Is white chocolate actually chocolate?

6 Sep 2023

White Chocolate

Mellow and creamy, white chocolate certainly has a place in our hearts but does it count as ‘real’ chocolate? Let’s put the debate to rest…

There’s no denying that chocolate is a timeless agent of joy, the source of what many consider to be the food of the ancient gods. However, there’s always been that ‘other’ chocolate. You know, the one that’s a bit lighter, a bit creamier, yet distinctly flavourful. Introducing: white chocolate.

Since it came into popular circulation in 1936, the burning question that leaves even the most seasoned cacao fans scratching their heads is this…

Is white chocolate actually chocolate?

white chocolate and almonds

Where did white chocolate come from?

Well, the origin story of white chocolate actually shows that it actually evolved by accident. A famous Swiss chocolate brand originally aimed to create a shelf-stable milk product with cocoa butter during a period when fresh milk was less accessible.

The aim was purely medicinal: to create an easily digestible source of nutrition. However, when they mixed cocoa butter with milk and sugar, what emerged was less of a medicine,  and more of a delicacy. The creamy chocolate creation was an immediate hit, becoming a well-loved indulgence. The birth of this confection was indeed a happy accident, resulting in a luxurious treat that’s been capturing imaginations ever since.

What makes chocolate… chocolate?

Before we sink our teeth into the creamy delicacy that is white chocolate, let’s unravel the anatomy that makes up milk and dark chocolate. Traditional chocolate, be it dark chocolate or milk chocolate, primarily consists of cacao solids, cocoa butter, and sugar.

The cacao solids give chocolate its classic taste and rich colour that we know and love. On the other hand, cocoa butter (the fatty component extracted from the cacao bean) offers the melt-in-your-mouth texture that we’ve enjoyed for centuries.

What is white chocolate made of?

In comparison to dark chocolate and milk chocolate, the ingredients of white chocolate differ — albeit, ever so slightly. When making white chocolate, you can say goodbye to the trusty cacao solids. Instead, cocoa butter takes centre stage, accompanied by sugar and milk solids. 

The creamy quality that you experience when biting into a piece of white chocolate can be attributed to cocoa butter — arguably, the very essence of the cacao bean. Add this to a mixture of sugar and milk solids, and you get the delight treat at the centre of this article.

Cacao butter from the cacao pod

So, is white chocolate ‘chocolate’?

We know you’re probably still wondering if white chocolate truly counts as ‘chocolate’.

Well, technically, it does. The cocoa butter that makes this treat so irresistibly smooth is extracted from the cacao bean. However, the absence of cacao solids means it lacks the characteristic flavour and colour that you’d normally find in milk or dark chocolate — a flavour that we’d usually define as something being ‘chocolate’. 

So, whilst white chocolate doesn’t fit the conventional mould of what we’d define as chocolate, it’s not entirely a stranger to the umbrella family. Think of it as chocolate’s distant relative with its own unique, individualistic personality traits.

Some chocolate-lovers argue that because white chocolate lacks cacao solids — the soul of the humble cacao bean — it shouldn’t wear the ‘chocolate’ crown.

On the other hand, the presence of cocoa butter, a bona fide product of the cacao bean, means it can’t be entirely excluded from the chocolate clan either.

So, where do we go from here? At this point, it’s probably time to confide in some legislation. In legal terms, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that “as long as white chocolate contains a minimum amount of 20% cocoa butter, it can be sold as chocolate”.

So yes, within the corridors of legal definitions, white chocolate has definitely earned its official stripes. If you agree with this or not, however, is entirely up to you, dear chocolate lovers.

The final verdict

So, is white chocolate real chocolate? In the sense that it contains the sublime cocoa butter, it holds its own legitimate place in the chocolate universe. It might not share the full spectrum of flavours and nuances that cacao solids bring to the table, but it delivers its unique, creamy, and luxurious experience that many have come to love and adore.

Embrace the mellow notes of white chocolate with Hotel Chocolat

As you can probably tell, we at Hotel Chocolat are extensive white chocolate enthusiasts. Not only does it give us more flavour combinations to play with, but it also lets us explore different textures and tasting notes. Here are just a few of our best-selling white chocolates:

Eton Mess Slab

Quintessentially British, the Eton Mess Slab embodies everything that a good piece of white chocolate should be. A timeless classic including strawberry-vanilla swirled white chocolate, meringue, and chocolate biscuit. This is a flavour combination that definitely speaks for itself.

Hotel Chocolat Eton Mess Slab Selector

White Chocolate Collection Selector

Our White Chocolate Collection Selector consists of three smooth varieties – all the best in one delicious package. Choose from the Blondie with its centre of crispy caramel and pecan praline, the Strawberry Cheesecake including real layers of mascarpone and strawberry, or the Eton Mess bites with their centre of softly-whipped strawberry mousse. 

White Chocolate Batons

If you fancy some pure creamy indulgence, try our White Chocolate Batons, enveloped in our signature white chocolate. We make these batons with a high percentage (36%) of cocoa butter, ensuring that our white chocolate stays how it should: creamy and smooth. Share them amongst friends or keep them all for yourself — whatever you decide, we won’t judge.

Give white chocolate a place in your heart

Ready to indulge in the world of white chocolate? No matter if you believe it’s really chocolate or not, allow us to introduce you to Hotel Chocolat’s exquisite range of white chocolates.

Be prepared for a sensory experience so heavenly — you’ll question why you ever doubted its place in the chocolate family. Because in the grand tapestry of cacao, every thread has its own story to tell and a flavour to share. Yes, even white chocolate.

Remember, life’s too short for ordinary chocolate. Because a true cacao lover knows that every shade of chocolate is worth celebrating.