Substitutions for Semisweet Chocolate With Unsweetened Chocolate Powder for Cooking

by Michelle Powell-Smith

If you have to make brownies for the bake sale or promised the kids chocolate cookies and find that you're out of semisweet chocolate, there is a solution. While you can't make chocolate chips out of pantry ingredients, if you need melted semisweet chocolate, this quick fix can save your recipe or a run to the store.


Substituting cocoa powder for chocolate will work in some, but not all, recipes. If you're baking brownies or a cake, you may find it easier to choose a recipe that calls for cocoa powder rather than semisweet chocolate. This substitution will work for recipes that integrate melted chocolate into the other ingredients but will not work if the recipe requires the chocolate chunks or melted chocolate for dipping.


Substituting cocoa powder for semisweet chocolate requires three ingredients. You'll need cocoa powder, sugar and fat. Both regular and Dutch-process cocoa work for this substitution. You can opt for butter, margarine or vegetable shortening, depending upon what you have available, but you will need a solid, rather than liquid, fat because it needs to to substitute for cocoa butter, which is solid.

Making the Change

Depending upon the recipe, swapping semisweet chocolate with cocoa powder, sugar and fat can be a bit tricky. Read through your recipe carefully. You may want to add the butter for your substitution to the other fats in the recipe then measure the additional sugar into the sugar called for by your recipe. Sift the cocoa powder into the dry ingredients. For best results, especially if the recipe calls for melted chocolate, warm the butter on the stove top over very low heat then whisk cocoa powder and sugar into the butter until smooth.


If you don't have your heart set on semisweet chocolate, milk or white chocolate are kid-friendly alternatives, but you might drop the sugar a bit to avoid a too-sweet snack. You can also opt to use unsweetened chocolate or dark chocolate rather than cocoa powder, adding extra sugar to make up for the lack of sweetness and create a kid-friendly treat.

About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.

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