Chocolate has a devoted following — after all, who doesn't like chocolate? A popular partner is peanut butter, which is undoubtedly a classic combination. But we're here to tell you what you're missing if you've never paired chocolate with cheese.
This lesser-known duo may strike you as odd but combining these two loved foods creates an elite-level delicacy that makes your taste buds explode. Chocolate and cheese complement each other with rich, creamy, smooth textures and flavors. But the real magic lies in the contrast between the two: sweet and savory, creamy and salty, and rich and tangy.
We love this combination so much that we reached out to chocolate and cheese experts to get an in-depth look at why this pairing works so well. We talked with Gemma Whitaker, marketing director at Whitakers Chocolates, Adrianna Pachelli, Caputo's senior manager and director of education, and Sarah Pastula, cheese experience guide, and Taryn Ruf, certified cheese professional and cheese monger, both from Cabot Creamery.
Combining chocolate with cheese is similar to pairing wine and cheese, Pachelli explained. Just like grapes take on flavors from the region they grow, so do cacao beans. Just as it changes the end result of wine, the growing environment changes chocolate. Sourcing the finest chocolate may be difficult (Pachelli told us less than 5% of the market features craft chocolate) but gathering the best chocolate and cheese pairings was easy — a number of combinations will delight your senses.
Read more: 25 Chocolate Brands, Ranked Worst To Best
Dark Chocolate And Sharp Cheddar Cheese
A natural pair, dark chocolate highlights the deep, rich bite of sharp cheddar, while cheddar cheese shines a light on the earthy, bitter taste of dark chocolate. Together they create an experience that Whitaker referred to as "bold and satisfying." Pastula and Ruf agreed the boldness of cheddar goes "hand-in-hand" with dark chocolate's decadence.
Following the general rule of pairing similar background notes, the sharp, creamy nature, of dark chocolate marries the sharp, creamy, nature of cheddar. But bringing contrast and balance to the duo is an underlying sweetness that ranges from tangy to salty.
With all these flavors popping at once, it's no wonder Pachelli told us one of the most gratifying parts of the job is watching someone's face light up the moment they try a chocolate and cheese combination for the first time, as though fireworks have gone off in the brain.
To foray into a dark chocolate and sharp cheddar pairing, Pastula and Ruf recommend using all of your senses: Observe the textures, smell the aromas, take a bite of cheese, nibble on chocolate, and let the flavors combine on your palate. Consider trying dark chocolate with nuts or tart fruit to really shake things up.
Milk Chocolate And Mild Cheese
According to Whitaker, one of the best ways to introduce yourself to the glorious pairing of chocolate and cheese is with a familiar milk chocolate and less intense cheese, such as a creamy, buttery Monterey Jack or light, mild cheddar. Milk chocolate's sweetness matches well with a mild cheese because there isn't much contrast to confuse the taste buds. This is a safer pairing for those who aren't quite as daring. A fun suggestion from Whitaker is to create a chocolate fondue with cubes of cheese.
Pastula and Ruf like mild cheddar as a classic pairing for milk chocolate. Nuts and caramel are an added bonus. "The smoothness of both with the added salty crunch from the nuts and sweetness from the caramel is just perfection. It's basically like turtle cheesecake," they explained. And if the thought of turtle cheesecake doesn't make you sit up, consider making cheddar s'mores (traditional s'mores with cheese) at your next campfire.
Dark Chocolate And Blue Cheese
Dark chocolate and blue cheese make a more daring pairing for those who are not familiar with a chocolate and cheese combination. What many people don't realize is that chocolate and cheese are often paired together — in chocolate chip cannolis, chocolate cheesecake, and cream cheese brownies. So even if you aren't feeling all that adventurous, chances are you've had a small combination of the two before.
Recommended across the board as a top chocolate and cheese pairing, dark chocolate and blue cheese make a notable impression on those who try it. Love or hate it, stinky, washed-rind cheese has a pungent aroma from the bacteria that grows on the rind after it's washed. Some describe the smell as farmy.
