Ingredients in Chocolate


Chocolate contains very few ingredients, yet varieties of chocolate vary widely with respect to flavor, texture, and viscosity. In the United States, the FDA closely regulates the ingredients, and the quantities of those ingredients, that may be present in various cacao products to meet the FDA's definition for chocolate. European regulations and nomenclature for chocolate are slightly different, but are also closely regulated. An overview of the permissible ingredients found in chocolate and related products follows.


Chocolate Liquor

Chocolate liquor is the name used for cocoa beans that are ground into a paste, and it is the ingredient in dark and milk chocolates that provides chocolate flavor. Chocolate Liquor is also a legally permissible name for unsweetened chocolate.


roasted cocoa beans are approximately 55 percent fat; when they are ground, the cell walls rupture, releasing the cocoa butter. The result is a system consisting of solid cacao particles surrounded by fat (cocoa butter): chocolate liquor. Due to its high fat content, chocolate liquor is liquid when warmed above the melting point of cocoa butter. In the parlance of chocolate specifications, chocolate liquor is 100 percent cacao and 50 to 60 percent cocoa butter.


Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is the naturally occurring fat in cocoa beans. It is extracted from chocolate liquor by pressing, and is generally filtered and deodorized before use. The function of cocoa butter in chocolate is to suspend and lubricate sugar particles. Cocoa butter lowers the viscosity of melted chocolate, but does not itself significantly contribute to chocolate flavor, having little flavor of its own. Cocoa butter has several unique qualities that make it a very desirable fat:


Cocoa butter has a narrow melting range that is just below normal human body temperature: it tends to stay hard until it is very close to body temperature, and then it melts rapidly, carrying and releasing flavors on the palate.

Cocoa butter sets to a brittle consistency at normal room temperature: if cocoa butter were not brittle, chocolate would not have its characteristic snap.


Cocoa butter contracts significantly upon setting: it is the contraction of coca butter as it crystallizes that makes it possible for the confectioner to release chocolate easily from molds once it is set.


Along with this unique combination of desirable traits, however, cocoa butter possesses some more problematic aspects:

Cocoa butter is expensive: Cocoa butter is easily the most expensive ingredient in most chocolate.

Cocoa butter can be difficult to work with: Cocoa butter is the ingredient in chocolate that make it necessary to temper the chocolate prior to use.


In spite of the drawbacks of cocoa butter, it is a crucial part of the chocolate for the mouth feel it provides and for its working characteristics. Most chocolate contains not only the cocoa butter present in chocolate liquor, but additional cocoa butter as well. In order to obtain the extra cocoa butter for chocolate production, manufacturers must press it from chocolate liquor.


There is less disparity in the quality of cocoa butter from various beans than there is in the solids of those beans. As a result, manufacturers tend to press the chocolate liquor made from lower-quality beans to extract cocoa butter, leaving the solids to be sold as cocoa powder. All cocoa butters are not identical, however; their differences lie most noticeably in there melting points. Cocoa butter from beans grown nearer the Equator, such as those from Malaysia, tend to have a slightly higher melting point than cocoa butter pressed from beans grown in more moderate climates, such as Brazil. As a result, chocolate made from beans grown nearer the equator will require slightly higher temperatures for tempering and handling than those from less hot climates.



Sugar is typically the second most prevalent ingredient in dark chocolate, and makes up an even more substantial part of milk and white chocolates. Its purpose is simply to provide sweetness to bitter cacao. Although FDA regulations permit the use of any nutritive carbohydrate sweetener in chocolate manufacture, crystalline sucrose from sugarcane or sugar beets is by far the most commonly used sugar in chocolate. The sugar in chocolate is not dissolved, but is refined to very small particles to create a smooth mouth feel.


The crystalline sugar may be pulverized prior to being mixed with the batch, or may be fully refined together with the chocolate liquor. Either way, the particle size must ultimately be reduced to less than 25 microns, so that the chocolate will feel smooth in the mouth.


Milk Solids

Milk solids are a defining component of milk and white chocolate, and are permissible in American dark chocolate in quantities up to 12 percent, although it is seldom added to dark chocolate. Milks solids contribute a creamy, smooth flavor to milk and white chocolate. Several different forms of dry milk may be used in manufacturing, including spray dried milk, roller dried milk, and milk crumb. Each type of dry milk product has its own unique flavor profile and advantages. Manufacturers select the milk product based on the flavor profile they want their product to have. The milk solids added to some chocolates are treated with lipase, a fat-degrading enzyme, resulting in a sort of controlled rancidity of the fat in the dry milk. This is done to increase the buttery flavor of the milk solids in order  to obtain the signature flavor profile the manufacturer seeks.


Dairy Fat

Milk solids also contain butterfat, which has pronounced effects on cocoa butter: with the presence of butterfat, the rate of cocoa butter crystallization slows, and the temperature at which the various crystals form is depressed. Because of these phenomena, milk and white chocolate must be handled and used at lower temperature than dark chocolate.


Milk fat or butterfat is also a permissible ingredient in American dark chocolate. When used as an ingredient in dark chocolate, milk fat is added as a bloom inhibitor and to soften the chocolate slightly, resulting in a less brittle chocolate and a faster melt in the mouth. Milk fat is less expensive than cocoa butter it displaces, so it also lowers the cost of chocolate. Quality dark chocolate does not contain any fat other than cocoa butter. As with any of the ingredients used in manufacturing chocolate in the United States, if butterfat is present, it must be declared on the label.



Vanilla is the standard flavor adjunct used when manufacturing chocolate. it adds floral, creamy flavor notes that complement the bitterness of cacao and round out the flavor compound found in vanilla beans. Vanilla and vanillin are the flavors most commonly added to chocolate, but regulations allow the addition of many other flavors, including spices, nuts, salt, and natural or artificial flavors, provided they do not imitate the flavor of chocolate and their presence is indicated on the label.



Almost all chocolate contains trace amounts of lecithin. Lecithin is extracted from soybeans and is well known as an emulsifier. Because chocolate contains no water, it is not an emulsion, but rather a suspension of solid particles in fat. The function of lecithin in chocolate is not emulsification but viscosity reduction; a very small amount of lecithin greatly reduces viscosity only up to a point, however. Chocolate manufacturers usually add the amount of lecithin that will give them the maximum advantage in viscosity. When the lecithin in chocolate exceeds about 0.3 percent, viscosity begins to increase again, so adding more lecithin to chocolate will typically make it thicker, not thinner.