What We Cook With: Our Favorite Cocoa, Baking Chocolate, and Chocolate Chips

My Simply Recipes co-editors and I have lovingly referred to this past month as Choctober.

Chocolate is good anytime, anywhere, but chocolate recipes feel especially on point when the weather turns colder. Hot chocolate! Hot cocoa! Chocolate banana bread! Chocolate brownies! Double chocolate cupcakes! Someone stop me, please, before I share this list of 14 more decadent chocolate recipes. (Too late.)

To make all the chocolate things you need to have some chocolate (bar or chips) or cocoa on hand. But what kind?

Quality, flavor, meltability can all vary from brand to brand, so I queried my fellow team members for their favorite go-to brands for cocoa, baking chocolate, and chocolate chips.

Favorite cocoa

Favorite cocoa

Our Favorite Cocoa

Before we get into cocoa, are you wondering about the difference between Dutch-process and natural cocoa? We wrote a post about that! Check it out here.

Now on to our favorites…

Hershey’s Original 100% Cocoa

$3.00 for 8-ounce can

Hershey’s natural, non-alkanized cocoa powder (read: not Dutch-processed) has a pleasant, familiar flavor, great for cozy baked goods you want to taste like your childhood.

This make a solid brownie, and that’s about all I need! –Emma

Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

$3.00 for 8-ounce can

In the last year Hershey’s changed their Special Dark Cocoa from a natural and Dutch-processed cocoa blend to 100% Dutch-processed cocoa. Not everyone loved this change, as evidenced by the reviews, but some of us are big fans, especially considering it’s a budget-friendly Dutch-processed cocoa easily found at most grocery stores.

I’ve tried fancier cocoa powders (like Guittard, which is great) but I always come back to Hershey’s Special Dark. It has a nice robust flavor, and the price is right! -Megan

Ghirardelli 100% Unsweetened Cocoa

$4.00 for 8-ounce bag

Another natural, non-alkanized cocoa, Ghirardelli provides a lovely, sweet chocolate flavor to baked goods and hot cocoa.

Ghirardelli wins on flavor and accessibility. I’m a Ghirardelli girl all the way. -Summer

Cupcakes with chocolate frosting with a bite taken out and on a counter.Cupcakes with chocolate frosting with a bite taken out and on a counter.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Guittard Cocoa Rouge Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

$6.99 for 8-ounce can

Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge cocoa is a Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and a slam dunk when you’re aiming for a truly rich, deep chocolate flavor. It has more fat (from cocoa butter) in it than other cocoas, which means baked cakes, cookies, and brownies come out extra moist and fudgy.

This is one of my favorite cocoa powders when I’m going for an all-out chocolate flavor, like in these Double-Chocolate Cupcakes. It’s more expensive than other cocoa, for sure, but worth it. – Cambria

Droste Cocoa

$6.99 for 8.8-ounce box

Droste Cocoa is imported from Holland and, yes, it is a Dutch-processed cocoa! Like Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge Dutch-processed cocoa, Droste has a higher fat content than most other cocoas for a full-bodied, rich cocoa flavor. It’s exceptional.

This was the cocoa my mother used when I was growing up, and it’s still a gold standard in my book. It’s also America’s Test Kitchen’s favorite cocoa, many years running. It makes amazing hot cocoa. – Cambria

Best baking chocolate

Best baking chocolate

Our Favorite Baking Bar Chocolate

Baker’s Bittersweet 

$2.59 for 4-ounce bar

Made of 66% cacao, Baker’s Bittersweet is Emma’s choice for an affordable, accessible baking chocolate that’s not too bitter and not too sweet.

Easy to find and inexpensive! – Emma

Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Bar 

$4.99 for $17.6-ounce bar

The Pound Plus bar from Trader Joe’s makes a fantastic baking chocolate. It’s slightly sweet (but not overwhelmingly so), not too bitter, smooth, and melts like a dream.

You can’t beat the Pound Plus block of Trader Joe’s baking chocolate. It’s reasonably priced, accidentally vegan, and super delicious chopped up in cookies or melted into brownies or cakes. – Megan

Truly one of the best dark chocolate deals out there. It shouldn’t be this good for this price, and yet it is. – Cambria

Ghirardelli Unsweetened, Bittersweet, and Semi-Sweet Baking Bars

$2.69 for 4-ounce bar

With its consistent texture and chocolate flavor, Ghirardelli remains one of our reliable go-tos for baking chocolate.

I use Ghirardelli bittersweet, unsweetened and semi-sweetened baking bars depending on the recipe. They’re easy to find, delicious and reasonably priced for a higher-end chocolate. – Summer

Favorite chocolate chips

Favorite chocolate chips

Our Favorite Chocolate Chips

Guittard Real Semisweet and Extra Dark Chocolate Chips

$3.69 for 12-ounce bag

Guittard is a family-owned business based out of San Francisco and their chocolate chips, like their cocoa, are consistently delicious and high-quality.

Guittard is local to me in the Bay Area, so I like to support them. But I also think the Semisweet chips have a solid chocolate flavor that compliments baked goods without overpowering. – Emma

The Extra Dark chocolate chips are made with 63% cacao and offer the perfect bittersweet chocolate bite, which is what I want in a chocolate chip cookie. It’s best when the chocolate provides a counterbalance to all the sugar! – Cambria

Ghirardelli Semisweet and 60% Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

$2.78 for 12-ounce bag; $4.82 for 20-ounce bag

Ghirardelli is widely accessible, which is great news for chocolate chip lovers! Their chocolate chips have a smooth flavor and texture, and are wonderfully gooey after baking.

The 60% Bittersweet chips have great flavor and no waxy aftertaste. I have to have an immediate baking purpose for them otherwise I snack on the whole bag! – Megan

I love Ghirardelli’s Bittersweet and Semi-Sweet chips, but my go-to is Bittersweet. Well balanced flavor, melt well in a pinch, and I like their size and price. – Rachel

What are your favorite cocoa, baking chocolate, and chocolate chip brands? We’d love to hear!