Ever wondered exactly what is white chocolate? Chefs often use white chocolate in baking, however, there is much conversation about what it actually is. Are the rumors that it is not actually chocolate true? Is it vegan? I'm going to talk you through exactly what white chocolate is, so consider this your ultimate white chocolate guide.
I love white chocolate, it is a delicious and versatile ingredient that has so many valuable uses in baking. This guide leaves you with all the information you need to bake with white chocolate and get the best results.
- What is white chocolate?
- What is the history of white chocolate?
- Is white chocolate real chocolate?
- What is white chocolate made of?
- What is the best white chocolate?
- How is white chocolate made?
- What does white chocolate taste like?
- What is caramelized white chocolate?
- White chocolate vs Milk chocolate
- White chocolate vs Dark chocolate
- Is white chocolate vegan?
- Uses for white chocolate in baking
- Popular flavor combinations with white chocolate
- White Chocolate FAQs
- What to make with white chocolate (recipes)
What is white chocolate?
White chocolate is a delicious, ivory-colored confectionary made from cocoa butter. It is a regulated product that must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter and a minimum of 14% total milk solids (according to the American FDA). All in all, brands must abide by these rules to call it white chocolate but often get around it with creative labeling!
White chocolate tastes rich and creamy and has a very smooth, buttery texture. Desserts, chocolate bars, and candies are some of its' many uses, and it is a hugely popular type of chocolate.
What is the history of white chocolate?
Wonder who invented white chocolate? Nestle invented white chocolate in Switzerland in 1937. The Swiss brand created the "milkybar" (also known as "galak") from cocoa butter, and other brands developed their own formulas and followed suit to make their own white chocolates. Soon it was everywhere! But the origins of chocolate are much older. The humble cacao bean was first found 4000 years ago in ancient Mesoamerica, now known as Mexico.
What we eat today bears little resemblance to the earliest forms of chocolate. Back in the days, cacao beans were once made into a bitter drink and only evolved into sweet treats once chocolate became popular in European courts in the 1500s. Germany is the current top exporter of chocolate worldwide, with Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy coming behind. Germany exported a huge $4.96 billion (USD) of chocolate in 2020, which was 17% of the total world exports. White chocolate amounts to around 10% of the world chocolate market.
Did you know that 22 September is national white chocolate day? It's an excellent excuse to make these white chocolate-covered strawberries.
Is white chocolate real chocolate?
Legally yes, white chocolate is chocolate because it contains cocoa butter which is a cocoa bean product. Yet, some argue that white chocolate is not chocolate because it does not contain any cocoa solids, only cocoa butter. But cocoa butter accounts for over half of the weight of cocoa beans! What do you think, is white chocolate, chocolate?
However. Sometimes you will find products that look like white chocolate that contain no cocoa butter at all. Basically, they are made with vegetable fats such as palm kernel oil blended with milk powder, sugar, and vanilla flavorings to poorly replicate the taste and texture of white chocolate. They are often pure white, which is a giveaway as proper white chocolate is always ivory color. These imitations are definitely not chocolate, and they legally cannot call themselves such. Beware of creative branding!
What is white chocolate made of?
White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk products, lecithin (an emulsifier), and flavorings like vanilla extract. As a matter of fact, in the US, UK, and EU it must legally contain at least 20% cocoa butter. Sugar content in white chocolate ranges from 25% to 55% which greatly affects the sweetness. The rest is made up of milk products, emulsifiers, and flavorings.
Unlike milk or dark chocolate, white chocolate does not contain cocoa solids so has fewer nutritional benefits and no caffeine.
What is the best white chocolate?
Have you ever eaten white chocolate that tasted sickly sweet, and fake? Low-quality white chocolate can contain deodorized cocoa butter and flavorings which makes it taste artificial and overly sweet. Quality white chocolate contains high percentages of non-deodorized cocoa butter and retains its natural cocoa butter aromas, taste, and texture.
But cocoa butter is an expensive and valuable product used in the cosmetics industry too. Brands use cocoa butter to make lipstick, body creams, and lotions because it has a low melting point and a very long shelf life. And that drives the price up. Mass-produced white chocolate will often contain the bare minimum percentage of cocoa butter to increase profits.
To buy the best white chocolate, look for a percentage of cocoa butter above 28%. Buy a quality brand like Callebaut, Lindt, or Valrhona to ensure the perfect taste and texture, and always check the label!
How is white chocolate made?
Chocolate makers follow several steps to produce white chocolate:
- Harvest and clean cocoa beans from the cocoa tree (Theobroma Cacao) and store them in silos or warehouses. They are very sensitive and require a cool, odorless, and humidity-controlled environment.
- Ferment the cocoa beans for 2-8 days to develop their flavor.
- Carefully dry the cocoa beans, which can take a further 2 weeks.
- Roast the cocoa beans to further develop flavor and help split the outer husk.
- Shell the beans to remove the husk and leave the inner bean (cocoa nibs) behind. ("winnowing" process)
- Blend and grind the nibs to produce a rich paste known as cocoa liquor or cocoa mass.
- Pass the cocoa mass through a hydraulic press to separate the cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Milk chocolate and dark chocolate contain both cocoa butter and cocoa solids in varying quantities. White chocolate only contains cocoa butter.
- Blend the cocoa butter with milk products, sugar, vanilla, and lecithin.
- Temper the white chocolate to form an even crystal structure in the fat for a smooth finish and perfect 'snap' when broken.
- Shape the white chocolate into bars, chips, or other products.
What does white chocolate taste like?
Good quality white chocolate is delicious. So what is the flavor of white chocolate exactly? It has a rich yet delicate flavor profile that is much less pronounced than dark or milk chocolate. High levels of cocoa butter give it a very creamy and smooth texture. You might notice tiny flecks of real vanilla extract in the bars, which give it the most amazing light vanilla flavor.
