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VICTORIA BELLAFIORE/Nakeisha Campbell

4 Surprising Chocolate Recipes That Prove Sweet & Salty Is the Best Combo

It all started with a chocolate grilled cheese sandwich, complete with gooey white cheddar cheese, rich dark chocolate and crisp, caramelized bread.

No, I wasn’t dining at a café. I devoured this salty-sweet indulgence in the middle of my kitchen on a Friday night—just moments after I stumbled upon a fascinating promo for the chocolate-themed Puerto Rican restaurant, Chocobar Cortes. As it turns out, the eatery is best known for their mouth-watering chocolate grilled cheese. So naturally, as a bonafide chocolate enthusiast, I just had to try my own rendition of this popular treat.

Within minutes, I’d demolished the sandwich, but as I enjoyed my final bite, I thought: What if I experimented with other savory recipes by including a bit of chocolate? Could this work with, say, mac and cheese? Or bacon strips?

After three months of experimentation, I came up with four tasty recipes, proving that salty and sweet are indeed the best combo when it comes to chocolate. As for why they work so well together, Top Chef alum Malika Ameen, who's an expert at pairing sweets with savory foods, said it's because the salt “minimizes sweetness” and “sharpens flavors,” while the sugar balances it out.

She told Eater, “Salt is a flavor enhancer, and when it’s correctly combined with something sweet, it creates flavor layering.”

So, if you’re partial to salty-sweet pairings that involve all kinds of chocolate, keep reading to get the best of both worlds, from chocolate-covered bacon strips to Cheez-It pretzel bark.


Chocolate-Covered Bacon Recipe

  • Best for: Anyone who wants dessert for breakfast
  • Prep time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty level: Moderate

No offense to eggs or BLT sandwiches, but I’m now convinced that crispy, salty bacon and chocolate are the ultimate power couple. Lucky for beginner cooks, this recipe is quite easy to make—and there’s plenty of opportunity to experiment with fun toppings.

Ingredients:

  • 6 strips of thick-cut bacon
  • ½ cup dark or milk chocolate melts
  • Crushed potato chips, pistachio nuts and candy (or other toppings of your choice)

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Step 2: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then lay out each bacon slice on the sheet. Place the bacon in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until they're as brown and crispy as desired. (Pro tip: Check in on your bacon periodically as they cook to prevent them from burning.)

Step 3: Once cooked, transfer the bacon to a towel-lined plate to drain the excess bacon grease. You can also dab off oil from each strip with a paper towel.

Step 4: Line a sheet with parchment paper and set aside for placing your dipped bacon. Set aside for now.

Step 5: Set up a double boiler—placing an inch or two of water in a saucepan, then topping with a heat-safe bowl that doesn’t quite touch the water—to melt your chocolate. Add chocolate to the bowl and melt it. (You can also skip the double boiler and microwave the chocolate in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.)

Step 6: Carefully dip half of each strip of bacon into the chocolate. Sprinkle with your desired toppings.

Step 7: Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating.

Gouda White Chocolate Mac & Cheese Recipe

  • Best for: Soul food junkies who want to live dangerously
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Prep time: 45-60 minutes

I know what you’re thinking. Chocolate and mac and cheese?? Yes, believe it. Pair your favorite white chocolate with rich, creamy, nutty cheeses, like aged gouda and gruyère, and you’ve got yourself a savory-sweet match made in heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of seashell pasta
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 cup of half and half milk
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • ⅓ cup of Ghirardelli white chocolate melts (or white chocolate chips of your choice)
  • 1 ½ cups of aged gouda cheese, grated
  • ½ cup of gruyère cheese, grated

Step 1: In a medium pot, boil the seashell pasta over medium-high heat in salted water, until it’s tender but firm. Drain and set aside.

Step 2: In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. When it's completely melted, add your flour and whisk together, until a paste starts to form.

Step 3: After whisking for roughly 2 minutes, gradually add the whole milk and half and half, and continue to whisk. The sauce should start to thicken at this point.

Step 4: Add your nutmeg, salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Continue to stir.

Step 5: Add the white chocolate, grated aged gouda and gruyère cheese. Continue to stir.

Step 6: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Step 7: Add the cooked pasta to your sauce and mix to combine. (The consistency of the cheese sauce will be quite thick, so make sure to mix well until there’s even distribution.)

Step 8: Transfer the mac and cheese into a buttered baking pan and let it bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 9: (optional): After baking, melt a handful of white chocolate chips and drizzle over the top for bonus presentation points.

Chocolate Grilled Cheese Recipe

  • Best for: Die-hard turophiles
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes

It’s time to put a fresh twist on your classic grilled cheese sandwich—one that’ll simultaneously fill your stomach and satisfy your sweet tooth. (Although you may want to avoid dipping this one in tomato soup.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of brioche or challah bread
  • Unsalted butter
  • 2 slices of white cheddar cheese
  • Ghirardelli dark chocolate melts (or any dark chocolate of your choice)

Step 1: Apply a generous amount of butter on one side of both slices of bread.

Step 2: Place the bread slices, buttered side-down, on a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Step 3: Add your white cheddar cheese to one of the slices, then place about four to five pieces of chocolate on top—just enough to balance out the cheese.

Step 4: Use a spatula to flip the other slice of bread over and place it on top of the chocolate. Allow it to cook for an extra minute until the bottom is golden brown, then flip, cooking for roughly 2 minutes, or until the other side is brown. (Pro Tip: Put a lid on top to help with the melting process, but do so with slightly lower heat to avoid burning the bread.)

Cheez-It Pretzel Chocolate Bark Recipe

  • Best for: Loyal Butterfinger fans
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Prep time: 25-30 minutes

Beginners will appreciate this simple recipe, which I also like to call “Butterfinger Bark.” As it turns out, Cheez-It crackers and chocolate tastes almost exactly like the popular candy bar. And with the addition of crunchy, salty pretzels, you’ve got yourself a salty-sweet Butterfinger trail mix you never knew you needed.

Ingredients:

  • One bag of Ghirardelli dark or milk chocolate melts
  • 1 box of Cheez-Its
  • 1 bag of pretzels (whole or crushed)

Step 1: Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Step 2: Set up a double boiler: Put your chocolate in a glass bowl and set it over a pot of boiling water. Slowly stir the chocolate pieces with a spoon as they start to melt.

Step 3: When the chocolate is almost completely melted, with just a few solid pieces left, remove the bowl from the heat and continue to stir until all of the chocolate is melted.

Step 4: (optional): Stir a handful of broken pieces of Cheez-Its into the melted chocolate.

Step 5: Spread the chocolate onto the baking sheet, creating a layer that’s about half an inch thick.

Step 6: Immediately top the chocolate with additional pieces of Cheez-It crackers and pretzels.

Step 7: Refrigerate the bark for at least 10 minutes, then break into smaller pieces.