Water ganaches

A few of you have asked me to write about ‘water ganaches’, and I found this an interesting topic and was thinking about dedicating a post to this for a while.

There is a lot of mystique attributed to water ganaches; people talk about them as if they are somehow ‘special’ and only “super knowledgeable chocolatiers” can make this work and get a shelf life out of them.

Well let me get a little bit controversial here: Every ganache is a water ganache! 

Let me repeat that: Every ganache is a water ganache!

So… what is a ganache?

Whenever I teach, I tend to ask my students: What is a ganache?

Typically I will get this response: “Cream and chocolate”.

A ganache consisting of cream and chocolate is an example of what could be the foundation of a ganache, but what is cream? If you use a typical UHT cream, you have a mixture of approximately 35% milk fat, 1% milk sugars, 2% protein and about 61 – 62% water.
So even if you make a ganache using cream, you are adding mostly water.

A better definition of a ganache would be is: An emulsion of fat and water with chocolate being one of the main fat components.

So how can we make a dairy free ganache? A vegan ganache perhaps? Very simple: we need to respect the same basic formula to create a ganache as we discussed in my previous post, however now we will have to replace milk fat by other fat sources. These fat sources could be coconut oil, cocoa butter, hazelnut oil, …. you name it.

As long as our formula works out the same as the one I mentioned in my article about sugars, the shelf life should be, give or take a few days, the same.

Max. water content: 20%  -> Remains the same

sugars content +/- 30%    -> Remains the same

Cocoa butter +/- 21%        -> Depending on the other fat source, we might  have to increase this.

Dairy fat +/- 15%               -> Total fat % remains the same, but we will look                                     for another fat source.


There is a very good reason we add dairy fat (butter) to our ganaches: It enhances mouthfeel. This is mainly because it is soft and creamy at room temperature.

Oils are usually liquid at room temperature. When we want to use olive oil for example which is liquid at room temperature, we will need to compensate with Cocoa butter which is hard at room temperature. This becomes especially important when we want to make chocolates that will need to be cut with a guitar cutter and enrobed.

A good example and reference point to create a “butter alternative” from an oil:

Olive oil: 375g

Cocoa butter: 122g

So let’s assume we have a recipe that has a total dairy fat content of 100g, we would achieve a very similar (but not the same, just to be clear and honest here!) texture by using  75g olive oil and 25g cocoa butter as a replacement.

What about reducing the fat content?

Of course, you can reduce the fat content, but from experience, a ganache that really cuts down on total fat content can lose the nice creamy and rich mouthfeel we all love very fast.

You could argue that the Cacao taste will come through much powerful in a water ganache with reduced fat content, I agree that is true… however, personally, I often find the mouthfeel less than optimal which then defeats the purpose. But this is entirely a personal preference.

It’s up to you to decide what carries more weight in your creation and how much you are willing to compromise.

Shelf life

Saturated fats, like dairy fat and coconut oil, are slightly “antimicrobial” meaning they provide a less optimal environment for microorganisms to grow.

Replacing dairy fat with monounsaturated fats like olive oil or polyunsaturated fats like corn oil might have implications on the shelf life. (If you care about your consumer’s health, stay away from polyunsaturated fats and hydrogenated oils!)

The best way to find out for sure to what extent is to have your ganaches tested at a lab with a water activity meter as it is impossible to calculate.

Example recipe

Here you can see a practical example of what a conversion of a standard dairy-based recipe to a water-based recipe would look like.

Original recipe
water based recipe

Cream                   340g

Water                   210g

Invert sugar             90g

Invert sugar             90g

Glucose                  40g

Glucose                     40g

Sorbitol                 100g

Sorbitol                     100g

65% chocolate    620g

65% chocolate        620g

Anhydrous butter  140g

Olive oil                      202g

Cocoa butter                 68g

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