how to make chocolate from scratch

Have you ever wondered how to make chocolate at home? Raw (= from unroasted cacao beans), tempered (= shiny, smooth, with a snap when you bite into it), dark (75%) chocolate entirely from scratch. This 3-ingredient dark chocolate recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, nut-free, and refined sugar-free.

I’ll admit it. I absolutely LOVE dark chocolate. I can’t resist a piece (or a few) of dark chocolate. I’ll even eat 90% dark chocolate if I don’t have 70% dark chocolate laying around. In times of desperation, I’ve even been even known to reach for cacao nibs. So, why does chocolate have such a strong allure? And what characteristics does chocolate have that we simply can’t say ‘no’ to?

Chocolate contains several interesting psychoactive chemicals that affect the brain and body in a myriad of ways, most of them pleasurable and positive. These include:

  • Anandamide: a neurotransmitter that helps to stimulate “feel good” waves in the body. It binds to the same brain receptors as the cannabinoids derived from cannabis.
  • Phenylethylamine: a trace amine that acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It stimulates the release of the biogenetic amines norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
  • Theobromine: an alkaloid that exerts a stimulant effect on the central nervous system. It’s very similar to caffeine, but compared to caffeine, it’s mild, has a slow onset but lasts longer, and is non-addictive.
  • Caffeine: yet another alkaloid that exerts a stimulant effect on the central nervous system. It’s present only in trace amounts.

Other than these substances, chocolate also has high levels of sugar and fat.

A cacao bean is made of 50-55% fat (cacao butter), 30% carbohydrates (fiber and sugar), 10% protein, 3% polyphenols (flavonoids/antioxidants), and 2% minerals (iron, magnesium, potassium, etc.). With added ingredients like sugar and milk, chocolate becomes a rich mix of fats and carbohydrates that is highly addictive. (1) In chocolate, sugar adds sweetness and offsets some of the bitterness and sourness of raw chocolate. Fat molecules help regulate the melting point, so the chocolate stays solid at room temperature but melts on the tongue, exciting the taste buds. As it melts, the chocolate goes from a solid phase to a semi-liquid phase while simultaneously releasing its aroma and over 600 volatile compounds, which make up the flavor of chocolate. 

It’s no surprise then that chocolate is quite unique in its popularity with billions of people.

If you love chocolate like the next person, you might wonder whether it’s possible to make chocolate at home. The answer is, ‘yes’! Read on to learn how to make chocolate from scratch at home.

dark chocolate

Tips for Making Dark Chocolate

Ingredients

100% dark chocolate contains only two ingredients – cacao butter and cacao solids/cacao powder. It’s definitely the healthiest form of chocolate, but also very bitter. My favorite type of dark chocolate is ~ 70%, and it contains the following ingredients:

  • Cacao butter (cocoa butter): you simply can’t make real chocolate without cacao butter – the edible fat derived from cacao beans. Having little flavor of its own, cacao butter doesn’t significantly contribute to chocolate flavor, but it has a strong aroma and enhances the texture of chocolate. Without cacao butter, chocolate wouldn’t have its characteristic snap and melt-in-your-mouth quality. Cacao butter also contracts significantly upon setting, making it possible for chocolatiers to release chocolate easily from molds once it’s set. I use high-quality Ecuadorian or Peruvian cacao butter, but Balinese cacao butter works fine too. Avoid deodorized cacao butter, which is commonly used for cosmetics, as it doesn’t contain strong aromas. 
  • Cacao powder: raw cacao powder is essentially chocolate in its purest form. You can use cocoa powder, which is more processed than cacao powder, as a substitute. Again, Ecuadorian or Peruvian is my preference.
  • Coconut sugar: my favorite sweetener is coconut sugar because it’s just dehydrated coconut sap still in its raw form. However, if you don’t like coconut sugar, there are a few alternative sugars you can use for tempered chocolate to a greater or lesser degree and success. Here are the rules: if you can find the sugar in a granular form, you can use it. It’s not so much that you want “granular” for its own sake, but you don’t want “powdered” sugar per se. Powdered sugars typically contain starches or some other additives to keep them from caking (forming clumps), and you don’t want those in your chocolate. Liquid sweeteners are an absolute ‘no’ because they would seize up the chocolate. Fully dehydrated granulated honey or agave might be an option, but I haven’t experimented with those. If you’d like to use honey or agave, look for fully dehydrated granules. As far as extracts go, such as powdered monk fruit or stevia, they are 200-500 times sweeter than regular sugar, which in itself is an issue because you only need very little. Sugar bulks out chocolate, so if you add only a little bit of monk fruit or stevia, you’ll end up with hard chocolate (similar to 100%). In summary, you can use other sweeteners, but you’ll have to experiment a bit. 

