Cacao vs. Cocoa: What’s the Difference?

We all love chocolate – that’s simple. What’s not simple is finding out the difference between cacao and cocoa. A lot of people are still confused about this, thinking both are similar in terms of nature, texture, and contents. As it turns out, they are wrong.

Let us break down the differences between both and discover how they affect your health.

Physical form

Cacao is raw and the purest form of chocolate available in the market since it’s the least processed compared to chocolate bars or cocoa powder. It’s also recognized for having the highest quantities of antioxidants, which are beneficial for the skin and heart and the body’s defense against certain cancers.

Cocoa normally comes in powder form, and is usually heated prior to manufacturing. Cocoa is normally referred to as the lower quality version of cacao, however, it’s still loaded with benefits and is usually less pricey.


Preparation process

After harvesting, cacao beans are obtained from cacao pods. The cacao beans are then processed according to different uses. During production, cacao butter is removed from the bean and the remaining part is used to create raw cacao powder.

Cocoa powder is processed similarly to cacao. However, the makers normally use higher temperatures to come up with the right texture.


After processing, cacao can be converted into several forms: cacao nibs, cacao paste, and cacao powder. Cacao nibs are beans that are chopped into tiny pieces, containing fat, fiber, and other nutrients that cacao beans have. Cacao paste is made from nibs and slowly heated into a bar. It contains the same nutrients as the nibs. Cacao powder is a less-processed form of chocolate powder. It has monounsaturated fats, vitamins, cholesterol-free saturated fats, natural carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, and protein.

Cocoa powder is almost the same with that of cacao, however, some brands incorporate flavor-enhancers such as sugar to improve the taste. To reap the health benefits, make sure you’re buying real plain cocoa powder. Flavor-enhancers aside, cocoa powder boasts fiber, fat, and a little bit of protein.


The great thing about cacao and cocoa is that you can use both interchangeably when making baked dishes, raw treats, cookies, smoothies, and chocolate beverages. Both cacao and cocoa are delicious and have their fair share of nutrients. If having more nutrients is your priority, cacao is the best way to go. If you prefer fewer calories, you want to choose cocoa powder.


So, which is the healthier option? Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons once more:

Cacao Pros

  • Has more antioxidants
  • Nibs can be used as choco chip replacement
  • Cacao butter can be used as moisturizer

Cacao Cons

  • A bit more bitter than cocoa
  • Less richness in flavour

Cocoa Pros

  • Sweet in taste
  • Has fewer calories
  • Better option for bakers

Cocoa Cons

  • A bit more processed
  • Has less nutrients and antioxidants

Cacao or cocoa-based, there’s no denying that chocolate remains our top favorite when it comes to sweet indulgence. If you want to satisfy your craving without the guilt, experts recommend choosing chocolate products with high cacao content. It’s packed with nutrients that aid for a better mental performance, heart, skin, as well as immunity.