The question of which is better, vanilla or chocolate, is often the topic of heated debate.
If you are with a group of friends ordering dessert after dinner, some will sit firmly in the chocolate camp while others will never order anything other than the vanilla option.
So, when it comes to vanilla vs chocolate, which is best? We think that cake-based desserts tend to be denser, richer, and more velvety when chocolate is added. Desserts made from dairy products such as ice cream work best with vanilla, as the creaminess of the milk is allowed to shine through.
To answer this conundrum once and for all, we’ve taken an in-depth look at every different type of dessert to decide which works best with vanilla and which are more sublime in their chocolate form. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it!
What Is Vanilla?
Vanilla comes from the fruit of a specific type of orchid flower. This fruit forms a pod that contains very small seeds.
You may hear this referred to as a bean pod, but the plant itself is not a bean.
These orchids are hard to cultivate. They only grow well in certain conditions, and each plant only produces a very small amount of seeds. Luckily, the flavor of each individual pod is very intense and a little bit of vanilla goes a long way.
If you’re looking to use vanilla in your recipe, make sure you opt for a pure vanilla product and not an artificial substitution. Vanilla beans have a natural sweetness that makes them an excellent sugar substitute.
Vanilla has a smooth flavor and characteristic aroma. Many people find the scent and taste of vanilla calming and soothing. It also contains beneficial antioxidants and can help reduce the amount of sugar in the diet.
What Is Chocolate?
Chocolate is a flavoring obtained from cacao beans. On their own, these beans are relatively bitter, but when combined with milk and sugar, they have a rich and intense taste.
Chocolate has a reputation for being unhealthy, but it is not the cacao bean that is at fault. These beans are actually packed full of health benefits.
They are high in fiber and a single bar of dark chocolate contains over half of your recommended daily intake of iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
The problem with chocolate lies in the way it is used. The cacao bean is normally combined with large amounts of milk and sugar. The lighter the chocolate, the more milk and sugar it will contain.
For a real intense chocolatey flavor without the added sugar, choose a variety that contains 70% or more cacao.
This gives you the flavor and health benefits of chocolate in your desserts without the unnecessary amounts of sugar. Bittersweet and dark chocolate are both good options.
What Are Vanilla And Chocolate Used For?
Take a look at any dessert trolley or cake counter in your see that the majority of the items will contain either vanilla, chocolate, or both.
Vanilla and chocolate are used for the same purposes; to add flavor to the dish. In fact, it is hard to imagine what our favorite dessert recipes would taste like without vanilla or chocolate!
Vanilla adds a mild and natural sweetness to food and is very subtle in nature. This flavoring is sometimes thought to be bland, but it adds a much more complex level of sweetness compared to when sugar is used.
The great thing about vanilla is that it does not tend to overwhelm other ingredients, and it can be paired with many other flavors.
On the other hand, chocolate has an intensely strong flavor and just a small amount can go a very long way.
Chocolate tends to be used as a stand-alone flavoring and does not tend to pair well, although it is sometimes used in conjunction with dark berries.
Vanilla Vs Chocolate – Cake Showdown
OK, so let’s get to it! Which is better – vanilla or chocolate? We’re going to start with one of the most difficult and contentious categories of all, the classic cake recipe.
Two of the most popular flavorings used in sponge cakes are vanilla and chocolate, and many people will state that one of these is their favorite type of cake.
In terms of taste, chocolate cake has a far richer and more intense flavor compared to vanilla cake. Vanilla sponge is much more subtle, and although there is no doubt it has a delicious flavor, it cannot match the intensity of chocolate cake.
Chocolate cake is also more dense and fudgy than vanilla cake. A well-made vanilla cake should be light and airy, whereas chocolate cake will be more moist.
A slice of vanilla cake will feel like a light snack, whereas a similar-sized piece of chocolate cake will leave you feeling very satisfied.
Chocolate cake is normally darker in color than vanilla cake, and it is normally topped with or covered in chocolate frosting.