How to Make Chocolate

Chocolate that has a shiny appearance, feels firm and breaks off with a snap, and melts in your mouth (but not in your hands) is always tempered. Slowly heating and cooling melted chocolate while stirring puts it into temper. If chocolate is not tempered properly, it results in an unattractive, dull look with white streaks and a cakey, almost chewy texture. While some recipes do not require tempered chocolate, chocolate bars require tempering to achieve their signature appearance, taste, and texture.

Here’s a step-by-step process of making chocolate from scratch and tempering it:

  • Powder the coconut sugar. Add the granulated coconut sugar into a high-speed blender (I use Vitamix) and blend on high until powdered. Granulated sweeteners only melt at high temperatures or when mixed with water-based liquids. So, if you use granulated sweetener for a chocolate recipe, you’ll end up with grainy (rather than smooth) chocolate. That being said, unless you own a melanger, homemade chocolate will never be as smooth as the professional chocolate you buy in the store. A melanger is a granite stone grinder that reduces the particle sizes of both cocoa solids and sugar crystals in finished chocolate to around 15-25 microns. Unfortunately, there is no other way (that I know of) to refine chocolate at home and get that perfectly smooth mouthfeel than using a melanger. 
  • Set up a double boiler. Add a few inches of water to a medium saucepan and top it with a stainless-steel bowl that’s slightly larger than the circumference of the saucepan. The bowl should create a seal with the bottom saucepan to trap the steam produced by the hot water. Ensure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water – this would cause the chocolate to get too hot. Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Once the water is hot, turn the heat to the lowest setting. The water shouldn’t be so hot that it produces vigorous steam or bubbles otherwise, the steam might get into the chocolate and cause it to seize. 
  • Melt the cacao butter with the cacao powder and coconut sugar. Using a chef’s knife, finely chop the cacao butter, so it melts quickly and evenly. Add the cacao butter to the stainless steel bowl set over the saucepan, followed by the cacao powder and coconut sugar. Allow the cacao butter to melt slightly before stirring the cacao powder and coconut sugar in. If you start stirring right away, the whole mixture will just clump up and potentially burn. 
  • Heat the chocolate to 115°F/46°C. Warm up the chocolate, stirring constantly, until the temperature on the thermometer registers 115°F/46°C. If this is your first time tempering, consider taking the chocolate off the heat at 110°F/43.3°C and keep stirring until the temperature reaches 115°F/46°C. The residual heat of the bowl will warm up the chocolate slower than the steam. When taking the chocolate off the heat, be careful not to get any hot water/steam from the saucepan into the chocolate. Even a tiny bit of water will cause the chocolate to seize.
  • Cool the chocolate to 81°F/27°C. As soon as the chocolate heats up to 115°F/46°C, transfer it into a cool stainless steel bowl. Begin to stir the chocolate, using the full circumference of the bowl, until the temperature drops to 81°F/27°C. Stirring (aka agitating the chocolate) is necessary to properly distribute cacao butter beta crystals within the melted chocolate. Stirring will also help the chocolate cool faster.
  • Reheat the chocolate to 88°F/31°C. Place the bowl with the cooled chocolate back over the saucepan with hot water (don’t turn the stove back on) and warm the chocolate up, stirring constantly, until the temperature reaches 88°F/31°C. Monitor the temperature closely. If the chocolate overheats, you’ll have to start the entire tempering process again.  
  • Test the tamper. Dip a piece of parchment paper into the chocolate. If the chocolate is correctly tempered, it will harden in 3-5 minutes. It will be shiny at the bottom and will release from the parchment paper easily. If it doesn’t, repeat the tempering process. 
  • Use the chocolate while in temper and then store it correctly. See below
For more information on tempering chocolate, see my » How to Temper Chocolate guide.

 How to Keep Chocolate in Temper

Chocolate that is in temper must be used before it cools and sets. If the chocolate cools to about 81-82°F/27-27.8°C, it will begin to thicken and will be hard to work with. 

You can keep your chocolate warm by placing it over a saucepan of warm water or even resting it on a heating pad set to low. It’s important not to overheat the chocolate, so keep your thermometer handy. As long as you keep your chocolate between 81°F/27°C and 89.6°F/32°C, it will stay in temper. If the chocolate temperature rises above 89.6°F/32°C or falls below 81°F/27°C, it will go out of temper, and you’ll need to temper it again.

how to make chocolate from scratch

How to Cool and Store Chocolate

The process of tempering chocolate always works best at normal room temperature, that is, where the temperature is between 65-70°F/18.3-21.1°C and the relative humidity is below 50%. This applies to storing the chocolate as well. 

  • Storing at room temperature: the best way to store any type of chocolate is in a cool, ideally between 65-70°F/18.3-21.1°C, dry, dark place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and strong scents.
  • Refrigerating: chocolate can get too warm if it’s stored above 75°F/23.9°C. If your house is warmer than 75°F/23.9°C, store the chocolate in an airtight container with as little air space as possible in the refrigerator. The refrigerator is a humid environment with lots of odors, so make sure the storage container is truly airtight. Allow chilled chocolate to come to room temperature without opening the airtight container so that any condensation forms on the outside of the container and not on the chocolate. Always bring cold chocolate to room temperature before eating; cold chocolate doesn’t melt or disperse flavor as nicely.

