What is Semisweet Chocolate?

Diane Goettel

Semisweet chocolate is a kind of chocolate that is often used for cooking and baking purposes. It is a dark chocolate with a low sugar content. In fact, semisweet chocolate usually has about half the amount of sugar as regular dark chocolate. Like dark chocolate, this less sweet version is made by adding sugar and fat to cacao. Also, like dark chocolate, it is usually made without any milk added in although it may be made with some milk solids.

A Mexican mole sauce can be made with semisweet chocolate and cinnamon.
A Mexican mole sauce can be made with semisweet chocolate and cinnamon.

The United States Food and Drug administration has restrictions on what kinds of chocolate can be referred to as semisweet chocolate. Semisweet chocolate and bittersweet or dark chocolate have the same regulations. They must have a makeup 35 percent or more of chocolate liquor and must have less than 12 percent milk solids. Some chefs and bakers contend that true semisweet chocolate should include no milk solids at all despite this rubric. In Britain, semisweet varieties of chocolate must contain 45 percent or more of chocolate liquor.

Semisweet chocolate.
Semisweet chocolate.

In some instances, the term semisweet is used interchangeably with the term bittersweet when referring to chocolate. Furthermore, both kinds of chocolate are often grouped together under the umbrella of dark chocolates. There is, however, a difference between the two. One of the key differences is the chocolate flavor. Bittersweet chocolate usually has a more intense chocolate flavor than the semisweet variety.

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Another main difference between these two types of chocolate is their level of sweetness. Semisweet varieties usually contain more sugar and are therefore sweeter than bittersweet varieties. As there is no regulation on the amount of sugar that is contained in these kinds of chocolates, the level of sweetness will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. In some cases, bittersweet and semisweet varieties may be difficult to distinguish from one another, especially if they come from different manufacturers.

This type of chocolate is often enjoyed on its own in the form of a candy or candy bar. It is also often used as a topping or even main ingredient in desserts. It is used in cupcakes, cookies, pastries, pies, cakes, and ice creams. It is also sometimes used in sorbets. Occasionally, semisweet chocolate chips will be added to muffins, which are served at breakfast. It is also sometimes used as an ingredient in mole sauce, which is a rich, savory sauce that is used in Mexican cooking to top poultry dishes.

Semisweet chocolate chips are a popular cookie ingredient.
Semisweet chocolate chips are a popular cookie ingredient.

Discussion Comments


I'll never forget the time a teacher gave us unsweetened baking chocolate to demonstrate the taste called bitter. I have never liked dark chocolate since then. Semisweet chocolate is about as far as I'll go. I've also had to acquire a taste for sugar free chocolate, since I have type 2 diabetes. Vegan chocolate can also be very good as a substitute for semisweet chocolate chips in cookies.


I generally use semisweet chocolate chips for my chocolate chip cookies. The cookie dough is usually sweet enough to balance the slight bitterness of the chips. I've tried using bittersweet chocolate chips, but some of my friends thought the intensity of the darker chocolate overwhelmed the cookie part.

I happen to like very dark chocolate, but I don't find many bags of dark chocolate chips on store shelves. Semisweet chips or chopped chocolate bark works nearly as well, anyway.

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