Difference between Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate

Chocolate is one of the most popular desserts worldwide. A lot of people agree that chocolate is one of the most delicious things in the world. This sweet food made of cacao may have different colors (from white through brown to black) and is known for its magnificent taste and aroma, high energetic value and mood improving qualities.

Chocolate comes in different shapes and varieties: from dark and milk to white, from chocolate with fillings to pure refined chocolate bars. Chocolate may vary by concentration of original cocoa, quality of ingredients and additives used.

In this article we are going to find out if all that is true, and compare the dark chocolate variety to milk chocolate, specifying their distinctive features, pros and cons. Anyway, tastes differ, but some facts can be interesting, even if you have already decided which type of chocolate you prefer.


Under “chocolate” in this article we imply the variations of sweet chocolate as a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar with possible additives like lecithin or vanilla flavor. Basically, we are talking about chocolate bars we all know about.

There are three popular varieties of chocolate: dark, milk and white. Here we are going to compare the first two and learn new facts about them.

Dark Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate
Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is not an absolute value. It has more cocoa present but still may differ in concentrations of cocoa products. Depending on chocolate standards in different countries a bar of chocolate can be called “dark” if it has at least 35% cocoa content. To cocoa content belong cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Sometimes the product may be 100% dark chocolate – it means it has nothing besides these two ingredients, no sugar or vanilla extracts or whatever. It is also called “unsweetened”.

Naturally dark chocolate has a rich aroma and sweet taste with a kind of pleasant bitterness, especially if we are talking about dark chocolate with more than 80% or cocoa content – the more cocoa derived ingredients there are, the less sugar can be added, and that’s the explanation for the varying sweetness of dark chocolate.

In case you are a sweet chocolate-lover – stick to variations that have from 35 to 65% of cacao products.

Dark chocolate is produced from cacao beans by adding sugar to a cacao products mixture. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such a product is officially called “sweet chocolate” and is required to have at least 15% concentration of chocolate liquor (in the US chocolate industry “chocolate liquor” means ground or melted nibs of the cacao bean with approximately 50/50 content of cocoa solids and cocoa butter). In Europe this rule implies a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.

As for “semisweet chocolate” in the United States – this one should contain a lower portion of sugar, while “bittersweet chocolate” contains 1/3 sugar, more cocoa butter, vanilla extract and usually soy lecithin. Bittersweet chocolate has less sugar than semisweet chocolate and more cocoa products. But both of them are dark and are perfect for baking. Sometimes you can find unsweetened dark chocolate in the supermarket; it’s a rare product, but it is made of pure ground chocolate beans and has a strong and deep flavor. It is very special and can be enjoyed by gourmets or used for making chocolate glaze, brownies etc.

As dark chocolate has less sugar and additives than milk or white chocolate it is considered to bring more of the health benefits most often associated with chocolate in general. Dark chocolate contains a lot of antioxidants to protect the organism from oxidative stress and free radicals. Antioxidants have shown sufficient results in preventing cancer. Also it is famous for its high content of alkaloids like theobromine and phenethylamine that are proved to have a positive impact on our mood by stimulating a higher production of endorphins. By the way, while theobromine can be perfectly digested by humans it is toxic for animals, so don’t feed your pets with chocolate.

A 100 g bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains about 539 calories, 6 grams of protein, 35 grams of fat, 48 grams of carbohydrates (including 11 grams of fiber).

A bar of dark chocolate supplies 67% of RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for iron, 58% of magnesium, 89% for copper, 98% of manganese and contains plenty of potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium.

Among other positive effects of dark chocolate are: lowering blood pressure, supporting the cardiovascular system and improving glucose metabolism. Dark chocolate is high in epicatechin and gallic acids, so it can protect from heart attacks. Dark chocolate is a powerful brain stimulator. A very important notion here: all this is true for moderate consumption of dark chocolate, i.e. about 20 g per day. Otherwise, this product can hardly bring any benefits, due to its high content of fats, sugars and calories.

Sometimes dark chocolate may have transparent white spots on it, they are called chocolate bloom. There is nothing toxic about it; it’s just a sign of improper storage condition and means that sugar or cacao butter has separated from the chocolate mass. The only unpleasant thing about it is that it doesn’t look attractive.

Dark chocolate in not a highly allergic product when consumed in moderate amounts, but in some cases it may cause allergies, especially those varieties that contain lecithin.

