What Do Cocoa Percentages in Chocolate Mean?

Last Update: December 21, 2023

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 (and organized from lowest to highest percentages), these sweet treats cover the full chocolate spectrum.

Tempering chocolate

Tony’s Chocolonely Milk Chocolate 42% Bar, Pretzel Toffee

Salty pretzels and sweet toffee team up in this dreamy 42% chocolate bar from Tony’s Chocolonely. The dark milk chocolate is sourced directly from farmers and comes in bright recycled packaging.

Endorfin Foods Caramelized Coconut 54% Cacao Chocolate Bar

Instead of dairy, Endorfin Foods infuses its 54% chocolate bar with caramelized coconut for a rich flavor and smooth texture that’s also vegan and paleo-friendly.

GoodSam Mint Chocolate Bar, Sugar Free

GoodSam makes its 55% dark chocolate bar with organic mint and cacao sourced from Colombia’s Plandas region. The direct trade ingredients come together for a sugar-free and vegan treat that Thrive Market member Kristin from Connecticut calls “one of my favorite chocolate bars ever.”

Lily’s Sweets Baking Chips, Dark Chocolate

When your recipe calls for chocolate chips, Lily’s has you covered with stevia-sweetened and fair trade certified dark chocolate. The gluten-free morsels feature 55% cacao, and taste just as delicious in a warm cookie as they do by the handful (not that we would know anything about that).

Endangered Species Fair Trade Dark Chocolate – 88% Cocoa

This bold chocolate bar has hints of fruit and spice, and you can feel good about every bite knowing that 10 percent of proceeds are donated to charity. Here’s a tip from Sarah in Indiana, who knows one bar is never enough: “I always have a bar (or two) around when I need a chocolate fix.”

Taza Chocolate Organic Wicked Dark Ground Chocolate Bar

If your family is all over the map when it comes to dietary needs, here’s one sustainable chocolate bar everyone can get behind. Taza’s 95% organic stone ground chocolate is barely sweet and accommodates gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free, low-sugar, and kosher lifestyles.

Raaka Unroasted Dark Chocolate Bar, 100% Cacao

For the cacao purists, you might say we saved the best for last. Only two ingredients are inside this creamy and bright bar from Raaka: organic cacao beans and organic cacao butter from Tanzania. Carlos from New York shares that “if you are a fan of dark chocolate, this does not disappoint.”

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Jillian Gordon

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