What is the difference between regular chocolate and baking chocolate?

Baker’s chocolate

southern life

Walk through the baking aisle of any grocery store and you’ll notice several boxes labeled baking chocolate. Some say unsweetened, others bittersweet or semi-sweet, another labeled German sweet chocolate. Have you ever wondered what this chocolate is for and how it’s different from the chocolate in the candy aisle?

There’s actually quite a big difference. For baking, it’s important to understand the difference between regular chocolate and baking chocolate, and how to select the right type of chocolate for each recipe. We’ve broken it all down for you, from the types of chocolate to how to use it.

What is baking chocolate?

There are several kinds of baking chocolate, but in its purest form, baking chocolate is unsweetened chocolate. This means it is 100% chocolate (cocoa) with no added sugar or flavor. By design, it is sugar-free, as most recipes that call for unsweetened baking chocolate (also called bitter chocolate) are made with the appropriate amount of added sugar to counter its bitterness.

Unsweetened baking chocolate is not suitable for all baking and should only be used when specified. For example, in a ganache recipe, which is just cream and chocolate, there is no added sugar, so using unsweetened or regular baking chocolate would result in a ganache that is far too bitter. Unsweetened baking chocolate is great in recipes designed to have a rich chocolate flavor and enough sugar to balance it out, like in our So Good Brownies.

Types of baking chocolate

Pure baking chocolate can be unsweetened, but many other varieties of baking chocolate are also sold. These include:

Sweet and sour baking chocolate

As its name suggests, this chocolate contains added sugar. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that bittersweet and semisweet baking chocolate contain at least 35% chocolate. Most bittersweet chocolate bars contain between 60% and 72% chocolate.

Unlike unsweetened or plain chocolate, bittersweet chocolate may contain flavorings like vanilla and emulsifiers like soy lecithin. Each brand that makes bittersweet chocolate bars will contain a different sugar to chocolate ratio. It is therefore important to read the label and assess whether it is the right type of chocolate for the dessert you are preparing.

The more cocoa or chocolate in the bar, the darker the chocolate flavor will be in your dessert. Sweet and Sour Baking Chocolate is great for balancing tangy and sweet chocolate notes, like in our chocolate torte recipe.

Semi-Sweet Pastry Chocolate

Semi-sweet baking chocolate is sweeter than bittersweet, ranging from only 35% to 55% chocolate. You’ll want to use it in desserts that don’t need an intense chocolate flavor. Semi-sweet chocolate chunks are perfect for chocolate chip cookies or scattered in banana bread.

Milk Chocolate Pastry Chocolate

Although you will see baking bars labeled milk chocolate, they are not really baking chocolate due to the addition of milk, as well as sugar and cocoa butter. Milk chocolate is the mildest baking chocolate in flavor and contains as little as 10% chocolate. It is commonly used in candy recipes and frostings.

Sweet baking chocolate from German

German’s sweet baking chocolate is just that, a sweeter baking chocolate – at least, sweeter than semi-sweet and sour chocolate.

According to MyRecipes, to replace semi-sweet chocolate with German sweet chocolate, you need to add an additional 1/2 tablespoon of sugar per ounce of chocolate.

This chocolate was invented by Samuel German who wanted bakers to gain a step by combining sugar with chocolate. It is named after German sweet chocolate, not the country, and should only be used when specifically requested due to the amount of extra sugar it contains. This is of course perfect for the German chocolate cake.

And what about chocolate chips?

Although you are cooking with chocolate chips, it is not the same as baking chocolate. When a recipe calls for baking chocolate, it is specifically referring to chocolate bars for baking, not chips. Chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter and contain stabilizers to help retain their “chip” shape while baking. They generally cannot be used interchangeably with baking chocolate in recipes. While they don’t make a big difference melted into brownies, they can affect the texture and results of other desserts, especially when it comes to candy making.

Candy Alley Chocolate Bars

Most candy bars have a ton of other ingredients beyond the added sugar. Although you can find chocolate bars in the candy aisle with similar cocoa percentages to baking chocolate, they are generally thinner, often flavored, and do not come in unsweetened varieties like the baking chocolate. Enjoy chocolate in the candy aisle for snacks, stay closer to where the flour is stored for baking chocolate.