Is White Chocolate Actually Real Chocolate?

Most dessert lovers have tried white chocolate — that pale, creamy, sweet confection that shows up in macadamia nut cookies, peppermint bark, mousse, and plenty of other treats. Of course, one can also go for straight white chocolate in the form of bars that range from supermarket quality, like Ghirardelli's Classic Baking Bar (via Ghirardelli), to specialty bars such as a lemon oil and sea-salt-accented white chocolate from Castronovo (via Cocoa Runners).

White chocolate is a mixture of cocoa butter, dairy milk, sweeteners, and other flavorings — but no cocoa solids or nibs, shares Dame Cacao. It tends to be a polarizing sweet, especially among the type of die-hard chocolate lovers who tend toward the dark varieties that are high in cocoa content and low in sugar (via Spoon University). In fact, many chocolate aficionados have claimed that the creamy white stuff is not chocolate at all, but rather a pale imitation that unjustly carries the name "chocolate." So does it really qualify as chocolate — or not?

Legally, white chocolate is chocolate

When it comes to discussing whether white chocolate can be considered real chocolate, there are two frameworks to consider: the legal definition of chocolate, and how the product tastes. By legal standards, according to Dame Cacao, white chocolate meets the definition of chocolate in countries where the term is regulated — like the U.S., the E.U., and Canada — as long as it contains at least 20% cocoa butter, or the expelled fat of the cocoa bean, and 3.5% milk solids, usually in the form of powdered milk.

But when it comes to taste, it can be hard to consider white chocolate to be true chocolate, since it lacks the actual cocoa bean that most of us associate with the robust and varied flavor notes of chocolate. In fact, several popular candy makers, such as Cadbury and Hershey's, market "white chocolates" whose labels cleverly avoid using the word "chocolate" because the candies don't actually use enough cocoa butter or milk solids to meet the legal definition of the term, explains Dame Cacao. Hershey's well-known Cookies 'n' Creme bar, for example, contains no cocoa butter, but a mix of vegetable oils, including palm, shea, and safflower oils (via Hershey's). If you like mild, sweet, and creamy candy, chances are you'll like white chocolate — but you might want to double-check the ingredients before you buy any, to make sure there's actually cocoa butter in what you've selected.