There's a whole world of chocolate out there. 

By Antara Sinha
March 13, 2019
Photo by Victor Protasio; Prop styling by Audrey Davis; Food styling by Torie Cox

Navigating your various chocolate options the baking aisle can be a challenge. Stopping by the supermarket to grab a bag of chocolate chips to whip up some classic Chocolate Chip Cookies shouldn’t be frustrating—but it can turn into a head-scratching puzzle of cocoa percentages, brands, and terminology that feels like only a professional chocolatier would understand. Stress no more: Here’s a breakdown of each type of chocolate you’ll encounter in the baking aisle, detailing all you need to know to purchase chocolate like a pro.

Unsweetened Chocolate

You’ll also see unsweetened chocolate labeled as “baking” or “bitter chocolate.” It—as the name implies—has no sugar added and is pretty much 100 percent solid chocolate liquor, which contains about 50 to 58 percent cocoa butter according to the The New Food Lover’s Companion. Incredibly bitter, it’s not the kind of chocolate you’ll find yourself snacking on. You’ll find it in bar or block form at the grocery store, and because of its low fat content, the chocolate will be brittle and crumbly in texture. As a rule of thumb, you’ll usually use unsweetened chocolate melted into recipes that also call for the addition of sugar and fat, like our Best Fudgy Brownies.

Bittersweet, Semisweet, and Sweet Chocolate

Add some sugar to unsweetened chocolate, and you’ve got bittersweet, semisweet, or sweet chocolate depending on the amount. Bittersweet chocolate will contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor, while semisweet and sweet chocolate will contain 15 to 35 percent according to The New Food Lover’s Companion. You can find these chocolates in bars, blocks, discs, or bags of chocolate chips in the baking aisle. (If you’re looking for the best brand of semisweet chocolate chips to buy, we’ve got you covered.) You can use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate pretty much interchangeably in recipes because their composition is so similar. These chocolates are versatile, but they work especially well in recipes where you want the chocolate to stand on its own as a star player—think of your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe or these Molten Dark Chocolate Cakes.

Milk Chocolate

Milk Chocolate has dry milk added to it and only contains about 10 percent chocolate liquor. It’s much sweeter than its other chocolate counterparts in the baking aisle—think of your favorite candy bar. You’ll find milk chocolate in bar, brick, disc, square, or chip form for baking and is a pleasant addition to less sugary treats like chocolate chip pancakes or chocolate chip muffins—but may be a little cloying for already heavily sweetened dough or batter like cookies or cakes.

White Chocolate

White chocolate contains no chocolate liquor. According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, it’s usually a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter, and milk solids. You’ll find white chocolate in bars, bricks, discs, squares, and chips, and are a great creamy, sweet add-in to your favorite dessert recipes. But like milk chocolate, because of its high sugar content, you’ll want to pare down the added sugar in the recipe to avoid it from becoming overly sweet. Give this White Chocolate Buttercream a try on top of your next homemade cake or stir white chocolate chips into these festive White Chocolate-Peppermint Blondies.

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