What is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter, also called theobroma oil, is a light-yellow vegetable fat that comes from cocoa beans. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted, stripped, and pressed to draw out cocoa butter.
Cocoa beans are grown in tropical areas around the equator – hot, humid climates are well suited for growing cocoa trees. Most of the world’s cocoa beans come from the West African countries Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast.
Cocoa butter can be used in many ways. Not only is it a required ingredient in chocolate made in the U.S., but it’s also a popular ingredient in skin creams, lotions, lip balms, and dessert recipes.
Is cocoa butter vegan?
Even though the term “butter” may be confusing, since cocoa butter comes from a plant, it is in fact vegan. Cocoa butter comes from cocoa beans, which come from cacao plants.
Cocoa Butter Nutrition
Cocoa butter contains heart-healthy oleic acid, as well as small amounts of nutrients such as:
Nutrients per serving
One tablespoon of cocoa butter contains:
Things to watch out for
Like all oils, cocoa is a calorie-dense ingredient, meaning just a small serving packs a lot of calories. Be sure to use cocoa butter a little at a time, especially if you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake.
Cocoa Butter Benefits
Cocoa butter can have many benefits, including:
Providing vitamin E
Cocoa butter is a decent source of vitamin E, which benefits your body in many ways. Vitamin E supports vision, reproduction, and the health of your brain, skin, and blood.
Keeping your skin moisturized
Cocoa butter contains a high amount of fatty acids, which make it well-suited as a main ingredient in skin cream. Fatty acids help to hydrate the skin. The fat in cocoa butter creates a protective barrier that holds in moisture and prevents your skin from drying.
Healing your skin
Cocoa butter is a primary part of many topical treatments for conditions like eczema and dermatitis. The rich moisture content and protective oil-based nature of cocoa butter eases itching and allows the skin to heal after a flare-up.
Protecting against sun damage
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause changes in skin texture, damage skin cells, and even increase risk of skin cancer. The phytochemicals in cocoa butter may protect against skin damage from harmful UV rays and lower your risk of skin disease.
Managing healthier cholesterol levels
High cholesterol is a risk factor for conditions like heart disease. Cocoa butter may help manage this risk factor and reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Cocoa butter contains stearic acid, which your liver can convert to a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid lowers levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and boosts levels of good (HDL) cholesterol.
Reducing liver disease symptoms
Some forms of liver disease are caused by a choline deficiency. Cocoa butter contains choline, so consuming it can help reduce the risk or manage symptoms of liver disease.
Improving bone health
Cocoa butter contains small amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps your body build and maintain bones.
Side Effects of Cocoa Butter
If you have problems with acne, using cocoa butter on your skin could cause a breakout. And if you’re a woman, it is possible that putting it on your skin could lower your level of estrogen, which is a hormone in your body.
Also, one risk to be aware of is that studies have found small amounts of bad-for-you metals like cadmium and lead in some dark chocolate and cocoa powder, which contain cocoa butter. Lead exposure can cause slowed growth, anemia, and premature birth.
As with any new product you use, it’s a good idea to test a small amount to make sure you aren’t allergic to it. Overall, though, cocoa butter is considered safe to use.
Cocoa Butter vs. Shea Butter
Using both of these will help keep your skin moisturized, but shea butter has more vitamin E and fatty acids, which are good for skin. Shea butter also has vitamin A, which cocoa butter does not. Another difference is the smell: cocoa butter smells chocolaty, and shea butter smells a little nutty.
Shea butter comes from nuts grown on shea trees, while cocoa butter comes from cacao trees. While shea butter can be eaten and appears in African recipes, in the U.S., it’s largely used in skin and hair care products.
Cocoa Butter vs. Coconut Oil
A study that replaced cocoa butter with coconut oil in chocolate bars found that the melting point was noticeably lower with coconut oil. In general, coconut oil can be a substitute for cocoa butter in foods, but it must be modified first.
How to Use Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter can be used in many ways, including in your favorite recipes or skin care routines.
Cocoa butter for cooking. Cocoa butter has a slight chocolate flavor and scent. You can use cocoa butter to make your own chocolate – the process is a bit hard, but many home chefs enjoy making chocolate as a hobby.
Since cocoa butter is an edible oil when melted, you can also use it in recipes that call for oil. Cocoa butter has a high smoke point, so it won’t burn easily at high temperatures. Given its chocolaty flavor, the oil is usually a better fit for sweet recipes.
When you replace other oils with cocoa butter, it’s best to substitute only a portion of the oil. Cocoa butter will firm up the recipe a bit when you cook it.
Here are a few other ways to use cocoa butter:
- In chocolate chip cookie recipes
- In edible lip balms and skin creams
- As a substitute for gelatin
- In vegan dessert recipes
Cocoa butter can be eaten alone, but it’s more tasty if you use it in chocolate recipes, mixed with other ingredients.
Cocoa butter for skin. Cocoa butter is solid, but you can rub it right onto your dry skin or dry lips. It will melt after a while because of the temperature of your skin, so it may be a little messy. If you want to use cocoa butter to soften your dry skin, you may want to use products that contain cocoa butter and are easier to apply.
Cocoa butter lotion can also treat minor burns. You can even use it on your private parts if you have urine leaks, as the cocoa butter will act as a barrier to keep the pee from irritating or drying out your skin.
Because cocoa butter contains vitamin E, you also can put it on your skin to help prevent early signs of aging.
Cocoa Butter Substitutes
Shortages of cocoa butter are a global concern, so it can be helpful to know what you could substitute for it. Food makers have used Sal fat, mango seed fat, shea butter, and palm oil in their products.
Studies of other plant oils – such as sunflower seed, olive, grape seed, coconut, and safflower seed – find a variety of benefits from putting them on the skin, including maintaining the condition of your skin, preventing or treating infections, reducing inflammation, and helping wounds heal.
Cocoa butter has a large variety of uses, from food to skin care products. It also has many benefits, including moisturizing and healing your skin, providing vitamin E, and managing high cholesterol. While there is a low risk of side effects when used for skin care or food, cocoa butter is widely accepted as safe to use.
Cocoa Butter FAQs
What’s the difference between cocoa butter and cacao butter? Companies that make products with these ingredients often don’t differentiate between the two terms. But some people say the two items are different. Cacao butter is less processed and refined at a low temperature, while cocoa butter is refined at a higher temperature.
Is cocoa butter vegan? Yes. Cocoa butter comes from cocoa beans, which comes from a plant, so it is a vegan food.
Does cocoa butter help with stretch marks? No. Despite it being a commonly heard myth, scientific studies do not show that cocoa butter reduces stretch marks.