What Is Seized Chocolate and How Do You Fix It?

updated Feb 2, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
chocolate being melted in a bowl
Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Picture this: You’re melting some high-quality chocolate chips for a decadent chocolate mousse or a simple Southern-style chocolate cake. One minute, the melted chocolate is smooth and velvety and the next minute, it clumps up into a thick dull paste. This reaction is known as seized chocolate and while it is disappointing, there is, in fact, a way to fix it!

The simple reason why melted chocolate seizes is because the process of refining cocoa beans into chocolate gets rid of all the moisture, and so the final product is actually incredibly dry. When water droplets mix with melted chocolate, it has the same effect as adding water to flour—it turns into a paste.

Food science expert Harold McGee explains that “the small amount of water acts as a kind of glue, wetting the many millions of sugar and cocoa particles just enough to make patches of syrup that stick the particles together.”

Chocolate can also seize if it gets too hot and scorches. This is why it’s best to heat it gently over a water bath or in 20-second increments in the microwave, being sure to stir occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn.

How to Fix Seized Chocolate

If a bit of water accidentally gets splashed in your bowl, you may still be able to resuscitate the seized chocolate. To fix slightly seized chocolate, try adding hot cream to the chocolate and incorporating it by gently stirring with a rubber spatula. It may take a few minutes to fully incorporate. You can then use this mixture as a ganache or for a sauce.

The cream will incorporate more smoothly with the cocoa solids and sugar particles in the chocolate. Keep in mind though, depending on how seized the chocolate is, sometimes, it is best to simply start from scratch with new chocolate and a well-dried bowl.