Spruce up your salads with these chocolate vinaigrette and balsamic dressing ideas

3 Jul 2023

Food + Drink

Spruce up your green salads with our cacao-rich chocolate vinaigrettes and dressings for a unique savoury flavour

The best cacao-rich chocolate effortlessly bridges the gap between sweet and savoury dishes. Think chilli con carne with a hint of dark chocolate or a vanilla-scented white chocolate sauce with baked salmon. But have you ever considered using chocolate as a balsamic seasoning in a salad?

The association with spices makes pairing cacao vinaigrette and chocolate balsamic salad dressings with crisp green leaves such a surprising success. Just imagine it, a dinner with chocolate in every course, from a refreshing salad starter to an indulgent dessert.

Salad with a vinaigrette dressing

Who knew chocolate and salad could be such a refreshing combination?

Want to pep up your salads? Cacao could be the key.

We’re guessing you’re already familiar with using dark chocolate in savoury recipes. But have you ever considered shaving chocolate into a green salad? Or whisking up a chocolate vinaigrette?

It’s not as strange as it seems. Take flaked sea salt on a steak or Parmesan shaved over pasta, for instance. It’s a way of introducing a pleasingly bitter-sweet flavour profile. After all, a collection of supermarket salad leaves can often be lifeless and bland. And there’s nothing new in savoury chocolate — the Mesoamericans were cooking turkey and fish with chocolate some 2,500 years ago. And when cacao landed in Europe in the 18th century, it soon graced Spanish and Italian tables in everything from picadas to pasta.

It’s the plethora of aroma molecules in the cacao bean that gives it such versatility. Think of it as a spice, enhancing the hero ingredient. Blue cheese loves the complex bitterness of our 85% Dark Chocolate Batons. And chocolate and tomatoes share an umami-rich flavour profile, so a few gratings of dark chocolate unlock unexpected pops of spiciness. Likewise, a fresh green salad with rocket, cucumber and buttery avocado gets a welcome pop of bitterness and piquancy with a cacao vinaigrette.

What does chocolate balsamic taste like?

Good balsamic is the king of salad vinegar. It’s rich and complex with hints of fig and grape combined with the character of the wood barrels it’s aged in. And in terms of its origins, balsamic vinegar has a lot in common with cacao. But where cacao beans are fermented, dried and aged before processing into chocolate, Lambrusco or Trebbiano grapes are pressed, cooled down to concentrate the sugars and then fermented to form Balsamic.

So you’d expect such a multi-layered taste profile to pair well with chocolate. As a result, cacao-rich chocolate rounds out the vinegar’s sweetness and balances the tart acidity perfectly. And that beautiful balance works just as well when drizzled over strawberries and gelato as pears, baby kale and goat’s cheese.

Pouring balsamic dressing into a white bowl

What type of chocolate works best for a balsamic dressing?

Maybe surprisingly, cacao-rich milk, like our 40% Milk Chocolate Batons, is an excellent match with an aged balsamic. It rounds out the acidity and builds on the richness of the vinegar for a smooth mouthfeel that would be amazing with strawberries and other berry fruit in your next salad.

For the perfect balance, our 70% Dark Chocolate Batons deliver all the savoury complexity of a dark stout. It’s a deep, dark and decadent dressing for a blue cheese and candied walnut salad to impress.

But if you crave a total hit of sour-sweetness, our rare and vintage 100% Dark Chocolate Batons are fantastic with a deeply aged sipping vinegar. It’s a powerful combination that adds incredible intensity to a simple green salad with shards of well-aged Parmesan.

Chocolate balsamic recipes to give your salad a new lease of life

You open up a vast panorama of possibilities once you move away from the idea that chocolate should always be used in desserts. To inspire you, why not browse our Batons and Slabs collection and try our favourite chocolate balsamic vinegar salad dressing recipes?

Dark chocolate and balsamic dipping sauce

Our basic chocolate and balsamic dipping sauce is easy to whip up and incredibly versatile. So why not let this simple recipe open up a world of potential flavour combinations? It features olive oil, sunflower oil and balsamic vinegar alongside a pinch of salt and, of course, the magic ingredient: chocolate.

Using our 70% chocolate will highlight the subtle spiciness of the balsamic, making this a fabulous dip and drizzle for crisp green salads and cheese and fruit pairings like nectarine and goat’s cheese.

Kids won’t eat their veg? Roast up a tray of roots and drizzle with this delicious glaze straight out of the oven. Or push the cacao content as far as you dare to add those smoky tobacco flavours that love a good steak.

Sweet and tangy chocolate vinaigrette

There’s nothing nicer when eating in the garden than a beautiful sharing salad. A careful collection of baby leaves, pea shoots, a scattering of soft summer fruits and a scattering of blur or goat’s cheese will all fall in love with this simple chocolate vinaigrette.

  • First, grate 25g of dark chocolate — the more cacao, the more savoury and nuanced the dressing — and melt in quick bursts in the microwave.
  • Stir in 4 tablespoons of your favourite balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of honey to taste before whisking in 8 tablespoons of neutral oil like sunflower or peanut.
  • Chilli complements chocolate beautifully, so add finely diced red chilli to taste and use it to dress a Tex-Mex-style salad with shredded roast chicken and avocado. We also love to pep it up with garlic and ginger, which makes a great Asian-style dressing tossed through tofu and steamed broccoli.

White chocolate vinaigrette

It’s not only dark chocolate that’s the yin to balsamic vinegar’s yang. Our delicate, creamy White Chocolate Batons are the basis of a beautiful pale vinaigrette that works with anything from steamed baby vegetables to fish and shellfish.

You’ll need:

  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 4tbsp grated white chocolate
  • 4tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • Mustard, garlic, and lemon (optional)

First, sweat your shallots with the sprig of thyme until translucent. Then stir in your white chocolate along with two tablespoons of water.

Once it’s all melted together, puree the pan contents with a blender.

Finally, drizzle in 4 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar, which emulsifies with the high cacao butter content in our white chocolate to create a velvety dressing that’s divine on spring greens, spinach and roasted veggies.

You can also add a dash of mustard, a squeeze of lemon and a scraping of garlic to take your potato salad to the next level. 

White chocolate sauce for salad

Elevate your chocolate balsamic with ingredients from Hotel Chocolat

Inspired to elevate your chocolate balsamic recipes with our luxury cacao-rich recipes? Shop Batons and Slabs online at Hotel Chocolat and make your summer salads sing.