For anyone with a sweet tooth, it's hard to go past a good block of milk chocolate, with its combination of creaminess from the milk, bitterness from the cocoa solids and just the right amount of sugar.
We know that loitering in a supermarket's confectionery aisle trying to decide what to buy can place unwanted stress on your willpower. So we've taken one for the team and taste tested and compared 24 milk chocolates, from brands including Cadbury, Lindt, Whittaker's and Nestlé, to help you choose the best.
We assessed milk chocolates for both taste and nutrition, and recommend those that received an overall score of 70% or more. Of the 24 products we tested, three make that list.
Aldi Moser Roth Finest Milk Chocolate
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 81%
- Price per 100g: $2.39
- Country of origin statement: Made in Germany.
- Experts say: "Good texture. Very smooth, easily melts. Clean flavour, true to type. Slight but pleasant aroma. Strong cocoa flavour. Fruity and slightly bitter. Smooth, shiny, nice appearance. Mild but pleasant and balanced aroma. Melts well in the mouth. Very pleasant, not too sweet, balanced. A little roasty on the top note. Well moulded. Overall a good example of a supermarket-grade milk chocolate."
Lindt Excellence Extra Creamy Milk
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 77%
- Price per 100g: $4.50
- Country of origin statement: Manufactured in France.
- Experts say: "Thin bar, easy to taste. Clean bar. Nice! Best aroma. Slightly sour for a milk chocolate. Shiny appearance. Smooth, sweet. Well moulded. Melts well in the mouth, good mouthfeel. Good creamy aftertaste. Pleasant eating chocolate."
Aldi Choceur Milk
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 74%
- Price per 100g: $1.00
- Country of origin statement: Made in Germany.
- Experts say: "True to type. Very creamy profile. Good clean flavour. Melts well in the mouth. Great milk chocolate. Creamy texture. Slight sour fruit/acid aftertaste, very nice. I went back to this one – best milk chocolate. Smooth, shiny, nice appearance."
The cheapest of the milk chocolates we tested was Woolworths Essentials Milk Choc Cooking Block.
At just $2.50 ($0.67 per 100g), this massive 375g block is a fraction of the cost of the most expensive blocks on test. But our judges weren't so keen on its taste, and it's only 7% cocoa, the lowest by a sizeable margin.
But don't despair. Our results found that if you're on a budget you don't have to compromise on deliciousness. Four products scored 70% or more for taste but cost $2.50 or less per 100g, and two of these are amongst our three recommended milk chocolates.
- Aldi Choceur Milk ($1.00 per 100g)
- Aldi Moser Roth Finest Milk Chocolate ($2.39 per 100g)
- Coles Belgian Milk Chocolate ($1.15 per 100g)
- Whittaker's Creamy Milk ($2.40 per 100g)
Of the 24 products we tested, seven are labelled as 'cooking' or 'baking' chocolate, and they're all among the cheapest products on test. The highest scoring of these is Aldi Choceur Milk Cooking Chocolate ($1.20 per 100g).
Most expensive milk chocolate
If you prefer to buy organic, or need chocolate that suits specific dietary requirements – if you're vegan, avoiding sugar or have a milk allergy, for example – be prepared to pay more. Organic, sugar-free and dairy-alternative options cost at least $3.60 per 100g (Sweet William No Added Sugar Original Chocolate) and as much as $11.25 per 100g (Pana Organic Mylk).
Pico Original M*lk ($7.50 per 100g) is the best tasting milk chocolate-style dairy-free chocolate, with a taste score of 70%.
It's pretty standard for milk chocolate to be sweet, particularly when compared with dark chocolate. In fact, the average sugar content of the products in our test is a fairly hefty 47g per 100g (47%).
For the health conscious among us there are milk chocolates with no added sugar you can choose. But while your teeth and waistlines might thank you, what about your taste buds?
According to our results, an absence of sugar doesn't do milk chocolate flavour any favours.
Well Naturally No Sugar Added Milk Chocolate Creamy Milk (9.1% sugar) and Sweet William No Added Sugar Original Chocolate (1.9%) are the lowest sugar products in our test. Instead of sugar they contain non-nutritive sweeteners including erythritol, maltitol and Stevia, which gives them sweetness without the associated kilojoules.
Consequently their nutrition scores are higher than most other products, but both products performed poorly in our taste test.
A range of factors determine the quality of chocolate – it's not just about cocoa content or the region where the cacao beans are sourced. While the label won't tell you everything, you can gather some wisdom from it.
A good chocolate should have very few ingredients:
- cocoa mass
- cocoa butter
- milk in a milk chocolate (dark chocolate, by definition, shouldn't have any milk but some do)
- emulsifier such as soy lecithin, which helps to bind the ingredients together.
The cocoa content (or cocoa solids) percentage on a block of chocolate refers to everything in that block that's derived from the cacao bean. This includes cocoa mass/liquor (ground-up cacao nibs, which are roughly 50% cocoa butter) as well as any extra cocoa butter added to the chocolate.
Percentage cocoa is an indication of the intensity of the chocolate flavour, but it doesn't tell you anything about the quality and type of cacao bean, or the way it's been fermented and dried. Nor does it distinguish the amount of cocoa butter.
