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For people transitioning into a vegan lifestyle, it can be challenging to reevaluate all of your favorite food products and skincare products to figure out whether they contain animal ingredients. This often leads to common questions like “is cocoa butter vegan?” Read on to learn more about this delicious ingredient, whether cocoa butter is vegan, and uses for cocoa butter!
Prized for its incredible healing powers and silky smooth texture, raw cocoa butter is a popular ingredient among beauty experts and chocolate makers alike. So, does going vegan mean giving up cocoa butter products? Good news! You don’t have to, because cocoa butter is vegan! It is made from the fat part of cocoa beans, which means that cocoa products are totally vegan.
What Is Cocoa Butter? Does Cocoa Butter Contain Butter?
Cocoa butter, also known as cacao butter or theobroma oil, is an edible fat that is derived from cocoa beans and is commonly used in cooking and beauty products. While the word butter instantly makes people think of dairy butter, pure cocoa butter is naturally dairy-free (there is no butter in cocoa butter!).
Similar to regular butter, cocoa butter is pale yellow in color and sold at room temperature in solid form. However, because they’re made from cocoa beans instead of dairy products, cocoa butter and cocoa powder are both vegan-friendly. To use it in cooking, cocoa butter needs to be melted first. It’s often used as a primary ingredient in different types of chocolate bars — white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.
When used to make sweet treats, cocoa butter adds a silky mouthfeel that creates that melt-in-your-mouth feeling we all love so much. This smooth texture, combined with its long shelf life, is one of the key reasons why cocoa butter is favored in the skincare industry through products like lip balm and skin cream.
How Is It Made?
Cocoa butter is made from cocoa beans (cacao beans) that come from theobroma cacao plants or cocoa trees. These plants grow in the rainforest and require a ton of rainfall to thrive. It takes around five years for cocoa trees to be ready for harvest, at which time the pods containing the beans are cut from the trees.
The process starts by roasting cocoa beans and stripping them of their hulls (outer layers), which reveals the cacao nibs inside. Those cocoa nibs are then ground into a paste that is known as cocoa liquor, which is pressed to release the fat — cocoa butter. Then, the cocoa butter is separated from the cocoa solids, which are turned into cocoa powder or cacao powder.
Can Vegans Eat Cocoa Butter?
In its natural form, cocoa butter is a plant-based product and can therefore be consumed by vegans. It’s commonly used as an ingredient in vegan chocolate and other vegan products. Cocoa butter has a mild chocolate flavor, which is especially desirable for those following a vegan diet when it’s used to make chocolate products.
Is Cocoa Butter Dairy-Free?
Because it’s made from cocoa beans, cocoa butter is completely dairy-free. While the name tends to confuse people, unrefined cocoa butter is made solely from cocoa beans and contains no animal products of any kind. Think of cocoa butter like peanut butter or coconut butter—it may have ‘butter’ in the name, but not because of any dairy ingredients.
Is Cocoa Butter Gluten-Free?
On its own, cocoa butter is naturally gluten-free. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a product containing cocoa butter is automatically free from gluten.
Oftentimes, cocoa butter is used as one of the main ingredients in candies and snacks made with gluten-containing flours. When adhering to dietary restrictions, it’s always important to check the label on any food product before buying it.
What’s The Difference Between Organic Cocoa Butter And Regular Cocoa Butter?
We often see cocoa butter products tout the label “organic,” but what makes a product organic? For a product to be USDA certified organic, there are several federal guidelines it must meet. These include soil quality, pest and weed control, additive use, among other things.
Organic cocoa butter would need to meet all of these specific guidelines, including having been grown from soil that was free from any prohibited substances (like pesticides) for at least three years prior to harvesting the beans. Most pure cocoa butters are organic, but it’s always important to check the label to confirm.
What’s The Difference Between Cacao Butter And Cocoa Butter?
The only real difference between cacao butter and cocoa butter is in the manufacturing process. To make cacao butter, the process is slowed down to prevent the temperature from exceeding 115°F (46°C).
That being said, the terms cacao butter and cocoa butter are often used interchangeably. The only time people typically distinguish between the two is when using the word ‘cacao’ to refer to the raw form of cocoa butter.
