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What is Bitter Chocolate?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Unsweetened or bitter chocolate is chocolate without any type of sweetener added. It is often used in baking and other projects in which the cook wants to personally adjust the level of sweetness. This type of chocolate is also the base for all over chocolate products, since it is chocolate in its pure and unadulterated form. As most people who have tried to nibble on a piece of baking chocolate know, this chocolate is indeed bitter, and highly unpalatable.

Chocolate making starts with harvesting the pods of the cacao plant, Theobroma cacao, native to South and Central America. The pods are split apart to yield the cacao nibs, which are in turn fermented and then ground into a paste called cocoa liquor. The cocoa liquor is processed to yield a wide assortment of chocolate products.

When processed properly, cocoa liquor yields approximately half cocoa butter and half solids. This is what is turned into bitter chocolate. Many nations have laws which dictate the composition of this type of chocolate, along with other chocolate products, so that consumers know what they are buying when they read a label. The cocoa liquor can also be treated in other ways, which include the separation of cocoa butter and cocoa solids for use in products such as cocoa and white chocolate.

To make semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chocolate producers add a small amount of a sweetener to bitter chocolate to temper the intensely bitter flavor. The addition of larger amounts of sugar results in sweetened chocolate. The unsweetened cocoa liquor can also be blended with milk to make milk chocolate, and other seasonings such as vanilla or chili powder can be added for specific desired flavors.

By using bitter chocolate as the basis of chocolate candies and other desserts, cooks can control the level of sweetness in the final product. This chocolate may also be of a higher quality, since the chocolate producer cannot hide shortcomings behind milk and additives. It is also highly shelf stable, and can keep for several years if tightly wrapped and stored in a cool dry place.

Several things can impact the flavor of bitter chocolate. Different types of cacao beans have different flavors, and the handling and processing of the beans can alter the flavor as well. Mishandling may cause any sort of chocolate to become rancid or soured, which is why it is important to buy bitter chocolate from a reputable source.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By musicshaman — On Dec 20, 2010

Ooh, I can't stand bitter chocolate! I am definitely chocolate-obsessed, but in my mind the best chocolates are those amazing chocolate truffles that you can get from Thorntons or William Curley's.

I am hopeless at cooking, so I don't know how they do it, but something about the way those creamy truffles just absolutely melt in your mouth is incredible.

Of course, on a daily basis I'm an M&M person -- peanut, if I can get them. I also like Reeses, but the real ones. None of this sugar free chocolate nonsense for me!

What about you guys, what's your take on bitter chocolate?

By googlefanz — On Dec 18, 2010

I know this may be really weird, but I actually prefer bitter chocolate to regular chocolate.

As far as I'm concerned, some of the best chocolate on the market today is cooking chocolate. It definitely has a different taste than the chocolate sold as confectionary, but when you get used to it, it's actually very addicting.

I have always been a fan of darker chocolates, but it was only when my Mom was baking a chocolate cake and I snuck a bar of her cooking chocolate that I fell in love with the really dark chocolates, the bitter chocolates.

And hey, even though its weird, at least it's healthier -- most of the chocolate health benefits you hear about are related to dark or bitter chocolate.

So give it a go -- you might find out that you like it!

By closerfan12 — On Dec 16, 2010

It is really amazing how many different things you can do with chocolate. Many people think that you can only use it for candy or sweet things, but actually chocolate can be used for many other dishes, either to add complexity to the flavor or to give your dish a fun texture.

One thing I really like to do is to make a bitter chocolate sauce to go with roasts. It's very easy, and works well for game roasts as well as aged beef.

All you do is take about 100 mL of red wine (cooking wine), some good quality beef stock, a knob of butter, and 20g of bitter chocolate.

Simmer your wine until it's down to syrup, then add in the stock. Reduce it down again, and then add in your butter and chocolate, stirring to keep it from sticking.

This will definitely be your secret weapon when it comes to nice meals because people never think of having chocolate in sauce. They won't know what that amazing flavor is, but they'll definitely appreciate it!

By BrickBack — On Nov 24, 2010

Chocolate health benefits are significant.People that ingest little bar of dark chocolate lower their LDL cholesterol by about 10%.

In addition, dark chocolate lowers blood pressure which really makes the heart healthier. The dark chocolate has antioxidant agents that provide cell renewal for the skin and leave you looking younger.

Healthy chocolate is really consider the dark type of chocolate. The milk chocolate bars offer limited benefits.

I love the dark chocolate Lindt bars. I usually keep one in the refrigerator and take a small square daily and I really look forward to it.

It takes care of my chocolate craving and I know that this is the best chocolate and it is good for me.

I usually buy the 70% cocoa bars. I think they also have sugar free versions of their Lindor chocolate truffles. I can not get enough of those. They make the best stocking stuffers because their chocolate is so rich and creamy that they just melt in your mouth.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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