Last updated on May 18th, 2022.

Understanding what is unsweetened chocolate might just be one of the most important steps in learning about and optimizing baking with chocolate, as it is also known as baking chocolate.

And in this post, I will try to better explain not only what it is, but also what baking chocolate is? how to use it and how we can substitute it? and with what.  Here are some great examples for recipes using unsweetened chocolate like Biscoff brownies, Chocolate Gin Cake, Orange Chocolate cake, Brownie Blondies.

Also, be sure to check out my posts on How to temper chocolate and What is temper chocolate, and Natural Cocoa Powder vs. Dutch Process Cocoa Powder.

Chopped unsweetened chocolate

What is unsweetened baking chocolate?

True to its name this chocolate does not contain any added sugar, it is chocolate in its purest form. Also known as solidified chocolate liquor.

What is Chocolate Liquor?

Great question and the answer unfortunately is not my favorite cocktail.

Fermented and roasted cacao beans are pressed between rolling slabs in order to separate the chocolate solids and cocoa butter from the pods. The result is chocolate liquid or chocolate liquor. We all know it as melted chocolate, and when it solidifies it is an unsweetened chocolate bar.

So it is 100% pure chocolate, and it contains two ingredients: cocoa butter and cocoa solids (cocoa powder). The ratio differs from one brand to the other and usually runs between 52-55 percent cocoa butter. According to FDA (Food and drug administration in the United States) regulation it has to be a minimum of 50% cocoa butter and no more than 60%. 

For us to make unsweetened cocoa powder, also known as unsweetened baking cocoa, we need to separate the cocoa solids from the cocoa butter. Cocoa butter has many other uses, one of them is producing white chocolate.

Cacao butter next to cocoa powder, the make up of unsweetened chocolate.

Baking with unsweetened chocolate

Unsweetened chocolate is easy to find at any local grocery store known by many names: baker’s unsweetened chocolate, baking chocolate, unsweetened baking chocolate, bitter chocolate, unsweetened dark chocolate, and sometimes even baker’s unsweetened chocolate premium baking bar

The most important thing to remember when baking with baker’s chocolate is that it is very different from dark chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate. These are different baking chocolate types with added sugar and a pleasant and smooth flavor. And unlike them, bitter chocolate is not a very popular choice for eating, it has a very bitter taste with an intense chocolate flavor. This is also the reason why I would not recommend using it when baking chocolate chips cookies. (Personally, I like my chocolate chip cookies loaded with milk chocolate)

Unsweetened chocolate is a great choice when baking dense, rich, and tender recipes such as rich brownies, dense chocolate cakes, and sometimes cookies. The high content of cocoa butter will increase the moistness of our baked goods, as well as contribute to the flavor. And since cocoa butter’s melting point is the same as our body, it will produce a tender, pleasant to bite texture.

Substitute for unsweetened chocolate

You can definitely substitute cocoa powder with bitter chocolate or substitute chocolate for cocoa powder. 

  • To substitute cocoa powder for baking chocolate. Replace double the amount of the cocoa powder with unsweetened chocolate. Reduce the amount of fat your recipe calls for. For example: if your recipe calls for 50 grams of cocoa powder, replace it with 100 grams of bitter chocolate. Then reduce the amount of fat by up to 50 grams.
  • To substitute chocolate for cocoa powder. Replace half the amount of the chocolate the recipe calls for with cocoa powder and increase the fat by up to the same amount. For example: if the recipe calls for 100 grams of chocolate, use 50 cocoa powder and increase the amount of fat by up to 50 grams.
  • To substitute unsweetened chocolate with other types of chocolate, you will need to calculate the amount of cocoa powder, fat, and sugar you are adding or removing from the recipe and adapt accordingly. For example, if you want to replace 50 grams of bitter chocolate (20 grams, or 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 30 grams of fat) with dark chocolate (80% cocoa) you need 65 grams of dark chocolate because 20% of it is sugar. You will also need to adapt the amount of sugar in the recipe, in our example reduce 1 tablespoon of sugar.

There is no difference between baking cocoa vs cocoa powder, while baking cocoa is sometimes referred to as dutch processed cocoa, both baking cocoa and cocoa powder can be used for baking and cooking.

I hope you find this post useful and informative. If you have any questions please leave a message below or email me at

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