What Is "Dark Milk" Chocolate?

In some respects, chocolate is chocolate is chocolate. You mix cacao with sugar, and you’ve more or less got chocolate.

But dig a little deeper, and the world of chocolate becomes a lot more complex. Chocolate can fall into any of a variety of categories—ranging from semisweet to bittersweet to extra dark, milk, and white chocolate—and each one of these categories boasts its own distinct flavors and qualities.

What's more, these categories are always evolving. Case in point: A new kid has shown up on the chocolate block, and it's changing milk chocolate as we've known it. Here's a closer look at the newest category of chocolate: dark milk. 

The Difference Between Milk and Dark Chocolate

In order to understand what distinguishes dark milk chocolate, we first have to grasp what traditionally makes dark and milk chocolate different.

Dark chocolate is typically revered in the foodie world for being more “serious” (and healthier) than milk chocolate. It doesn’t usually contain any milk solids, which means its flavors tend to be more chocolate forward, earthy, and complex with some bitterness and potentially some acidity. Dark chocolate doesn’t technically have a formal definition, but it generally doesn’t contain more than 12% milk solids (if any) and it typically has a high cacao percentage (that’s the amount of cocoa liquor, cacao solids, and/or cocoa butter found in a bar—60% or higher is common in dark chocolate these days).

Under the umbrella of “dark chocolate,” there are a variety of chocolate categories, which are distinguished by their cacao percentage. For instance, unsweetened chocolate typically boasts a cacao percentage of 85 to 100%; bittersweet chocolate has more than 35% (ours is a 66% Dark Chocolate with notes of dried cherries and roasted coffee); and semisweet or sweet chocolate must have at least 15 percent (but might have significantly more; like our 60.5% Dark Chocolate with warm cocoa notes, hints of brown spices and vanilla).

Meanwhile, milk chocolate is generally defined as chocolate that contains a cocoa percentage of at least 10 percent and a minimum of 12 percent milk solids. Milk chocolate typically contains more sugar, a higher milk solid percentage, and a significantly lower cacao percentage than dark chocolate. Our Classic Milk Chocolate has 39% cacao and has more cocoa notes that most other milk chocolates and a creamy, caramel-like sweetness and hints of vanilla and butterscotch.

Because of its composition, milk chocolate tends to be sweeter, creamier, and perhaps less complexly flavored than dark chocolate. And because it contains less cacao, milk chocolate also offers less antioxidant properties, polyphenols, and other good-for-you compounds than its darker counterparts.  (But man, is it delicious! #treatTCHOself_

Putting the Two Together

While dark and milk chocolate have historically been sent to separate culinary corners where never the two shall meet, chocolatiers are breaking the norm and boldly venturing where most have not yet gone—and we proudly count ourselves among them. 

Dark milk chocolate blends the milk solids and sugar of milk chocolate with the higher cacao percentage of dark chocolate. Most dark milk bars boast a cacao percentage of 50 percent or more—a big leap from the minimum 10 percent required of regular milk chocolate!  

In the process, this new form of milk chocolate combines the best of both dark and milk chocolate: The rich, earthy, complexity of dark chocolate (and the additional antioxidant properties) blend with the smooth creaminess of milk chocolate.  Our award-winning Dark Milk Chocolate has 54% cacao with all the fudgey goodness and the creamy, caramel notes from the milk, without just the right amount of sweetness.

Because it combines qualities of both milk and dark chocolate, dark milk chocolate also boasts plenty of versatility when it comes to taste pairings. Pairing it with sweets such as caramel will draw out dark milk chocolate’s bitter notes, while pairing it with savory, salty, or spicy foods is likely to highlight the chocolate’s sweeter qualities. It’s also great with hoppier, more bitter beers and with chevre goat cheese or triple cream brie!

No matter whether you’re a dark chocolate aficionado who wouldn’t deign to be caught eating milk chocolate or you’re a milk chocolate lover who’s kept your predilections a secret for fear of being judged by the foodie crowd, dark milk chocolate allows us all to put down our defenses and come to a table laden with the best that milk and dark chocolate have to offer.