Unsweetened chocolate contains no sugar and imparts the pure, strong, and dark flavor of the chocolate. It is the rawest form of chocolate and is mainly used in baking. It is also referred to as plain chocolate or bitter chocolate. There are various types of chocolates, such as bittersweet or sweet chocolate, which can be used as unsweetened chocolate substitutes, that will intensify the taste of chocolate recipes.
Unsweetened chocolate is made out of cocoa beans. First, the beans are ground to a powder and then melted to the required thickness. This thick melted chocolate is known as chocolate liquor, which contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Once the melted liquor is cooled, it is molded to desired shapes. This molded pure chocolate is known as unsweetened chocolate. It is the basic ingredient for most chocolate recipes such as chocolate cakes and chocolate desserts. Unsweetened chocolate contains 50 to 55 percent of cocoa butter and has a strong bitter taste as it is sugarless.
Semisweet chocolates, sweet chocolates, and bittersweet chocolates can be used as substitutes for unsweetened chocolate. They are essentially similar, but differ in their sugar and chocolate liquor quotient. Chocolates which have more chocolate liquor are bitter in taste and have a strong flavor, whereas those with high sugar content are sweeter in taste and have a mellowed flavor. In short, each chocolate is defined by its sugar and chocolate content. The desired chocolate flavor can be acquired by combining different amounts of sugar and chocolate liquor.
As the name suggests, semisweet chocolates are dark chocolates with little sugar and a strong chocolate flavor. Semisweet chocolate is readily available in the market in the form of chips, chunks, and bars. It would be an ideal substitute while making cookies and brownies. Some chefs say that use of semisweet chocolate does not affect the color and taste, if used judiciously.
Another substitute which can be used instead of unsweetened chocolate is bittersweet chocolate. It is similar to semisweet chocolate, but it contains more chocolate liquor and is less sweet compared to semisweet chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate also contains more cocoa butter and vanilla. At times, lecithin is also added to this chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate can be used in recipes which need a balanced flavor.
Sweet chocolate is high in sugar content, as it contains approximately 20 to 25 percent of chocolate liquor. It can be used where you need the chocolate to have a mellowed flavor. It is available in a variety of flavors such as mint, peach, strawberry, etc.
Apart from these, milk chocolates which contain dry milk solids can also be used as a substitute. Hot cocoa mix and Mexican chocolate too can be good substitutes for unsweetened chocolate. They give the same result if used in the right proportions.