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Types of Chocolate

Types of Chocolate

Ensuring you use the correct chocolate in your baking is imperative. We will go over the different varieties and formats of chocolate and what their best uses are so you can select the perfect chocolate for your recipe.

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Dark chocolate label with cocoa percentage

Cacao Percentages

The cacao percentage refers to the amount of cocoa beans in chocolate, which is made up of pure chocolate liquor and any added cocoa butter. The rest of the ingredients consist of sugar, dairy, vanilla, emulsifiers, and any additional flavorings. Typically, the higher percentage of cocoa there is, the more intense the chocolate flavor is.

Different Types of Chocolate

There are four types of chocolate: dark, milk, white, and ruby. Chocolate comes from the seeds, or nibs, of the cacao tree. They are roasted and ground to produce a paste called chocolate liquor. The paste yields two products: cocoa butter and cocoa powder. From that, different varieties of chocolate are produced by creating different ratios of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sweetener, and other added ingredients.

Dark chocolate covered strawberries on display

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can be broken down into two types: bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. The FDA requires that dark chocolate contain at least 35% cacao and less than 12% milk solids. After that, it is up to the manufacturer to label their chocolate as bittersweet or semi-sweet. Typically, bittersweet has a higher percentage of cocoa than semi-sweet and is the less sweet of the two types.

Best for: dark chocolate is ideal for recipes where chocolate is the focal point, such as ganache, mousses, truffles, and puddings.

Milk chocolate tart garnished with berries

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate is characteristically mild, sweet, and creamy in flavor. The FDA requires that milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor, 3.39% milkfat, and at least 12% milk solids. Because it contains more sugar and milk solids, milk chocolate is sweeter than semi-sweet chocolate and should not be used as a substitute in recipes.

Best for: milk chocolate is ideal for making dipping and drizzling sauces, pastry creams, and confectionaries.

White chocolate candies in a bowl

White Chocolate

The FDA requires that white chocolate is made up of at least 20% cocoa butter, 3.5% milkfat, and 14% milk solids. White chocolate is unique in that it does not contain any cocoa solids, which is what gives dark and milk chocolate its brown color. Because it is very sweet, white chocolate shines with bitter, tart, or nutty flavors that offset its sweetness.

Best for: white chocolate is ideal for making dipping and drizzling sauces, mousses, pastry creams, and confectionaries.

Ruby chocolate callets pistoles in a bowl

Ruby Chocolate

Ruby chocolate is a variety of chocolate that is made from ruby cacao beans, which can be found in Ecuador, Brazil, and Ivory Coast. It features a sweet, berry flavor with fresh, sour notes and a red-pink color, despite having no added colors or fruit flavorings.

Best for: ruby chocolate can be used for a wide range of applications from confectionaries to pastry cream to ice cream.

Unsweetened chocolate liquor wafers

Unsweetened Chocolate

Unsweetened chocolate is made up of 100% cocoa and does not contain any sugar. It is often referred to as baking chocolate because it is primarily used for baking and cooking applications thanks to its bitter taste.

Best for: unsweetened chocolate is ideal for adding a rich cocoa flavor to recipes that already contain a lot of added sugar, such as brownies, cakes, and cookies.

Dark chocolate couverture pistoles in a bowl

Couverture Chocolate

Couverture chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter – at least 31% – than baking or eating chocolate. This high percentage of cocoa butter gives the chocolate a glossy finish and a firm snap when properly tempered. It is available in dark, milk, and white chocolate varieties.

Best for: couverture chocolate is ideal for dipping, enrobing, and candy-making. It is not recommended for baking.

What is Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is not a type of chocolate, but rather a stable vegetable fat that comes from cocoa beans. It is not a dairy product and is naturally vegan-friendly! On its own, cocoa butter has a mildly sweet flavor and a delicate chocolate aroma.

Cocoa butter pistoles being stirred into tempering chocolate

How to Use Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter can be used in a multitude of ways! Here are a few popular cocoa butter applications:

  • Add to chocolate when tempering to increase its fluidity and achieve the perfect set, snap, and shine for chocolate candies.
  • Use in chocolate spray and fountain applications.
  • Use for frying and sauteing. Its high smoke point resists frying temperatures better than butters and oils without burning.
  • Use to create skincare products, such as soaps, lotions, and shampoos. Because it is high in vitamins and antioxidants, cocoa butter is a popular natural choice for remedying dry skin. Always check a product's ingredients to ensure it is safe for skincare use.