Chocolate does not pair well with as many flavors, so when you get chocolate cake, it will likely be 100% chocolate flavored, maybe with some kind of fruity or nutty twist.
Vanilla cake has a delicate pale yellow or creamy color. The good thing about vanilla flavoring is it works very well with a myriad of other ingredients.
This means you will often find vanilla cake combined with other toppings or frosting such as berries or fruit compotes.
Both chocolate and vanilla cake are pretty high in calories, but the natural sweetness of vanilla often means that lower amounts of added sugar are required.
Vanilla cake can also be served with healthy fruits and berries, whereas chocolate cake is normally paired with a hefty dollop of cream.
And The Winner Is …
This is a pretty tough call to make, but we think that chocolate cake just has the edge here! While vanilla cake certainly has a place in the world of desserts, there is nothing quite like a slice of dense, fudgy, rich, full-flavored chocolate cake.
However, only a real chocolate cake made with good quality ingredients will do the trick! A cake mix with added cocoa powder will just not have the same chocolatey velvetiness as one made with real chocolate.
The great thing about chocolate cake is it tastes equally as good cold as it does warm. It also reheats well and can be paired with a variety of toppings such as fresh whipped cream or crème fresh.
If you want a bit of fruity sharpness to cut through the chocolatey flavor, try eating chocolate cake with raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries.
For an easy recipe, take a look at our no-bake chocolate cake!
Vanilla Vs Chocolate – Ice Cream Showdown
Okay, so now on to our next hotly contested category, the Ice Cream Showdown! To figure out the answer to this difficult conundrum, we first need to take an in-depth look at how each flavoring works when added to ice cream.
Chocolate and vanilla are consistently ranked as the top two favorite ice cream flavors around the world. While we all love trying the more unusual ice cream flavors, chocolate and vanilla have never lost any of their popularity.
Vanilla is the original and classic ice cream flavoring. In fact, you often find that when ice cream is sold in other flavors, vanilla is still the main base ingredient.
The reason that vanilla works so well in ice cream is that the flavor is simple, subtle, and not too overwhelming. This makes it the perfect partner for the subtle creaminess of a good quality dairy ice cream.
The natural sweetness of vanilla also means that the amount of added sugar in the ice cream can be reduced. Vanilla ice cream is refreshing without being too sticky or sweet.
On the other hand, chocolate ice cream is rich with a very intense flavor. And while many people would say that too much chocolate is never a bad thing, sometimes this can be too intense and not all that refreshing.
It is also hard to get the true flavor of chocolate to shine through in ice cream. Cheaper and poor-quality chocolate ice creams can taste slightly bitter or artificial and do not have that smooth chocolatey flavor we all adore.
For this reason, chocolate is often added to ice cream in the form of chips, shavings, or flakes to give a true chocolatey taste, but even these can become too cold to the point that they are waxy and hard to taste.
Alternatively, some chocolate ice cream desserts contain gooey rich chocolate in the center.
Fans of chocolate ice cream will say it is more exciting than its boring vanilla counterpart, although vanilla lovers will disagree.
Overall, it will often depend on the quality of the product and the ingredients used. A high-quality chocolate ice cream is always going to beat a poor-quality vanilla ice cream and vice versa.
And The Winner Is …
When it comes to ice cream, we think this is definitely a case as the original is still the best. Vanilla ice cream nudges ahead of chocolate for several reasons.
Firstly, vanilla is the perfect ice cream flavor because it is simple. It does not overwhelm the richness of dairy ice cream and compliments the taste perfectly, allowing the quality of the ice cream to shine through.
Vanilla also has a natural sweetness that pairs perfectly with the smooth creaminess of good-quality ice cream.
This also means that vanilla ice cream typically contains less sugar than chocolate ice cream, and is lower in artificial and refined sugars.
The other reason why vanilla ice cream is such a popular choice is that it is simple enough to pair with many other flavorings and ingredients. As we’ve already discovered, most ice creams contain vanilla as one of their base flavorings.
