Semi-sweet chocolate is low-fat, dark chocolate with a delicate balance between sweet and bitter flavors. This chocolate is made from cocoa solids, sugar, vanilla, and emulsifier. There’s no difference between semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate.
The amount of sugar in semi-sweet chocolate isn’t regulated and differs from brand to brand, giving varying levels of sweetness to balance the bitter taste.
Semi-sweet chocolate is a popular ingredient in many pastries and baking recipes, like chocolate-chip cookies. In many dessert recipes, the chocolate must be melted in a double boiler and gradually added to the other ingredients for a rich chocolate flavor and dark color.
This chocolate is also great for eating.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate vs. Dark Chocolate
There are three main types of dark chocolate — semi-sweet, bittersweet, and bitter. Dark chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa solids to be classified as dark chocolate. The higher the cocoa solid content, the more bitter and less sweet the chocolate is.
Semi-sweet chocolate is a popular type of dark chocolate and comes in chocolate chips, blocks, discs, or slabs containing between 35–65% cocoa solids. This chocolate provides the perfect balance between bitter and sweet in baked goods, desserts, and chocolate sauce.
Bittersweet chocolate, darker in color than semi-sweet chocolate, contains between 65–80% cocoa solids and is more bitter than semi-sweet chocolate. Bitter chocolate, the darkest of the three types, contains more than 80% cocoa solids and is extremely bitter with very little sweetness.
Bittersweet or bitter chocolate can substitute for semi-sweet chocolate in confectionery recipes like chocolate chip cookies and in desserts. If a sweeter flavor is preferred, add some extra sugar to the recipe when using bitter chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate.
Dark chocolate is often used as an accompaniment to savory dishes to complement more salty or umami flavors. All types of dark chocolate go well with strong cheeses, providing a balance of bittersweet and savory.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate vs. Milk chocolate
Milk chocolate has a creamier, smoother texture than semi-sweet chocolate because of the milk and fat content in milk chocolate, which semi-sweet chocolate lacks.
Containing only 10–15% cocoa solids, milk chocolate contains a lot less cocoa than semi-sweet chocolate and doesn’t have the same hint of bitterness. Milk chocolate also has a higher sugar content than semi-sweet chocolate, making this variety much sweeter.
Creamy chocolate mousse is best when made with milk chocolate, and nothing beats a rich, chocolatey, creamy hot chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream. For a chocolate mousse that is lighter and less sweet, use semi-sweet chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate is better suited to desserts like chocolate brownies or salted dark chocolate tarts.
How to Choose Semi-Sweet Chocolate
There are many brands of semi-sweet chocolate available. The more expensive brands are usually made by reputable manufacturers who use responsibly sourced cocoa beans and quality ingredients. Try a few different brands to find your personal favorite.
Select a level of sweetness and bitterness according to personal taste and the recommendations in your recipe. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the more bitter the chocolate. Check the ingredients list for the percentage of cocoa solids in the chocolate.
Check the best-before date to ensure that the chocolate is fresh. Semi-sweet chocolate has a long shelf life and is good to use for a few months after the best-before date. However, old chocolate has a dry, brittle texture and loses some of its flavors.
How to Store Semi-Sweet Chocolate
Semi-sweet chocolate should be kept in a cool, dark place because exposure to heat and direct sunlight causes the chocolate to deteriorate. Intense heat melts the chocolate and, once the chocolate has melted and then solidified again, the texture and quality of the chocolate are compromised.
Chocolate that has been opened should be stored in an air-tight sealed container or a Ziploc bag. Exposure to air makes the chocolate dry and brittle.
A fine, white coating sometimes appears on chocolate that has been left open and exposed to air. This coating doesn’t affect the taste or quality of the chocolate.
Avoid storing semi-sweet chocolate in the refrigerator, or any other place with exposure to strong food odors. Sharp odors like onion or garlic can be transferred to the chocolate, affecting the taste. Moisture in the fridge alters the fat and sugar cell structure in the chocolate, harming its texture.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Nutrition
Semi-sweet and dark chocolate is healthy chocolate choices because they contain less fat than milk chocolate. Cocoa beans are rich in antioxidants that promote heart health and can lower blood pressure. Although semi-sweet and dark chocolate is considered to be healthy chocolate options when consumed in moderation, overconsumption of any chocolate causes health problems.
These bitter types of chocolate contain less sugar than other chocolates, resulting in fewer calories. Dark chocolate is a healthy choice for people who are watching their sugar intake or trying to control their weight.