"While the aroma can be quite strong, these cheeses often have a perfectly soft and pliable paste that is much more approachable in flavor than they are in aroma," Pachelli explained. A huge fan of the stinkiest cheese, Pachelli was introduced to chocolate and blue cheese via bonbons, describing it as "salty, sweet, crunchy, soft, berry, barnyardy" goodness. "I most love the flavor of Taleggio, a washed rind cheese from Lombardy, Italy, alongside a dark chocolate with red berry, jammy notes like Goodnow Farms' Esmeraldas. Try separately to enjoy, try together to visit heaven."
But what makes the two pair well? Pastula and Ruf told us blue cheese brings saltiness to the dark chocolate that renders it sweet-tasting and not bitter.
Milk Chocolate And Gouda
Gouda features a mild, slightly sweet taste that blends perfectly with milk chocolate. Contributing buttery and nutty notes to the pairing, gouda highlights the sweetness of milk chocolate. A firmer cheese, gouda also has a creamy texture that goes well with the creaminess of milk chocolate. It's another good choice to start your chocolate-cheese adventure since the combined flavor profile is less complex than a more pronounced combination such as dark chocolate and blue cheese.
Whitaker considers gouda and chocolate a classic pairing, whether it's milk chocolate and young or aged gouda or dark chocolate and aged or smoked gouda. "The bitterness of the chocolate harmonizes with the creaminess and depth of the cheese," Whitaker relayed.
Dark chocolate, with its deep nature, and smoked gouda, with its savory, sweet, and salty hit, offer you an intoxicating bite that will make your senses sing. If you want to try this duo, Pastula and Ruf suggest letting your chocolate and cheese come to room temperature to appreciate the full potential of flavors.
Hot Chocolate And Soft Cheese
A popular (rightfully so) chocolate and cheese pairing is a mug of rich, hot chocolate topped with a mild, soft cheese that melts slowly, sinking to the bottom of the mug where it infuses the hot chocolate and just sits waiting for your spoon to find it in all its melty, gooey splendor. Favored in Columbia and referred to as chocolate santafereño, hot chocolate with cheese brings together the warmth and comfort of a dessert-style drink and the salty and savory bite of a loved snack. What's not to like?
Frequently used in desserts, soft cheeses such as farmer's, ricotta, and mascarpone mix well with hot, melted chocolate, adding a tangy, salty, and thick creamy component. Firm cheeses work just as well, such as mozzarella, gruyère, and Monterey Jack. Shredded or in chunks, consider topping your next steaming mug of ultimate hot chocolate with cheese.
Whitaker recommended pairing milk chocolate with Gruyère and we think this combination would make a good opportunity to try hot chocolate with cheese. "The nutty, slightly salty flavor of Gruyère cheese pairs beautifully with the sweet creaminess of milk chocolate," Whitaker shared. Yum.
Dark Chocolate And Parmesan Cheese
Hard Italian cheeses hold rich, tangy notes that pierce through dark chocolate's depth. Parmesan, with its salty earthiness, coupled with the deep richness of dark chocolate creates a decadent mouthful. A big fan of this pairing, Whitaker shared, "Parmesan's salty, umami flavor pairs intriguingly well with the bitterness of dark chocolate, offering a savory-sweet experience."
Pairing dark chocolate with sharp, hard cheeses like Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago is a classic example of combining like for like while highlighting contrasts at the same time. Matching each other sharp bite for sharp bite, the contrasting creaminess of dark chocolate complements the drier nature of Parmesan. Which, according to Pachelli, is exactly what we're looking for in a stellar chocolate and cheese pairing: "Opposing elements that highlight specific elements" of the other.
In unanimous agreement, the chocolate and cheese experts we talked to suggested putting together your own charcuterie board to experiment with different varieties and combinations. We can absolutely get behind the idea of a grazing board, complete with Italian deli meats, soft and hard cheeses, and a range of chocolates.
