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Is White Chocolate Really Chocolate?

Is White Chocolate Really Chocolate?

The question as to whether white chocolate is really chocolate is not as cut and dry as one may expect. Today we’ll take a look at both sides of the great white chocolate debate.

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White Chocolate

White chocolate lacks cocoa solids, so its connection to “real” chocolate is cocoa butter, which is a primary ingredient and comes from the cacao plant. The lack of cocoa solids has led some to proclaim that white chocolate can’t be considered real chocolate at all. Others point out its connection to the cocoa bean is proof that it can be considered real chocolate. The FDA’s definition of “chocolate” has also changed over the years, arming both sides with all the “proof” they need. The FDA currently includes white chocolate among other chocolates in its description of “Cacao Products.”

White Chocolate facts:

  • Although white chocolate has been around for over 80 years, the FDA issued an industry standard for the definition of it in 2002, at the request of Hershey and the Chocolate  Manufacturers Association of the United States
  • White chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter, a minimum of 14% total milk solids, a minimum of 3.5% milkfat, and no more than 55% carbohydrate sweeteners.
  • The first white chocolate bar was designed as a way to use excess cocoa butter
  • White chocolate versions of Reese’s Cups, Hershey’s Kisses (aka “Hugs”), Twix, and many other popular products have been produced.

Let’s take a look at the various arguments in the white chocolate debate.

Those against “real chocolate” label

Wise Geek summarizes the side of the debate which claims that white chocolate is not really chocolate:

White chocolate is technically not chocolate at all, since it does not contain chocolate liquor or cocoa solids, the two primary ingredients in chocolate. It does, however, contain cocoa butter, which is a product of the cacao plant, and it has a delicate flavor in which hints of chocolate certainly play a role. This product is processed and made much like chocolate, and it can also be used just as regular chocolate is in an assortment of foods.

Food Network’s FoodTerms encyclopedia also takes an anti-chocolate stance. In its definition of white chocolate, it is written, “Not really chocolate at all, white chocolate contains no chocolate liquor, which means it has little, if any, chocolate flavor.”

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Cocoa and Heart is another voice in the debate against the “real chocolate” label, writing, “White chocolate is technically not real chocolate as it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, but it is made primarily of cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids.”

Those on the fence

Boston Chocolate Tours poses both sides of the debate without taking sides:

Some would consider white chocolate not chocolate because none of the cocoa solid is part of the end product. However, if you were to smell cocoa beans and raw cocoa butter, it is the cocoa butter that would have the distinct chocolate smell. The cocoa bean doesn’t smell sweet at all. And cocoa butter did come from the cocoa bean.

Those for the “real chocolate” label

The Nibble presented their opinion on the topic, proclaiming white chocolate is in fact real chocolate (we have included bold for emphasis):

In 2002, the FDA amended its standards of identity, enabling white chocolate to be called chocolate if, among other requirements, it is made from a minimum of 20% cocoa butter (by weight), a minimum of 15% milk powder and a maximum of 55% sweetener… Any other formulation must still be called confectionary or summer coating. More than a few famous “food experts” do not realize this, and are heard on television shows or read in print misinforming audiences that “white chocolate is not chocolate.” Don’t believe it, no matter how iconic the speaker. We have personally phoned the FDA and, from their lips to this page, white chocolate made under the standards above is chocolate. Or read the FDA standards of identity yourself.

Fake White Chocolate

There are some products marketed as “white chocolate” which contain vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. Even those in disagreement about the classification of true white chocolate would agree that these products are not truly chocolate. There is also a distinct difference in taste between “fake” white chocolate and real white chocolate. Look for white chocolate bars which proudly display the content of cocoa butter, such as 25% or 31%. These are the real thing and taste superior to “fake” white chocolate.

Bottom Line

A suitable answer to the question “Is White Chocolate really chocolate?” could be that “white chocolate” is simply in its own category of cacao products.

What do you think?


Updated March 8, 2016
Originally published August 2013

  • Timothy Campbell

    “White chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter, a minimum of 14% total milk solids, a minimum of 3.5% milkfat, and no more than 55% carbohydrate sweeteners.”

    Interestingly (and deliciously for people of vegan persuasion) there does exist something called “Soy White Chocolate,” which can be found in Clif granola bars. These are available in the USA and Canada. I don’t know the proportions, but the ingredients are listed as “Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Soy Flour, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract.”

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