What's the Difference Between White and Dark Chocolate?


Most people like chocolate. In fact, it's the most popular confection in the world. Some studies say that eating chocolate can help you live longe r; others say it can mimic the feeling of falling in love. The beloved candy is known for its deep brown color, but it also comes in a white variety. Is white chocolate really chocolate?

Chocolate, especially fine chocolate, is often sold according to how dark it is, with packaging touting a percentage say, 35 percent, 55 percent, 78 percent and so on that indicates the amount of cocoa powder solids and cocoa butter in the chocolate. The lower-percentage blends are closer to milk chocolate, while the higher-percentage blends are darker and less sweet.

White chocolate, on the other hand, is not technically a chocolate at all it's made without any cocoa powder or solids. That doesn't mean it's not delicious, of course, but white chocolate is just cocoa butter mixed with milk and sugar. (Cocoa butter is a vegetable fat, not unlike olive oil or corn oil, except it's derived from the cocoa bean.)

Related: The Truth About Cocoa Butter

As the website for the Fine Chocolate Industry notes, dark chocolate "should not contain any ingredients beyond: cacao liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, and vanilla." In other words, cocoa butter is an ingredient in chocolate, but cocoa butter itself is not chocolate.

By the way, a higher percentage of cocoa doesn't necessarily mean better chocolate. The Fine Chocolate folks warn, "A higher cocoa percentage has little bearing on the quality. For example, a 70 percent chocolate may range from excellent to terrible."

Benjamin Radford
Live Science Contributor
Benjamin Radford is the Bad Science columnist for Live Science. He covers pseudoscience, psychology, urban legends and the science behind "unexplained" or mysterious phenomenon. Ben has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in psychology. He is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and has written, edited or contributed to more than 20 books, including "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries," "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" and “Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits,” out in fall 2017. His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.