Low-quality white chocolate contains extra sugar, excess milk powder, and artificial flavorings to compensate for the lower cocoa butter levels. It tastes incredibly sweet and does not have the same buttery texture. It is harder to work with, can go grainy, and behaves strangely under heat. Baking with low-quality chocolate makes it harder, so I always recommend using the best quality products you can find.
What is caramelized white chocolate?
Caramelized white chocolate, also known as toasted chocolate or blonde chocolate is a relatively new product. The brand Valrhona created blonde chocolate in 2004 and it has a sweet, caramel flavor and distinctive golden color. Caramelized chocolate is made by altering the flavor of the milk compounds within white chocolate. In commercial products, milk powder is caramelized before it is added to the other white chocolate ingredients.
You can also make homemade blond chocolate simply by utilizing the Maillard reaction! Spread some chopped white chocolate over a baking sheet and cook it in the oven at 250 F / 120 C for roughly 2 hours, stirring frequently. The amino acids and reducing sugars react with one another and cause the chocolate to turn golden brown (this is the Maillard reaction).
Season the caramelized white chocolate with a pinch of salt and spread it out on parchment paper to cool. Or, you could drizzle it over cakes or homemade macarons! Also, you can use it the same way you would use white chocolate eg. to fill these gold macarons with delicious caramelized white chocolate ganache.
White chocolate vs Milk chocolate
Milk chocolate has a much more pronounced chocolate flavor than white chocolate because it contains cocoa solids. However, it is still relatively mild when compared to dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate is made from sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa solids (sometimes known as cocoa liquor), milk or milk powder, and sometimes vanilla as well. Milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 25% cocoa solids in the UK, but only a minimum of 10% cocoa solids in the USA. These different rules are why candy bars often don't taste the same abroad!
Milk chocolate has a creamy taste and texture but is not on the same level as white chocolate.
White chocolate vs Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is made from sugar, cocoa butter, and cocoa solids. It is always rich in cocoa taste. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the more intense the chocolate flavor in dark chocolate is. And the higher the health benefits! Dark chocolate is a rich source of minerals including magnesium, copper, manganese, and a powerful antioxidant.
By comparison, white chocolate does not contain as many nutritional benefits as it has no cocoa solids. But cocoa butter is a healthy fat and antioxidant containing good fatty acids including oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. Dark chocolate can taste bitter compared to white chocolate as it is lower in sugar, and has a different texture, too.
Chocolatiers often use the term "mouth feel", and dark chocolate definitely has a crisper, dryer mouth feel compared to white chocolate which is very smooth and buttery. Try eating a bite of each, and you'll see what I mean!
Is white chocolate vegan?
Vegan food must not contain meat, eggs, dairy, or any animal products. Regular white chocolate contains dairy and is not vegan, and neither is milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is naturally vegan. Cocoa butter is vegan, and some brands produce white and milk chocolate using dairy-free alternatives so there are vegan chocolate products available.
Interestingly though, legally vegan white chocolate is not white chocolate as it does not contain dairy. This does seem at odds with many of the artisan chocolate brands that produce high-quality dairy-free chocolate for those with an intolerance or dietary preference. As I have said, they cannot label it white chocolate, even if it contains twice the quantity of cocoa butter that a poorly made mass-produced product does.
Uses for white chocolate in baking
Pastry chefs craft white chocolate into all sorts of dishes, either as a main flavor or as a garnish. You can make beautiful white chocolate decorations to style on top of fancy desserts, white chocolate bonbons, or a white chocolate sauce to pour over the top of your desserts.
White chocolate is a good base and we often flavor or color white chocolate as the cocoa butter fat will absorb and take on flavor. I make pistachio ganache filling with white chocolate for these tasty strawberry pistachio tarts and love this white chocolate raspberry tart with delicious raspberry white chocolate ganache, too. I love making ice cream bars with white chocolate, cake frostings, and more. It is such a great ingredient.
Popular flavor combinations with white chocolate
White chocolate tastes amazing with so many flavors. Pair white chocolate with fresh fruit like strawberries, raspberries, and citrus. Another popular flavor combination is white chocolate and pistachio, or white chocolate and macadamia. As it can be quite sweet, it also works with the bitter spectrum. matcha and white chocolate taste delicious together, as do white chocolate and cardamom. You can even try cheese and white chocolate together for a savory/sweet pairing.
Ruby chocolate is another wonderful type of chocolate that pairs well with white chocolate. Check out my article on what is Ruby chocolate.
I hope you have found this white chocolate guide useful, I can't wait to see what you bake!
White Chocolate FAQs
White chocolate is not pure white, it is a pale ivory color. It is white because it is made from cocoa butter which is a pale ivory color.
Callebaut invented Ruby chocolate in 2017. It has been described as sour white chocolate and has a beautiful pink color. Ruby chocolate is pink because of a unique production process that uses under-fermented cocoa beans. Try my raspberry ruby chocolate bonbons!
Gianduja was created in Italy in the early 1800s. It is made with chocolate and hazelnuts
Callebaut, Lindt, and Valrhona are good quality brands of white chocolate. Check the cocoa butter % and aim for at least 30 percent cocoa butter that ensures the best taste.
You can buy white chocolate everywhere! White chocolate is widely available in grocery stores and online. Check the label (min. 30% cocoa butter content) to ensure it is a quality product.
White chocolate is not just fat, it is blended with milk products, sugar, and emulsifying agents too. It contains a maximum of 45% cocoa butter fat.
A good quality white chocolate contains healthy fat and antioxidants but is high calorie so should be enjoyed in moderation.
White chocolate has cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids.