What Do Cocoa Percentages in Chocolate Mean?

July 12th, 2019

In most cases, when it comes to chocolate, more is definitely more. But does this rule apply when we’re talking about chocolate percentages? Is a 70 percent chocolate bar better in quality or healthy benefits than a 60 percent bar? What is a chocolate percentage anyway? If you’ve ever been confused by the numbers displayed on a chocolate bar label, you’re not alone. After all, chocolate is supposed to be a treat, not a math problem. The truth is that percentages can help you break down how much chocolate is actually in a bar, as well as give insight into its flavor profile. Chocolate percentages can also help you make informed choices when it comes to choosing sweets that fit your dietary needs. Let’s take a closer look at understanding chocolate by the numbers.

What are Percentages in Chocolate?

When you see a percentage listed on a chocolate bar or product, the number refers to how much of the product, by weight, is made from cacao beans or parts thereof (like cocoa butter, chocolate liquor or cocoa solids). This percentage can be used to measure the sweetness, flavor, and intensity of the bar. For example, a bar that is labeled 60 percent will be sweeter and less intensely rich than an 80 percent bar. In addition, percentages in dark chocolate can help determine sugar content since dark chocolate is typically made from cacao beans, sugar, and possibly vanilla or lecithin. So a 70 percent dark chocolate bar most likely contains about 30 percent sugar.

What is the Healthiest Percentage in Dark Chocolate?

Put simply, the higher the percentage of cacao beans, the healthier the chocolate since the sugar content is reduced. However, the purest form of dark chocolate is comprised of 85 to 100 percent cacao beans, which is nearly impossible to enjoy on its own due to its bitter flavor. This type of chocolate (known as unsweetened chocolate) is typically used for baking. When it comes to healthy snacking, 70 percent dark chocolate is a good choice to get the flavor you’re craving while also getting a dose of the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate. However, it’s important to note that percentages relate to quantity and not quality. Each component of the manufacturing process, from fermentation to drying, can potentially alter the antioxidant levels of the final product. Here’s a tip: Look for preservative-free brands that work to keep the integrity of the chocolate intact every step of the way.

Does a Higher Percentage in Chocolate Mean Less Carbs?

Generally speaking, yes. The higher the cacao percentage in a chocolate bar, the less room there is for additional fillers like sugar (which increase the product’s carb content). If you’re following the keto diet, for example, you can satisfy those chocolate cravings by reaching for a piece of high-percentage dark chocolate. Look for keto-friendly bars that contain more fat than the protein and carb content combined.

How Much Cacao Is in Milk Chocolate vs. Dark Chocolate?

You probably already know that not all chocolate is created equal. In fact, there are some key differences when it comes to milk versus dark chocolate. According to the FDA, milk chocolate must have a minimum of 10 percent cocoa solids and 12 percent milk solids (condensed milk, cream, dried milk, milk powder, etc.) to be considered milk chocolate. Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate does not contain milk solids and is primarily made of cacao beans, sugar, and an emulsifier such as soy lecithin. Dark chocolate can range from a 30 percent cacao content (sweet dark) to above 80 percent for extremely dark bars.

Best Chocolate Products by Percentage

From delicate to bold, these sweet treats cover the full chocolate spectrum.

Tempering chocolate

Endorfin Foods Caramelized Coconut 54% Cacao Chocolate Bar

Milk chocolate gets a modern spin with coconut instead of dairy. With 54 percent cacao and 46 percent coconut sugar and caramelized coconut, this decadent bar is vegan and paleo-friendly.

Cacoco 65% Golden Dark Drinking Chocolate

Hot chocolate just got a major upgrade thanks to this superfood-infused drinking chocolate, made of 65 percent golden dark chocolate, turmeric, maca, and cardamom. Just add to hot water and enjoy a soothing sip.

Theo Chocolate 70% Cocoa Orange Organic Dark Chocolate

Zesty and creamy, this unexpected combo pairs organic, sustainably farmed 70 percent dark chocolate with the essence of fresh oranges.

EatingEvolved Almond & Sea Salt Primal Chocolate

Craving a crunchy snack? Sink your teeth into organic sprouted almonds surrounded by 72 percent cacao. Each paleo-friendly bar includes organic cacao, organic cane sugar, organic coconut butter, organic almonds, and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt.

Pascha Organic 85% Dark Chocolate Chips

Perfect for cookies, muffins, scones, and anything requiring a little chocolatey richness, these 85 percent bittersweet chips are dairy-, gluten-, soy-, and egg-free.

Thrive Market Organic Paleo Dark Chocolate 95%

Our 95 percent dark chocolate is about as intense as it gets! The extremely dark, paleo-friendly bar is made with just two ingredients: ethically sourced, stone-ground cacao and a touch of coconut sugar.

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Jillian Gordon

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