What Exactly Are Chocolate Inclusions? (Flavored Chocolates Guide)

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Consider your favorite chocolate; simply be amused. Is this a creamy milk chocolate? Or how about a dark chocolate bar with whole almonds on the back? Or how about a sweet white chocolate with dried fruit bits? Whatever your preferred cuisine, I’m sure you’ve encountered various variations on those chocolate tastes.

The final two chocolates I described include inclusions, which is an industry term for any item added to chocolate that is not one of the commonly acknowledged components (cacao, cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder, vanilla, and lecithin). In this post, we’ll look at what makes an inclusion and the many sorts of inclusions available, ranging from coffee and cacao nibs to passion fruit pulp. Should you include ingredients in your chocolate recipes?

This article was initially published in 2015, and it was revised in 2022 to reflect the industry’s significant development and changes in the years afterwards. Click here to learn more about the development of nondairy milks in chocolate.

What are Chocolate Inclusions?

Inclusions are additional components added to chocolate to enhance its overall effect, either flavor-wise or visually.

Inclusions for both taste and aesthetic appeal are often added by a chocolate maker or chocolatier, which is becoming more prevalent these days given that we eat with our eyes. Vanilla is one of the most frequent ingredients. Yet, since vanilla is so common in chocolate, it has become fairly neutral territory and is hence not often regarded an inclusion. To be nominated for the Good Food Awards Chocolate Inclusion category, a bar must have a flavoring component other than vanilla!

Examples of general inclusion categories:

  • Fruits (sun-dried cranberries, freeze-dried strawberries, apple bits)
  • Extracts (spearmint flavoring, bitter orange extract, ginger oil)
  • Herbs & Spices (peppermint leaves, ground cardamom, whole peppercorns)
  • Salt (sea salt, flake salt, salt crystals)
  • Nuts & Nibs (roasted or raw cacao nibs, whole nuts, praliné)
  • Miscellaneous (olive oil, caramel, rose petals)

You would think it’s apparent how these elements influence the final flavor of the chocolate; they make the chocolate taste like the inclusions, right? Yet, this is not always the case. Every chocolate critic may meekly convey this reality. Each component, even down to the additional cocoa butter, influences the whole customer experience. The condition of the ingredient, as well as when and where it is introduced throughout the chocolate production process, all have an impact on taste and texture.

José Meza, the co-founder of Mindo Chocolate in Ecuador, has taken an unusual approach to inclusions. In in 2015, when I interviewed him in Ecuador, he was experimenting with adding inclusions straight to fermenting cocoa. He had added guava to the fermenting trough in one batch of beans I sampled, giving guava flavor to the beans without adding guava to the finished product. Several people feel that Ruby Chocolate was inspired by other similar efforts.

In-Depth Categories Inclusion


Alluvia’s Ginger Milk Chocolate Bar is one example.

Fruits of any type are nearly always added on the back of a newly tempered chocolate bar at the end of the procedure. Nonetheless, they are sometimes added during cacao fermentation (see above) or put in at the end as a purée (similar to Zotter Chocolates hand-scooped bars). They have a milder taste than extracts and a distinct chewy or crunchy texture. To enhance the fruity sweetness, a dash of salt or a sprinkling of nibs is sometimes added, although in general, fruit clashes with other ingredients.


Example of a bar: Theo Orange Dark Chocolate 70%

Extracts are always integrated throughout the chocolate, but because to their fragility, they are added towards the conclusion of the process. Natural extracts, such as ginger oil, lose taste intensity when heated, which occurs numerous times throughout the refining step of the chocolate production process. Due to their potential to overpower the taste in large doses, most bars will not offer more than one flavor extract.

Spices and herbs

Strawberry Basil by Raaka is an example of a bar.

Herbs and spices are more popular with chocolatiers than with chocolate makers since they are treated similarly by producers in terms of when and where they are applied. Herbs and spices, like extracts, lose their strength when exposed to too much heat, thus they’re usually added towards the end. Most of the time, they’re lightly dusted over the back of the bar, just enough to cling to the chocolate but not so much that they overpower it. Only the finest herbs and spices are mixed with the chocolate, which is also done at the conclusion of the process.


