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White Chocolate Chips

Published September 2019

How we tested

In the test kitchen, we love white chocolate chips for the pops of creamy sweetness they bring to cookies, brownies, and bars. We also like melting them into mousse, bark, frosting, and even fruit tart filling. But since they’re sold under many different names, from white chocolate chips to white chips to baking wafers to white morsels, considering all the options can make your head spin. If a recipe calls for white chocolate chips, does it matter which product you buy? 

What Is White Chocolate?

First, let’s clarify what white chocolate really is. Like all chocolate, it begins with cacao pods. After the cacao beans are harvested from the pods, they are fermented, dried, cleaned, and roasted. Next, the shells are removed from the beans, revealing cacao nibs, which are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. This liquor is divided into two parts: cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Cocoa butter is responsible for the richness we associate with chocolate. Though cocoa butter has some chocolaty flavor and aroma, cocoa solids are responsible for most of chocolate’s flavor as well as its color and aroma. White chocolate, unlike other types of chocolate, contains only cocoa butter. That’s why it’s so light in color.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), white chocolate must have at least 20 percent cocoa butter (in addition to meeting certain requirements for milk solids, milk fat, and sweeteners). Many products replace some—or all—of that cocoa butter with refined fats: palm kernel oil, palm oil, or a combination of the two. These products can’t legally be called white chocolate. Instead, they’re labeled white baking wafers, white morsels, or white melting chips. (For simplicity, we’ve chosen to refer to all these products as “white chips.”) 

We gathered six nationally available products, four imitation and two real, priced from about $0.25 to about $1.10 per ounce. We tasted them plain and in Wintermint Bark (without the peppermint topping, which we found distracting), to find the best product for a variety of recipes.

Flavor Battle: White Chocolate Chips versus White Chips

Our tasters picked up on flavor differences among the products. Like good dark and milk chocolates, the real white chocolate samples were described as complex, with most tasters enjoying their milky, nutty, and vanilla flavors. Others called out sour or citrusy notes that they found off-putting. Responses to the white chips were much more uniform. For the most part, these products offered mild yet pleasant hints of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch and were moderately sweet (one was very sweet). To our surprise, all the white chips outscored the real white chocolates. We also looked at the sugar and fat contents of the products. They were very similar across the board, which made them nonfactors in helping us determine a winner. 

Texture Matters Most 

Textural differences turned out to be more important than flavor differences. Sampled plain, the real white chocolates were described as “smooth,” “rich,” and “creamy.” They melted faster than the white chips, both on both our fingers and our tongues, but we didn’t mind. However, when we sampled them in bark, their soft textures were deemed unacceptable. The real white chocolates didn’t truly solidify after being melted and left to harden. Instead, they remained “squishy” and “too soft,” lacking the expected snap and exhibiting textures that were more like fudge than bark. 

The white chips performed differently. Straight from the bag, they all were firm and crunchy, but some were described as being a little gritty, chalky, or waxy. Once melted and hardened, though, these white chips gave us barks that were “snappy” and “smooth,” garnering higher ratings than the barks made with the real white chocolates. 

Why did imitation chocolates perform so much better in bark? It comes down to the presence—or absence—of cocoa butter. When real white chocolate is melted, the crystal structure of the cocoa butter changes. Unless you temper the chocolate—a challenging process of heating and cooling that reestablishes the cocoa butter’s structure of triglycerides—it remains soft, even when it’s fully cooled. Conversely, white chips, which contain a refined fat in place of some or all of the cocoa butter, don’t need to be tempered to retain their structure. This means that in addition to being crunchy when eaten plain, they are crunchy when melted and cooled. Plus, the refined fats used in white chips are cheaper than cocoa butter. 

White Chips Do It All

It was clear that our tasters preferred the textures of the white chips to those of the real white chocolates, especially in bark. But what if we used both types of chips in a recipe that didn’t rely on the product’s texture for success, such as brownies or blondies? Would we like the real white chocolates better? To find out, we made two batches of blondies, mixing real white chocolate chips into one batch and our highest-ranking white chips into the second batch, and tasted them side by side. Tasters noted that the real white chocolate chips were slightly creamier than the white chips, but the differences were minimal. We concluded that when a cookie or brownie recipe calls for white chocolate chips, both real and imitation products will work just fine. If the texture of a recipe, such as a bark or a fruit tart filling, is reliant on white chocolate and doesn’t call for tempering, it's important to use white chips to ensure that it sets up properly. 

The Best White Chocolate: Ghirardelli Classic White Baking Chips

Though we can recommend all the white chocolate products we tried, we preferred white chips. In both flavor and texture, they consistently bested the real white chocolate products. We love that they set up firm without requiring any fussy tempering. Our new favorite, Ghirardelli Classic White Baking Chips, are milky, sweet, and mild. Whether you’re adding them to cookies or brownies or melting them for use in bark or a tart, these chips are sure to please. 


We purchased six nationally available real white chocolate chips and imitation white chips, priced from about $0.25 to about $1.10 per ounce. We evaluated them in two blind tastings, plain and in Wintermint Bark (without the peppermint topping). We also sampled real white chocolate chips and our favorite white chips in Browned Butter Blondies. Sugar and fat contents are based on 15-gram serving sizes. We purchased the products in Boston-area supermarkets and online, and the prices listed are what we paid. Scores were averaged, and products are listed in order of preference.

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The Results


Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*