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Can you use icing color for chocolate melts?

Chocolate melts, also known as candy melts or chocolate wafers, are a popular candy making ingredient. They are formulated to melt smoothly at low temperatures, making them easy to use for candy making, cake decorating, and other desserts. A common question that many candy makers have is whether regular icing color can be used to color chocolate melts. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the differences between chocolate and candy melts, whether regular icing colors work for coloring melts, and recommended ways to color chocolate melts to achieve vibrant, beautiful results.

What are Chocolate Melts?

Chocolate melts are made from a blend of sugar, vegetable fats, milk products, emulsifiers, and flavorings. Unlike real chocolate, they do not contain cocoa solids or cocoa butter. The exact ingredients and formulas vary between brands, but in general chocolate melts contain:

– Sugar – Provides sweetness and bulk
– Vegetable oils – Provides smooth texture when melted
– Milk powders – Contributes flavor
– Emulsifiers like soy lecithin – Helps blend ingredients smoothly
– Flavors – Usually artificial or natural vanilla, sometimes other flavors like mint or strawberry

The lack of cocoa butter is what makes chocolate melts melt at much lower temperatures than real chocolate. Cocoa butter is a saturated fat that solidifies at temperatures around body temperature. In chocolate melts, the vegetable oil blend remains fluid at room temperature or just slightly above, so the melts can be easily melted and used for candy making or dessert decorating.

Chocolate melts are extremely versatile – they can be used for:

– Candy making – Used for candy melts, lollipops, fruit pops, nut clusters
– Cake decorating – For frostings, fillings, molded shapes
– Dipping – For pretzels, cookies, fruit
– Molds – Filling shaped silicone molds
– Drizzling – Decorative work on cakes, cupcakes, ice cream

Unlike real chocolate, chocolate melts do not need to be tempered. They simply need to be melted and cooled to set firmly. This makes them more foolproof to work with compared to the delicate tempering process required for real chocolate.

Can Regular Icing Color Be Used?

When working with chocolate melts, creative candy makers often want to color them vibrant shades for holidays, themed candy projects, or just for fun. But can regular icing gel color or liquid food color be used in chocolate melts?

The short answer is no – regular icing color is not recommended for use in chocolate melts. Here’s why:

Different Fat Content

Icing colors are formulated specifically for buttercream icing, a high fat medium. The vegetable oils in chocolate melts have a much lower fat content. So icing colors don’t blend or incorporate properly into chocolate melts. The colors may look blotchy or bleed rather than distributing smoothly.

Water Content

Many liquid icing colors contain a high percentage of water to create bright, vivid colors. But chocolate melts are extremely sensitive to moisture and can easily seize up. Just a small amount of water from liquid colors can make melted chocolate thick, lumpy, and difficult to work with.

Flavor Interference

Some icing gels and pastes contain flavors like vanilla that can interfere with the taste of chocolate melts. This can make the finished candies or decorations taste off.

Unsuitable Ingredients

Icing colors often contain preservatives, synthetic colors, and other ingredients that may not be approved for use in chocolate or candy. So they could make decorated treats unsafe to eat.

Recommended Ways to Color Chocolate Melts

While regular icing color isn’t suitable for chocolate melts, there are other ways to safely color them for vibrant and appetizing results:

Candy Colorants

Specialized candy colors are formulated for coloring chocolate and candy melts. These are oil-based colors that blend smoothly into the oil-based melts. Popular brands include Chefmaster, Americolor, and Wilton Candy Melts Color. These come in both liquid and gel/paste form. Follow the product directions to mix just a small amount of color into melted chocolate.

Cocoa Powder

For a natural brown color variation, unsweetened cocoa powder can be blended into white chocolate or ivory melts. Start with just 1/2 tsp per pound of melts and increase if a darker shade is desired.

Ground Spices

Ground spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and paprika can gently tint melts shades of brown, pink, or orange when used sparingly. Use 1/8 to 1/4 tsp per pound of melts, adding more as needed.

Pureed Fruit

For pastel colors, puree fruits like raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Gently mix 2-3 Tbsp into a pound of melted chocolate and mix until evenly incorporated. The fruit purees will naturally tint the chocolate.

Natural Colorants

Some candy making suppliers offer natural colorants made from sources like turmeric, annatto, beet, and other food colors. These are specifically designed to work in chocolate for vibrant hues.

Tips for Coloring Chocolate Melts

Follow these tips for best results when coloring chocolate melts:

– Melt chocolate first, then add color when melted and smooth.
– Add just a small amount of color at a time and mix thoroughly. You can always add more but can’t take it away!
– For a marble look, add one color in lines across melted chocolate, then use a knife to swirl it in a figure 8 pattern.
– check the color after a few minutes to ensure it distributed evenly and didn’t bleed.
– For a two-tone effect, pour colored chocolate into a mold first, let set slightly, then pour a contrasting color on top.
– Add flavor extracts to complement the color, like peppermint with red or orange with cinnamon.
– Start with a very small test batch to get the coloring right before making a large quantity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use Christmas icing colors?

Christmas icing gel colors that are designed for frosting are also not recommended for use in chocolate melts. Specialty candy colors will provide much better, safer results.

What if I already added regular icing color to chocolate?

If you already added regular icing gel and the chocolate seized up or looks unevenly colored, it’s best to discard it and start over with candy melt coloring. The texture and appearance likely won’t be suitable for candy making.

Are candy melt colorings OK for royal icing?

Candy colors can be used to color royal icing on cookies, but only oil-based candy colors should be used, not water-based. Gel is preferred over liquid. Start with toothpick amounts and add gradually until desired shade is reached.

Can food coloring work?

Regular liquid food coloring is also not ideal and may cause seizing or bleeding of color. Stick to professional candy colorants for reliable results every time.

What gives vibrant coloring?

Gel or paste candy melt colorings will give the brightest, most vivid results. Liquid candy colors appear more pastel. Use gels for bold primary colors.


While regular icing color is a no-no for chocolate melts, there are many easy ways to color chocolate beautifully for candy making and decorating. Specialty candy colorants are formulated specifically for the job to provide smooth, even color without messing up chocolate’s texture. With the right coloring products and techniques, you can create chocolate in any color for eye-catching confections.

Coloring Method Result
Candy colorant gel Vibrant, even color
Cocoa powder Rich brown hues
Spices Natural tints
Fruit purees Pastel shades