What’s the Difference Between
Dark and Milk Chocolate?

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At Hershey – like most chocolate lovers – we have a light side and a dark side. Sometimes we indulge in sweet, creamy and delicious, while other times we prefer dark and rich with a little bite. Have you ever stopped to wonder what makes dark chocolate different from milk chocolate?

“Technically, the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate lies with the ingredients,” says Carrie Clark, Research Scientist, Regulatory & Nutrition R&D and, in particular, the amount of chocolate liquor* and milk fat.

But it’s not up to each chocolatier to decide just how much chocolate liquor or milk fat goes in. The FDA sets standards of identity for different types of chocolate. Milk chocolate must be at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk solids, while dark chocolate must be at least 15% chocolate liquor and less than 12% milk solids. These requirements help ensure products deliver the taste you expect.

But these are basic standards, and Clark is quick to point out, “There can be great variation within milk chocolate or dark chocolate by adjusting the sweeteners and other ingredients.” Exact amounts are up to the chocolatier to determine, giving rise to the wide range of products we see within the milk and dark chocolate categories. Because of this, general statements about the nutrition content of the products are hard to make. “The different ingredients in different amounts in these types of chocolate is what sets them apart and gives them different flavors and textures. It also means there are many nutritional differences from one bar to another, all dependent on the manufacturer.” To get exactly what you expect and want, the best thing to do is read the nutrition label and ingredient statement on the package.

While they are technically different, milk chocolate and dark chocolate are in many ways simply a matter of personal preference. What taste do you enjoy the most? Slight differences in texture and flavor can help you tailor a recipe and make the taste all your own. Here are a few unexpected ideas to enjoy the wonderful flavors and textures of both chocolate varieties.

 

Milk Chocolate Pairings
Dark Chocolate Pairings

Ginger

Fried Onions

Kettle Corn

Bacon

Beets

Avocado

Toasted Sesame Seeds

Jalapeños

 

So…dark vs. milk chocolate? This might be one of those times when the answer is far less important than tasting…er…testing all the possibilities.

 

*Chocolate liquor is pure cocoa mass in solid or semi-solid form. Like the cocoa beans (nibs) from which it is produced, it contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in roughly equal proportion.

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