The Health Benefits of White Chocolate (yes, they exist)

I have a strange chocolate-related pet peeve. When someone tells me “You like white chocolate? But that’s not even real chocolate!”…it makes me want to hurl a block of white chocolate right at their smug face.

White chocolate gets absolutely no respect, while dark chocolate can apparently cure cancer and bring the dead back to life. And the darker the better. If you like 70% dark, your foodie friend will undoubtedly poo-poo that in favor of 85% or darker. Well it’s finally time to stand up, white chocolate lovers! All three of you. Because white chocolate is healthy, and here’s why.

The advantages of white chocolate

First off, dark chocolate is healthy, and is a PHD-recommended “supplemental food”. But just like how Arnold Schwarzenegger overshadows Danny DeVito in the movie “Twins”, so goes the relationship between dark and white chocolate. They share the same mother (the cacao tree) and the more popular sibling has desirable traits absent in the less popular sibling (flavonoids and psychoactive compounds). But just like Danny DeVito, white chocolate actually has a heart of gold (or rather, a heart of stable fatty acids).

White chocolate is simply cocoa butter plus some added milk, while dark chocolate is cocoa butter with (dark) cocoa particles added instead of milk. Each can have varying levels of sugar. White chocolate undergoes remarkably little oxidation during storage or cooking, unlike vegetable oils that autooxidize and may become carcinogenic. A quick look at the fatty acid profile of cocoa butter explains its stability. It’s made up of 60% saturated fat split between stearic and palmitic acids, about 30% monounsaturated, and only 3% polyunsaturated fat. The high stearic acid content means that cocoa butter has a smaller effect on cholesterol than do other fats with similar saturated percentages.

chloe-chocolate

Cats can’t read nutrition labels…or can they?

Plus cocoa butter has been shown to improve resistance to oxidation in rats when compared to vegetable oil. Cocoa butter may even help protect against fatty-liver related endotoxemia, via upregulation of an enzyme called ASS1 (argininosuccinate synthase 1, hee hee).

Dark chocolate sometimes contains mycotoxins and aflatoxins (which can be carcinogenic, depending on dose), whereas white chocolate doesn’t. While cocoa butter doesn’t have nearly as many health benefits as dark chocolate, it’s been shown to benefit platelet function and potentially atherogenesis more than dark chocolate (in men, but not in women…why must you be so confusing science?).

Finally, white chocolate isn’t toxic to dogs and cats due to low theobromine levels, whereas a high-percentage dark chocolate bar could kill a small dog. White chocolate also has negligible amounts of caffeine and other bioactive compounds, due these being water soluble and hence removed during processing. For those sensitive to dark chocolate, who exhibit symptoms such as as intestinal distress or headaches after consumption, white chocolate may be a good alternative.

Why is white chocolate a black sheep?

So why is cocoa butter rarely eaten (outside of chocolate bars), when other low-PUFA fats such as coconut oil and ghee are prized? Three reasons stick out: price, availability, and stigma. High-quality dark chocolate costs around a buck an ounce or less. It’s hard to even find high-quality white chocolate outside of some internet stores, and the price of edible pure cocoa butter is typically 50% or more above that of dark chocolate. Plus pure cocoa butter doesn’t really come in the form of standard-sized chocolate bars.

If you want bars, you have to jump down from 100% cocoa butter to around 30% or much lower, and these bars typically have almost 50% sugar content. Note that in 2002, the FDA set a minimum cocoa butter percentage of 20% in order for a product to be labeled “white chocolate”. But this definition also included minimum levels of milk solids and milk fat, so those staying away from milk may prefer pure cocoa butter. In my Willy Wonka white chocolate utopia, there would be 70%, 85%, and 92% white chocolate bars available at every grocery store, but as it stands you have to buy sugary white chocolate or make your own lower sugar version using cocoa butter.

“Cocoa Cooking”: say it three times fast

Stigma is a real problem for white chocolate producers. For some reason, the white chocolate lobby simply doesn’t have the power of Big Pharma or Tobacco, so you’ll never see ads encouraging you to try healthy cocoa fat in recipes. But you definitely can. The popularity of mole sauce suggests that even strong chocolate flavors can be handled in savory dishes. One chef says:

“It’s important that people break out of the mindset of chocolate as candy. Chocolate is chocolate. If you let it stand on its own, it becomes an ingredient like cumin or butter. If you let go of what your preconception of chocolate is–which for 99.9 percent of the people is a candy bar–it becomes another culinary weapon in your larder.”

