At a birthday party a few years ago, the hostess ordered a chocolate sheet cake from a local bakery for dessert. After we sang the traditional song, she pulled out a knife to slice it and serve pieces to all of the guests.
A rich ganache-like frosting hid between the two layers of moist chocolate cake, and a thick layer of fluffy chocolate buttercream covered the top and sides. A generous amount of the same buttercream bordered the edges in carefully piped ruffles.
Even as a huge chocoholic, I waited until almost everyone else had been served to accept a slice. I wanted a piece from the middle…
With the least amount of chocolate frosting.
I absolutely loved the almost fudge-like texture of the ganache kind sandwiched between the cake layers, but the buttercream… Well, it basically tasted like sugary butter with a bit of cocoa thrown in for color.
Needless to say, I’m a little picky about chocolate frosting. Other than ganache-style ones, I’ve found many bakeries’ frostings are either too sweet or too bland (or both!), especially when it comes to buttercream…
Yet they still look so pretty piped onto layer cakes, piled on top cupcakes, or spread on sheet cakes!
So I set out to make my own.
And after many years of testing, tasting, tweaking, and testing some more… These are three of my favorite, trusted, tried-and-true healthy chocolate frosting recipes. I’ve used them on cakes, cupcakes, brownies, cookie bars, and many other desserts. They’re all simple to whip up and full of rich chocolate flavor!
QUICK OVERVIEW — HEALTHY CHOCOLATE FROSTING RECIPES
Recipe #1: Buttercream-like frosting that’s pipe-able.
Recipe #2: Thicker frosting that’s mainly for spreading.
Recipe #3: Ganache-like frosting.
Difficulty: Very easy, including for most beginner bakers. These three recipes also really quick to make too!
Taste: Very chocolaty! The first two are on the lighter and sweeter side, while the third is darker, richer, and more decadent in flavor.
Texture: All are smooth and creamy. The first is light and fluffy, like traditional buttercream. The second is somewhat thicker than buttercream and more luxurious. The last is very thick, more fudgy, and almost ganache-like.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOCOLATE FROSTING
Let’s cover the ingredients you’ll need to make healthy chocolate frosting! There’s some overlap between the recipes, but with three different versions, you won’t necessarily need all of the ingredients below, depending on which one you pick to make.
Unsweetened cocoa powder. This is one ingredient you’ll need to make all three frosting recipes! There are two main types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural unsweetened (also called “regular” unsweetened) and Dutched (sometimes called “special dark”). Both are made from 100% cacao, but they have a few key differences. (This Serious Eats article is really helpful!)
Natural cocoa powder is made by finely grinding what’s left of cacao beans after those cacao beans have been fermented, dried, and roasted. It’s lighter in color and slightly acidic, with a pH between 5 and 6. (For reference, water is neutral, with a pH of 7.)
Dutched cocoa powder goes one step further. That same natural cocoa powder is treated with an alkalizing agent to raise its pH. That sounds more complicated than it actually is! “Alkaline” is the chemistry term for “basic” (but there isn’t a fancy chemistry term for “acidic” — just “alkaline” for “basic!”), so an “alkalizing agent” means something that will make the cocoa powder more basic on the pH scale.
I know. That probably still sounds a little confusing.
So in regular terms… Dutched cocoa powder is natural cocoa powder that has been mixed with something that makes it less acidic. It has a darker appearance (hence the “special dark” name!) and a neutral pH of 7 (like water).
Because they have difference acidity levels, natural and Dutched cocoa powder aren’t always interchangeable. They’ll often produce different tastes and textures, especially in baking recipes.
I used to be a chemist, so I love nerdy baking science facts like this!
For natural unsweetened cocoa powder, I typically use Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s really easy to find in US stores! Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has a really rich and strong chocolate flavor. (This is what I use in almost all of my recipes that call for “unsweetened cocoa powder!”)
For Dutched cocoa powder, I generally use Hershey’s “special dark” Dutched cocoa powder. It’s also easy to find in US stores! Compared to natural, Dutched cocoa powder has a milder, mellower, and more muted chocolate flavor (and isn’t nearly as strong).
Chopped dark chocolate (or dark chocolate chips). The second healthy chocolate frosting recipes calls for chocolate, in addition to cocoa powder. Adding melted dark chocolate (or melted dark chocolate chips!) accentuates the chocolate flavor, making it stronger and more pronounced. It also creates a thicker and more luxurious texture, somewhere between light, fluffy buttercream and dense, fudge-like ganache.
