What’s the difference: Cocoa vs Cacao

If you have ever stumbled upon cacao products in adulthood and thought it was simply a spelling error of the much-loved and lauded “cocoa”, then you’re not alone.

I was fairly sure cacao and cocoa were the same thing – after all, why would they be named so similarly – but it turns out there are key differences between the two, one of the most important being health.


It all comes down to how the cacao bean is processed and what is added to it. However, done right you can reap the health benefits from both cacao and cocoa. Choose the best variety of both and you can expect tonnes of antioxidants, healthy heart, skin, blood pressure and reduced stress levels!

Take a look below at the main differences between cacao and cocoa.


Cacao is the rawest form of the cacao bean, which means cacao retains all the amazing properties of the cacao bean, such as flavanoids, antioxidants, fibre and magnesium. The powder comes about after the cacao butter is stripped out during processing. Although there is minimal amount of processing, the heat is nowhere near as hot as that used to create cocoa.

Cocoa is processed via heating, with fats and sugars usually added shortly afterwards to retain flavour and texture. You can find good quality varieties of cocoa; all you have to do is look out for ones with high cocoa content and no added sugars or oils.


You may notice there are more calories in cacao powder versus cocoa powder, but this is because there are more nutrients retained from the whole bean. These nutrients include: fibre, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and protein.

You can find good quality varieties of cocoa powder; you just need to look for those labelled “plain cocoa powder” or Dutch-processed cocoa powder as they have no added sugar and retain more of the cacao bean.

Bonus: For a healthier alternative to shop-bought chocolate chips, try cacao nibs instead!

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