Ingredients in Chocolate

What’s in your favorite chocolate bar?

We all love chocolate, but do you know what ingredients are in your favorite chocolate bar?

Or have you ever wondered what that other 30% is in your 70% bar?

One thing is for sure: when it comes to chocolate ingredients, we can always say: less is more! 😉

The essential ingredients in chocolate

Here we want to discuss the ingredients that must be in a chocolate bar. You simply can’t make chocolate without them.

Let’s take one thing out of the way, a perfect chocolate bar only needs 2 ingredients. That’s it!

First of all: cacao. The main ingredient should always cacao. This is non-negotiable!

And, unless we are talking about a 100% chocolate bar, the next ingredient is normally sugar. This can either be raw cane sugar, or any other sugar or sweetener.

Now sometimes, it’s quite clear what the other ingredients are, like milk. But sometimes you don’t know exactly what that weird ingredient list means. And we are here to help, and clarify everything you need to know.

Cacao or Cocoa

This is the one ingredient that can’t miss in a chocolate bar. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a 50% or a 100% chocolate, you want cacao or cocoa to be the first ingredient. This can be named cacao beans, cacao mass or even cacao liquor – they are all the same.

Tip: Understanding the ingredient list?  As with all foods, remember that the order of the ingredient is important, as they are displayed based on quantity.  Look for few ingredients. And cocoa should always be the first ingredient. (This applies for cocoa beans, cocoa mass or even cocoa butter, which should be the main ingredient in white chocolate).

Depending on the specific variety and origin, the cacao beans can be significantly different. They can have different flavors and aromas, and even contain more or less fat, which is called cocoa butter.

Cocoa beans vs Cocoa butter

But what is the difference? Why packages have in their ingredient list cocoa beans and cocoa butter separately.
Some chocolate makers add cocoa butter, to give it a more creamier and smoother texture. Cocoa butter comes from the cocoa bean as well, so this is perfectly fine. But be sure to avoid all other butters or vegetable fats, which are sometimes used in mass produced chocolates because they are cheaper.

Ingredients in chocolate


Sugar is added to sweeten the bar and to bring out the cocoa flavors. If there is too much sugar, it might be used to hide bitterness in some low-quality beans.

If sugar is the first in the ingredient list, then this is the component in largest quantity. Ideally, sugar is always after cocoa beans in the list. ⠀

There are also many types of sugar used. You can find refined and un-refined sugar, but there are also alternatives sugars like coconut sugar or beet root sugar.

If you want to enjoy the true chocolate taste, you want to avoid artificial sweeteners. The most common are maltitol, xylitol and sorbito, but they give a nasty aftertaste to your chocolate and, most importantly, are known for giving non-healthy side effects.  So if you want to reduce your sugar intake, we recommend look for higher percentage of chocolates. Check out these article from Confectionary News to learn more about alternative sweeteners.

Milk Powder

This of course only applies to milk and white chocolate. (Dark chocolate shouldn’t have milk!). Typically, you will find cow milk in your favorite chocolates. But since the rise of veganism, many chocolate makers are looking for alternative milks to offer more and more chocolate options. These are some milk alternatives you can find in vegan chocolates: coconut milk, oat milk, almond milk and many more.

Emulsifiers – a controversial ingredient

Although this is not an essential ingredient, many chocolate makers use emulsifiers like soy lecithin, while others are very strict in not using it!

Emulsifiers makes easier to manage chocolate and it helps it to withstand temperature variations.

There is no need for emulsifiers, but since it is used in very small amounts, most experts agree that the impact in taste or texture is very small, close to none. Most common are: soy lecithin and sunflower lecithin.

Vanilla – an interesting debate

Real vanilla is very expensive and only grows in specific regions, making it very difficult to obtain.  Which is why, in mass produced chocolate, many synthetic varieties are used to hide unpleasant flavors of cacao. These typically come from bad drying or fermentation process.

Most of craft chocolate makers use real vanilla to enhance the overall flavor profile of the chocolate. And most of the time we can tell if real vanilla is used when the packaging highlights the use of vanilla. If it is only visible in the ingredient list, might be a reason to doubt.

Tip: Natural vanilla is not always real vanilla.  “Vanillin” is definitely a synthetic variety.

Other ingredients: Inclusions and flavors

If you think of your favorite chocolate, do you think about a pure smooth chocolate? Or does your mind take you to a bar with nuts, dried fruits or exotic flavors.

Many chocolate makers add other ingredients to improve both flavor and visibility, to give an overall better tasting experience.

Everything we put in our body matters, and we all have the right to know what’s in our foods and why. With these tips you can check the ingredient list of all your favorite chocolate and choose the best for you and your loved ones. ⠀

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