Milk. The second and third of these healthy chocolate frosting recipes require a small amount of milk. Any type of milk will work, so just use whatever you currently have in your fridge!
Greek yogurt. This is a key ingredient for my buttercream-like healthy chocolate frosting! Greek yogurt is naturally thick, so there’s no butter or powdered sugar required to “bulk up” the frosting to make it pipe-able, like buttercream. (You’ll also need Greek yogurt for Frosting #2!)
However, not all Greek yogurts are the same. Some are thinner, some are more tangy, and some contain added ingredients or fillers. I’ve found that FAGE plain nonfat Greek yogurt works the best. It’s thicker and stiffer than other brands, and it only contains the two ingredients necessary to make Greek yogurt: milk and live active yogurt cultures. It also doesn’t have as prominent of a “tangy” yogurt flavor.
Therefore, if you can find it, I highly recommend using FAGE; it makes the best healthy chocolate frosting!
Sweetener. There are a few different options, but these healthy chocolate frosting recipes have sugar free versions. (None use powdered sugar!)
I use this liquid stevia the most. It’s a staple in my pantry, and I’ve used it in all of these recipes! It’s highly concentrated and contains nothing overly refined or artificial, so it’s considered a “clean eating” sweetener.
However, I know not everybody likes or can find stevia… So I’ve also included lots of alternatives! Depending on which of the three chocolate frosting recipes you’re making, those include confectioners’ style erythritol, granulated sucralose, pure maple syrup, honey, and agave.
Instant pudding mix. This is my secret ingredient to achieve a pipe-able buttercream consistency in the first chocolate frosting recipe — but without any butter or powdered sugar! The chocolate instant pudding mix thickens the Greek yogurt to a much stiffer consistency, so the frosting can hold its shape perfectly when piped on top of cupcakes.
No butter? All of these healthy chocolate frosting recipes are made without butter. It’s not necessary for a velvety smooth and creamy texture! And when you don’t use butter (or powdered sugar!), it helps keep your healthy chocolate frosting low fat and low calorie.
No nut butter? I’ve seen other healthy chocolate frosting recipes that call for almond butter, cashew butter, or peanut butter. You don’t need any of those to make these recipes, so your healthy chocolate frosting can also be nut free — if that’s important to you!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HEALTHY CHOCOLATE FROSTING
Like I said earlier, all three of these are really easy to make, but I have some tips to share to help you make the best healthy chocolate frosting!
Keep ingredients at the proper temperature. In the first frosting, the Greek yogurt should be cold to achieve the best buttercream-like consistency.
In the second, the milk and yogurt should be warm — or at least at room temperature! — to avoid any mishaps when mixing them with the melted chocolate.
The third is the most forgiving; it works regardless of whether your ingredients are cold or at room temperature!
How to mix. To make the first chocolate frosting, you’ll need a hand-held mixer to beat the ingredients together for two minutes. Yes, exactly two! That’s precisely how long it takes for the instant pudding mix to activate and start working its thickening magic.
For the second, you can use a hand-held mixer, or you can stir everything together by hand. I typically do the latter. I’ve also found a fork usually works the best — even better than a spoon!
For the third, just use a fork! Because this one uses so much cocoa powder, hand-held mixers and stand mixers tend to create a huge mess… And a big mushroom cloud of cocoa powder dust. A fork is actually the fastest, most efficient, and least messy way to make this frosting!
Don’t overmix. This is mainly important for the first chocolate frosting recipe! The other two are much more forgiving. I always set a timer for exactly two minutes to avoid overmixing the ingredients.
Chill. Again, this is just for the first chocolate frosting recipe. Chilling is when the instant pudding mix continues to work its thickening magic and makes the Greek yogurt stiff enough to pipe. It needs to chill for at least 2 hours — but longer is completely fine too! I’ve made this frosting a day or two in advance and stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until I was ready to frost the cupcakes. That worked really well!
DESSERTS THAT USE CHOCOLATE FROSTING
In case you’d like some inspiration, here are some of my recipes that use these three healthy chocolate frosting options!
Recipe #1: Buttercream-like frosting that’s pipe-able.
