I know many of you are wondering, “Does cocoa butter contain dairy?” It’s actually one of the most common questions that I receive. Fortunately, I have good news. Cocoa butter is plant-based and naturally dairy-free, and so are many other “butters.”
Does Cocoa Butter Contain Dairy? No, It’s Dairy-Free!
Cocoa butter, sometimes referred to as cacao butter, is the fat extracted from cocoa beans. Yes, beans, that grow on trees! It has absolutely no relation to cows, or any other mammals for that matter.
What many people don’t realize, is that the term butter isn’t used exclusively for dairy. In fact, many foods with the word butter in their title are okay for dairy-free and vegan consumers. They’re rich, fatty, and buttery in consistency, but don’t contain a drop of dairy. Here are some examples of buttery foods that are completely plant-based, and thus free from milk.*
- Cocoa Butter / Cacao Butter
- Coconut Butter*
- Peanut Butter*
- Tree Nut Butter (almond, cashew, macadamia nut, etc.)*
- Seed Butter (hempseed, tahini [sesame seed butter], sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, etc.)*
- Fruit Butter (pumpkin, apple, pear, etc.)*
- Shea Butter**
- Mango Butter**
* They are dairy-free in the pure form. Fancy and flavored versions of foods are everywhere. Always check ingredients on these “butters” to ensure no milk ingredients have been added.
** Used exclusively in skincare and beauty products.
Is their a Difference Between Cocoa Butter and Cacao Butter?
Some might argue one is raw and the other isn’t, or one is food grade and the other isn’t. But in reality, there is no legal or formal difference. By definition, cacao butter and cocoa butter are variant words of the same product.
That said, if you are purchasing cocoa butter to use in recipes, make sure you choose a FOOD-GRADE cocoa butter. I’ve found that most brands labeled as cacao butter are food grade, so I often use that term for searching brands to buy. Some food-grade brands that I have personally used include Terrasoul Organic Cacao Butter, Navitas Organics Naturals, and Blue Mountain Organic Cacao Butter. They have each worked well in homemade dairy-free white chocolate, raw chocolate desserts, and other dairy-free recipes.
Cocoa butter is also used in beauty products, so some brands are not considered food grade. And cocoa butter lotions (with other ingredients added), are definitely not food grade.
But Why Do So Many Chocolate Products Contain Milk?
Chocolate itself comes straight from cocoa beans, and doesn’t contain any dairy. The cocoa or cacao butter, chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, and other pure chocolate ingredients that you might see on the label are all dairy free. You can read more about how chocolate is made here. But many chocolatiers add dairy to their formulas. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and even many dark chocolates have milk added in some form to lend a creamier finish.
This is further complicated by the fact that dairy-free dark chocolates and milk chocolates are often produced on the same line. So it isn’t uncommon to see a “may contain milk” statement on a chocolate bar that’s dairy-free by ingredients, due to the potential for cross contamination in manufacturing.