Nobody says no to a fresh batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I mean, chocolate chips were literally made for chocolate chip cookies, after all. But what can you do when you’ve been craving chocolate chip cookies and find yourself without a bag of chips, or not enough for a recipe?
Thankfully, there are several excellent alternatives to chocolate chips, so you’ll never again have to stop making those delicious cookies. You can use chocolates, cocoa powder, and chocolate bars, or even make homemade chips as a substitute for chocolate chips. Read about each option below, and simply select the best one for your recipe.
The Invention of Chocolate Chips
The ideal ingredient to liven up practically any baked treat is chocolate chips. It traces its provenance as candy, and was actually invented for its arguably most popular baking use – the chocolate chip cookie. The wonderful tale of chocolate chips and the cookie that bears their name is now pretty well-known.
In the 1940s, baking expert Ruth Wakefield even sold her Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookie recipe to Nestle, the company which eventually gave birth to the chocolate chip. The original chocolate chip cookie is said to have been created by a happy accident when Ruth Wakefield replaced baker’s chocolate with chopped-up semi-sweet chocolate after she had run out of the former.
The legend continues that the chocolate, in the form of a Nestle bar, was given to her by Andrew Nestle himself (the head of the company, at the time). In the oven, these chunks of semi-sweet chocolate didn’t melt like regular baker’s chocolate. They simply softened, producing maximum flavor for the cookie while maintaining their general chunky shape.
Thus, Nestlé’s chocolate chip cookie recipe became tremendously popular. After a few years of selling their semi-sweet chocolate bars with a chopping tool (to make it simple to chop up the chocolate bar), the F&B giant created bags of chocolate “morsels” and sold them commercially.
What are Chocolate Chips?
Chocolate chips are tiny pieces of chocolate. The modern design has a distinguishable teardrop figure with a round base, though many companies sell a signature shape. These incredibly well-liked chocolate drops come in a wide range of varieties, names, and sizes.
Typically semi-sweet, they also come in milk, dark, white, ruby, bittersweet, semi-sweet, unsweetened, mint, peanut butter, and butterscotch. Aside from chips, they’re also known as drops, callets, rounds, pearls, morsels, or chunks. Chocolate chips range from a smaller-sized 9 mm to a larger 15 mm chunk.
The US FDA only requires that dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate include at least 35% cacao and milk chocolate at least 15% cacao. There are additional maximum percentages of milk allowed in dark chocolate, so if you’re dairy-free, always read the ingredients list.
These guidelines mean that manufacturers are free to change procedures, recipes, and terminologies, but must stick to the percentages of chocolate liquor to legally call them chocolates. So if a product is called ‘white chips’ or ‘chocolatey chips,’ I’d check the ingredients list for hydrogenated oils or other fillers.
Chocolate chips are abundant and accessible these days, even sugar-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free options. Shop for them in the baking section of grocery stores, in specialty baking shops, or online marketplaces. When looking to purchase these delectable chips, look out for brands that you’ve tried and match your personal preference for the perfect-sized chip.
Fun fact: the 15th of May is usually celebrated as National Chocolate Chip Day.
How are Chocolate Chips Made?
You can sometimes determine how much of a chocolate comes from the cocoa bean (or cacao bean) by looking at its cocoa percentage on the packaging. Chips with less cocoa will be sweeter, while those with more cocoa will be more bitter. When you subtract the cocoa from chocolate chips, the remaining ingredients are mostly sugar and sometimes milk.
So even if a package doesn’t reveal the cacao percentage, you can estimate based on the amount of sugar revealed on the nutrition facts panel on the back. Simply divide the number of grams of sugar per serving by the number of grams per serving, and you have a rough sugar percentage (with the remainder being cacao and a little milk)
To create chocolate chips, the process starts with harvesting the pods from the Theobroma cacao tree, native to South America, removing the beans from inside, then fermenting and sun-drying them. The beans are then roasted and hulled, at which point they are called cocoa nibs. The nibs are then crushed into a paste known as cocoa mass or chocolate liquor.
The mass can be used as-is, but milk chocolates require extra fat, so often the mass is pressed to separate the liquid cocoa butter from the cocoa solids. Chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder all come from the same bean, and are ground in varying ratios with sugar, vanilla, other fats, lecithin, or milk, and then refined, tempered, molded, and packaged as chocolate chips.
How to Use Chocolate Chips?
