What Is Compound Chocolate? (Is It Real Chocolate?)

compound chocolate on doughnut

Maybe you have seen the words “compound chocolate” on the ingredients list for candy, cake, or ice cream that contains chocolate.  You may be wondering what this means – I was curious myself, so I did some research to shed some light on the term.

So, what is compound chocolate?  Compound chocolate is an imitation chocolate product, which contains vegetable fat (such as soybean oil or coconut oil).  Compound chocolate does contain some cocoa powder (perhaps 8% to 18%), but it often contains very little, if any, cocoa butter (the natural fat found in cacao beans).

As you might guess, the quality of compound chocolate can vary considerably from one brand to another.  This is due to differences in the amount and types of vegetable oil and sweetener added to these products.

Let’s take a closer look at compound chocolate compared to “true” chocolate.  Then we’ll get into when you might opt to use compound chocolate instead of true chocolate.

What Is Compound Chocolate?

As mentioned above, compound chocolate is an imitation chocolate product.  When used to cover candy, compound chocolate may also be called

  • Compound coating
  • Coating chocolate
  • Confectionary coating

Compound chocolate contains cocoa powder and sweeteners, along with added vegetable oils, such as:

  • soybean oil
  • cottonseed oil
  • coconut oil
  • palm oil (palm kernel oil)

Often, these vegetable oils are hydrogenated.  This keeps the oils in solid form at higher temperatures.

chocolate covered strawberries
Compound chocolate is often used for dipping, as with the strawberries seen here.

Compound chocolate usually contains very little, if any, cocoa butter.  As such, compound chocolate is a less costly alternative to true chocolate, and it is also easier to work with.

On the other hand, true chocolate does not contain any added vegetable oils.  The only fat in true chocolate is cocoa butter, which is found naturally in cacao beans.

For more information, check out this article on cocoa butter from Wikipedia.

A good analogy for the difference between true chocolate and compound chocolate is the difference butter and margarine.  Butter is made from milk and cream (dairy or milk fat), with no other oil added.  Margarine contains other added oils (such as vegetable oil), and may contain little or no milk fat.

If a chocolate mixture contains less than 20% cocoa fat, then it is not true chocolate!  The same applies if the mixture contains less than 10% chocolate liquor or more than 1% emulsifier (more on this later).

For more information, check out this article on compound chocolate from Wikipedia.

What Is Compound Chocolate Made Out Of?

The three main ingredients in compound chocolate are sweeteners, vegetable oils (fat), and cocoa powder.

cocoa powder
Compound chocolate contains cocoa powder, rather than the chocolate liquor found in true chocolate.

Compound chocolate may contain the following ingredients in varying proportions:

  • Cocoa powder (8% to 18%), which comes from the ground-up remains of cacao beans after the cocoa butter (fat) is removed.
  • Fat (35% to 40%), in the form of vegetable oils (soybean, cottonseed, coconut, or palm oils).  These oils are often hydrogenated to keep them solid at higher temperatures.
  • Sweeteners (40% to 55%), in the form of sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or other ingredients with a high sugar content.
  • Milk solids (up to 2%), in the form of milk fat.
  • Emulsifiers (small amounts), in the form of lecithin (derived from soy, eggs, or sunflowers).  Emulsifiers help chocolate to flow more easily (as a liquid) and hold the ingredients together.  (When the fat or sugar separates from chocolate, you will see white spots, known as chocolate bloom.  Emulsifiers help to prevent this from happening).  Another common emulsifier is PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate), which is derived from castor beans.
  • Flavor (small amounts), in the form of vanilla (which helps to intensify chocolate flavor), vanillin, or other flavorings.

The use of vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter leads to some to say that compound chocolate has a waxy flavor and texture.

For more information, check out this article on compound chocolate from the BCcampus website.

Do You Need To Temper Compound Chocolate?

No, you do not need to temper compound chocolate.  The lack of cocoa butter means that there is no threat of cocoa butter separating from the cocoa solids.

melted chocolate on dessert
Compound chocolate does not need to be tempered before using as a glaze or ganache, or for dipping.

Real chocolate must be tempered to maintain gloss (shine) of finished chocolate products, such as candy bars.  Tempered chocolate also has a more satisfying “snap” when you break it or bite into it.

