Cocoa products derived from the beans of the cacao tree are used in different kinds of foods and drinks. Because cocoa can be processed into different forms, like nibs, powder, syrup, or cocoa butter, it tends to be an extremely versatile ingredient.
Cocoa butter is a type of vegetable oil derived from cocoa beans. After the whole nibs are separated from their shells and roasted down, they’re melted into a substance called chocolate liquor. This is then pressed until the solids separate out from the fats. Those fats, or cocoa butter, are used as part of making solid chocolate and are also used in personal care products.
Cocoa butter is a strong natural emollient commonly used in a variety of moisturizers, facial masks and skin treatments. Although studies on the effects of cocoa butter on stretch marks have not proven it to be helpful, it is commonly used to help clear up minor skin ailments, including chapped lips, and in beauty products.
Cocoa butter contains some of the compounds that give chocolate its health benefits, like antioxidants and fatty acids considered heart-healthy. As a stable fat, it has a long shelf life and can be used as cooking oil for searing or frying. It is resistant up to high temperatures without burning or turning carcinogenic.
In pastries, cocoa butter is sometimes included to add a chocolate flavor without using solids. It can be used as a healthier substitute for butter or vegetable oil in baking. As a gelatin substitute, it is sometimes used in mousses or purees, or in coatings for seafood and other protein dishes. It can be sprinkled on some meats while cooking to add color as well as flavor. It is also sometimes used in sauces or gravies.
Since some types of cocoa butter are meant for cosmetics, cocoa butter intended for cooking needs to be pure and to be labeled as food grade.