Milk Chocolate And Cream Cheese
One of the most popular pairings of chocolate and cheese makes up the two main ingredients of a good chocolate cheesecake. So it's understandable why milk chocolate pairs so well with cream cheese. Even if you have zero desire to put together a complete dessert (you don't need to be a world-class baker to bake the perfect cheesecake, though) or just never tried a chocolate chip cheesecake before, tease your taste buds by sampling milk chocolate with cream cheese and you're well on your way to a sweet, culinary delight.
Given the mild profiles of both milk chocolate and cream cheese, this combination is a great way to start an introduction to chocolate-cheese pairings. Pachelli reminded us that we may already be familiar with something like cream cheese brownies. "If folks are looking to dip their toe in this pond, try swirling your favorite soft to soft-ish cheese into your next batch of brownies," she explained. "Once in the baking pan, swirl bits of cheese into the brownie batter before baking."
Fruit-Infused Chocolate And Mozzarella
Did you ever wonder why you crave chocolate after eating an Italian pasta dish or pizza? Maybe you thought it was the acidic tomatoes, spicy garlic, or starchy noodles or crust. But maybe it was the salty cheese. No matter what it is, the sweetness of chocolate pairs well with mild, salty cheese, like mozzarella.
Whitaker recommended milk chocolate infused with raspberry or strawberry to pair with mozzarella. Fruit-infused chocolate, whether it's milk or dark chocolate, brings out the best of soft, mild, salty mozzarella. The sweet tang of fruit married to the rich creaminess of chocolate and then paired with creamy, salty cheese hits just about every taste bud in your mouth.
If you're not a fan of fruit, Pastula and Ruy told us they prefer to match a "sweet and milky" mozzarella with 38% milk chocolate. "The combination will be really creamy, still taste chocolatey and not bitter," they explained.
There's a bit of room to play with these flavors, though. Pachelli confessed that with mozzarella, the choice would be "a very tart and fruity Madagascar dark chocolate." Pachelli even took it a step further. "While it would be better to have mozz's sexier little sister, burrata, on hand, I'd still happily pair something like Solstice's Madagascar bar with any mozz in town."
Spicy Chocolate And Havarti
Though it might seem a bit unusual, a pair that works well together is spicy chocolate and Havarti cheese, as suggested by Whitaker. We'd have to agree; everyone needs a little spice in their life. Why not in your chocolate? Spice, hot or not, and chocolate is a tantalizing, tasty combination on its own without adding in cheese. Since spicy cheese is also a popular combo, it's not a stretch that combining all three elements packs one heck of a yummy exploding bite.
Spice-infused chocolate, milk or dark, ranges from mild to burn-all-of-your-senses hot. You can find spicy chocolate with cayenne, red chili pepper, habanero, and cinnamon, to name a few various seasonings. The spice adds depth, heat, and pizzazz to rich, tangy, sweet, and tart chocolate and creamy, salty, savory cheese. If you're a newbie, try a hot chocolate with chili powder to introduce your senses to this rich, spicy combination.
Milk Chocolate And Pepper Jack Cheese
"Adding a little spice to the equation is always fun," Pastula and Ruy said when asked about a more unusual chocolate and cheese pairing. "Whether it's anything chai spice with a sweet and creamy cheddar or a milk chocolate with a pepper jack or habanero flavored cheese, the cheese will balance out the spice without diminishing it completely."
One of our favorite combinations, jalapeños, cheese, and chocolate just scream "eat me." What better way to sashay into the chocolate and cheese world than with a creamy, milk chocolate and a mild cheese, with a little bit of spicy jalapeño? Subtle, yet decadent, with a kick.
This is also a perfect opportunity for a charcuterie board by having milk and dark chocolate at the ready with mild to spicy cheese, in order to ease your taste buds into more complex flavor profiles. Pachelli reminded us that this "comes after the entree and before the desserts, it's almost like the bridge from savory to sweet."
And Pachelli's pro tip? "Cut out part of the bar's package to place the broken pieces on to help remember which pairings you liked best. You can easily stop there, but I'll add some candied nuts, panforte, confections, or other treats I might have lying around to complete the visual intrigue."
