Cacao and cocoa, what’s the difference? The two are almost the same things, but the real difference is seen in the way they’re processed leading to the final product. Let’s find out.

Cacao and cocoa are two closely related, but different products from the same source.Cocoa and cocoa are varied products that can produce similar items. Both come from the Theobroma cacao tree.  The tree produces large fruits from which cacao and cocoa are derived. These two products are used in the manufacture of chocolate and its products. Cacao refers to the fruit or the beans in whole or in their grounded form.On the other hand, cocoa is the final product left after fats are removed from the grounded cacao powder. The main difference between the two products lies in the refining process. Cocoa is more refined by cacao. Reading this blog will help understand more differences between the two; their benefits, how they are processed, and risks connected to their use.

How do cacao and cocoa differ?

These two products differ in several ways. However, they are so related that sometimes you may not notice the differences.

Nutritional difference

Cacao and cocoa differ in their nutritional value. Both contain similar nutrients, but the concentration varies. For instance:

  • 56 g of cocoa powder contains 124 calories, whereasthe same amount of cacao contains 320 calories.
  • 56 g of cocoa contains 18 g of fiber, while the same amount of cacao contains 6 gof fiber.
  • 56 g of cocoa can provide you with 10 gof protein, while that of cacao contains a higher amount of protein, giving 18 g.
  • 56 gof cocoa contains 4 g of fat, the same amount of cacao producing 5 of fat.
  • 56  of cocoa can provide your body with 16 grams of carbs, while an equal amount of cacao gives 12 gof carbs.

Cacao is richer in nutrients than cocoa. Some of these nutrients decrease in cocoa during the refining process. Cocoa is more refined than cacao. The two products are also rich in other minerals, such as magnesium, manganese and chromium, and antioxidants. These minerals are also more concentrated in cacao than cocoa. However, you may not find this information on the nutritional label as some are in negligible amounts. Both are sugar-free, sugars are added while making end products such as chocolate bars 

Difference in how they are processed.

 Once cacao beans are harvested, they undergo various processes to make cacao powder and later cocoa powder. The process is simple as described below:

  • Fermentation. Cacao pods are usually covered in bags for 5 days for fermentation, which gives a flavor similar to that of chocolate. The sticky pulp in pods also disappears since the microbes that ferment the beans use it as their food.
  • Sun-drying. The fermented beans are later dried under the sun. It’s done for several days to ensure complete drying, which prolongs their life. Incomplete drying may make them develop molds.
  • Roasting. It is done on the dried cacao beans, which makes them produce a stronger chocolate flavor. It also sweetens the beans.
  • Crushing and grinding. The roasted beans are crushed to remove the outer cover leaving some broken pieces of cacao. The broken pieces are ground into very fine particles. At this stage, this powder can be referred to as cacao powder.

 Cocoa powder is made by pressing cacao powder on cocoa butter to eliminate fat. Chocolate can be made using cacao or cocoa powder, or a combination of both.

Difference in taste and flavor.

There exist a very slight difference in the taste of cacao and cocoa products. Cacao products are more bitter than those of cocoa. However, this depends on an individual’s taste. Some find cacao products sweeter regardless of the hidden bitter taste. However, most people prefer cacao products since they are richer in nutrients and minerals. Cacao products are expensive than cocoa. For maximum benefit from these products, think of mixing the two.

Health benefits of cacao and cocoa

Both cacao and cocoa are rich in minerals and nutrients that are beneficial to the body.

  • Both products are rich in antioxidants thatcan help prevent diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
  • They are rich in iron, which helps the body in the synthesis of blood. These products are among the main sources of iron for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Cacao and cocoa are rich in protein. Consuming them can contribute to the growth of strong muscles.
  • Both are rich in fiber. Fiber is essential in the body as it aids in digestion and the smooth movement of stool. Enough fiber in the diet also aids in losing excess body weight.
  • They contain minerals such as manganese and magnesium, which aid in carbohydrate metabolism and maintenance of nerves and muscle’s function, respectively.
  • These products contain an amino acid called tryptophan that helps in brain relaxation.

Risks of cacao and cocoa benefits.

These natural products have few risks that can be managed by taking them in moderation.

  • Cacao and cocoa products are rich in carbs and calories. Excess intake of these products can lead to an increase in weight, hence can cause lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
  • Some products made using cacao and cocoa, such as chocolate bars, contain added sugar. Consumption of added sugar has been linked to type 2 diabetes. Diabetic patients should avoid such products as they may cause a rise in their blood sugar levels.


Cacao and cocoa are used to manufacture similar products. The main difference between the two is the fat content. They are processed in a similar method that involves fermentation, drying, roasting, crushing, and grinding. Cacao is richer in nutrients than cocoa. They are rich in nutrients, such as fiber, proteins, and iron. Both are rich in minerals, including manganese and magnesium. Excess consumption of both products can cause weight increase due to more calories. However, to benefit fully from these products, you can choose to use them interchangeably.


We would like to thank the below contributors who have helped us to write this article:


Crystal Kadir

MS, Durham University GP The work of a family doctor includes a wide range of clinical diversity, which requires extensive knowledge and erudition from a specialist. However, I believe that the most important thing for a family doctor is to be human because the cooperation and understanding between the doctor and the patient are crucial in ensuring successful health care. On my days off, I love being in nature. Since childhood, I have been passionate about playing chess and tennis. Whenever I have time off, I enjoy traveling around the world.