Commercially, you can find chocolate chips in ice cream flavors, or in cookie sandwiches, wafer biscuits, cakes, cookies, granola bars, and so much more. For household consumption, the first thing that probably comes to mind when you see chocolate chips on the grocery aisle is to make cookies.
You can determine the quality and quantity of the chips when you bake them at home, and it’s one of the simplest kid-friendly activities for when they’re off school. Then there’s the simple pleasure of picking up the few morsels that didn’t make it into the bowl and popping them in your mouth. Of course, if your kid is like me then this leads to sneaking a few handfuls of chips straight from the bag, but who’s checking?
While chocolate chips give life to their namesake cookies, chocolate chips can also be used in other baked products. This popular baking ingredient has a satisfying bite, making it a fun addition to breads and pastries, or topping to your ice cream. Here are some other ways you can use chocolate chips if you’re not eating them on their own:
- Mix them into the batter or use them as a topping for breakfast treats like Pancakes and Waffles.
- Use chocolate chips to make homemade Hot Chocolate.
- Bedazzle your baked goods with chocolate chips like Brownies, Pies, Muffins, Cakes, Bars, Bread, and Scones.
- Fold chips into ice cream.
- Melt them to make these Easy Chocolate Truffles
- Make desserts even richer with chocolate chips as an ingredient or topping like in crepes, crumb cakes, streusels, bread and butter pudding, and cupcakes
- Use it to make sauce like this rich Chocolate Dipping Sauce.
- Use it as topping for cold beverages, like with java chips in a frappuccino
9 Best Chocolate Chip Substitute Options
There are many chocolate chip substitutes suitable for each particular baking need. We’re focusing predominantly on chocolate substitutes, except for one which takes on a similar form, color, and texture as chocolate chips. Both art and science are used in baking. You can be creative and experiment with new flavor combinations & textures, as long as the basic underlying rules of chemistry are followed.
Finally, when finding a substitute for chocolate chips, use weight rather than volume measurements to acquire a true 1:1 replacement. A measuring cup won’t provide you with an accurate measurement due to the varying sizes of the swaps, so I highly recommend you measure them out by weight.
Cocoa nibs are pieces of the cacao bean, roasted but unsweetened. They contain no sugar, about half fat, and a ton of antioxidants. They have a slightly bitter, earthy flavor with a crunchy texture. Think coffee beans and dark chocolate combined. Since they are unprocessed, some of the health benefits are retained – they help reduce stress, control blood pressure, and promote a healthy heart.
As a replacement for chocolate chips in a recipe, cocoa nibs can be best utilized as an ingredient or a topping in baked goods, desserts, smoothies, and breakfast treats.
Their lack of sweetness also makes them a good substitute for chocolate chips in savory dishes, while in sweet recipes, feel free to add an additional sweetener of choice or use candied cocoa nibs. You can use cacao nibs as a replacement for chocolate chips in a 1:1 ratio.
Chocolate-Covered Coffee Beans
These may seem like unusual substitutes for chocolate chips, but chocolate-covered espresso beans can offer a delightfully caffeinated kick to your cookies. These are of course not very kid-friendly, even if you use the decaf ones, but they’re a fun swap if you need a substitute for chocolate chips. These often come in a variety of flavors of chocolate, but I recommend dark chocolate beans for the best chocolate chip alternative and the highest caffeine level.
Cocoa powder or cacao powder is made from fermented, roasted cocoa beans that have usually been heated at a high temperature before being pressed to remove some fat and then ground into fine powder. To lessen acidity, cocoa powder is frequently alkalized (or dutch-processed) with chemicals during processing. The result is a powder that, when added to liquids, is less bitter and more soluble.
But usually dutched cocoas were of lower quality to start with, and the alkalizing was done to cover up defects in the beans, so I’d recommend most home bakers use natural cocoa powders. When using cocoa powder to substitute for chocolate chips in baking, it needs to be in a recipe where you only need a chocolate flavor.
This alternative is not ideal for chocolate chip cookies, muffins, or anything that needs textured morsels of flavor coming from actual chips. Use 3 tablespoons of cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, shortening, or oil, and 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to substitute two ounces of chocolate chips. The sugar should be added to the dry ingredients after the cocoa has been dissolved in the recipe’s liquid.
DIY Chocolate Chips using Cocoa Powder
Following the use of cocoa powder as an alternative to chocolate chips in a recipe, when you do want to make a recipe that calls for actually using chocolate chips with texture, then you can make a homemade version using cocoa powder.
