What Is Cocoa Butter and Raw Cacao Butter?

The Uses and Differences of Cocoa Butter and Raw Cacao Butter

Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter photo by Narcisa / Getty Images

Where does cocoa butter come from? iIs it vegan or does it contain dairy products? For many years cocoa butter was something you read on an ingredient label. These days, it pops up more and more in health food stores as well as in recipes for scrumptious desserts. It is all part of the growing interest in this beloved plant we call chocolate. Here's a simple definition of cocoa butter and more information about it.

Definition and Uses for Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is a pure, stable fat that is pressed out of cacao beans. It is considered a vegetable fat. It is also vegan and contains no dairy products, despite using the word butter in its name. Cocoa butter is usually extracted by the Broma process, letting the butter drip off of roasted cocoa beans in a hot room. The beans are then ground into cocoa powder while the butter is used in making chocolate and personal care products.

As a pure vegetable fat, cocoa butter is whitish in color and soft in texture. It has been used for ages as the solid to make white chocolate as well as other chocolate bars. It holds together at room temperature providing that ideal candy bar crispness. It has a mild chocolate taste and flavor and carries only trace amounts of the caffeine, theobromine, or nutritive elements found in chocolate.

Cocoa butter is ideal for beauty care products as well since it stays solid at room temperature and contains naturally occurring antioxidants which prevent rancidity, giving it a shelf life of years.

It melts onto the skin in a velvety smooth and pleasing way.

Cocoa butter is perfect for salves, lotions, lip balm, and some makeup. Because it is nontoxic and melts at body temperature, it is also used as a base for medical suppositories to deliver medications.

The Cacao Difference - Raw Cacao Butter

In recent years, manufacturers have been producing raw cacao butter to keep up with the growing interest in raw foods.

The essence is the same, but the process is slowed down to ensure temperatures don't exceed about 115 F.

The reason for the difference in spelling between cacao and cocoa is probably just to match what raw foodists have been seeing for years on product labels. Cacao has always been the word of choice for raw food products to distinguish from the roasted bean products.

Is Your Cocoa Butter Adulterated?

Cocoa butter has been rising in price, and as a result, substitute fats may be added to products that used to be made with 100 percent cocoa butter. In the United States, chocolate must use only cocoa butter, while in the European Union, the substitute fats must comprise no more than five percent of a product to be called chocolate. The usual fats that are substituted are coconut oil or palm oil as these are also solids at room temperature.