Is Cocoa Powder Vegan?
We now know that cocoa butter is vegan, but is cocoa powder vegan? Well, let’s consider how the product is made. Cocoa powder is made by separating the cocoa mass (solids) from the cocoa butter and then grinding it into a powder. The process is similar to how butter is made; by churning milk to remove the milk solids.
So, because cocoa powder is made purely from cocoa beans (just like cocoa butter) it is 100% vegan. However, keep in mind that cocoa powder is often combined with other ingredients to make hot chocolate powder and chocolate milk powder, which are not vegan products.
Is Cocoa Butter Healthy?
Cocoa butter is regarded by many as a healthy dairy-free alternative to butter in cooking and baking. Made from the fat portions of cocoa beans, cocoa butter is a plant-based fat that is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids. It can be used in any sweet or savory recipe that you would ordinarily use butter or coconut oil, from homemade chocolate bars to curries and stews.
As with any healthy fat like coconut oil or avocados, cocoa butter should be consumed in moderation. However, when enjoyed in moderate amounts, it’s a wonderful source of beneficial nutrients that help the body to thrive. Cocoa butter is also incredibly healthy for the skin when applied topically on its own or within skincare products. It’s known to moisturize, sooth, and repair damage to the skin.
What Are The Uses For Cocoa Butter?
The most notable uses for cocoa butter include cooking and cosmetics. The vegan product features a smooth and silky texture reminiscent of a cross between coconut oil and coconut butter, similar to to the texture of shea butter from West Africa.
Cocoa butter is known for containing high amounts of fatty acids or oleic acid, which are nourishing to the skin and fantastic for heart health as a preventative tool against heart disease. In addition, cocoa butter is packed with beneficial nutrients like choline, phytochemicals, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.
Cocoa butter is frequently used in both sweet and savory dishes. While the scent gives the impression that the flavor would be overpowering, cocoa butter is actually quite mild in flavor. It can be used in place of coconut oil or butter in dairy-free and vegan recipes.
Because it boasts a high smoke point, cocoa butter makes a great choice when cooking at high temperatures. To use food grade cocoa butter in cooking, you need to melt it first. Cocoa butter also features a low melting point, meaning that it can be melted both easily and quickly, making it a breeze to cook with. Cooking with cocoa butter instead of refined vegetable oils can support the body’s heart health, blood pressure, hormonal balance, and immune system.
Thanks to its numerous health benefits and healing properties, cocoa butter is commonly used in beauty and skin care products. Because it stays solid at room temperature and doesn’t melt without added heat, cocoa butter works well as a natural ingredient in skincare products like salves, moisturizers, and lip balms. Cocoa butter is also rich in stearic acid, which is known for its abilities to smooth and soften the skin.
Cocoa butter is known to be a remedy for stretch marks, scars, and other skin-related issues, making it a popular addition to skin ointments and other skin products. If you have sensitive skin and therefore want to avoid harsh chemicals, make sure to check the label on any vegan cocoa butter product before purchasing it. While cocoa butter is naturally vegan and safe, the other additives paired with it may not be.
What Brands Of Cocoa Butter Are Vegan?
Because cocoa butter on its own is naturally free of dairy and animal products of any kind, many pure cocoa butter brands are vegan. However, it’s not unheard of for some cocoa butter brands to include non-vegan additives in their products, so you should always check the label to confirm that the product you’re buying is pure vegan cocoa butter.
Some of the most popular vegan cocoa butter brands for beauty and skincare include Palmer’s, Vaseline, and Queen Helene. For cooking and baking, popular vegan cocoa butter brands include Thrive Organic Market, Navitas Organic, and Sky Organics. When checking the label to find the right cocoa butter for baking, look for the terms “fair trade” and “food grade.”
Whether you’re looking to make your own lip balm or homemade chocolate melts, pure cocoa butter is a wonderful ingredient to use. This plant-based product is popular among vegan communities for many reasons, as explained in this guide to cocoa butter.
If you’re looking to purchase your own, consider your “why” first. Are you planning on using cocoa butter for cooking or cosmetics? Once you’ve identified your reason, you can determine which brand is right for you and what to look for on the label. I hope this guide to cocoa butter has proven to be helpful for you!