So you recently went vegan (awesome!), and now you have some questions like "Is cocoa butter vegan?" Well, here is the good news; cocoa butter is dairy-free & vegan!
It is derived from the fatty portion of the cocoa bean that also happens to be a plant based source of fat. This fat is the reason why chocolate will melt in your mouth, since cocoa butter is usually one of the main ingredients.
History Of Cocoa Butter
The cocoa bean has its origin in South America’s rainforests. The Malayans used to consume chocolate as a drink by grinding the nib into powder and then mixing it with spices afterward. After its value was discovered, cocoa beans were used as a trading currency by the Aztecs.
In 1600, chocolate was brought to Europe by the Spanish who opted to mix it with sugar so that they could sweeten it further. It immediately became very popular but also extremely expensive to import.
This led to this drink becoming a luxury for the wealthy who could easily afford it. Later, the Dutch process granted permission for the first chocolate bars to be produced, and it was only after the industrial revolution that it could be produced in masses.
Cocoa Butter Process
Cocoa trees must be 20° off the equator to thrive well. They also require a lot of rainfall and rich, well-drained soils. They grow in the rainforest under canopies and can reach out for sunshine whenever they are ready to do so. After 5 years, they are ready to bear fruits. Once ready, the pods are cut from the tree; the beans and pulp then get scooped out.
The beans are left to ferment in the pulp. Later, cleaning and roasting takes place. Later, the cocoa shell is cut open for the extraction of the nib, which is ground into powder or even split to give cocoa mass and cocoa butter.
The chocolate flavor will vary according to the type of bean used, the time it took to roast the beans, and the additions made to the chocolate during the manufacturing phase. Chocolate with higher levels of cocoa butter and cocoa mass will have a stronger flavor.
Once the manufacturer combines all the ingredients, the mixture goes through a conching process where it is refined and smoothened. The last stage involves tempering. This is where the mixture is heated to form the best chocolate crystals, ensuring a smooth finish.
The most expensive chocolate contains criollo bean, which is found in Central America. Here, they utilize pure ingredients and follow it with a lengthy conching to produce the smoothest chocolate that will give you a “melt in the mouth” experience.
Uses of Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter has been a superb beauty tool for many years. It is a great moisturizer that has always been recommended for people with scars and stretch marks as it is said to heal and soothe the skin. The good thing is that it is natural and you will not be applying harsh chemicals on your skin.
However, if you have sensitive skin, ensure you are using pure cocoa butter. Its healing properties have made great for burns. This video shows you how to make a vegan cocoa butter cream:
Cocoa butter can also be used to heal minor rashes. However, ensure you always use pure cocoa butter. Another great benefit of cocoa butter is that it can be used as a lip balm or shaving cream due to its high moisturizing qualities. If you are tired of nursing razor burns, applying cocoa butter after shaving will soothe the skin.
For those with creative minds, you can use cocoa butter to make soaps or even moisturizers as the base. This way, you will even be able to give your loved ones personalized gifts made of cocoa butter (that's even vegan!)
Cooking With Cocoa Butter
You will reap a lot of health benefits from cocoa butter, which are similar to those derived from dark chocolate. It will give your food that distinctive hint of chocolate flavor. It is due to this fact that cocoa butter is used in place of regular butter in desserts to give them that sweet (vegan) taste.
Another great benefit of cooking with cocoa butter is that it burns at a very high temperature, which means you can comfortably cook your meals without burning the butter.
Health Benefits of Eating Cocoa Butter
While you will find most people looking for cocoa from dark chocolates, you will reap the same health benefits if you take cocoa butter. It is full of minerals like magnesium, manganese, and copper.
Also, it is full of antioxidants, and it has been shown to improve heart health by reducing blood pressure. It is also a great immune booster. However, since cocoa butter has high-fat content, it is wise to consume it in moderation.
What About Lecithin?
It is often common to see lecithin listed among the ingredients in most chocolate bars. It is an emulsifier that most companies use in confectionery. This ingredient could come from plants or animals, which makes it unsuitable for vegans.
However, soy lecithin is acceptable for vegans, unlike lecithin that is derived from egg yolk. If the label doesn’t clearly state the source of the lecithin, it would be better to stay away from the chocolate if you are vegan.
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