What Is White Chocolate?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

white chocolate

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White chocolate is more than just an ingredient in macadamia nut cookies and the last pieces left in a mixed bag of chocolate—it's complex, rich, and indulgently sweet. When made and used correctly, white chocolate can make truffles even more decadent, give cheesecake a heavenly opulence, and stand up to dark and milk chocolates easily. Plus, this ingredient can be colored, molded, and melted to be used in an array of creative and tasty desserts. 

Fast Facts

  • Storage: In a sealed container in a cool, dark spot
  • Highest Quality: Contains only milk, cocoa butter, and sugar
  • Common Uses: Cookies, mochas, truffles, candy bars

What Is White Chocolate?

Though dark and milk chocolate bars have been around since 1847, thanks to British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons, white chocolate didn't make the mass market scene for almost another 100 years. The popular story surrounding this ingredient's creation states it was produced in 1936 by Nestlé. The Swiss candy company invented white chocolate as a way to use up the unwanted surplus of milk powder that had been made for soldiers during World War I. 

Unlike dark or milk chocolate, white chocolate doesn't usually contain cocoa solids or cacao nibs, the aspect of the cacao fruit that gives other chocolate its signature brown color. However, white chocolate does contain chocolate's two other main ingredients, sugar and cocoa butter. White chocolate features a hefty dose of cocoa butter, which often gets filtered, deodorized, and bleached with clay minerals. This helps give white chocolate that classic creamy color.

White Chocolate Vs. Milk Chocolate 

The difference between brown and white chocolates boils down to how the cacao bean is used. All types of chocolate must be made from this plant in order to be considered chocolate. However, milk and dark chocolate showcase the unique flavor of the cacao nibs and white chocolate showcases the cocoa butter. The nibs are what give milk chocolate the brown color, which is made paler by adding cream when tempering.

White chocolate doesn't have the nib component, so it is able to stay pale in color and tends to have a richer, more buttery profile. White chocolate also contains more fat than the other types of chocolate because of the high amounts of cocoa butter.

Aside from this luxurious mouth-coating aspect, white chocolate offers eaters a more delicate flavor that can highlight other ingredients well, especially floral, citrus, and light berry flavors. Darker chocolates have a deeper essence, aren't as fatty, and work well with warming spices, chilies, and hearty nuts. 

How to Cook With White Chocolate

Because white chocolate is high in saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, it holds its shape at room temperature and doesn't melt as easily as dark or milk chocolate. This makes white chocolate a great ingredient for foods that might be left out at a birthday party, covering fruit, decorating a cake, and anywhere else the more delicate, darker chocolates could melt. White chocolate is also a good catalyst for other flavors to come through thanks to its milky taste and fatty profile. 

The only way white chocolate cannot be processed, like the other chocolates, is in powder form. This is due to the cocoa butter and lack of cacao solids. If you see powdered white chocolate on a store shelf it is not made with true white chocolate and often will be labeled as "white chocolate flavored." However, sauces can be made with real white chocolate and used to create drinks or top sundaes. In general, white chocolate can be used anywhere dark or milk chocolate is featured, including truffles, a hot mocha drink, candies, cookies, and other confections. 

white chocolate

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white chocolate covered pretzels

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white chocolate chips

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chocolate bunnies

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white chocolate truffles

Getty Images / nevodka

What Does It Taste Like? 

Real white chocolate has a sweet, buttery flavor with hints of vanilla and fresh milk. The texture is smooth and melty even when the confection remains solid, and some versions may have floral notes and hints of honey and sweet cream.

White Chocolate Recipes

Work white chocolate into desserts like any other kind of chocolate. The flavor proves different but can add other nuances to all sorts of sweets. Try chopped or white chocolate chips in cookies, brownies, and bars; melted white chocolate in frostings, puddings, and sauces, and more.

Where to Buy White Chocolate

There are so many white chocolates on the market including sauces, chips, nuggets, bars, and shavings. Aside from the viscosity and shape of the ingredient, white chocolate also varies in how it's made. To be labeled as white chocolate, the food must contain 20 percent cocoa butter.

Over the past several decades, cocoa butter has gotten more expensive, so a lot of commercial white chocolate is made with fillers such as vegetable oil to help lower the cost. When seeking true white chocolate, look for labels and ingredient lists that state at least 20 percent of the bar, truffle, chip, or sauce is made with real cocoa butter. For pure white chocolate, shop for the stuff that's made of just cocoa butter, milk, and sugar, with lecithin and vanilla sometimes added. 

Storage

Don't place white chocolate anywhere it can melt or get too cold. It's best kept in an airtight container out of direct sunlight at room temperature or in a slightly cool space. To preserve freshness, wrap white chocolate in plastic or parchment paper before sealing.

Myths

A common myth about white chocolate is that it isn't really chocolate. That statement has been proved false on many accounts, especially when it comes to legit confection shops. There are standards for white chocolate as there are with milk and dark chocolates—the FDA states all real white chocolate must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter. That said, there are candy companies that make a white chocolate-like product that's not actually chocolate. If created in the United States, these candies can't be labeled as chocolate. To make sure the white chocolate on hand is real, check the ingredients.