What You Need to Know About Cacao vs. Cocoa & A Simple DIY Dark Chocolate Recipe

When it comes to information about healthy food choices, there are many myths, inaccuracies and false statements floating around out there.

One I hear all the time is: “Dark chocolate is good for you.”

Well, here’s the thing about that…

Depending on which dark chocolate product you’re looking at, it may contain a superfood ingredient called cacao that has notable health benefits.

But it may also have a load of sugar, hydrogenated oil and other health-zapping ingredients in the mix. Or, it may not have any cacao at all. Instead, it may be full of cocoa to provide its chocolatey flavor.


Cacao (pronounced “ca-cow”) consists simply of pure, raw cacao beans. It delivers all the wonderful vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, essential fatty acids and other beneficial phytonutrients that are naturally grown in the cacao beans.

It is classified as a powerful superfood that promotes heart health, weight loss, healthy skin, better digestion, improved immune function and a more positive mood. Plus, eating cacao is a natural way to get an energy boost.

You can get cacao in the form of “nibs” (pictured below), which are small pieces of raw cacao beans that add a nice crunch and chocolatey flare to smoothies, oatmeal, cookies and other baked goods, etc.

I recommend buying cacao nibs by the pound to get the most for your money. Click here for my favorite brand of raw cacao nibs or you can find them I here on amazon.

You can also get cacao in powder form (pictured below) making it really easy to mix into recipes for brownies, chocolate, fudge, cookies, oatmeal, etc.

As with cacao nibs, I recommend buying cacao powder by the pound to get the most for your money. Click here for my favorite brand of cacao powder or you can find it here on amazon.

Cocoa, on the other hand, is processed cacao that has been roasted at a high temperature. This processing strips the cacao of its healthful properties.

On top of that, cocoa is often combined with sugar, artificial flavoring and unhealthy fat like hydrogenated oil.


Most health-focused stores like Whole Foods have a decent stock of dark chocolate products made with cacao for sale. Unfortunately, during the manufacturing process of many of these products, cocoa butter is often mixed with other vegetable oils to make the chocolate go further.

Many brands also contain high levels of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and they add soy lecithin as an emulsifier to make the ingredients blend better for a creamier consistency. The end result is something far from a “healthy” chocolate.

You can find raw chocolate bars in some stores, but you will pay a hefty price for them.

The good news is you can preserve your finances and your health by making your own pure and delicious chocolate. And, it’s super easy with just three simple ingredients: raw cacao powder, coconut oil and pure maple syrup



~Yields 1 Large Chocolate Bar~


OPTIONAL EXTRAS: You can add a drop of organic and pure peppermint essential oil, coconut flakes, small chunks of fruit, raw walnuts, pumpkin seeds or other healthy ingredients to add your favorite flavor or texture.


  1. Put the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. As the oil begins to melt, whisk in the cacao powder.
  2. Once the coconut oil and cacao powder are fully blended and smooth, turn the heat off and mix in the maple syrup.
  3. Pour the mixture into a small glass dish with a tight lid (like these) that has been greased with coconut oil or lined withe unbleached parchment paper (like this). Or, pour the chocolate into candy molds (like these) to make chocolate candies.
  4. Freeze the chocolate until it’s solid (about 30 minutes) and then store it in the fridge.

One of the many wonderful things about this delicious DIY recipe is that it makes a small batch, so you can’t go on a crazed chocolate bender and totally overeat!

If you need to make more chocolate for a large group, however, just multiply the recipe above for the amount of chocolate you need.


Non-stick silicone chocolate molds will make you look like a chocolate-making pro!

There are loads of options available HERE on amazon. For example:

Flower Molds

Heart Molds

Champion Molds

Easter Molds

Halloween Molds

Christmas Molds

Cheers to enjoying a cacao-filled diet and “real food” chocolate that’s healthy and delicious!

With love and gratitude,


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