Ingredient Intelligence

What Exactly Is White Chocolate?

published Oct 3, 2022
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White chocolate bars, chips, and shavings on a wood surface
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Like Billy Baldwin and Ashlee Simpson, white chocolate has long been dismissed as the lesser sibling of the chocolate family. But it’s a useful — and, dare I say, delicious in its own right — element in many sweets, and it deserves a place at the dessert table.

Here’s what you should look for when buying and using white chocolate, and a few recipes to convert you into a white-chocolate fan if you’re not one already.

What Is White Chocolate and Is It Real Chocolate?

You might have heard that white chocolate is “not technically chocolate,” and that’s not technically true. While white chocolate does not contain the cocoa solids that give other varieties of chocolate their darker color and more bitter taste, it does contain cocoa butter.

Ingredients in White Chocolate

Specifically, pure white chocolate consists of cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. But many companies incorporate additional “filler” ingredients like lecithin, oils, and artificial flavorings that can mask the taste of low-quality cocoa butter.

Buying White Chocolate

When buying white chocolate, just look at the ingredient list. If there’s no cocoa butter listed, and if it contains other fats like palm oil, it’s not real white chocolate. According to the FDA, to be considered white chocolate, it must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter with no other vegetable fats included.

White chocolate chips are made with other fats and fillers like those mentioned above to keep their chip shape intact when baked in cookies and desserts, and frequently don’t contain cocoa butter at all. That’s why you’ll see phrases like “baking chips” or “white morsels” used instead of “chocolate chips.”

The same goes for many mass-market white melting wafers or candy melts. If you’re looking for color over flavor, these sugar- and oil-based discs will have a more pure white look to them, as cocoa butter has a yellowish cast.

For the best flavor and consistency when melting white chocolate, use pure white chocolate bars or discs. Brands like Callebaut, Guittard, Valrhona, and Jacques Torres are all available online, and white chocolate baking bars from Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Baker’s are found in most supermarkets.

If buying a whole white chocolate bar, you’ll want to chop it into 1-inch chunks for melting. While white chocolate is soft enough that you can use a chef’s knife, I always recommend a chocolate chipper for easily breaking down pure chocolate bars into chunks. (You can buy a chocolate chipper for less than $10.)

Ways to Use White Chocolate in Recipes

Whether melted or in chip form, white chocolate plays well with so many other flavors in the dessert world. Take your pick!

Recipes to Use White Chocolate Chips or Chunks

Recipes to Use Melted White Chocolate