Raw cacao powder is very similar to traditional dutched or non-dutched cocoa powder in that all are one of the first types of chocolate you get from processing the cacao beans. That a "raw" food is processed may surprise you but "raw" often means uncooked or unheated, not unprocessed. Think about it for a moment. Raw chicken isn't simply a dead animal but is processed so that the meat can be used before eating.
There are also safety concerns about not roasting cacao beans to a certain temperature including the major health concern we see pop up about foods all the time in the USA -- Salmonella. Cacao beans and by extension chocolate is not a low-fat food and fats are a great way for such food contaminations to begin and thrive for long periods of time. While cocoa powder can have little fat left in it, raw cacao tends to have a much higher fat content so Salmonella could still linger. Because of this I'm only going to be making baked or cooked recipes with the two types of raw cacao I've been sent. While I'm willing to try and ask our Acolytes to try all sorts of products for you all, I'm not willing to risk our health. Since I have no way to test the raw cacao, I'm going to practice extra safety.
Fermentation is another stage of cacao processing that some raw cacao manufacturers use and others do not. Likewise how the shells of the beans is removed varies from some companies using machines to others doing it by hand. Some of the sites I consulted for this post made claims of "one true way" but often didn't explain why any stage of the processing that doesn't involve roasting or high temperatures was "better" than another.
Another issue in raw cacao powder are the nature of any added ingredients. If any of the added ingredients (particular sugar) are processed using high temperatures can it be considered a raw product? Legal issues aside, I'd say that for us on The Chocolate Cult the matter is more about the cacao processing than the added ingredients in terms of rawness. Those folks who follow a raw diet will be less forgiving.
Nutritionally in some aspects raw cacao powder seemed better -- more fiber and protein for example -- but in other ways it wasn't as good -- more fats and calories. I don't have a lab or I can't test for other values not listed on the basic labels. If I ever do get a lab to do such testing I can promise you all that you will be charged money to access our site and companies will be charged to have their products tested and written about.
There's a very quick write up of what I've discovered about raw cacao versus traditionally processed cocoa powder. Have you used raw cacao powder in your recipes? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Resources consulted for this post:
The Chocolate Life