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Chocolate pairing: What flavors work best with different kinds of chocolate

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

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If you're a chocoholic (and what red-blooded American woman isn't?), you know the only thing better than chocolate is chocolate with your favorite flavors. This handy guide will show you how to pair your favorite treats with the right chocolate.

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White chocolate

Pairing white chocolate can be challenging because of its delicate flavors, but it ultimately creates some of the most unique and versatile combinations.

Pairings:

  • Sea salt caramel
  • Agave nectar
  • Maple syrup
  • Lemongrass
  • Pink peppercorn
  • Cardamom
  • Saffron
  • Sea salt
  • Wasabi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Cranberry
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brie
  • Wisconsin mixed-milk cheese
  • Caviar
  • Dragon well tea
  • Matcha tea
  • Colombian coffee
  • Costa Rican coffee
  • Yemeni coffee
  • Bourbon-barrel-aged tripel (beer)
  • Orange muscat
  • Vintage port
  • Chocolate stout

Fun ideas:

For breakfast, we like a small chunk or two of white chocolate on the side or melted into complementary coffees. Savor the aroma of medium-roasted beans with a touch of caramel. Or indulge in a cup of easy drinking lighter-roasted beans with a generous kick of silky smooth vanilla. The right roast with the right flavor makes all the difference. Look for these and other Starbucks® K-Cup® packs where you buy groceries.

For a fancy treat for you and your beau, whip up a white chocolate soufflé and add some caviar (almost as much caviar as you have white chocolate. This scientifically proven (yes, we're serious) flavor combo powerhouse may sound strange, but it's a darling of molecular gastronomists.

Milk chocolate

For milk chocolate, look for deep European-style milk chocolates. While chocolates from different manufacturers may have different characteristics (nuttiness, fruitiness, etc.), in general, most people prefer milk chocolates that are full-flavored, creamy and not too sweet.

Pairings:

  • Caramel
  • Honey
  • Coconut
  • Lavender
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • Ginger
  • Curry powder
  • Orange
  • Strawberries
  • Goji berries
  • Raspberries
  • Asiago
  • Gruyère
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Bacon
  • Chai tea
  • Darjeeling tea
  • Smoked black tea
  • Colombian coffee
  • Kenyan coffee
  • Sumatran coffee
  • Yemeni coffee
  • Ethiopian coffee
  • Kona coffee
  • Raspberry beers

Fun ideas:

Thread some raw bacon onto wooden skewers and bake them up until they're nice and crispy. Temper some milk chocolate (with a glob of shortening if desired) in a double boiler and use pastry brushes to coat the bacon with the chocolate. Sprinkle it with peanuts or walnuts, crystallized ginger, grated Gruyère or chopped Goji berries and place them on a wax paper-lined sheet to refrigerate until they're set.

Chop up some quality milk chocolate and sprinkle it over a big scoop of orange sorbet. Serve it after a hearty meal with a cup of Sumatran coffee.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is often considered the most versatile of the chocolates. This includes semisweet and bittersweet chocolate. Because it's less sweet than other chocolates, it contrasts well with sweet or tangy foods, while richer flavors, like offer and balsamic, serve to bring out the richness of the confection.

Pairings:

  • Sea salt caramel
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Cardamom
  • Black pepper
  • Wasabi
  • Chipotle
  • Jalapeño
  • Cinnamon
  • Fennel
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Banana
  • Lime
  • Berries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Dried currants
  • Pine nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds
  • Goat cheese
  • Aged gouda
  • Parmesan
  • Chèvre
  • Monterey Jack
  • Blue cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Grasshoppers
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Assam tea
  • Earl Grey tea
  • Indonesian coffee
  • Guatemalan coffee
  • Brazilian coffee
  • Ethiopian coffee
  • Dark-roast coffee
  • Espresso beans
  • Belgian quad (beer)
  • Red zinfandel
  • Pinot noir

Fun ideas:

The next time you make brownies or chocolate cake, sprinkle in a little black pepper to add a little heat and complexity. Serve dessert up with a berry-streaked whipped cream and a glass of pinot noir.

At your next dinner party, whip up some chocolate-covered espresso beans, almonds and grasshoppers. Serve them up with your guests' choices of a dark-roasted coffee or Belgian quad.

Tip:

If you start with the beer, they'll be more adventurous about the chocolate-covered grasshoppers.

Poll:

Which flavor combo are you most eager to try?

a. White chocolate and caviar
b. Milk chocolate and Gruyère
c. Dark chocolate and jalapeño
d. I'll stick with chocolate and coffee, thanks!

More on chocolate

Tips for pairing chocolates and wine
Drink up: Study shows hot chocolate helps your brain
Baking 101: When to use different kinds of chocolate

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