In addition, tempering chocolate will prevent chocolate bloom, which is white or gray spots that appear on chocolate when cocoa butter separates from cocoa solids and moves to the surface of the mixture.

What Is Compound Chocolate Used For?

Compound chocolate has many uses in baking, desserts, and candy making.  Often, compound chocolate is melted and used as a layer to cover cake, ice cream, or candy.

Some uses of compound chocolate include:

  • Ganache
  • Decorating
  • Dipping
  • Molding

Compound Chocolate for Ganache

Ganache can be used as a glaze to go over pastries, as icing to go over cake, or as a filling for desserts.

Ganache is a combination of chocolate and cream (often from dairy, although you can find recipes that use milk alternatives, such as almond or coconut milk).

Often, bakers will use equal amounts of chocolate and cream to make a ganache.  To make a thicker ganache, use thicker cream.

For more information, check out this article on ganache from Wikipedia.

Compound Chocolate for Food Decoration

Compound chocolate can also be used for food decoration.  You can chop the chocolate into chunks, use a grater to peel it into shavings, or grind it into powder, which can then be sprinkled over any dessert.

You can also melt compound chocolate and drizzle it over a dessert to add a “rippled” look.  Another idea is to use enough melted compound chocolate to cover the entire top and sides of a cake to give it a chocolate shell.

You can even use a piping bag (frosting bag) to write a chocolate message on a cake.

Compound Chocolate for Dipping

Compound chocolate can be melted and used for dipping ice cream cones.  This will give you a nice chocolate shell on the outside of the ice cream.

You can also melted compound chocolate to dip fruit (such as strawberries, pineapple, or bananas) or nuts (such as almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts).  If you allow the chocolate to harden (you can speed it up by putting the desserts in the freezer!), you can make your own candy.

You can also use compound chocolate as a coating if you make truffles with caramel, cherry, mint, or other flavors.

Remember that compound chocolate melts at 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 37 degrees Celsius), and is best for coating around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).

Compound chocolate is generally not appropriate for setting in a mold for two reasons.  First, compound chocolate will not set as firmly as true chocolate.

Second, compound chocolate will not shrink when it hardens, as true chocolate does.  This will make it difficult to remove compound chocolate from a mold.

Can I Use Compound Chocolate for Baking?

You can use compound chocolate for baking, but remember that it is a lower-cost alternative to true chocolate.  As such, you will sacrifice some quality in taste and texture in exchange for a lower price.

Remember that you do not need to temper compound chocolate, since it does not contain much (or any) cocoa butter.  As such, it is easier to use compound chocolate than true chocolate in baking.

Another thing to keep in mind is the difference in sugar content between compound chocolate and true chocolate.  Compound chocolate will usually contain much more sugar than true chocolate (such as dark or unsweetened chocolate).

If you substitute compound chocolate for dark or unsweetened chocolate in a recipe, make sure to reduce the amount of sugar or other sweeteners you add.  Otherwise, the dessert will taste too sweet, possibly to the point where it will be unpalatable.

What Is The Difference Between Compound Chocolate and Couverture Chocolate?

Couverture chocolate is a type of true chocolate, meaning that the only fat it contains is cocoa butter – there is no vegetable oil added to couverture chocolate.

couverture chocolate
Couverture chocolate needs to be tempered before you can work with it for icing or dipping.

Dark couverture chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids and at least 31% cocoa butter (milk chocolate couverture contains at least 25% cocoa solids).  The remainder of couverture chocolate content is mostly sugar, possibly with a little bit of emulsifier (such as lecithin) or flavoring (such as vanilla) to improve the quality of the product.

Couverture chocolate needs to be tempered (as does any true chocolate) due to the high cocoa butter content.  It is often used by professional chocolatiers to produce fine chocolate candies.

For more information, check out this article on couverture chocolate from Wikipedia.

On the other hand, compound chocolate has no specific requirements in terms of minimum percentages of cocoa solids or cocoa butter.  In fact, compound chocolate may contain no cocoa butter at all!


By now, you have a much better idea of what compound chocolate is, compared to true chocolate.  Remember: it all comes down to the fat in the mixture – if you add any oil other than cocoa butter, it is not true chocolate!

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

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