A good ice cream sundae will always be based on vanilla ice cream, combined with syrups, fruit, sprinkles, and even hot fudge. Imagine this with chocolate ice cream instead – you’d soon end up with a rich, sickly mess!
Here’s one of our favorite simple recipes for vanilla ice cream!
Vanilla Vs Chocolate – Pudding Showdown
Our next chocolate and vanilla head-to-head is the classic pudding recipe. A pudding is a very simple but delicious dish, like a lighter version of pastry cream or custard.
A good pudding should be thick and creamy, perfect for eating alone or serving with fruit or cake.
Whether your pudding is chocolate or vanilla, it will still contain the same basic ingredients. This includes milk, butter, and a thickener such as egg yolks or cornstarch.
The thickness of putting all comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer them super thick and set hard while other people like them creamy and soft.
Look up any pudding recipe and you will see that it normally contains either chocolate, vanilla, or both.
The original form of these puddings was normally sweetened with just vanilla, but in modern times, it is common to include sugar as well, particularly in the chocolate version.
The chocolate version of pudding can be made using any type of chocolate. Dark chocolate gives a richer, more bitter flavor. White chocolate pudding is sweeter and more creamy.
And The Winner Is …
OK, so we have to admit this contest is really close! We think that when it comes to pudding, vanilla just takes the edge over chocolate.
This is for the same reason why vanilla works so well in ice cream, as the delicate flavor allows the dairy creaminess to shine through.
We’re not the only ones who struggled to pick a favorite here, though, and it’s clear to see that many people are sitting on the fence.
Take a look at the most popular pudding recipes and you’ll see that the most common combination is a 50:50 mix of vanilla and chocolate.
Combining the two together in a single glass gives you the best of both worlds. You can take spoonfuls of each type separately, or mix them both together for an amazing taste sensation!
Not only does the combination of vanilla and chocolate pudding taste great, but also looks visually stunning in a dessert glass. You can either layer the two types in the glass for a striped effect or stir them gently into each other for a marbled look.
Here are two of our favorite pudding recipes!
Vanilla Vs Chocolate – Cookie Showdown
Our final contest of the day comes down to which is best – chocolate cookies or vanilla cookies?
Chocolate is one of the most popular ingredients used to flavor cookies and chocolate cookies come in numerous different forms.
Chocolate can either be used within the cake cookie mix itself to add flavor or as chocolate chips blended with the cookie dough. If you’re feeling really decadent, a double chocolate cookie has both chocolate dough and added chocolate chips!
Cookies can be made using any type of chocolate, including sweet white chocolate and bitter dark chocolate.
Vanilla is also a common ingredient in cookie dough, but it is rarely used as a stand-alone flavoring.
In this situation, it is used to add a subtle sweetness which is normally combined with other flavors such as fruits, berries, or chocolate. Adding vanilla to cookies allows lower amounts of refined sugars to be used.
Plain vanilla cookies are flavorsome but are far less intense than their chocolate counterparts.
And The Winner Is …
We would have no hesitation in announcing that chocolate cookies are the winner of this contest! No cookie tastes quite right without chocolate, whether it is within the dough or as added chocolate chips.
In fact, we’d go as far as to say that the double chocolate cookie is one of the finest culinary creations in the world!
Take a look at our recipe below for chocolate cookies without butter!
Vanilla Vs Chocolate – Dessert Showdown Summary!
We have to say this is not an easy showdown to judge and we had to make some difficult decisions here.
One thing that has become clear is that chocolate flavoring tends to be a popular favorite in cake-based desserts. Chocolate adds a rich, velvety flavor and dense texture which cannot be beat.
The only downside to using chocolate in cake-based desserts is that it does not always combine well with other flavors.
On the other hand, the delicate and subtle flavor and sweetness of vanilla are the perfect partners for dairy-based desserts like ice cream and puddings.
Vanilla allows the creaminess of milk products to shine through without overwhelming the flavor. Vanilla also helps to reduce the amount of refined sugar in your recipe and pairs well with many other ingredients.