Milk Chocolate Ingredients - What Is Milk Chocolate?

The first milk chocolate bar was produced in 1875 in Switzerland by Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé.

That first bar was, unsurprisingly, made up entirely of milk chocolate.

Nowadays, two things may make up a milk chocolate bar:
    •    Milk chocolate ingredients
    •    Add-in ingredients (optional)
Add-ins are things like peanuts, almonds, raisins, hot peppers, and other foods.

On this page I am talking about the milk chocolate itself, not the add-ins.

Basic Ingredients

The basic four ingredients for milk chocolate are sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor and milk. 

Although the relative quantities vary.  Some may appear in different forms (for example milk, whole milk powder, condensed milk, milk fat…).   And some may be replaced by alternatives (for example sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, guava nectar…).  In addition there are often other, secondary ingredients such as lecithin and vanilla.

And of course, the more, uhm, inexpensive your chocolate is, the more likely it is to contain cheaper and more chemical-ish ingredients in addition to and finally even instead of the basic four.

In the U.S., the FDA requires these milk chocolate ingredients:
    •    at least 10% chocolate liquor,
    •    at least 3.39% milk fat, and
    •    at least 12% total milk solids. 
Although I would call the 10% approximate, because it's calculated using a complicated bureaucratic formula.*

Popular versus Gourmet

The ingredients list on a popular milk chocolate bar often goes about like this:
    •    Sugar
    •    Milk
    •    Cocoa butter
    •    Chocolate
    •    Milkfat
    •    Soy lecithin
    •    Vanillin

For a gourmet bar, it's more likely to resemble this:
    •    Sugar
    •    Cocoa butter
    •    Chocolate liquor
    •    Milk
    •    Whole milk powder
    •    Soy lecithin
    •    Vanilla

Here are the differences between the two:


Milk is fourth (less)


Milk is second (more)


Less milk in the gourmet leaves more room for chocolate

Chocolate liquor


Same thing, different name

Whole milk powder


Milk fat is also known as butterfat



Real vanilla has 250+ natural chemicals from the vanilla bean. Vanillin is a synthetic version of one of them.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, quality milk chocolate is basically sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor and milk, often plus soy lecithin and/or vanilla.  The cheaper your chocolate becomes, the more likely it is to have one or more of these supplemented or replaced with something less wonderful.

* - Or in bureaucrat-speak:  "Milk chocolate contains not less than 10 percent by weight of chocolate liquor complying with the requirements of 163.111 as calculated by subtracting from the weight of the chocolate liquor used the weight of cacao fat therein and the weights of alkali, neutralizing and seasoning ingredients, multiplying the remainder by 2.2, dividing the result by the weight of the finished milk chocolate, and multiplying the quotient by 100."  -  21CFR163.130

Now you know what milk chocolate is.  Any questions?  You know where my Contact page is!

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