Cocoa butter is an incredibly versatile ingredient: although you might have seen it labelled on the back of skincare and chocolate products, can you actually eat it?
Cocoa butter is commonly used in many beauty products, and for some people, it is a vital component in their skincare routine. However, just because it can be used in cosmetics, doesn’t mean that it’s not edible! Raw cocoa butter has a delicate cocoa flavour and a fatty texture, so although you wouldn’t want to eat it in its purest form, it creates the perfect chocolate bar when combined with cocoa powder and other ingredients!
What is cocoa butter?
We get cocoa butter from the unassuming cacao bean: once ripe, the cacao beans are extracted from the fleshy cacao fruit. The beans are then cleaned, dried and roasted before they’re pressed in a hydraulic machine. It is this pressing process which extracts the cocoa butter, which is then separated from the cocoa solids before they are turned into cocoa powder.
After separation, you are left with the raw cocoa butter, which can either be used in skincare products as it is an emollient, or reunited with the cocoa powder and combined with milk, sugar and an emulsifier to create a heavenly chocolate product.
Top tip: We call it cacao before processing, and cocoa after it’s been roasted and pressed. Learn more in our cacao vs cocoa blog!
Historical uses of cocoa
As the cacao tree originated from the Americas, it was widely used amongst the Aztecs, although this wasn’t because they wanted to satisfy their sweet tooth. As the cacao bean has a bitter taste, it would have made a rather unpleasant snack. Instead, the cacao bean was used in drinks as medicine amongst the Aztecs and Mayans, and sometimes even traded as currency. Although less is known about the historical uses of cocoa butter itself due to the difficulties of separating it from the cocoa solids,recent research has discovered that cocoa butter might have some health benefits of its own.
Why is cocoa butter used in chocolate?
The creamy consistency of cocoa butter gives chocolate a wonderful melt once in the mouth, but it also stays solid at room temperature at its melting point is 34-38C, meaning it can be stored in a cupboard until you need to indulge.
Cocoa butter is a vital ingredient on chocolate products, and it can be combined with other oils such as vegetable oil, although 95% of the fats must be cocoa butter. However, this can diminish the velvety texture of the chocolate bar, as the amount of cocoa butter used is lower. At Hotel Chocolat, we strive to deliver the most luxurious products that we can – our white chocolate is 40% cocoa butter, whilst EU regulations require only a minimum of 20% of cocoa butter. This helps us achieve the silkiest of finishes.
The health benefits of cocoa butter
As cocoa butter is a fat, you might think of it solely as an artery-clogging treat. Whilst it is certainly calorific, it does actually have some health benefits: one of the fats in cocoa butter is something called oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats can decrease the risk of heart disease – whilst it’s important to eat chocolate in moderation, you can be doing your body some good by consuming a chocolate product which is made up of high quantity cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter also contains a small amount of vitamin E and vitamin K. Vitamin E maintains healthy skin and eyes, and helps to boost your immune system. Vitamin K is important as it helps the blood clot, enabling wounds to heal quickly.
Does this mean I should eat cocoa butter all the time?
Although cocoa butter does have some health benefits, like everything, it should be consumed in moderation. For maximum health benefits, consume chocolate which is low in sugar and high in cocoa quantity. Our Honduras 100% Dark Chocolate is rich in bold, deep flavours of cocoa, and our cocoa butter gives it a wonderfully smooth texture. For those who need a little more discipline, our 40% Chocolate Drops will satisfy any cocoa craving in one delightful drop.
Cocoa butter is an all-natural product that can either be used to moisturise thirsty skin, or left to melt on the tongue in a chocolate bar; you decide!