All you need are three ingredients: cocoa powder, cocoa butter or coconut oil, and stevia (or sugar). Then you simply melt and whisk them together, pour into a mold, refrigerate and chop into chunks. See the highly-rated recipe here (I highly recommend swapping the coconut oil for cocoa butter, though). Once you have your DIY chocolate chips, use them in a 1:1 ratio as a sub.
Keep in mind though that the end result of these homemade chocolate chips will be quite melty at or above body temperature, so they’re not suitable for baking.
Chocolate bars are typically thinner than baking chocolate and frequently flavored with other ingredients, like nuts or dried fruit. For most of us they’re a sweet treat rather than a baking ingredient, but if chocolate bars are a regular in your pantry and you don’t have chocolate chips, then they’re a good replacement.
Before anything else, make sure you have about 3-4 bars, or however much is needed for your recipe. Whether you‘re used to buying dark chocolate with high cocoa content, or plain milk chocolate, you may use them as a chocolate chip swap in a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, add as much as you’d like to cookies, bars, or cakes.
When used as a topping, it might be more presentable to crack or chop them up into smaller pieces, or make chocolate shavings. For easy prep, freeze the bars the night before, and crack them right in the freezer bag using the back of a stainless spoon. Avoid cracking too many times otherwise you may end up with tiny bits, in which case, you’ll change the overall texture.
Additionally, if the recipe calls for melted chocolate chips, you can substitute chocolate bars in the same ratio.
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate + Sugar
The purest kind of baking chocolate is unsweetened baking chocolate, also known as unsweetened chocolate. According to US FDA standards, it is 99-100% cocoa. Depending on the type of cocoa, this makes it especially bitter and unpleasant to bite into, since it’s simply processed and ground cocoa beans.
Unsweetened chocolate may be used in place of chocolate chips in most baked goods, but it should only be used in recipes that have a sufficient sweetness to balance out the bitterness. To use as a swap, simply chop the bar into chunks roughly the size of your favorite chocolate chips, and include them in your recipe as usual.
To make the flavor sweeter and bring it closer to that of chocolate chips, add extra sugar directly to the recipe when possible. For every ounce of chocolate chips called for in a recipe, substitute it with an ounce of unsweetened ‘chipped’ baking chocolate + one Tablespoon of sugar. Use it as a 1:1 swap, plus the added sugar
Unsweetened baking chocolate contains more cocoa butter than chocolate chips, so the form of your chunks may melt under high temperatures. Alternatively, you can skip the extra sugar if looking to cut back on some calories. You’ll still get lots of chocolatey goodness in every bite, just less the sugar.
There are other types of baking chocolate that you may have at home. Aside from the unsweetened variety mentioned above, there is bittersweet, semi-sweet, and sweet baking chocolate. The FDA regulations stipulate that bittersweet baking chocolate must have a chocolate liquor content of at least 35%, while both sweet and semisweet must contain 15 – 35% chocolate liquor.
Most baking chocolates contain at least 50% cocoa, with the majority of the remaining ingredients typically being sugar. To swap one ounce of chocolate chips, use one ounce of semisweet baking chocolate. If you will be needing the chips’ shape in your recipe, chop up the bar into chunks.
If the recipe calls for melted chocolate chips, I still recommend chopping them into chunks as they will melt faster. Stabilizers are often added to cheaper chocolate chips to help them keep their shape when heated, so expect melting chocolate where your chunks use to be, if you use this swap. Use in a 1:1 ratio in cookies, muffins, or pastries.
Other Baking Chips (ex. Java Chips)
If you run out a simple chocolate chips substitute is other baking chips that you may have available or on hand. Java chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or even flavored baking chips like cinnamon and mint. Simply select the flavor you think will best complement the other ingredients in your dish.
Of course, these will change the overall flavor of your recipe, and you’re not getting the same chocolatey goodness in your cookies, but it’s a good switch if you’re flexible on flavor. However you will have to rename it (i.e. butterscotch chips or peanut butter chip cookies) so you don’t experience an uprising from any cookie purists at home.
If you’re a coffee aficionado, you may have java chips, for example, lying around. Because they melt and blend more easily than conventional chocolate chips, java chips are typically added to blended drinks, and have less cocoa than chocolate chips. But because the fat content of all the baking chips is so comparable, you won’t need to make any additional adjustments to your recipe, and can use these 1:1 for chocolate chips.
While these are more popular in a different type of cookie, they can make for decent substitutes for chocolate chips in a pinch. These work particularly well when you need a quick alternative to chocolate chips in cookies, but not so much in brownies or scenarios where you need something meltable.