Semi Sweet vs Dark Chocolate – Are They The Same Thing?

Semi Sweet vs Dark Chocolate

Chocolates! The world has a lot of chocolates in countless brands and we love them all! Chocolate is amongst the most popular treats in the world, if not the most popular.

Given its wide use, the chocolate is available in several variants. Some of these include milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, and semisweet chocolate.

Similar as they are, do these have a notable difference? Let’s take a look at semi sweet vs dark chocolate comparison to see what separates these two.

Obviously, this comparison must glance at other varieties as well, so we’ll get a better idea on the different varieties of chocolate and what these terms really mean.

There is a considerable overlap between all these chocolate types. Usually, there is no specific point of separation, though broader guidelines do exist.

Semi Sweet vs Dark Chocolate – Key Points

Categorization Of Both These Chocolates

Dark chocolate represents a broad category of chocolates. Conventionally, a chocolate with at least 35% cacao solids qualifies as dark chocolate. There’s been a rise in 100% dark chocolates too. These chocolates don’t contain any other ingredients (like milk solids or sugar) are entirely composed of cacao solids. 

To be clear, specific legal guidelines on this categorization vary by country and region. However, the 35-100% consideration is a generally good place to define dark chocolate throughout the world. Chocolates with up to 35% cacao solids (or, cocoa solids) usually fall into the category of milk chocolates.

Dark Chocolate

So, where does semi sweet chocolate show up on this categorization?

Semi sweet chocolate is a type of dark chocolate. Or rather, it is a subcategory of dark chocolate. Conventionally, semi sweet chocolate contains 35% to 60% cacao solids and is slightly sweeter than bittersweet chocolate.

Though there is a certain overlap between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate, in the overall categorization, bittersweet is the one with less sugar and more cacao.

Usually, dark chocolate itself has three categorizations:

  • Semi sweet chocolate
  • Bittersweet chocolate
  • Bitter chocolate

Where does white chocolate fit into this, you ask? White chocolate doesn’t contain any cacao solids at all. Conventional white chocolate is cocoa butter mixed with milk and sweetener. It’s silky, smooth, and the sweetest of chocolates. There is no brown coloring here due to the lack of cocoa solids.

Is semi sweet chocolate dark chocolate? Yes, it is, As we see, semi sweet is a categorization of dark chocolate. It’s the sweetest of the dark chocolates. As you can guess, bitter chocolate is the one with the least amount of added ingredients like sugar or milk solids. 

What Is Semi Sweet Chocolate?

In a broader classification, semi sweet chocolate can contain 35-60% cacao solids. However, for most considerations, semi sweet chocolate contains 50% to 60% cacao solids.

Any less than this and it starts feeling more like sweet or milk chocolate. Therefore, while the amount can be technically lower, the preferable number is 50% to 60%.

This percentage also fits in with the name pretty well. At 50%, the semi sweet chocolate has a good combination of sweetness and cocoa bitterness. 

It’s worth remembering that there is no explicitly hard legal or expected limit on what defines semi sweet chocolate. The definition, whether culinary or legal, varies between regions and countries. However, for most manufacturers and purposes, semi sweet chocolate contains somewhere between 50-60% cacao.

What Is The Best Way To Use Semi Sweet Chocolate?

Semi sweet chocolate is an excellent blend of sweet and bitter tastes. This places it at the right spot for baking. For many people, milk chocolate is too sweet for baking while bitter or bittersweet chocolate is too rich. Semi sweet chocolate fits just right with its balance of cocoa richness and sweetness.

Semi sweet chocolate is ideal for baking recipes. Whether it’s chocolate chip cookies or chocolate cake, semi sweet chocolate takes the prize with its mix of richness and sweetness. Of course, there’s always room for variations. 

Go with milk chocolate if you prefer more of the sweetness. On the other hand, bittersweet chocolate or bitter chocolate is good if you prefer the richness in your recipe. 

Apart from its use in recipes, semi sweet chocolate is an excellent treat on its own too. It’s not too bitter or sweet, so it’s great to enjoy even as a chocolate bar. Personally, I find its balance of rich and sweet flavors better than the sickly sweetness of milk chocolate. 

Best Way To Store Semi Sweet Chocolate Or Dark Chocolate

The best way to store chocolate is a cool, dark place away from sunlight and humidity. While many people store their chocolates in a refrigerator, it’s not the best spot for this purpose. The cold in the refrigerator causes something called fat or sugar bloom.

This is the white coating that you might have noticed over chocolates stored in a refrigerator. While this isn’t a problem and doesn’t affect the flavor or use of the chocolate, it does have an effect on its appearance, which many people might not find great. 

To be clear, this isn’t a problem at all. The white coat is easily removable and doesn’t affect the chocolate or its use in recipes.


Is Bittersweet Chocolate The Same As Dark Chocolate?

Bittersweet chocolate is a type of dark chocolate. However, dark chocolate is an umbrella term used for several chocolate types. These include bittersweet chocolate, semi sweet chocolate, and bitter chocolate. So, while bittersweet chocolate is a dark chocolate, not all dark chocolate is bittersweet chocolate. 

Usually, the cocoa content in bittersweet chocolate is 6-% to 70%, which makes it richer than semi sweet chocolate, but not as bitter as bitter chocolate. 

Are Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips Vegan?

Semi sweet chocolate chips can be vegan, though the offering really depends on the brand. Many brands offer semi sweet chocolate as a richer version of milk chocolate. In this case, the semi sweet chocolate or the chocolate chips contain milk, and thus can’t be considered vegan. On the other hand, there are plenty of options where the semi sweet chocolate doesn’t contain any additives like milk and thus can be considered vegan.

Generally, the components of semi sweet chocolate are sugar and cocoa solids. Both these products are vegan. However, there’s also the third component, milk, which does show up on many brands.

The best way to know if your semi sweet chocolate is vegan friendly, is to check its label!

Do Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips Have Dairy?

Many semi sweet chocolate chips don’t have dairy. However, dairy (or milk) is a common ingredient used in making several semi sweet chocolate chips. As such, the best way to know if your semi sweet chocolate chips have dairy, is to read the label.


The comparison of semi sweet chocolate vs dark chocolate is an excellent way to understand chocolate classification. Semi sweet chocolate is a type of dark chocolate, though with somewhat substantial sugar content. It’s followed by bittersweet chocolate, which is a dark chocolate with lower sugar content, and bitter chocolate, which is a dark chocolate that contains minimal or even zero sugar content.

You cannot copy content of this page