Dark Chocolate And Brie
A top choice for Whitaker, dark chocolate and brie make a striking pair with deep, intense, chocolatey tones and creamy, buttery, cheesy notes. Originating from France, just like the charcuterie board, brie is a soft cheese with a bloomy rind. Similar to Camembert, this soft cheese features a higher butter fat content, which lends to its earthy nature and velvety texture. It makes a perfect match for dark chocolate since it adds fat and milkiness to the end-partnered bite.
You don't have to stick to dark chocolate, either. Milk chocolate also pairs well with brie, bringing extra creaminess to the pair and an added sweetness. The fruity, tangy profile of brie highlights the milder nature of milk chocolate, while it matches the bitterness of dark chocolate. Win-win for either choice. If you want to try this dynamic duo, start by sourcing the best chocolate from the best chocolatiers in the U.S.
Smoked Chocolate And Alpine
One of the best chocolate and cheese pairings is an unusual, daring, and intriguing one. Smoked chocolate combined with a nutty Alpine cheese is a knock-out suggestion from Whitaker. Because really, we were on board at the mention of smoked chocolate. Offering "a unique blend of flavors and textures," smoked chocolate contributes a deep, smoky, rich taste to Alpine cheese. But what is Alpine cheese?
Alpine cheese is a class of cheese that's crafted in the Alps. Alpine cheese could be French, Italian, Swiss, or Austrian. Since Alpine cheese can range in taste and even texture depending on the type of specific cheese it is, we would suggest trying an Alpine cheddar first to match with any type of chocolate, though smoked chocolate is the prime choice. But whether it's milk or dark chocolate, Alpine cheddar adds more sweetness to the mix. It's relatively mild for cheddar with a crystallized texture.
Nutty Chocolate And English-Style Cheddar
Nuts and chocolate have long been a classic couple favored by many, so what's a chocolate and cheese pairing without adding your favorite nuts? Cheese, chocolate, and nuts are often featured on charcuterie boards as well.
Pachelli gave us a sparkling recommendation regarding this compilation of ingredients. "If I had a more earthy or nutty dark chocolate, I'd rummage around for a really great English-style cheddar like Quicke's." English-style cheddar cheese is the original cheddar made in Somerset and it's a rich, creamy, aged cheddar.
When choosing a nutty chocolate, reach for any type of nut you enjoy. From almonds to hazelnuts to walnuts, nutty chocolate still marries an English-style cheddar cheese in tasty, texturally satisfying ways. An equally enticing suggestion from Pastula and Ruy made us wonder how we got this far in life without ever trying it: cheddar fudge. With ingredients like chocolate, cheddar, and nuts, you have the makings of what could only end up being an amazingly delicious dessert treat.
White Chocolate And Feta
Some chocolate lovers may argue that white chocolate is not actually real chocolate at all. But it's chocolate enough to pair with cheese and certainly earns its spot on this list. White chocolate lacks cocoa solids, the fat from the cacao bean, unlike all other types of chocolate. White chocolate features at least 20% cocoa butter, however, and is known for its creamy texture. Much sweeter than milk or dark chocolate, white chocolate borders on a vanilla flavor, giving it a slightly neutral background for other ingredients.
An inspiring choice, white chocolate and feta cheese are not a combination that might come to mind first. But Whitaker explained, "The salty, crumbly texture of feta provides a delightful contrast to the sweet, creamy white chocolate, making for an unexpected yet delicious pairing."
If you're looking to defy the normal salty-to-sweet logic of chocolate and cheese pairings, Whitaker recommended trying white chocolate with a tangy goat cheese, which offers "a creamy and slightly acidic contrast."
To find the best chocolate and cheese pairings, we reached out to fellow chocolate and cheese lovers, who also happened to be experts in that area. But though we spoke at length with Gemma Whitaker from Whitakers Chocolates, Adrianna Pachelli from Caputo's, and Sarah Pastula and Taryn Ruf from Cabot Creamery, we also did a deep dive online into what other sources had to say about the various pairings we discussed.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.