Cacao butter is an edible fat that comes from the cacao bean. It is solid at room temperature, but melts when it comes into contact with skin. In its purest form, it is pale yellow with a mild flavor and aroma.
Cocoa vs. Cacao
You may see both of these terms used interchangeably, and they are nearly the same. The term cacao refers to the raw, unprocessed beans, while the term cocoa is used for beans that have been harvested and processed.
What is Cacao Butter Used For?
Cacao butter has many uses. Cacao butter is vegan and has a long shelf-life and a high smoke point, which make it unique in the world of cooking fats. It is a great healthier alternative to butter, and can be used in all types of dishes, sweet and savory.
Cacao butter is also often used in cosmetics, thanks to its ability to lock in moisture and soothe irritation. Most often, the cacao butter found in lotions, balms, and hair masks is refined to produce a colorless, odorless product. This helps the cacao butter blend with other ingredients and fragrances.
Cacao butter also has a rich history of medicinal use, which we’ll go into in more detail later on.
Where in the World Does Cacao Butter Come From?
The cacao tree is native to the tropical region of Mesoamerica. Today, West Africa produces a majority of the world’s commercial cacao. Cacao is also produced in Indonesia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
How is Cacao Butter Made?
The first step to producing cacao butter is to harvest the cacao pods from the trees. Cacao pods range from 6-12 inches long and are shaped like American footballs. Each pod contains 20-40 beans surrounded by a pulp, which are scooped out and fermented for up to ten days. During fermentation, the pulp turns into alcohol and the beans’ flavor changes from bitter to rich and chocolatey. The fermented beans are then dried, roasted, and processed to extract the oil.