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European vs. American Chocolate: What's the Difference?

Posted: Jul 03 2013

  There is great debate on European versus American chocolates: is one better than the other? However there is no debate. Neither European nor American chocolate can be considered better, it’s really just a matter of taste preference.  

To distinguish between American and European chocolates, there are four major differences you will find. One is the cocoa content. The United States requires a lesser percentage cacao in their chocolates, ten percent to be exact, while in Europe anything considered “chocolate” is twenty percent or higher. For example, if you were to compare a Hershey bar made in America versus a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar made in Europe, you would find a significant taste difference. That’s because those Cadbury milk bars contain 23 percent cacao in comparison to the American-made Hershey bars, which contain only eleven percent cacao, resulting in a much darker, richer taste in the Cadbury bar.  

The second major difference is sugar content. As a result of American-made chocolate having lesser percentage cacao, there is a higher sugar content. That’s why Americans are usually known for their lighter, sweeter milk chocolates while Europeans consider their chocolates to be almost bitter as a result of the low sugar content.

Fat content is another distinguisher between American and European chocolates. When adding cocoa butter and cream to their chocolates, Americans and Europeans differ in both the amount and the fat content. European chocolates, with their smoother, richer flavor, use European butter and cream, which has a higher fat content. To accentuate the smoothness of the chocolates, Europe also uses more cocoa butter, further accentuating the difference in taste.  

Finally, there is a difference between where Europe and America get their cocoa beans. American chocolatiers tend to use beans from South America, while Europeans, such as those in Great Britain, often use beans from West Africa instead. Different beans do result in different flavors, so depending on your palette one type of bean may taste better to you than another.  

Thus, there really is no debate between whether American or European chocolate is better; it is really only a matter of preference. American chocolates are lighter and sweeter; using a smaller variety of ingredients like caramel, almonds, peanuts, and chocolate cream. European chocolate, in comparison, is darker and richer. Its ingredients could be anything from fruits, nuts, spices, and herbs, to caramels, ganaches and more. It’s up to you to decide which you like better!

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  • Posted by YuRe on April 05, 2020

    “Thus, there really is no debate…”
    Appreciate some of the info in this post, but clearly the author lacks taste buds. As an American who’s eaten chocolate from Europe, Asia, and North America, I can state that “regular,” every day, grocery store chocolate in the US is far inferior to what’s processed overseas. Seriously, who eats Hershey’s?!? Sadly, I’ve not tasted the “source” choco produced directly from Africa or S. America. However, American food production standards are often much lower than our transatlantic/trans-pacific neighbors. Other N. American chocolate is also poor quality, perhaps excluding parts of Canada.

  • Posted by Andre de Graaf on April 05, 2020

    Agree 100% with Michelle Escobar on June 13, 2018. American so called “chocolate” is not even close to European chocolate. I am from the Netherlands originally and maybe Dutch chocolate is considered inferior to the Swiss but it is vastly superior to what is produced in America.

  • Posted by Sophie on April 05, 2020

    Hershey’s is not even considered to be chocolate, by European standards.

    It’s classified as “candy”.

    In my opinion, correctly.

  • Posted by Richard Rogers on April 05, 2020

    1. Adding nuts, caramel, etc. doesn’t make the chocolate different. It makes it adulterated.

    2. American chocolates have less cocao so more sugar is needed. There is no debate. American chocolates are weak and cheap, having less of what makes chocolates chocolate. Most of Americans have no experience with quality chocolate so they merely gulp the stuff down.

    3. Albert Heyn house brand chocolate (puur or dark) costs about $.50 for 200 grams. A little less heavy American chocolate bar (say Hershey) will run about a dollar.

    4. South and Central American chocolates are better than US chocolates. The bean is the same but the chocolate is not so cheap.

    5 When I say cheap I mean that manufacturing costs are less because quality is poorer. US regulation allows for cheaper stuff. When in Europe I pay less for less cheap stuff.

    Your article is helpful. European chocolates are better because they have more chocolate. Less cheap filler.

  • Posted by MARGARITA b FRIEDMAN on April 05, 2020

    Chocolates in Mexico and Latin America are much less sweeter than American, except for the American brands manufactured in Mexico. The first time I tasted an American chocolate, my throat closed because of its sweetness. But it is unfortunately the same with pastries, and other desserts. For those who were not raised with American sweets, these are are chokingly sweet with minimum flavor of its other ingredients Maybe this contributes to the fact that the US is the leading developed country with Diabetes.

  • Posted by Cathy Dunn on June 13, 2018

    Thank you for your explanation ! I love the European chocolate. It never brothers my stomach. Now I know why because of the sugar content. American chocolate I had to give up due to IBS. The European chocolate has always tasted richer to me…know wonder with the butter and cream! I love my county “The Great USA” but sorry …European chocolate is the best chocolate ….to me anyway !!!!

  • Posted by Michelle Escobar on June 13, 2018

    I have been living in Switzerland for 33 years. Although I have not tasted every kind of chocolate in the world, I would venture to say that there is absolutely no comparison between American chocolate and Swiss chocolate, but not because it’s a matter of taste. Swiss chocolate is vastly superior in every way, no doubt about it!

  • Posted by theauthorm on October 15, 2014

    With all chocolate, you should eat what you enjoy. Though different European Countries tend to specialize in different types. English and Swiss Chocolates use very high quality milk, to make their chocolates very creamy. Belgians use a lot of cacao butter, so their chocolates are incredibly smooth regardless of milk or dark. French Chocolatiers tend to specialize in very rich, bitter, dark chocolates. So if you’re looking for a good dark, I’d recommend a French chocolate. (Something between 72% and 85%)

  • Posted by 00000 on October 15, 2014

    So if you want to experience what European chocolate tastes like you should go for dark?

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