What Is White Chocolate, Really?

Is white chocolate actually a type of chocolate? Let’s see…

This very question has been known to rile up even the sweetest of chocoholics, rousing debate after debate. With milder in flavor and creamier in texture than its milk and dark chocolate cousins, white chocolate tends to be quite the polarizing treat. Naturally, we went to our chefs for their thoughts. Head Chef Elana did not disappoint, doling out this hard-hitting opinion: “White chocolate doesn’t deserve its chocolate title. Give me 74% dark chocolate any day over this imposter!” Way harsh, Tai. So what is white chocolate, exactly, and why does it have so many dessert-lovers up in arms?

Though its origins remain somewhat mysterious, white chocolate is said to have been created in Switzerland in the 1930s as a way to put excess cocoa butter to good use. Prepared by mixing cocoa butter with milk solids and sugar, it can also contain emulsifying ingredients, antioxidants, and extras like vanilla or cinnamon. The bottom line? It doesn’t actually contain cocoa liquor or chocolate solids found in its milk and dark chocolate friends, finding its flavor mainly from its milky, buttery components. So technically, it’s more of a derivative than a legit choco sib. Think of it as a sweet, creamy blank canvas—decadent on its own for those who want a hit of richness and smooth texture, but mild enough to complement fruits, nuts, and even other types of chocolate.

For Chef Michelle, white chocolate is the dark horse of the dessert world. “I have a really big sweet tooth, and I love white chocolate because it’s sweet and buttery-smooth without the bitter component of dark chocolate,” she tells us. “I like to eat it on its own, but also in conjunction with other types of chocolate.”

An avid baker, she also loves the ingredient’s ability to balance out salty or bitter flavors. “Sometimes, I’ll add a handful of white chocolate chips to a hot bag of microwave popcorn to get a sweet-salty mix,” she notes. She actually gave us that recipe, and you’re gonna want it. Michelle also loves to use white chocolate to add sweetness and creaminess to regular black coffee. Hmm, might have to try that one.

But white chocolate isn’t all sugar and spice and everything nice (read: butter). It can be particularly difficult to melt, and can clump if heated too quickly or at too high a temperature (and no one wants that). To avoid this, Michelle suggests microwaving your chocolate in 30 second intervals until the mixture is just melted. This will allow your chocolate to melt slowly and evenly for smooth, swoon-worthy results.

In the end, this is what matters: If you love white chocolate, do it right. Below, we’ve got some suggestions for how to put the stuff to good use. Whether chopped and sprinkled atop a batch of brownies, melted and folded into whipped cream, stuffed into cookies, or drizzled over a decadent tart, it sounds pretty sweet to us.

Jam bars

Inspired by the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, kids and grown-up kids alike will be equally obsessed with this treat. A crunchy base topped with blackberry jam harks back to the childhood favorite, but it’s the white chocolate and almond streusel that really takes this dessert to the next level, adding rich texture and buttery flavor to these addictive bars.

Cherry pie

Gooey, sweet, and oh-so-buttery, homemade cherry pie is one of our all-time favorites. In this twist on the classic, we’re stuffing the filling into flaky, oven-warmed biscuits to create individual shortcakes. Another cheffy touch? Rich, smooth, white-chocolate infused whipped cream—the perfect creamy topping for this finger-licking dessert.

Mocha cheesecake

This no-bake mocha cheesecake is as easy to eat as it is to make! Cream cheese, mascarpone, and melted white and dark chocolate are whipped together until fluffy, along with butter and a hit of espresso powder. This result is, well, totally dreamy. For a salty-sweet finish, there’s a drizzle of even more chocolate and a sprinkling of sea salt. Ready to achieve dessert nirvana?

Caramel rocky road

Ooey, gooey, and endlessly delightful, these rocky road bars combine many of our favorite sweet treats: semisweet and white chocolate, marshmallows, and melty caramel. Pro tip: Assemble the bars and pop ’em in the oven before you eat dinner, then set aside to cool and they’ll be ready by the time you’re craving dessert!

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