Milk chocolate
Milk chocolate

Milk chocolate is a popular type of sweet chocolate varieties that additionally contains milk or cream powder, or condensed milk. According to European standards milk chocolate has to contain at least 25% cocoa products. According to the norms of the United States it should have a minimum of 10% chocolate liquor (the definition of this liquor we’ve provided above).

Milk chocolate is extremely popular among sweet chocolate-lovers and is the sweeter counterpart to dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is used for making a lot of popular candy bars and desserts.

Due to its milk content, milk chocolate, of course, always has a lower percentage of the original cocoa bean in comparison to dark.

But it has a smooth and creamy texture and a higher degree of sweetness, which is definitely good news for people who have a sweet tooth. Due to this texture milk chocolate melts in the mouth quicker, giving a different taste sensation.

According to recent statistics about 85% of all the chocolate consumed in the United States is milk chocolate.

This type of chocolate was first made in Switzerland in the 1870’s by Swiss confectioner Daniel Peter. He first added condensed milk to dark chocolate and since then this recipe has won the hearts of millions of people all over the world. To be objective, some kind of milk chocolate was invented a bit earlier, in 1839 in Germany, but it wasn’t a chocolate bar, but a drink.

Despite the fact that in the European Union milk chocolate should have at least 25% cocoa solids, there are bars with 20% called “family milk chocolate”, so if you want something even sweeter and more milky – you can try this.

Besides cacao ingredients, milk (or condensed milk) and sugar, there are some other products  you may find in milk chocolate such as vanilla extract or vanilla substitute and soy lecithin acting as emulsifying agent. They make the texture homogenous and smooth.

A 100 g bar of milk chocolate provides about 540 calories, 59 grams of carbohydrates (including 52 grams of sugar), about 30% fat and 8% protein. More than a half of the fat content in milk chocolate belongs to the class of saturated fats, i.e. it should be consumed in reasonable amounts (you can always use RDA reference).

In milk chocolate you will also find some vitamins (including riboflavin and vitamin B12) and minerals (like manganese, phosphorous, zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron).

Dark Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate

What’s the difference between dark and milk chocolate? Namely, it’s a matter of  cacao content, color and taste.

Dark chocolate has a percentage of cocoa solids (cocoa liquor) twice as high as that of milk chocolate, while in milk chocolate about 1/3 is milk powder or condensed milk.

Dark chocolate usually has a dark brown color, while milk chocolate is light brown. Most often dark chocolate comes with about 65%  cocoa products, while milk chocolate has about 20-25%.

Both types of chocolate have some health benefits when consumed in moderate amounts (up to 20 g per day):

  • Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and minerals while milk chocolate provides fast-releasing energy and calcium supply due to milk content;
  • Dark chocolate has three times more magnesium, twice the potassium of milk chocolate and less cholesterol in comparison to milk chocolate;
  • Milk chocolate is significantly lower in caffeine (8 mg in comparison to 32 mg per bar of dark chocolate);
  • Dark chocolate has four times more theobromine – a bitter alkaloid in cacao that is known to control blood pressure.

Nevertheless, they can hardly be considered super healthy foods as they both have too much sugar and saturated fats as well as a high calorie density.

Both milk and dark chocolate may have different qualities that have a great impact on their taste. Cheap milk chocolate usually has a kind of waxy texture, while low quality dark chocolate is not palatable at all; it’s too bitter and harsh. Cheap chocolate contains artificial flavors, whereas high quality dark and milk chocolate may include only natural vanilla flavor and it is enough: they have great natural flavor.

Dark chocolate has a longer history – it used to be prepared as a drink in Central America in the time of Aztecs. Dark chocolate was discovered by the Spanish and brought to Europe, where liquid and solid desserts from cacao beans gained popularity. Milk chocolate was created in the 19th century and since then has quickly become the world’s most popular type of chocolate due to its mild, milky taste and greater sweetness.

Dark chocolate has a lower glycemic index (GI); this means it is less likely to cause diabetes and raises blood sugar level gradually. It is more natural, due to its lower sugar content.

Comparison Chart

Dark Chocolate Milk chocolate
Contains at least 35% cacao products Contains at least 20% cacao products
Dark brown due to high cacao content Light brown due to milk content
Has rich and distinctive cacao taste Has smooth and creamy taste


More on the science of chocolate can be found here: