Chocolate is undoubtedly one of the sweetest, most delectable, delightful treats in the world. But what about its “darker” side?
It isn’t really fair to say that dark chocolate “tastes bad.” On the contrary, as we’ll see, given the right conditions, dark chocolate can be downright delicious, a truly subtle delicacy that’s supremely underrated.
That said, those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth might be a bit disappointed by the fact that dark chocolate is notoriously more bitter than its milkier, sweeter, lighter alternatives.
Still, there are plenty of ways dark chocolate can be enjoyed in its own right and be made to taste not just “better,” but allow you to truly get the “best” out of it.
1 – Cost and Quality Matters
One of the most interesting things about dark chocolate is that people either think it’s awful or find it quite a delicacy. That difference may have something to do with these people possibly eating different types of dark chocolate.
Inexpensive dark chocolate can taste chalky and unpleasant, but as with so much in life, you get what you pay for, so by contrast, more expensive dark chocolates are often quite luxurious.
Even if you don’t want to pay for the most lavish dark chocolates, chances are if you are spending less than $10 on dark chocolate, it isn’t of the highest quality.
2 – Sea Salt
“Don’t be salty” – or should you be? While salt and chocolate typically activate different taste buds on your tongue, and thus are often seen as “clashing” tastewise, sea salt and dark chocolate are like that old adage about opposites attracting.
Part of the reason that this method is so effective is the fact that salt can actually help diffuse the chocolate aroma and taste. Simply put, if you feel that that distinctive “dark chocolate taste” is a bit too much for you, this is a way to tone it down a notch while still giving it a try.
In addition, adding sea salt in particular brings a whole new flavor palette to the table.
All of this makes this a great option for those looking to make their dark chocolate taste a bit milder or bring out a new taste in their truffles and cookies.
3 – Chili Peppers
File this as another entry in the “Taste Mixes You Never Thought You’d Try” category. At first blush, mixing such different tastes as sweet or bitter chocolate with spicy chili peppers may seem truly odd indeed.
However, as with the sea salt option mentioned above, this is another example of opposites actually being complementary.
What’s more, there’s actually a long tradition of mixing chocolate and chili peppers in Mexican cuisine.
If you’re well-versed in Mexican cooking or want to try something new, this can be a great way to add something sweet, spicy, and absolutely invigorating to your snack time, all while helping to make your dark chocolate taste a little less bitter.
After all, if your taste buds are preoccupied with the sizzling-hot taste of a chili pepper, chances are you’ll be less inclined to dwell over bitter dark chocolate.
One last nice little tidbit to add here is that chili peppers are actually a natural pain relieving agent, so if you’re looking to ease the pain and that dark chocolate taste, you have your answer.
4 – Pair it with Cheese
Chocolate and cheese are two of the most sumptuous appetizer finger foods for luncheons and dinner parties, so why not put the two together?
If you’re already putting out cheese wedges for your guests, putting out pieces of dark chocolate can not only help the latter taste better as the two tastes mix in your palette, but can make your soiree feel that much chicer.
This takes a bit more culinary know-how than other options, not because cheese and chocolate are hard to put out, but because you want to make sure you get the pairing right for the best results.
As a rule of thumb, the more bitter the chocolate, the more complex and aged cheese it can handle. By contrast, sweeter chocolate is best left as simple additives to simpler cheeses.
Elegance is simplicity sometimes, but if you want to enjoy the full bouquet of flavor afforded by aged Gouda or Jack, you’ll want to look to some dark chocolate.
5 – Pair it with Wine
You have your cheese and chocolate already, so why not make it a fully lavish luxurious luncheon and add a bit of wine as well? Of course, as with cheese, you have the question of “which wine to pair it with.”
As with so much of this list, the key is to balance opposing and complementing different flavors.
For example, you wouldn’t tend to match dark chocolate with white wines. The latter are simply too sweet, dry, or else just not the right flavor palette to get the most out of them.
On the other hand, a robust red wine is ideally suited for being matched with a dark chocolate. It is full-bodied enough to not be overpowered by the dark chocolate taste as can happen with a white wine and is still sweet enough to complement the bitter taste.
Dessert wines like sherry with dark chocolate are an interesting case. While you usually don’t want to pair something too sweet with dark chocolate, these flavors actually tend to do a good job of complementing one another.
For example, specialty dessert wines such as Barolo Chinato pair fantastically with richer chocolates, and could be worth a try with some dark chocolate if you have both on hand.
On the flip side, PX Sherry and dark chocolate fondants and desserts are another blend of opposites that go together wonderfully, bringing out the best in one another.
6 – Pair it with Fruit
Here’s another pairing that’s as classic as it gets. Fruit is naturally sweet, and so it only stands to reason that it’s been mixed with sweet chocolate for centuries. As established, however, dark chocolate is more bitter than sweet.
As a result, fruit paired with dark chocolate can feel like you’re putting the sweetness back into the latter while introducing a new taste and texture into the former.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when doing this is that you need to account for the different tastes of the fruits.
This may seem like an obvious point, but certain fruits are way tangier or tarter than others, and that can have a huge impact on how the chocolate tastes. For example, pairing it with a passion fruit is going to taste a lot different than something milder such as a banana.
That being said, bananas and chocolate are a match made in heaven, so if you’re going to mix your dark chocolate with any fruit, that one should definitely be near the top of your list. The same can be said for chocolate and cherries.
Still, to get the most out of your dark chocolate, it’s passion fruit and the incredible sweetness they bring to the table which are really the top options.
This contrasted with that dark chocolate bitterness can be yet another great (and tasty) study in contrasts.
7 – Drizzled Over Bacon
How fatteningly decadent can you get? This may not be for the faint of heart or waistline watchers, but if you’re looking to indulge your more hedonistic side (not to mention the Internet’s obsession with bacon), this can be a mouthwatering combination.
There’s nothing too complex about this option. Simply melt your dark chocolate, drizzle it over the bacon, and voila.
8 – Add it to Coffee
Looking to add an extra perky jolt to your morning pick me up? If so, you might want to consider dropping a bit of dark chocolate into your morning coffee and letting the two melt together.
One reason this is such a great choice is that regular sweetened chocolate may actually make your coffee taste sour. This is especially true if you are consuming more acidic coffees, or those made with specialized coffee roasters, which don’t usually agree with sweetened chocolate.
What’s more, this can actually make your coffee taste more bitter than if you simply added dark chocolate. By contrast, dark chocolate gives you just enough of that chocolatey taste without introducing an oversweet and less than savory element into your morning Cup of Joe.
One more coffee-chocolate tip – pair similar mixes together to enhance the effect. For example, if you already have a chocolate-fruit mix, adding that to naturally-fruity chocolate can bring out the fruity taste all the more while adding a delectable dash of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate can be a difficult dessert to figure out. On the one hand, it isn’t wholly sweet like milk chocolate, and doesn’t go with everything. On the other hand, its very uniqueness is part of what makes dabbling in chocolate’s “darker” side so wonderful.
When paired with the right food or drink, dark chocolate could be the secret ingredient to a sumptuous and exciting burst of flavor, making it well worth a try – or several.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.