International standards for chocolate and chocolate products say 'milk chocolate' must contain a minimum of 25% cocoa solids and a specified minimum of milk solids between 12% and 14%.
There's no equivalent standard that products sold in Australia are required to meet, but if there was, at least two of the products we looked at wouldn't comply:
- Nestlé Plaistowe Milk – 22% cocoa solids
- Woolworths Essentials Milk Choc Cooking Block – 7% cocoa solids
There's no mention of the percentage of cocoa solids or milk solids on the label of Natvia No Added Sugar Baking Milk Choc, or the percentage of milk solids on Woolworths Milk Cooking Chocolate, so it's unclear if these products would comply.
Cocoa butter content is arguably a better indication of quality than the overall percentage of cocoa as it's what makes the chocolate melt in your mouth, giving it a luxurious feel.
International standards for couverture (professional quality) chocolate, for example, specify that cocoa butter must make up at least 31% of its total cocoa solids content.
Unfortunately for consumers, there's no requirement to label cocoa butter percentages on chocolate. The best indication as to cocoa butter content is how far up the ingredients list it is.
Many lower-grade chocolates such as compound chocolate have the more valuable cocoa butter extracted and replaced with less-expensive hard vegetable fats such as palm oil.
What to look for
Here are some of the qualities you should look for in chocolate:
- Appearance: It should be smooth and shiny.
- Snap: When you break a piece of chocolate it should give a good, clean snap.
- Aroma: In good chocolate, you might be able to detect lots of different smells, such as vanilla, fruit, wine, tobacco, grass, floral and earthy-woody smells. Smoky, burnt, mouldy or dirty smells are a bad sign.
- Texture: The chocolate should be hard and smooth, and melt easily but not too easily. Bad chocolate is gritty, chalky or waxy, and becomes gluggy when it melts in the mouth.
- Taste: Apart from the flavours of cocoa and vanilla , you might also experience any of the other flavours above. It should also be pleasantly bitter, although pleasant is a personal preference. Poor-quality chocolate has a tongue-curling effect caused by acid.
Andre Sandison has worked, managed and taught as a pastry chef with more than 25 years' industry experience across hotels, restaurants and production patisseries in Japan, Britain, Switzerland, China and throughout Australia. He also holds a diploma in Food Technology that critically underpins his technical capacity. He has achieved the highest professional accolades competing in global patisserie and gelato competitions with success. As chocolatier at Zokoko, a Sydney-based bean to bar chocolate manufacturer, he develops both cafe and retail solutions addressing classic and emerging food trends. As demonstrated by his ongoing creativity, he loves working with his hands, head and heart.
Brigid Treloar has been a freelance food consultant for over 30 years. The author of eight cookbooks, she also contributes to newspapers and magazines, reviews restaurants, judges cookery and recipe competitions, and judges chocolate in the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Competition. Brigid has presented specialist cooking classes around Australia and overseas, and often appears on TV and radio. She's an industry assessor for Le Cordon Bleu, advises many of Australia's food companies on product and recipe development, and also provides recipes and cooking information for company websites.
Dean Gibson is one of the pioneers of the Australian pastry scene, dedicated to the baking, patisserie, hotel and restaurant industry for nearly 40 years. He is a TAFE NSW technical education teacher of professional bakery and patisserie trade education, and a consultant to the global hospitality industry. Dean is a judge in the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Chocolate Competition and has appeared on television programs such as MasterChef Australia, Masters of Chocolate and Pastry Battlers.
Jodie Van Der Velden is the founder and owner of Josophan's Fine Chocolates in Leura, Blue Mountains. As a chocolatier, she is a firm advocate for and committed to the use of Fair Trade and ethically sourced ingredients. Jodie has won Salon Culinaire medals for dessert making, Champion Chocolate Exhibit twice at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Chocolate Competition, and the Callebaut Australia Chocolate Dessert Competition. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia's first 'Chocolate Heroes', a prestigious program run by the Belgian chocolate company Callebaut. Jodie is a Panel Chair of judges for the Sydney Royal Fine Food competition.
We tested 24 chocolate blocks containing cocoa solids and labelled 'milk', 'mylk' or 'm*lk' (including cooking/compound chocolate) that are available nationally in major supermarket chains. We excluded flavoured varieties.
Price is as purchased in stores (not on special) in June 2021.
Our experts tasted the milk chocolate samples 'blind' (without knowing the brands). Two sets of samples (set A and set B) were prepared and posted to each expert, and the tasting order was randomised for each expert.
The 'A' tasting samples had all packaging removed, and identifying features on the chocolate surface (logo, pattern, etc.) were obscured. Each sample, regardless of the presence of identifying features, was treated the same. Each sample was tasted and independently judged on three criteria: aroma, texture and flavour.
The 'B' presentation samples had all packaging removed, but any identifying features remained untouched. These samples were judged on one criterion only: appearance.
The CHOICE Expert Score is made up of 90% taste (35% flavour, 35% texture, 5% aroma and 25% appearance) and 10% nutrition (based on the Health Star Rating, calculated from the details in the nutrition information panel and converted to a percentage).
We recommend products with a CHOICE Expert Score of 70% or more.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.