Note: if your room temperature is between 70-75°F/18.3-23.9°C, try and let your chocolate set up at room temperature. If the chocolate sets, you’re fine. If you find that the chocolate is slow to set up after about 5 minutes, put it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to help the cacao butter form the right type of crystals. Then, let the chocolate finish setting up at room temperature.

dark chocolate recipe

How to Use Tempered Chocolate

Tempered chocolate is always required for molding. Other than the appearance, taste, and texture, there is also the practical side of things – untempered chocolate doesn’t release from professional polycarbonate molds (which are the molds I use). When working with molds, you can either fill the mold entirely with tempered chocolate (e.g., for a traditional chocolate bar) or just thinly coat the mold with chocolate and then fill it with cream, caramel, smooth chocolate, or whatever else you desire (e.g., for chocolate bonbons). 

Tempered chocolate is also used for enrobing, be it enrobed strawberries, fudge, or roasted nuts. The key here is to enrobe things free of moisture or crumbs that could interfere with the chocolate.

how to make chocolate
5 from 3 votes

Dark Chocolate

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Have you ever wondered how to make chocolate at home? This recipe is for raw (= from unroasted cacao beans), tempered (= shiny, smooth, with a snap when you bite into it), dark (75%) chocolate. Watch the video above for more details!

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Set up a double boiler. Add a few inches of water to a medium saucepan and top it with a stainless-steel bowl that's slightly larger than the circumference of the saucepan. The bowl should create a seal with the bottom saucepan to trap the steam produced by the hot water. Ensure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water - this would cause the chocolate to get too hot. Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Once the water is hot, turn the heat to the lowest setting. The water shouldn't be so hot that it produces vigorous steam or bubbles otherwise, the steam might get into the chocolate and cause it to seize. 
  • Melt the cacao butter with the cacao powder and coconut sugar. Add the cacao butter to the stainless steel bowl set over the saucepan, followed by the cacao powder and coconut sugar. Allow the cacao butter to melt slightly before stirring the cacao powder and coconut sugar in. If you start stirring right away, the whole mixture will just clump up and potentially burn. 
  • Heat the chocolate to 115°F/46°C. Warm up the chocolate, stirring constantly, until the temperature on the thermometer registers 115°F/46°C. If this is your first time tempering, consider taking the chocolate off the heat at 110°F/43.3°C and keep stirring until the temperature reaches 115°F/46°C. The residual heat of the bowl will warm up the chocolate slower than the steam. When taking the chocolate off the heat, be careful not to get any hot water/steam from the saucepan into the chocolate. Even a tiny bit of water will cause the chocolate to seize.
  • Cool the chocolate to 81°F/27°C. Once the chocolate has reached 115°F/46°C, transfer it into a cool stainless steel bowl. Begin to stir the chocolate, using the full circumference of the bowl, until the temperature drops to 81°F/27°C. Stirring (aka agitating the chocolate) is necessary to properly distribute cacao butter beta crystals within the melted chocolate. Stirring will also help the chocolate cool faster.
  • Reheat the chocolate to 88°F/31°C. Place the bowl with the cooled chocolate back over the saucepan with hot water (don't turn the stove back on) and warm the chocolate up, stirring constantly, until the temperature reaches 88°F/31°C. Monitor the temperature closely. If the chocolate overheats, you'll have to start the entire tempering process again.  
  • Test the tamper. Dip a piece of parchment paper into the chocolate. If the chocolate is correctly tempered, it will harden in 3-5 minutes. It will be shiny at the bottom and will release from the parchment paper easily. If it doesn't, repeat the tempering process. 
  • Use the chocolate while in temper. If you're making a chocolate bar or some other type of molded chocolate, pour the tempered chocolate into the mold as soon as it's in temper. Once the cavities are full, tap the mold briskly on the counter to settle the chocolate into any grooves or designs in the cavity and to force out air bubbles. Place the mold (cavity side up) on a flat cool surface to harden.
  • Store. Tempered chocolate is best stored in a cool, ideally between 65-70°F/18.3-21.1°C, dry, dark place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and strong scents. If your house is warmer than 75°F/23.9°C, store the chocolate in an airtight container with as little air space as possible in the refrigerator.
    Always bring cold chocolate to room temperature before eating; cold chocolate doesn't melt or disperse flavor as nicely.

Notes

*Add the granulated coconut sugar to a high-speed blender (I use Vitamix) and blend on high until powdered. Note: using a high-speed blender to powder granulated coconut sugar will never yield as smooth results as using a mélanger (a granite stone grinder).
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords: dark chocolate, dark chocolate recipe, how to make chocolate, how to make dark chocolate, tempered chocolate