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What's the Difference Between Cacao vs. Cocoa Powder

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

There are many. Let's cover all of them!

Hawaii Cacao, Hawaiian Cacao and Hawaiian Bean-to-bar chocolate
Cocoa Powder Vs. Cacao Powder

First off, there is the spelling. The spelling difference is there because of the tree's names that chocolate comes from is Theobroma Cacao.

Cacao beans made into cacao nibs.
Cacao beans made for bean to bar chocolate

The fruits of that tree, commonly found growing on the trunks looking like M and Ms scattered across equatorial farms are referred to as cacao or cacao's (if you have multiple varieties). Cacao is what cocoa is made from.

Cocoa is typically in powder form.

Craft made cocoa powder for craft chocolate
Cocoa Powder Craft Chocolate

Cacao refers to the fruit of the tree Theobroma Cacao but when does the naming shift?

Nibs and Fresh Cacao Pods with pulp and leaves.
Cacao Pods and Nibs from the Theobroma Cacao Tree

What happens to cacao, is that is is made into a few different products, one of them is cocoa. Another is chocolate. The thing is chocolate can be made from cocoa too. So, its understandable that there is much confusion on the subject. Also, cacao can be powderized (although its commonly in disc, bar or other ceremonial form). Cacao is less processed than cocoa and it so the nomenclature has to be this complex.

Cocoa Powder made from Hawaiian Craft Chocolate
Bean to Bar or Farm to Bar Cocoa Powder

Cocoa is number 2 in antioxidants and cacao is number one in quantity out of all foods. You see people consume cacao and cocoa for different reasons and different seasons and reasons! Cocoa is water soluble. It will dissolve. And cacao will not dissolve in water. It can emulsify in water but that more important if you are writing recipes for ganache or truffles.