Indeed, for most of its history, chocolate was exclusively used with savory/spicy ingredients. Cooking cocoa butter with meats or veggies may give them a heartier flavor, or you could try something more daring like salmon with white chocolate sauce. Snacks made with cocoa butter may be more practical than snacks high in coconut oil, as cocoa butter doesn’t melt around room temperature like coconut oil does.

Compared to dark chocolate, white chocolate needs much less sugar to mask bitterness (especially for us supertasters). It also complements delicate flavors whereas bitter dark chocolate overwhelms them, so my hunch is that white chocolate (or just cocoa butter) could provide a versatile base for things other than just sauces and desserts.

If you cook for someone, and the dish has cocoa butter or white chocolate in it, be prepared to defend your daring choice. Concerning the claim that white chocolate isn’t actually chocolate, I find that a bit ludicrous. When cocoa beans are pressed, they ooze out cocoa butter. It’s very similar to the relationship between olives and olive oil, or coconut flesh and coconut oil. When’s the last time you heard “Olive oil? But that isn’t even real olive!” I’ll chalk the misunderstanding up to the prevalence of fake white chocolates (below 20% cocoa butter or often none at all) combined with the rarity of dishes made with cocoa butter. You can’t like white chocolate if you haven’t had it, or if all you’ve had is an overly-sugared white chocolate bar.

Conclusion

Theobroma, the genus containing the cacao tree, translates to “food of the gods”. Chocolate was used as currency by ancient Mayans, and kept in safes with gold and precious stones. While dark chocolate is currently exalted as a king among medicinal foods, white chocolate has become the court jester. This is a shame, as white chocolate holds promise as a healthy and underutilized cooking ingredient.

White chocolate and cocoa butter keep extremely well at room temperature, so don’t be afraid to buy some and do your best Iron Chef impression. If the dish works out, feel free to comment here with the recipe. And if you find a high-quality white chocolate bar low in sugar, let me know. Kamal/Chocomal/Caramal excels in taste-testing.

Leave a comment ?

76 Comments.

  1. Yes to chocolate as an ingredient! I added some cocoa (and cinnamon) to my chili the other night. Smooths out that acid taste plus adds a little pizzazz. Like a little white chocolate sometimes too, but don’t see it in the stores often.

    • Hmmm…maybe cinnamon, clove, or allspice would mesh well with white chocolate in savory or sweet dishes.

      For White Chocolate part 2, I’ll find some online and brick and mortar locations that offer good white chocolate, and maybe gather some reader recipes too.

  2. 👿 Don’t throw choco at me unless it’s dark!!!
    Great article Kamal xo Deb

    • That’s actually not a bad price. Let’s see, add in shipping, carry the one…still a good price. Thanks! I’ll list this in the follow-up post.

      • You always make me laugh, Kamal, and some days I can really use a good laugh! Fascinating article on white chocolate and I look forward very much to part 2. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  3. If good quality white chocolate is impossible to find, why even get our hopes up?

    I’d have no problem making my own if I knew where to get good quality cocoa butter.

    • To reference another movie, it’s like a magic trick from “The Prestige” with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.

      The audience is presented with something mysterious, there’s a little bit of distraction, and then the audience finds that something is turned from ordinary into extraordinary.

      That analogy even confused me…long story short, there will be a part 2 with sources and recipes.

  4. Againstthegrain

    I’m not a white chocolate fan (too sweet of rmy low sugar-adapted taste buds, but I always keep a big jar of Mountain Rose cocoa butter wafers in my cabinet. Huge hunks of raw cocoa butter are available, too, but the wafer shapes are easiest for portioning and melting.

    Cocoa butter is great for melting and adding to homemade macadamia nut butter (& chocolate-nut butter spreads) and homemade energy bars. As mentioned in the blog post, cocoa butter provides a delicious and stable fat energy source that contributes to a firmer texture and form at room temperature.

    Additionaly, cocoa butter is useful as an ingredient in homemade body butters and lip balms.

