We know we’re a little biased, but chocolate is an incredibly versatile ingredient. Most people think of chocolate as a snack treat or component of the dessert course, but we have been noticing (and are excited about!) a growing trend that sees chocolate dabbled throughout other courses.
Because chocolate flavors cross the palate from bitter to sweet, it’s no wonder that chefs are experimenting more and more with it. Perhaps the most common course that chocolate is now making an appearance is the salad course.
Curious and wondering how you can serve chocolate in salad at your next dinner party? Let’s take a look at how to make chocolate work in a salad!
Chocolate (in) Salad
Now that summer is almost here, people often switch their diets to incorporate more fresh and raw food, and salad is the perfect dish for the warmer months when fresh salad ingredients are abundant. Basically any combination of chopped ingredients can be called a salad, there really aren’t any rules to making a salad. If you’ve got it — throw it in!
Of course, a salad that contains just chunks of chocolate is basically just dessert, so if you are thinking of adding chocolate to this course, it should be sparingly. From a more formal point of view, since we associate chocolate with the end of the meal, it can be disorienting if you serve your guests a bowl of chocolate before the main course.
To make chocolate stand out and be enjoyable in salad, think shaved chocolate, chocolate covered nuts, or a light sprinkling of dark chocolate and cheese crumbs to top off an already bold and delicious salad. It’s bold, but definitely worth a try.
Here’s one of our favorite salads that uses chocolate sparingly.
Tip: Use the recipe as a base and adjust ingredients to what you have on hand or what’s growing in the garden.
- Arugula or frisee
- Avocado (cubed)
- Mango (cubed)
- Sunflower seeds (toasted)
- Chocolate shavings (to make these, use a vegetable peeler on a dark chocolate bar)
You can top it off with a simple vinaigrette (oil +vinegar/lemon), or keep reading for an incredible chocolate-based dressing.
In the Dressing
Some people resist making their own salad dressings. There are so many available in the grocery store that it might seem like it’s not worth the hassle to make a dressing at home.
We heartily disagree! Homemade salad dressings are definitely where it’s at. They are quick and easy to make (really!), simple, very cost effective and they don’t have any added sugar, unhealthy oils, chemical stabilizers, and un-pronounceable ingredients that are hiding in most bottled dressings.
AND… you can use chocolate in them!
There are several different types of dressings, and more creative ones coming onto the scene all the time: green goddess dressing, simple vinaigrettes, variations of classics like Ranch and Thousand Island. The list is endless.
One of the great things about homemade salad dressings is that they are fun and easy to experiment with. You can add a little extra salt or honey or lemon/lime if the flavor balance calls for it — and get creative along the way!
Of course the key to a good salad dressing is that it complements the right salad. If you are looking to incorporate chocolate into a salad dressing, try this recipe and adjust it to suit your preference.
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Using a double-boiler or the microwave, heat chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in remaining ingredients until incorporated. Use immediately.
For the Salad:
Like we said, you are going to want to have ingredients that complement the dressing, so think fresh and fruity. Try the recipe listed above, or any combination of:
- Fresh greens — your choice, and a variety if you have them
- Raw fruit — whatever is in season: apples, strawberries, pomegranate, blueberries
- Mild cheese — mozzarella, ricotta, burrata
- Seeds and nuts — to add an extra crunch and taste of salt to balance out the richness of the dressing.
Chocolate All the Time
Chocolate has been around for millennia, so it’s no surprise that it is making its way through all the different courses of a meal — both fine dining and casual platings can make use of chocolate with a little imagination and courage.
While it may seem a little out of the ordinary, if you look closely, you will see that chocolate already has a foothold in other courses besides dessert.
Breakfast — think chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate waffles. Dark chocolate or cacao nibs are also excellent in a morning smoothie and come with tons of antioxidants.
Appetizers — chocolate hummus, chocolate fruit dip, or something a little more complex like bacon wrapped dark chocolate & goat cheese stuffed dates (seriously so good!)
Main course — chocolate already has a place in the main course of some cuisine, you just have to look back to where chocolate really began — Mexico. Mole is an incredible chili-and-chocolate sauce that is used on grilled steaks, braised chicken and tacos.
Like we said, chocolate is a very versatile ingredient and if you love experimenting in the kitchen, why not give it a go? Keep some high quality dark and milk bars of chocolate on hand, as well as some cacao nibs and even white chocolate if you like.
Remember that you are going to want to balance the flavor — extra bitter chocolate will need a counterbalancing bright ingredient, and really sweet milk chocolate will benefit from something salty to bring it down to earth.
We hope you have fun with it and feel free to share with us any exciting chocolate recipes you’ve come up with!