How to Choose the Best Chocolate for Your Application

If you know what type of chocolate you need for your recipes, you may still be wondering if you should use chocolate bars, chips, wafers, or cocoa powder. Chocolate comes in different formats to serve different purposes, such as melting or baking. Choosing the correct format will help your recipes reach their full potential.

Plated brownie dusted with cocoa powder

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is made from dried chocolate liquor that is ground into a fine powder. There are two types: natural cocoa powder and Dutch process, or alkalized, cocoa powder. Dutch process cocoa powder has been treated to reduce its acidity, giving it a smooth flavor and a reddish color.

Best for: cocoa powder is ideal for delivering a rich chocolate flavor to baked goods and drinks. It's also commonly used for dusting truffles and garnishing desserts.

Chocolate chip muffins on a cooking rack

Chocolate Chips

Chocolate chips contain added stabilizers and less cocoa butter than bars or wafers to hold their shape in high heat. This provides structure to baked goods, helping them stay tall and upright while baking. If a recipe calls for melted chocolate, it is recommended to use bars or wafers instead of chips.

Best for: chocolate chips are ideal for baked goods like cookies, muffins, and breads.

Baker cutting pieces of chocolate off a chocolate block

Chocolate Bars / Blocks

Chocolate bars are typically sold in 10 lb. or 11 lb. blocks, making them a popular choice for high-volume bakers. Most chocolate bars require tempering.

Best for: chocolate blocks are ideal for recipes that require melting, such as confectionaries, ganache, sauces, and glazes.

Baker dipping chocolate cupcake into melted chocolate

Chocolate Wafers

Chocolate melting wafers are small, disc-shaped pieces of chocolate. Unlike chips, they do not hold their shape, and are designed for melting and then cooling to a firm snap. Some wafers, like couverture wafers, will need to be tempered while others, like coating wafers, do not require tempering.

Best for: chocolate wafers are ideal for any recipe that requires melting, such as confectionaries, ganache, sauces, and glazes.


Expert Tip

Looking to make a crispy chocolate chip cookie? Use chocolate wafers or chunks! They melt more easily, yielding a flatter, crispier cookie.

Baker tempering chocolate for chocolate covered strawberries

What Does it Mean to Temper Chocolate?

Tempering chocolate is a method of properly melting, cooling, and then reheating chocolate to stabilize the cocoa butter crystals. Ideal for chocolate bars, truffles, dipped confections, or chocolate cake decorations, the tempering process gives chocolate a smooth, glossy appearance with a firm outer shell and crisp snap.

What is the Difference Between Tempered and Melted Chocolate?

Tempered chocoate is the ideal option for dipped and chocolate-covered treats while melted chocolate is a better option when you need to add chocolate to a ganache, pudding, or batter. Products that are coated with melted chocolate won't have the same snap and shine as tempered chocolate. Instead, the coating will be dull and have a soft texture that is more susceptible to melting and spoiling. 

Chocolate chips stored in an airtight container

How to Properly Store Chocolate

Store chocolate in a cool, dry place that has a temperature ranging from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 50% or lower. Chocolate is shelf-stable and does not require refrigeration - it should be stored away from sunlight or artificial light in an air-tight container to keep out moisture and oxygen. Light, moisture, and oxygen are all factors that can cause unpleasant flavors to develop as well as chocolate bloom, which is a hazy white coating that forms on the chocolate when improperly stored. Chocolate should also be stored away from aromatic foods that might be absorbed by the chocolate.

Chocolate Brands

We offer a wide selection of chocolate brands on our site from popular household names to artisanal, small-batch brands! These brands provide chocolate ingredients that can be used for a wide range of applications for chocolate makers, bakers, and pastry chefs.

Callebaut logo


  • Unparalleled workability and the most balanced taste on the market
  • Range of chocolate available with different fluidities to meet chefs' needs

Cacao Barry logo

Cacao Barry

  • Transforms sustainably sourced ingredients into professional-grade French chocolate
  • Uses pure cocoa butter and high-quality melting pistoles to create chocolate products

Guittard logo


  • Artisanal chocolate brand crafted for chocolate professionals
  • Zero additives or preservatives in their premium, sustainably sourced chocolate 



  • One of the most recognized and trusted chocolate producers in the world
  • Perfect for establishments wanting a familiar brand in their goods

Ghirardelli logo


  • Trusted household brand synonymous with quality chocolate
  • Easy-to-use products great for bakers of all skill levels

Enjoy Life logo

Enjoy Life

  • Vegan chocolate free from gluten all major food allergens
  • Perfect for bakers serving vegan, gluten-free goods to customers

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