Cupuaçu butter

Kupuasu (kopoasu)

Theobroma grandiflorum (Willd. ex Spreng.) K.Schum., Malvaceae

INCI: Theobroma grandiflorum seed butter

Purpose: dry skin, hair treatments, lip and body balms, emulsion systems

Price: medium expensive

The secret of healing: phytosterols

My remark: interesting and pleasant butter, together with shea butter, a class unto itself. It distinguishes itself with a fine and discreet scent. It absorbs nicely, is pleasant in creams and slightly lighter occlusive cocoa butter.

Oral use: edible, generally not used.

From the magical genus Theobroma comes another butter that, with its characteristics, can deservedly stand alongside the famous cocoa butter. Cupuaçu grows wild in South America just like cocoa, and is mostly grown in Brazil. The cultivated plant is usually 4-8 meters high, and wild grown can reach up to 18 meters in height. The fruit is very large, up to 30cm in length. Cupuaçu fruit pulp is used as food, it is used to make juices, sweets, ice creams and liqueurs that are exported to Western Europe. One type of chocolate is made from the seeds.

Oil and butter is produced with a discreet scent that is somewhat reminiscent of chocolate or chocolate pralines. Cupuaçu, in addition to the scent, would be another in a series of “anaother butter with stearic and oleic acid, just like any other”. But cupuaçu has its unusual trump cards.

For one butter, it has an unusual composition, because of all the butters on the market, it is the richest in phytosterols, about 12g/kg and thus puts to shame even oils like prickly pear oil. Β-sitosterol is the dominant phytosterol (about 2.3g/kg). Therefore, it is absorbed relatively faster than cocoa butter, and leaves a fine feeling of smoothness. This phytosterol content also gives it the ability to emulsify water, the rate of which it almost reaches lanolin, so it is interesting in emulsion systems, but also as a butter for making cold cream. However, it should be remembered that it is not an emulsifier and that we cannot expect it to replace commercial emulsifiers.

For a butter, cupuaçu contains high levels of long-chain fatty acids, arachidic and behenic acids, which, in addition to phytosterols, participate in skin protection. But this is a relatively small level compared to pracaxi oil.

Protective but still light balms, one of the additives in sunscreens, exotic massage bars combined with vanilla macerate, anti-age and eye care cosmetics, hair treatments additive- all these are one of the many potential applications.

The first time you open this butter you will fall in love with it. Imagine a “sterol” balm- a serum of cupuaçu butter and prickly pear, a gentle self-melting massage bar with 2-3% buriti oil… Ideas and realizations will come to your mind. Just as befits a species that bears a divine name.

Quality requirement*
Basic characteristics 
Organoleptic characteristicsPink-brown solid (skin colour) with a discreet and pleasant chocolate scent.
Iodine number33 - 42
Saponification number188 - 198
Melting point32 - 36 °C
Fatty acid content (%)
C16:0 palmitic acid5.0 - 10.0
C18:0 stearic acid30.0  - 38.0
C18:1 oleic acid38.0  - 44.0
C18:2 linoleic acid2.0 - 4.0
C20:0 arachidic acid9.0 - 13.0
C22:0 behenic acid1.0 - 3.0

*based on references and manufacturers.

Useful references

  • New bioactive polyphenols from Theobroma grandiflorum (“cupuaçu”). Yang H, Protiva P, Cui B, Ma C, Baggett S, Hequet V, Mori S, Weinstein IB, Kennelly EJ. J Nat Prod. 2003 Nov;66(11):1501-4.
  • Kernel Oil) and Cupuassu Butter (Theobroma grandiflorum Seed Butter) Post Treatment with Hair DyePamella Mello Faria, Luciana Neves Camargo, Regina Siqueira Haddad Carvalho, Luis Antonio Paludetti, Maria Valéria Robles Velasco, Robson Miranda da Gama. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 2013, 3, 40-44
  • Fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition and thermal behaviour of fats from seeds of Brazilian Amazonian Theobroma species. Gilabert‐Escrivá, M Victoria; Gonçalves, Lireny A G; Silva, C Rogério S; Figueira, Antonio Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture , Volume 82 (13) – Oct 1, 2002
  • Unsaponifiable Matter in Plant Seed Oils. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013 Edible Oil Processing, 2nd Edition Wolf Hamm (Editor), Richard J. Hamilton (Editor), Gijs Calliauw (Editor) July 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
  • Vegetable Oils in Food Technology: Composition, Properties and Uses, Second Edition Frank D. Gunstone Blackwell Publishing 2011
  • Bailey’s Industrial Oil and Fat Products (6 Volume Set) By Fereidoon Shahidi: Wiley-Interscience; 6 edition 2005

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