Theo Chocolate’s Sea Salt 70% Dark bar is one example.

It seems to be a simple addition to any well-meaning chocolate bar, yet this is possibly the most popular and versatile chocolate inclusion. While being chemically identical, each salt responds differently in the presence of chocolate, depending on crystal size, source, when introduced, and associated inclusions. Large sea salt crystals are the most popular type, probably because it sounds finer when put to the rear of a bar.

To be honest, the sea is one of the most clean and visually appealing sources of salt accessible. If it is blended with the bar, it may get so lost that it seems to be a flavor note, which is not unusual. As a result, large crystals placed by hand to the back of an artisan chocolate bar are common. As a result, the taster may enjoy the sharp contrast between the sweet bar and the salt for a longer amount of time, with one boosting and complimenting the other.

Nuts and Nibs

Example of Nibs by BennsBar: Malaysia 72% w

They both originate from the same location, dangling from a limb, yet their end impact is dramatically different. Nuts offer crunch (or chewiness if they’re old), and they taste sweeter and earthier uncooked. Macadamias, for example, offer a sweet creaminess and nibs a brownie-like crunch, while peanuts add a Reese’s flavor. Cacao nibs, on the other hand, are generally from the same origin as the cacao used to manufacture chocolate, therefore they have a reputation for highlighting the sweetness in a bar by being not-sweet and frequently bitter.

Whether mixed with other inclusions, or nibs are frequently matched with salt. Since these inclusions have strong tastes, they were formerly utilized as extracts in lower-quality chocolate. Fortunately, this is changing as creators experiment with the ingredients in their single-origin bars. Therefore, be wary of imitators. Even if the chocolate contains inclusions, the origin of the beans should be mentioned, and no preservatives or strange-sounding chemicals should be used. Nuts and seeds


Fossa Chocolate Salted Egg Cereal Bar, for example.

Although this is a catch-all category, generalizations concerning these inclusions are difficult. Nevertheless, unlike more conventional ingredients, they are frequently more costly and difficult to locate or local. Fruits, nuts, and spices may be found in varied amounts all over the globe, thus it seems to reason that producers would want to highlight them. As a result, bars that feature an unusual component are either a limited edition bar or a chocolateized rendition of a local meal.

Rose petals on Ecuadorian bars, dulce de leche swirls in Argentinian chocolate, and olive oil& rosemary truffles in Italy are all instances of textural complexity and contrast to the chocolate. Not all of them are handmade chocolate, but some may be. The quality of the basic chocolate used with such inclusions varies per creator, but if you enjoy their single-origin bars, I’d try one of their regional specialities.

Why are inclusions important in terms of experience?

At first appearance, the purpose of the inclusions seems to be familiarity, making the chocolate taste less rich or more recognized. Yet, this misses the reality that many producers add one taste to highlight another. In commercial enterprises, inclusions are often used to compliment or mask the intrinsic tastes of cacao beans. They deceive your palate by utilizing both your nose and your vision to move your brain in one way or the other.

Added flavorings may do little more than assist you notice what tastes were previously there by building expectations via both sight and scent. Salt is often added to sweeten a bar, whereas fruit is utilized to bring out the bright citrus or berry flavors already present in the bar. Nibs are added to enhance the flavor value of cacao processing; no new components are introduced, but the same cacao might taste like a completely other food group.

There are exceptions to every rule, therefore my remarks are not the be-all and end-all of inclusiveness. This should, however, serve as a guide to chocolate additions for anybody inquisitive about how their taste senses and olfactory impact their degree of satisfaction (both with their new favorites and theold stand-bys).

If you create chocolate, one approach to reach a larger audience is to experiment with bar inclusions. Using inclusions in chocolate is an easy method to expand your consumer base, particularly when individuals notice unique creations that they’d want to present. Again, the eyes are both the soul’s and the stomach’s window. Therefore, the next time you need a breath of fresh air, why not include some fascinating additions?

What are your favorite chocolates with added ingredients? Or do you cling to the pure bars without question?

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