Food & Drink

What's The Deal With Cocoa Butter?

You eat it and you rub it on your body, so what the hell is going on here?
10/24/2014 07:00am ET | Updated October 24, 2014

Cocoa butter is one of those mysterious ingredients that sounds familiar but really leaves us scratching our heads. FIrst we think of chocolate, but then our thoughts quickly turn to body lotion and we're left with blank expressions on our faces, a little bewildered and unsure if we've been doing something wrong our whole lives. As the key ingredient in chocolate, cocoa butter is worth understanding. If you're not a chocolate lover, you can appreciate cocoa butter for its moisturizing properties (and then you can explain to us why you hate fun).

Here's everything you need to know about cocoa butter:

1
Cocoa butter comes from cocoa beans, which are found in the cocoa fruit.
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Most people are familiar with cocoa beans, but did you know they live in a large, fleshy fruit? The fruit is roughly the size and shape of a football. Farmers remove cocoa beans from this fruit to produce two products: cocoa butter and cocoa powder.
2
First cocoa beans are cleaned, roasted, stripped and milled into cocoa liquor.
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After the beans are cleaned, they are roasted to draw out the chocolate flavor. Next the beans are stripped of their shells and turned into nibs. (So that's what chocolate nibs are!) The nibs are then milled, or ground, into a liquid known as cocoa liquor.
3
Cocoa liquor is pressed to produce cocoa butter.
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The liquid is pressed at a high pressure to separate the fat, and that fat, friends, is cocoa butter. It looks like this. The remaining material is cocoa powder.
4
Cocoa powder is like cocoa butter's skinnier twin.
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Once the cocoa liquor has been pressed to remove fat, the remnants are pulverized to make cocoa powder. While the cocoa butter is heftier and responsible for chocolate's shape, the cocoa powder is responsible for the flavor, health benefits and color.
5
Cocoa powder and cocoa butter are mixed together again to make chocolate.
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Once they've been separated, the cocoa bean twins are reunited and mixed with sugar, and maybe milk, to make chocolate. White chocolate, since we know you're curious, contains no cocoa powder and only cocoa butter.
6
Cocoa butter is responsible for chocolate's melt-in-your-mouth quality.
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Cocoa butter melts at body temperature, which explains why chocolate famously melts in your mouth.
7
Cocoa butter is also used as a moisturizer.
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Melting around body temperature, it's a good skin moisturizer, and since it's also edible, it's not dangerous to use it as a lip balm as well. It's true: cocoa butter has many uses. Although we're primarily interested in it in chocolate form.

To see the cocoa butter-making process in action, check out this video:

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