What is Cacoa Butter?

Photo Credit: Allyson Kramer

Cocoa butter is a rather common ingredient in vegan cooking and is the cold-pressed oil from the cocoa bean. To get cocoa butter, the entire cocoa bean is first fermented, then roasted and separated from the hulls with about half of the residue remaining as cocoa butter (the other half is turned into cocoa powder). It is usually sold in solid form at room temperature, is highly aromatic (like chocolate!) and can range very slightly in color from an off white hue to a soft pale yellow.

Generally sold as blocks for food uses and in jars for cosmetic uses, unrefined organic cocoa butter can be sourced at many Natural Foods stores as well as online. Recipes that utilize this ingredient range from homemade vegan margarine to vegan white chocolate candies. It can also be used as a cooking oil, much like butter or olive oil, or as a chocolaty addition to baked goods (sub 1/3 cocoa butter in place of margarine for extra chocolaty chocolate chip cookies).

  • For a simple white chocolate candy, melt about 1/2 cup cocoa butter over low heat until liquid. Add in 1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup and blend until sugar crystals are totally dissolved. Stir in a few tablespoons peanut butter and a dash of salt. Pour into silicone muffin tins or candy molds and freeze about 30 minutes, or until solid.

Cocoa butter is high in antioxidants and Vitamin E and is a highly stable fat, meaning that it won't go rancid very easily and keeps for a long time if stored properly in a cool dark place.

Cocoa butter melts at a very low temperature so be sure to store away from any external heat, such as ovens or dishwashers.

I like to keep food grade cocoa butter in the pantry as I'm assured that the ingredient will be well suited for both consumption and cosmetic uses, not to mention the quality is superior to non-food grade cocoa butter.

  • Along with being an excellent addition to the pantry, cocoa butter is a wonderful moisturizing ingredient for the skin and can be used directly as a lip balm or used as a light moisturizing oil for the skin. Some people enjoy the sweet scent so much that they consider the oil to be good for aromatherapy.
  • Make a hair mask by melting a couple tablespoons of cocoa butter and mixing together with a few tablespoons aloe vera gel and your favorite conditioner to form a smooth paste. Apply mask to hair, starting at the ends and working your way up, and wringing out any excess. Cover with a shower cap and allow to rest one hour. Gently shampoo from hair and style as usual.