  5. I am also totally interested in a “high-quality white chocolate bar low in sugar” … it was one of hubby’s favorites before PHD!!
    I’ll be searching as well…

  6. ok I found this one… expensive, and the only one I’ve found without soy or cane sugar. Still .5g sugar per gram of chocolate, which is only .2 more than your average soy free 70% dark bar.
    http://www.amazon.com/Organic-Nectars-Golden-White-Chocolate/dp/B0031KVWJE

    • Yeah, I saw that one too. I understand why companies make really sweet white chocolate (because people like sweets), but you’d think low-carb has been around long enough that some lower-sugar options would be available. Again, white chocolate needs better PR.

    • http://thecoconutmama.com/2011/01/raw-white-chocolate-candy-sugar-free-2/

      I wonder how this would compare? she describes it as fudge.

      • Thanks for the link, Trina! By looking at this, Kamal, the potato starch that I mentioned might not be needed, although it still might be a great way to get RS. It looks like the cocoa butter itself will act as a binder. I do like less sweet, so I prefer to make my own candy. I’m guessing that coconut oil, cocoa butter and honey or syrup to taste would work and be good. Maybe add some vanilla beans. Personally, I don’t do stevia.

      • Oh, and I should say, the way I turn fudge into candies is to spoon into silicone cupcake molds to make little disks. No need to grease, they just pop right out.

  7. So how would you make your own white chocolate? The type you buy is always too sweet for my tastes. I personally have nothing against white chocolate, just that it’s always been labelled as overly sweet for me.

  8. Wait, Kamal, where is the “smaller effect on cholesterol” link supposed to go?

  9. I bought this at well.ca, don’t know if they ship to the states.

    http://well.ca/products/now-solutions-cocoa-butter_19654.html

    looking forward to recipes, as I never knew what to do with it, but my big question is how do i get it out of the jar? didn’t want to heat the plastic container…

    • If it’s in a plastic container, I just jab at the chocolate until it gives up, but that’s probably not the best way to do it. Score one for glass containers.

      That’s some good looking cocoa butter! Everything is truly better in Canada.

    • Site says “an be softened by placing in a pan of hot water for 30 minutes”

  10. I’m guessing Trina didn’t want to get the plastic heated all, but I could be wrong. Trina, did you not want to heat the plastic? Speak now of forever be stuck with unused cocoa butter.

    • yes, exactly. I try not to eat warmed plastic along with my health foods. I’ve just been jabbing at it, but I’m the one that gives up…

  11. I have to be strictly dairy free. I make my own dark chocolate candies using cocoa, coconut oil and syrup. I bought a bag of cocoa butter, but haven’t tried to make any candies with it, yet. I would love to see a dairy free white chocolate recipe. I am very sensitive to caffeine and can only eat one of my chocolate candies before noon or it will effect my sleep. And, truth be told, even that may effect my sleep.

    • Have you ever gotten a 23andme gene test? I wonder if you’re a slow caffeine metabolizer (I am, and am also sensitive to caffeine).

      I’ll make sure to have a dairy-free white chocolate recipe in the next installment.

      • Good catch! Yes, and yes. I had tried every way I could think of to tolerate coffee, even decaf, but when I got those results, I realized I was trying to roll a boulder up a steep hill.

        Thanks for including a dairy free recipe next time! Here’s a tip for your experiments. I have found that coconut oil candies need some powdery substance like cocoa to work. So, I make a coconut oil vanilla bean candy and use some potato starch in it to act as a binder. It doesn’t take nearly as much as the amount of cocoa that I use when I make chocolate coconut oil candies. I don’t do well with coconut or coconut milk, so the potato starch was a great find for me. And, hey… a little RS added to a candy! 🙂

        • You know what that reminds me of? Those powdery mint candies at the entrance of restaurants. Although you probably don’t coat the outside of the candy with potato starch.

          Really, I just think about those powdery mint candies a lot. In addition to a dairy-free recipe, what would be really neat is a white-chocolate mint powdery candy! Thanks for the tip, and I’ll try not to screw it up.

          • ha,ha… well, they are nothing like those little mint candies, but your inspiration sounds good! Someone on in the FB group tagged me with this link. Alas, I’m also sensitive to coconut meat and even nutbutters, but I still think potato starch can overcome the texture problems given by removing those from the mix. And, then what a delicious way to eat RS! You will be a hit in the RS community! Anyway, this might be helpful as a starting place for proportions. Now really… don’t screw this up!! lol

            http://empoweredsustenance.com/coconut-white-chocolate/

          • I’ve always wanted to be a hit in the RS community 🙂

            Thanks for the link, I’ll try my darndest.

