Chocolate Inclusion or Infused Chocolate, What Separates Them?

Updated: Aug 8

Cacao Infused with Kuleana Rum makes great Hawaii Chocolate
Hawaiian Chocolate | Infused Chocolate

Chocolate Inclusions First off, let's define it. A chocolate inclusion, is the word for (almost) any natural ingredient added into or onto chocolate liquor, bars, paste or even chocolate beverages.

To make chocolate, sugar is the only ingredient that is required beyond cacao. Cacao, is the raw ingredient chocolate paste or chocolate liquor is made from. So, to call something chocolate references only the cacao (or cocoa powder/butter) and sugar ingredients. Almost everything else is added to chocolate is considered and inclusion. Even milk is an inclusion in chocolate. You wouldn't call milk chocolate, "chocolate", right? Inclusions are ingredients beyond the basic recipes that are added, to enhance a product. Let me mention soy-lecithin, its a chocolate additive. We won't cover these in detail but please note, most industrial chocolate has lots of additives. Below are some lists of inclusions, additives and infusions that will clear things up.

Examples of chocolate inclusions:

Seasonings like Barbecue, Curry or Pho

Essential Oils like Lavender, Mint or Frankincense

Dried, Powdered or Freeze Dried Fruits and Vegetables like Turmeric, Mango or Chilis

Nuts, Praline or Gianduja like Candied Pecans, Pistachios and Peanut Butter Sugars like Popping Sugar, Toffee or Honeycomb

Others like Medicinal Mushrooms, CBD, Sea Salts, Tea or Dried Flower Petals

Inclusions can be used in chocolate for textural purposes as well. Most often, inclusions are added for synergistic aroma or flavor. Here is a helpful list of chocolate additives that are not considered food. These are not inclusions and do not exist in nature. The below additives came to be, inside food laboratories.

Chocolate additives: PGPR polyglycerol polyricinoleate (E476)

Lecithin (Soy, Sunflower or Canola) Paraffin/Carnauba Wax Food Colorings Shellac

Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids


Some added ingredients that are NOT considered inclusions in chocolate are infusions. Let's define an infusion. Wikipedia says an infusion is a "process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time (a process often called steeping). In other words, infusing is imparting flavors to other ingredients.

Its really not that complex. For example, we infuse locally grown Kuleana Rum (the Hawai'i grown) into our Hawaiian cacao nibs. Here is how they make their rum. What we do is simply pour the bottle of rum into the nibs.

Guess what happens. Well, 2 things; 1.) the nibs absorb the rum and its flavors and 2.) the rum is infused with cocoa flavor. It's an infusion and both ingredients are infused become infused with each other..

Bean-to-Bar Hawaiian Chocolate
Hawaiian Vanilla | Bean-to-Bar

In some recipes, depending on how much nibs we use, there may be no liquid (rum) left at all. The cocoa nibs can soak it all up. This means we do have to dehydrate them before making the chocolate but thats a minor detail. Typically, nibs will have residual moisture (water) from soaking in liqour. Since no moisture (water), is allowed in chocolate making, we have to remove it all. Alcohol evaporates so easily that we can keep our dehydrators on low or we just sun dry sun the nibs on baking sheets (weather depending).

Infusing Bean-to-Bar Chocolate with Kuleana Rum
Hawaiian Rum Infused Cocoa Nibs | Kuleana Rum

If you want to taste a chocolate bar infused with Hawaiian Rum, try our bar here. It also has Hawaiian Vanilla in it but the vanilla counts as and inclusion. So our 71% Kuleana "Huihui" Rum Chocolate Bar is an infusion and an inclusion bar. Its not our only infused bar, but here are some examples of other chocolate infusions. Examples of chocolate infusions:

Liqour like Bourbon, Rum or Mezcal Smoke like Mesquite, Cherry Wood or Peat

Refrigeration like the smell of freon or odorous foods (when refrigerating chocolate)

We infuse 10-year old smoked whiskey into our cacao beans. Thats right. Read that again. The whisky is smoked. Well the peat from Scotland is smoked which infuses flavor into whisky. Its rich. Its malty. Its chocolately and peaty. It's doubley infused. Just don't refrigerate it!

Hawaiian Chocolate Infused with Laphroaig Whisky
Whiskey Infused Bean-to-Bar Hawaiian Chocolate

These two bars infused with top shelf spirits take months to infuse. Our cocoa nibs "steep", for 2 months and then we make and age the chocolate for a third month before pouring into delicious hand-wrapped infused chocolate bars.

Bean-to-Bar Hawaiian Chocolate Infused with Laphroaig Whisky
Laphroaig Whisky Infused Bean to Bar Hawaii Chocolate

Its a process....

So, the main difference between the two. One is a process (infusion) and one is simply synonymous, with added ingredients (inclusion). I hope this helped explain this differences between a chocolate inclusion and infused chocolate. Its a confusing subject but so delicious to truly discover. Check out our other blog posts for more information about cocoa, cacao and chocolate. Slainte!, Cheers! Kanpai!