Which Chocolate Should I Use?

Trying to figure out what chocolate to keep on hand for your establishment’s baking and cooking needs? We explain the different kinds of chocolate available so you know how to make the right choice.

The list of different chocolates seems to be nearly endless: Baking, bittersweet, couverture, semi-sweet, milk, white, dark, and compound just to name a few. It can range from the pedestrian Hershey bar to a showpiece you would never have guessed is edible. But what are the differences? How do you know which to use?

First, allow us to elucidate on what chocolate, at its core actually is. Comprised of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, often accompanied by milk solids, emulsifiers, and flavorings like vanilla etc. The difference between chocolates really comes down to the amount of cocoa solids, sugar, and type of fat used in its creation.


Of all the chocolates we’ll be mentioning today, baking chocolate is by far the most intense. Containing only cocoa solids and cocoa butter it is completely void of any sugars. While it isn’t the most pleasant to eat it is perfect for getting a punch of chocolate flavor into anything you’re making. Perfect for cakes, cookies, and other baked items.

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate has at least 10% cocoa solids and 12% milk solids. It can be tricky because too little cocoa solids and you end up with an overly sweet bar that tastes very little like chocolate. Be sure to get something with a higher cocoa solids content in order to taste what you came for.


According to regulations bittersweet and semisweet chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor is the combination of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Beyond that it’s up to the manufacturer. The amount of cocoa to sugar in one brand’s semi-sweet may be the same as another’s bittersweet. To make sure you’re getting what you want, check the percentage. This represents the amount of cocoa liquor present in the chocolate. The higher this percentage is the lower the amount of sugar.


White chocolate, some say, isn’t technically chocolate because it contains no cocoa solids. Instead it is made simply from cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. It is by far the most volatile substance on our list. It easily burns and should never reach temperatures over 110F. When buying white chocolate be sure to look for chocolate that actually contains cocoa butter. Some cheaper brands will try to replace the fat with cheaper substitutes that will leave you with off-flavors and a bad mouth feel.


Couverture chocolate is made in a slightly different manner than regular chocolate. Ground to a significantly finer texture during processing, couverture boasts a much higher percentage of cocoa butter, making it the ideal chocolate for tempering and enrobing candies. The more cocoa butter chocolate contains the more fluid it becomes when melted. That’s why couverture chocolate is ideal for tempering and dipping. It provides a beautiful shine and snap when tempered, covers candies and fruits evenly and smoothly. Perfect for making bonbons, truffles, chocolate bars, clusters, and barks.

Compound Chocolate

Compound chocolate is the kind of chocolate you’ll find at your local craft stores often labeled candy melts. It is made with little to no cocoa butter and instead the fat is replaced by something else like palm kernel oil or something similar. This allows you not to have to temper your chocolate and it will still have a beautiful shine and that much sought-after “snap” but will not taste nearly as nice. Without that cocoa butter it won’t melt in your mouth the same way and will lack the mouthfeel and roundness of good chocolate. We recommend biting the bullet and learning how to temper chocolate properly.

Armed with this information you should now be able to navigate your way through the myriad of different chocolate offerings on the market. Now you can buy chocolate knowing full well what you’re getting and if it will be correctly suited to the tasks at hand.


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Hannah Abaffy

Pastry Chef & Recipe Development

Hannah Abaffy is a pastry chef and an active member of the culinary community. From working in kitchens to developing recipes, and creating menus for restaurants, she has been involved with food in one capacity or another for the past decade. After starting a food history blog, Hannah has been continuously writing and learning about the ever-changing realm of cuisine, its history, and its future. Since then her appetite to learn about and share all things that touch upon the world of food can only be described as voracious.

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