  12. What about cocoa powder? I too like to make my own dark chocolate bars using cocoa powder and coconut oil. Refridgerate and presto a dark chocolate bar. Does cocoa powder get the same PHD endorsement?

    • I’m not 100% sure, but I’m guessing it does a yin-yang apple of approval.

      Cocoa powder typically has a higher concentration of flavonoids than dark chocolate due to lack of fat. Natural cocoa powder that is, not alkalized / dutch-processed (which can still have some, just not as much). Cocoa powder can also have a higher concentration of micronutrients than dark chocolate.

      One of my favorite quick snacks at Whole Foods is a packet of the stuff you make at home. It’s just coconut butter plus cocoa powder, and maybe some stevia or sugar or something. Oh man, sooooooo good.

  13. I bought cocoa butter off amazon to use in skincare products. Then I found out that it’s main function in skincare is to provide an occlusive, and tallow can do that too. So I decided I’d rather eat the cocoa butter. Food trumps skincare. But no one is posting cake or cookie recipes with it. No one is mixing it with butter or coconut oil for a more workable texture for bars.

    Know what happens when you eat a fat with a lot of occlusiveness (palmitic acid)? It forms a layer in the mouth–I am speaking here of tallow. Why wouldn’t this happen with cocoa butter? In the spirit of adventure though, tonight I will make a bison stir fry in cocoa butter.

    • Tangential comment — did you see the trial mentioned in the last post about mineral water, where skin moisture was significantly improved in a pretty short amount of time with daily mineral water intake? I don’t think it was a controlled trial though.

      Anywho, I’d really like to know how your bison + cocoa butter experiment went. For some reason I’ve never noticed occlusion when eating cocoa butter (or dark chocolate), but maybe I’ll pay more attention next time.

      • Hi Kamal,

        I read the last article about mineral water. My conclusion was that someday, when my husband has finished his engineering degree, I’ll make sure to buy that stuff. A couple other things that I’ve seen impact my skin very quickly are garlic and astaxanthin. The astaxanthin stopped me from getting hives on my arms in the sun.

        The bison and cocoa butter was mixed. Turns out cocoa butter has a low smoke point. This is undesirable in a stir fry. I didn’t use enough that occlusion would be noticeable–the bison was really moist so there wasn’t a lot of frying action going on. As a savory ingredient though, cocoa butter is a good base ingredient to build on. It’s rich and doesn’t have the bitterness of cocoa powder. Bison is rich with some bitterness. Cocoa butter really balanced that out well. Coriander, cardamom, ginger, and orange built out on top of the richness very nicely.

        If you find yourself having to make up a lot of recipes, I highly recommend “The Flavor Bible.”

  14. The cookbook Ideas in Food has a recipe for white chocolate frozen yogurt. They also recommend caramelizing it in the oven at 250F for 45-60 minutes. I suggest checking out their blog of the same name for other white chocolate ideas.

  15. Whoa, they have a recipe for White Asparagus White Chocolate! I’m all over it…although it would be my first sous vide. Thanks for the tip.

  16. Any concern about the oxidized cholesterol content of the dried milk used to make white and milk chocolates?

    • Could always use raw milk and add in some melted chocoalte chips, along with a dash of cinnamon or some other spice. There are some nice recipes online.

      Chris Masterjohn did an excellent piece on raw milk, though I’m beginning to think it would be even better with some cocoa chips in it!

      • That sounds delicious. Personally, I don’t eat enough milk/white chocolate to think about oxidized cholesterol (and I have a feeling that most not eating a SAD diet would also eat fairly low doses).

  17. Where i can get coco buter in Chennai,india Thanks in Advance

  18. I had no idea white chocolate was indeed chocolate. I have always loved it. Thanks for the enlightenment. 🙂

  19. I LOVE this article! I totally agree…the only problem with white chocolate is usually the added sugar/milk. Otherwise it’s a great source of stearic & oleic fats, which are the healthiest, according to my scientific literature reviews. Everyone focuses on the polyphenols/health benefits of the dark, non-fat cacao portion. But sometimes I wonder if that portion is high in phytates, since it’s from a seed (which is usually fermented, but I still wonder how much phytates remain…) I bought 4lbs of food-grade/kosher cocoa butter online from bulk apothecary…and I love it! I put the unscented “naturally refined” kind on savory foods, and I use the scented “pure-pressed” kind for banana pancakes/sweet potatoes. It’s a dream to cook with. Another thing to point out–cocoa butter is compositionally similar to shea butter…shea nuts/butter have been consumed traditionally in Africa for a very long time. Unfortunately it’s VERY hard to find food-grade shea here in the US. We tend to think shea is only good for topical use…but it has a great stearic/oleic fat profile too!

