Need some bittersweet chocolate substitutes for your baking recipe? We’ve got the answers.
What is bittersweet chocolate?
Bittersweet chocolate is used in several recipes and brings a rich chocolate flavor to the food. While it finds a lot of use in baking, the chocolate is useful for several other recipes as well.
Keep in mind, the name of this chocolate is a misnomer. The law dictates that at least 35% of the chocolate must be cocoa (or cacao, if you will). The remaining is usually sugar! To be fair, most manufacturers keep those numbers at 50-60% of cocoa, yet there’s enough room for sugar.
So the bittersweet chocolate is still on the sweet side. Many people tend to forget this part. It may not be as sweet as milk chocolate, but your bittersweet chocolate still has plenty of sugar.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to our discussion on the best substitutes for bittersweet chocolate.
Top Substitutes For Bittersweet Chocolate
1. Unsweetened Chocolate
As its name implies, unsweetened chocolate doesn’t contain any sugar. When using this to replace bittersweet chocolate, you might want to add a few teaspoons of sugar to keep the taste of the recipe going.
Unsweetened chocolate has that wonderful authentic chocolate taste, and that also includes the bitterness that cocoa has. Even if you want to avoid sugar, there’s a good chance you’ll have to add some sweetener when using this chocolate.
The good part is, rather than getting loaded with sugar, you can choose exactly how much sweetness you want and what sweetener to use. These qualities make unsweetened chocolate an excellent substitute for bittersweet chocolate.
2. Semi-Sweet Chocolate
For most practical purposes, semi-sweet chocolate is pretty much the same as unsweetened chocolate. As such, it works as a substitute for bittersweet chocolate in the same proportion as the original.
While there is a considerable overlap in the definition of bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate, there is a difference by conventional use. Generally, semi-sweet chocolate contains more sugar and less cocoa (by percentage) as compared to bittersweet chocolate.
Usually, you’ll find semi-sweet chocolate with 50-60% cacao content, while bittersweet chocolate has 60-70% cacao content. As such, there is some difference, though it isn’t big enough to require additional adjustments when using semi-sweet chocolate to replace bittersweet chocolate.
For some recipes, the lower amount of cacao may feel evident, even if ever-so slightly. In such cases, adding a small quantity of cacao powder or cocoa powder should help close the gap.
3. Milk Chocolate
Though delicious, conventional milk chocolate can struggle to work as a decent replacement for bittersweet chocolate. That’s because it has milk solids, sugar, and some other ingredients along with the chocolate. It is far sweeter and has a lower percentage of cacao when compared to bittersweet chocolate.
What helps its case is its ready availability and its creamy texture. There’s a good chance you have some milk chocolate at home or can get it quickly. While bittersweet isn’t difficult to get hold of, it is much easier to acquire milk chocolate.
When using it as an alternative to bittersweet chocolate, you may want to use some cocoa powder to account for the lower quantity of chocolate in milk chocolate. This will help make the flavor richer and create a more likable texture. Although, for most substitutions, milk chocolate alone will be an acceptable replacement.
4. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Got some cocoa powder at home? Whether it is sweetened or unsweetened, cocoa powder will work as an acceptable substitute for bittersweet chocolate. Although to be clear, using this will require some additional steps. Powder can’t have the same texture as a block of chocolate.
To make up for that effect, you should add a tablespoon or two of butter to match the texture and feel of the block of chocolate. Mixing sweet and unsweetened cocoa powder could be helpful to manage the amount of sugar, but if you don’t have both at home, some adjustments will be necessary.
If you’re working with unsweetened cocoa powder, consider adding some sugar to match the taste of bittersweet chocolate. The same concept applies to sweetened cocoa powder, but it’s a little trickier. You see, sweetened cocoa powder has a higher sugar content. So, you’ll want to be more careful when using it as a substitute, so that the recipe doesn’t get overly sweet.
5. Chocolate Chips
I hear chocolate chips, I think chocolate chip cookies. And when people tell me there are more things chocolate chips can do, I ask why even bother?
If you’re willing to put chocolate chips to other uses, you could also try using them as a replacement for bittersweet chocolate in a few recipes. It’s a good idea to use semi-sweet chocolate chips, because they have the right mix of cacao and sugar to match bittersweet chocolate.
The tougher part here is maintaining the texture, which is another point where using semi-sweet chips is the better choice. You can use more of the chocolate chips compared to the amount of bittersweet chocolate required. Using more chocolate chips usually helps fix the recipe to the texture you want.
6. Carob Powder
Want to replace bittersweet chocolate with a non-chocolate substitute? Carob powder will do the trick. Carob powder is an excellent substitute for chocolate in both taste and flavor. That’s why it’s an excellent replacement for cocoa powder as well.
Keep in mind, carob powder has a relatively tame flavor compared to cacao, even though the flavors are similar. So, you’ll have to use more of carob powder to get the same rich flavor and texture as bittersweet chocolate.
Using twice as much carob powder is often required, compared to the recipe’s requirement of bittersweet chocolate. For some recipes or to match your expectations, you might have to go higher. Adding some butter is a good idea to match the texture of the powder with the block of chocolate.
Overall, though, this is a surprisingly good alternative. Carob manages to get a good texture, flavor, and taste without using any chocolate at all!
Frequently Asked Questions On Bittersweet Chocolate And Its Substitutes
What Are Dark Chocolate And Bittersweet Chocolate?
If you’ve not heard a lot about bittersweet chocolate, it’s because the chocolate is now often branded as Dark Chocolate. If we go into specifics, there is a difference between the two. Bittersweet should be sweeter than dark chocolate. However, there is room for considerable overlap in the percentage of cocoa and sugar in the chocolate. This allows for dark chocolate and bittersweet chocolate to often fall in the same group and branding. In fact, dark chocolate has become a sort of an umbrella term, which can also include bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate.
Difference Between Bittersweet and Semisweet Chocolate?
Conventionally speaking, bittersweet chocolate has a cacao content of 70%, while semisweet chocolate has a cacao content of 60%. The remaining content in either chocolate can be (and usually is) sugar. This setup gives bittersweet chocolate a deeper, richer flavor.
However, in use, both of these chocolates can be interchangeable. Since branding requirements can vary by country, for some commercial uses, both chocolates could contain the same amount of cacao and the only difference would be branding!
Finding a good bittersweet chocolate substitute will usually have you looking at other chocolate products. It’s not difficult to find a replacement – chocolate is easily available in every part of the world. However, it is important to be careful with the choice you make.
Match your expectations of flavor and texture with the various alternatives available and pick the one that suits you the best. GIf you’d like to go chocolate-free for the substitution, give carob powder a try.