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What is White Chocolate?

Posted on August 31, 2012 4:41 PM by Caitlin

"Is white chocolate really chocolate?"

white chocolate ghost

We hear this question a lot on our factory tours, and, to be honest, it depends on who is giving the tour to what answer is given. Before we get into why that is the case, we need to explain a little more about how chocolate is made:

There are two ingredients in a traditional European chocolate recipe that come directly from the cocoa bean and that, along with sugar and other ingredients, are combined to create chocolate. One is cocoa butter, and the other is cocoa liquor.

You have probably already heard of cocoa butter, since it is also used in the cosmetic industry. You may be familiar with it from skin creams or soaps. Cocoa butter is rich and creamy and adds a delicious texture to chocolate. Generally speaking, around twenty percent of our chocolate is cocoa butter.

The second ingredient that comes from the cocoa bean is cocoa liquor (and don’t worry, it’s not at all alcoholic.) This is the dark, “chocolaty” ingredient in chocolate. In fact, if you have ever cooked with unsweetened cocoa, that’s basically the same thing as cocoa liquor, but in a powdered form (and often alkalized). The amount of cocoa liquor in chocolate varies depending on the type of chocolate you are making. Darker chocolates have more liquor, and milk chocolates have less.

This brings us back to white chocolate, which does not have any cocoa liquor in it at all. When tasting white chocolate, you’ll notice that along with a lack of brown coloring, it is also missing that dark flavor that you often associate with chocolate products. This is because it does not contain any liquor. It does, however, still contain cocoa butter, which comes from the cocoa bean.

Because it contains ingredients from the cocoa bean, I have always argued that it is a form of chocolate, but because it does not contain any cocoa liquor, detractors say that it is not in fact chocolate. What we’ve found is that people who like white chocolate tend to call it chocolate, and people who don’t tend to say it isn’t.

In the US, the bottom line for white chocolate is laid out by the US Food and Drug Administration. According to their regulations, white chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa butter. Ours does. In fact, our white chocolate contains only 5 ingredients: cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and a soy emulsifier.

If you’ve ever seen a “white flavored” bar, or product, or found things that look like white chocolate but are called “vanilla flavored,” it’s because they’re substituting the expensive cocoa butter for a cheaper vegetable fat, and can therefore not legally call it white chocolate, since it contains nothing from the original bean. In that case I would agree with my detractors: it is not chocolate.

But ours is delicious, so if you have a white chocolate sweet tooth, be sure to check out our white chocolate Halloween ghost, our white chocolate chips, and our white chocolate cherry and raisin almond bark.

And finally, be sure to tell us what you think of white chocolate in the comments!