Cocoa was called “the food of the Gods” in the ancient Mayan civilization and is known as a super food because of its amazing list of health benefits.
Cacao, from which cocoa is made is rich in micronutrients, polyphenols, and antioxidant flavanols. It has the potential to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol and blood sugars. However, processing it and adding sugar and other processed ingredients negates some of its health benefits.
Some research suggests that cocoa may have a positive psychological effect, improving mood, reducing stress, and giving a sense of contentment and calmness.
2022 Preparedness Challenge Week 49
Cocoa, and cocoa’s cousin, hot chocolate mix, are great storage items. As well as offering healthful nutrients and a psychological boost, Cocoa and hot chocolate mix provide variety and needed calories to a survival diet.
This week the challenge is simple. Add a container or two of cocoa or hot chocolate to your food storage.
What Is the Best Kind of Cocoa?
Cocoa is an important cooking ingredient—some might even call it essential. It is made from cocoa beans, which are roasted and then pressed to remove the cocoa butter and ground into powder. Cocoa powder with a higher cocoa butter content will be more aromatic and flavorful than lower-fat ones, but also more expensive.
The two most common types of cocoa are natural and Dutch-process cocoa. A third kind of powder made from cacao beans is minimally processed cacao powder (notice the slightly different spelling). Each product has a slightly different use but can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Recipes often specify which type of cocoa to use, so you may want to store some of each.
What is the best kind to store? The answer will depend on what it is used for, your budget, and taste preference. Let’s take a closer look at the three types of cocoa.
Natural cocoa is the kind of cocoa in familiar brands like Hershey’s and Ghiradelli’s. Much of the cocoa butter is removed and what is left is ground into powder.
The labels on cocoa containers will give you a clue to how much cocoa butter has been removed. For example, one tablespoon (5 grams) of Hershey Cocoa has 0.5 grams of fat. In comparison, Girardelli Premium Baking cocoa powder has 1.0 grams of fat.
Natural cocoa is naturally acidic and works well in baking recipes that use baking soda. Use it in traditional recipes where the type of cocoa isn’t specified. It is also usually less expensive than Dutch-process cocoa.
Dutch-process cocoa is treated with an alkalizing agent that makes it less acidic, darker, and gives it a smoother, milder flavor than natural cocoa. It also contains a higher cocoa butter content and is more soluble in liquids. Use this cocoa in smoothies, creamy desserts, or recipes that call for using baking powder as a leavening or when it is specifically listed as an ingredient. To use Dutch-process cocoa in place of natural cocoa, substitute twice the amount of baking powder for the baking soda.
Cacao powder is distinguished from cocoa powder because it is processed raw with minimal roasting or alkalizing, so it retains its nutrients and antioxidants which means it is a more nutritious. It’s more bitter and has a higher cocoa butter content than natural cocoa powder.
Generally, cacao powder is more expensive than natural cocoa and similar in price to Dutch process cocoa, but the prices vary a lot, so check for yourself. You will find some good prices at Walmart online, where there is a wide range of prices for cacao powder, and for that matter, cocoa powder. Pure Natural Miracles is an Ecuadorian cacao brand that sells on Amazon for a reasonable price.
Cacao powder can be used interchangeably with cocoa powder, but you may have to adapt it in baking recipes.
Here are a few uses:
- Try it in your favorite brownie recipe
- Mix it with peanut butter
- Add to a smoothie
- Add to vanilla Greek yogurt
- Try it with oatmeal
- Dust it on brownies and cakes or use to dust pans
What is the Storage Life for Cocoa?
Cocoa has a shelf life of three to five years when stored in a cool, dark, dry location. The cocoa butter in chocolate is very shelf-stable and does not easily become rancid.
For best protection, store cocoa in its original container and within a second plastic storage container. Cocoa is the perfect pantry food—easy to use and replace in a rotation because you will likely use up what you have within a year or two and then replace it. I recommend having one container in the kitchen and two in reserve in your storage pantry. Write the purchase date on the package and use the oldest one first.
Recommendations for Storing Cocoa
If you are storing cocoa for a long time, the best brands are natural cocoa that have a low cocoa butter content. All types of cocoa are good candidates for storing, however, Hershey cocoa, though not as rich as other chocolates, has the lowest cocoa butter content, so will store for a long time.
But if you have a brand of cocoa powder or cacao powder that you use frequently, then don’t hesitate to store your favorite. You will use it before it has a chance to lose its potency.
Hot Chocolate for Food Storage
Hot chocolate has a long and famous history in America. Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War and World War I and II were given hot chocolate in their rations. Thomas Jefferson thought that hot chocolate should replace coffee and tea as a more healthful and nourishing drink. And hot chocolate, not surprisingly, accompanied early expeditions to the South Pole.
Hot Chocolate Options for Food Storage
Hot chocolate beverage may be made from melted solid chocolate or powdered cocoa. There are countless recipes, but they all have chocolate, a sweetener, and milk in common.
HOT CHOCOLATE MIXES
Stand-alone hot cocoa mixes are sold in canisters and individual packets. The mixes usually include dry milk or milk derivatives, along with sugar and cocoa and just need to have hot water added.
The downside to hot chocolate mixes is they are frequently made with milk substitutes and may have a long list of chemicals and preservatives. Plus, you end up paying quite a bit for the convenience of individual packets. On the other hand, individual packets are the perfect size for a grab-and-go kit.
Other kinds of hot chocolate mixes contain only the cocoa and sugar and require that you add milk. The advantage to these is that you can mix them with whatever type of milk you like, and since they don’t have powdered milk as an ingredient, they take up less space. Check the labels to make sure you get the product you want.
HOMEMADE HOT CHOCOLATE MIXES
Hot chocolate has just a few ingredients, so making your own mix is a great option. Most recipes include cocoa, dry milk, and powdered sugar, so if you stock those items you can easily make your own mix.
Recipe for Basic Hot Chocolate Mix
Combine all ingredients
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup cocoa
- 2 cups dry milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
Storing Hot Chocolate Mix
Hot chocolate mix is a good food storage item. All of the ingredients have a long shelf life if stored in a cool, dark, dry location. Plan on five or more years, longer if sealed in a can or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. I recommend comparing price by checking the price per 8-ounce serving or price per ounce. Unfortunately some food storage providers charge too much for their product.
Learn more about how to be prepared in my book Crisis Preparedness Handbook. You can find it on Amazon and from other book sellers. Also, for more quick and easy preparedness tips, check out the 2022 Preparedness Challenges on the blog at Crisispreparedness.com.