent fatty acids in cocoa butter are the saturated fats stearic and palmitic acid.

Saturated fats are among the very best choices for cooking due to their relative stability at heat (16).

For these reasons, cocoa butter can be used safely in a range of recipes.

3. Cocoa Butter Contains Polyphenols

You may have heard that polyphenols have an “antioxidant” effect, but this is not entirely accurate.

These compounds are, however, believed to help with cell signaling systems and play a role in mediating inflammation. In truth, more research is necessary because we do not accurately understand how polyphenols exert their apparent health benefits (17).

Besides their potential benefits for us, polyphenols also help to protect cooking fats from oxidization when exposed to oxygen/heat.

This fact is one reason why cooking fats such as extra virgin olive oil are so healthy compared to ultra-processed vegetable oils.

Similar to regular cocoa, cocoa butter also contains polyphenols, particularly flavonoids.

These compounds may add to the oxidative stability and – possibly – health benefits of cocoa butter (18).

4. Benefits For Personal Skin Care

In addition to the nutritional benefits of cocoa butter, a large number of skincare products make use of it.

The reason why is because cocoa butter has hydration properties that make it ideal for use as a moisturizer. In fact, many cultures have used cocoa butter for this reason for centuries (19).

Although cocoa butter is relatively expensive, it is much cheaper than most famous cosmetic brands.

For this reason, some people enjoy using pure cocoa butter as a moisturizer.

Key Point: In addition to being a decent dietary fat, cocoa butter also has beneficial health (and moisturizing!) properties.

Cocoa Butter Recipes

If you are looking for ways to use cocoa butter, then here are some interesting recipes ideas.

1. Homemade Creamy Vanilla Dark Chocolate Bar

Pieces of a Homemade Dark Chocolate Bar On a Plate.

It is sometimes hard to find good quality chocolate with so many “milk chocolate” products full of sugar.

However, if we make our own at home, we can make a sugar-free version that is a lot easier than you might imagine.

This bar is an excellent option for those looking to keep their blood-glucose down or just for anyone who wants to reduce their sugar intake.

For this homemade chocolate bar, you need the following;

Ingredients

Instructions

First, put the cocoa butter in a pan and melt it on a low heat.

As the cocoa butter starts to melt, add the cocoa powder into the pan and stir well until you have a smooth consistency. You should now have a chocolate colored paste. 

At this stage, add the erythritol and salt and stir everything together on a low heat for several minutes.

Once you are confident everything is mixed together well, take the pan off the heat and add the vanilla extract.

Give the chocolate paste a good stir and then pour it into chocolate bar moulds and transfer to the refrigerator. Your chocolate bars should set and be ready a few hours later!

2. Cocoa Mocha Coffee

A Cup of Cocoa Butter Cafe Mocha On a Saucer.

If you want a tasty mocha then you can make a great one with cocoa butter as a substitute for milk.

On the plus side, it takes no time at all. Here’s what you need;

Ingredients

  • 1 large brewed cup of coffee
  • 2 tbsp cocoa butter
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

Brew a large cup of coffee as normal, and then pour it into a blender.

Add the cocoa butter, cocoa powder and the remaining ingredients and leave the cocoa butter to melt for a minute or so. 

Next, blend the ingredients together for about half a minute until it looks really creamy and foamy.

Pour back into your cup, and sprinkle a little cocoa powder on top for decoration (only if you want it to look nice!)

You’ll now have a super creamy and delicious mocha drink.

Note 

This coffee tastes seriously good, and if you are a fan of bulletproof coffee, then this alternative is much better.

However… it is full of isolated fat, and it isn’t particularly nutritious, so think of it as a treat rather than an everyday thing!

3. White Chocolate Mousse

Homemade White Chocolate Mousse In Bowls.

For a thick and creamy sweet treat, here is a sugar-free white chocolate mousse recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp erythritol
  • 2 oz (56 g) cocoa butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz (56 g) macadamia nuts
  • 1 oz (28 g) dark chocolate shavings

Instructions

First, the cocoa butter needs melting so heat it gently in a pan until it liquefies.

Pour the liquid cocoa butter into the blender and add the heavy cream, erythritol, vanilla extract and macadamia nuts.

After this, blend everything together well until it forms into a thick consistency.

Transfer the mousse into however many bowls you need, and put them in the fridge for a few hours to chill. 

Serve cold and top with some dark chocolate shavings.

Key Point: Cocoa butter tastes delicious, so it works well in a wide range of recipes. Give one of these a try or experiment with your own recipes.

Where To Buy Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter isn’t the most common ingredient you will find in stores, but it may be possible to pick it up in a local health store or market.

You can also find a wide range of options online.

Final Thoughts

Cocoa butter is a pure and natural fat that comes from cocoa beans.

In addition to its amazing taste, it is also rich in a variety of healthy fats – mainly oleic and stearic acid.

That said, it is worth remembering that cocoa butter is very calorie-dense and doesn’t contain many nutrients.

In other words; there are many foods out there that are more nutritious.

However, providing it is in moderation, cocoa butter can play a delicious part of a healthy diet.