    • Eating even a little above moderate amounts of dark chocolate gives me stomach upset, so phytates or who knows what could play a role in that.

      Interesting corollary with shea nuts! There are a few foods available in my family’s home town of Johannesburg, South Africa, that aren’t available here in the US.

      It’s interesting that South and Latin American plants (such as chocolate) became a huge hit, but the same might not be the case of some African plants. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it makes me feel smart to hypothesize 😎

  20. Also you might appreciate this product: http://www.mycryo.com/callebaut/en/about.html

  21. 60% + 30% + 3% not equal to 100%

  22. The most interesting fact I find is that chocolat was used as a currency I think we should do that again this time with white chocolate. I’m looking forward to new articles

    Love Hans

  23. This guy just says buy 100% cocoa butter in the skin care section of a store.

    http://www.ochef.com/495.htm

  24. Great article! I’ve always loved white chocolate but I (wrongly) assumed that white chocolate wasn’t “real” chocolate. Maybe the overly sweetened Easter bunny candies don’t qualify as real, but hooray for good quality stuff! I just bought a bag of organic cocoa butter yesterday to use in a sugar scrub, but now I’m going to attempt to make my own “real” white chocolate candy. Yippee!

  25. Eons ago my mother used to buy bricks of white chocolate for Christmas!

    Whaaaaaaaa! I want my mommy! 😥

  26. Interesting stuff, Paul I did not know this 😀

  27. There are some listings for raw, organic white cacao butters on Amazon–unsweetened.

  28. Please keep writing articles that question commonly accepted health tipps.

  29. I had some white chocolate today, in fact. 🙂

  30. I was eating dark chocolate Kit Kat bars and they made me sort of sick and the White Chocolate ones are much much better to buy online and taste better. Dark Chocolate nauseates me , but the White does not. Now most chocolate has PGPR which keeps the cost of cocco butter down which is an emulsifier from castor oil which is still good for you. Anyway I like the White Chocolate better. Doesn’t make me feel Blah! like dark chocolate. Eat a dark Kit Kat and a White chocolate at the same time and you will know what I mean. The best White chocolate is Leonidas from Belgium.

  31. Kamal: When will part 2 be out? It’s been almost a year since your original post. I’ve been making “candies” from equal parts of cocoa butter and nut butter (sometimes topped with a layer made from equal parts of dark chocolate and nut butter) as a low sugar/high fat treat, but have been waiting to see what other ideas/products you’ve come up with. I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Butter Mini-Pistoles that I get on-line from Chocosphere and have been very happy with the quality of that product.

    • Good kick in the butt, time to get writing. Maybe later this or next month? I share your sensabilities, and have tried layered nut butter treats (similar to buckeyes) with some success.

    • correction: the treats I make have a bottom layer of cocoa butter and nut butter and a top layer of cocoa butter and dark chocolate. Lately I’ve been lazy and mixed 4 oz. cocoa butter, 4 oz. nut butter and 1 oz. dark chocolate, melt, stir, and put into small molds and chill. Makes a great, low sugar, high fat treat.
      p.s. still waiting on Part 2 of this article.

  32. Just found this white chocolate recipe that uses dextrose for the sweetener:
    http://exsugarholic.com/2013/07/03/delectable-white-chocolate/

  33. Include me in the count of three…I LOVE white chocolate!

  34. White Chocolate Chips | NutraWiki - pingback on November 26, 2015 at 8:58 am
  35. I’m a little late to the party but I can recommend two yummy white chocolates…

    Green & Black’s Organic White Chocolate — 3.5 oz is available through vitacost.com and nuts.com sells pound bags of organic white chocolate chunks. Pricey but worth it.

  36. Is white chocolate has any advantage in losing weight?

  37. Does white chocolate help one to sleep better.ER

  38. White Chocolate Chips – NutraWiki - pingback on March 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm
  39. Diabetes Candies, Kit Kat Wafer Bar - pingback on November 9, 2017 at 7:21 pm

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