How to Choose the Right Type of Chocolate for Your Recipe

How to Choose the Right Type of Chocolate for Your Recipe

Pick the perfect type of chocolate for baking, melting, or nibbling.

Baking Chocolate

Best for cooking and baking, baking chocolate is also called bitter or unsweetened chocolate, this type is hardened cocoa solids and cocoa butter with no added sugar. Since its taste is astringent, it's used primarily as a baking ingredient. Unsweetened chocolate contains 50 to 58 percent cocoa butter by weight.


Best for baking and confections. Couverture is a glossy form of chocolate used by professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers. This chocolate contains a minimum of 32 percent cocoa butter, which allows it to flow more easily when it's melted and tempered. You'll find this type of higher-grade chocolate in professional pastry and cake supply shops, as well as high-end groceries and online. Both dark and milk chocolate couvertures are available, as well as the relatively new Ruby Couverture and Fruit Couvertures.

Bittersweet Chocolate

Best for baking, cooking, and eating. Bittersweet chocolate is the darkest of all eating chocolates. It must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. Bittersweet chocolate has a more pronounced chocolate taste because of its higher concentration of chocolate liquor and less sugar. Some premium bittersweet chocolate can have a cocoa butter and cocoa solid content of 70 percent or higher. It can be used in cooking and baking, as well as eaten for a treat.

Semi Sweet and Sweet Chocolate

Best for baking, cooking, and eating. Semi sweet (sometimes called "semisweet"), demi-sweet, and sweet chocolate are similar to bittersweet but have a higher percentage of sugar and thus a sweeter taste. Their required chocolate liquor content is lower, averaging between 15 to 35 percent. These chocolates can also be used for baking and cooking, as well as eaten as candy. Semi sweet chocolate can usually be interchanged with bittersweet chocolate, and are often all referred to as "dark chocolates."

Milk Chocolate

Best for eating. Milk chocolate creates the sweet, creamy taste found in candy bars. Milk chocolate contains at least 12 percent dry milk solids and 10 percent chocolate liquor along with sugar and added cocoa butter. Milk chocolate is generally not used in baking or cooking, as its delicate flavor is easily overwhelmed by other ingredients. It's the favorite chocolate of most Americans, preferred over dark or semisweet varieties by two to one.

White Chocolate

Best for baking, cooking, and eating. This variety is not "true" chocolate, since it contains no chocolate solids. However, it contains cocoa butter, the vegetable fat that gives chocolate its snap and luscious mouthfeel. When the cocoa butter is replaced with other, less expensive fats, it's no longer white chocolate: it's referred to as Almond Bark or confectioners' coating.

Cocoa Powder

Best for baking and beverages. When most of the cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor, a dense cake forms. This is then ground into powder containing 10 to 22 percent cocoa butter. "Dutched" or Dutch Process cocoa is cocoa powder treated with an alkalizing agent such as baking soda to make it darker, less bitter, and more soluble in liquids.

Cocoa Nibs

Best for baking. Cocoa nibs are roasted and broken up cocoa beans, which have a very delicate chocolate flavor. They add crunch to cookies and are a delicious addition to short-breads and other butter cookies.