- Healthy One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
- Healthy Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
- Healthy Almond Butter Cookie Bars with Chocolate Frosting
- Healthier Funfetti Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
- Healthy Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
- Healthy Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
- Healthy Peanut Butter Cookie Bars with Chocolate Frosting
Recipe #2: Thicker frosting that’s mainly for spreading.
(I obviously need to remember to use this frosting more often! 😉 )
Recipe #3: Ganache-like frosting.
- The Ultimate Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes
- Healthy Banana Cake with Fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirled Frosting
- Healthy Mini Dark Chocolate Banana Cupcakes
- Healthy Small Batch Mini Chocolate Cupcakes
- Healthy Almond Joy Cupcakes
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY CHOCOLATE FROSTING
What’s the difference between chocolate icing and chocolate frosting?
Contrary to what some people (and crossword clues!) believe… “Icing” and “frosting” are not the same thing! They’re both sweet, but they have very different consistencies.
Icing is much thinner in consistency, and it’s often used as a drizzle. It usually drips off the sides of a spoon quite readily. Traditional icing recipes include powdered sugar and a liquid (such as milk, lemon juice, coffee — depending on the intended icing flavor!).
Frosting is much thicker in consistency, and it’s either piped or spread. It’ll stay put on a spoon when scooped up from the bowl. Traditional recipes (not these ones!) generally include butter, powdered sugar, and a small amount of milk or cream. However, as I’ve just covered in depth, that’s not always the case… Frosting recipes can contain none of these, so use the consistency as the telltale sign of whether it’s icing or frosting, rather than the ingredients!
Is this chocolate frosting sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, or vegan?
Yes! All three of these healthy chocolate frosting recipes can be sugar free and gluten free. The third healthy chocolate frosting recipe is also dairy free and vegan, and it can easily be made nut free as well.
What’s the best cocoa powder for chocolate frosting?
Natural unsweetened cocoa powder (made from 100% cacao) is the one I use the most. I really like Hershey’s. If a recipe calls for Dutched cocoa, I like using Hershey’s “special dark.” See the “unsweetened cocoa powder” header above for more information and why these two aren’t necessarily interchangeable!
What can I use instead of powdered sugar for frosting?
Great news — these healthy chocolate frosting recipes contain no powdered sugar! I’ve shared lots of different options, but liquid stevia, confectioners’ style erythritol, granulated sucralose, and pure maple syrup are the sweeteners I use the most.
What can I substitute for the instant pudding mix?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great substitute for the chocolate instant pudding mix. I’ve tried using xanthan gum, and while it does thicken the frosting, it also adds a weird texture. Regular “cook-and-serve” pudding mix and cornstarch won’t work because those require heat to activate their thickening properties… And heating the Greek yogurt is not a good idea.
So if you can’t find or don’t want to use instant pudding mix, use the second or third chocolate frosting recipes instead!
Can I make this chocolate frosting in advance?
Yes! All three of these healthy chocolate frosting recipes can be made in advance. And if you plan on making it in advance, I’m guessing you’re about to ask…
How should I store this chocolate frosting? And how long does this chocolate frosting keep?
Store your healthy chocolate frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for a few days (if not longer!) when stored in that manner.
And now… Time to make a big batch of rich, creamy, oh-so-delicious chocolate frosting — and maybe even sneak lots of taste tests from the bowl while doing it! 😉
And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy chocolate frosting!
Healthy Chocolate Frosting – 3 Ways
FROSTING #1 – BUTTERCREAM-LIKE
- 2 cups (480g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt (see Notes!)
- ¼ cup (20g) unsweetened cocoa powder (the “natural” kind – and measured like this)
- 2 servings (16g) sugar-free, fat-free chocolate instant pudding mix (see Notes!)
- ⅝ tsp liquid stevia (or adjusted to taste – see Notes!)
FROSTING #2 – THICKER + MAINLY FOR SPREADING
- ¼ cup (56g) chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips (see Notes!)
- 2 tbsp (30mL) nonfat milk, warm
- ¼ cup (60g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt, room temperature
- 2 tbsp (10g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (the "natural" kind – and measured like this)
- 2 tbsp (10g) Dutched cocoa powder, sifted (sometimes called "special dark" – and measured like this)
- To prepare Frosting #1, add the Greek yogurt, cocoa powder, instant pudding mix, and vanilla stevia to a large bowl. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer for 2 minutes. Cover the top of the bowl with foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. (If refrigerating longer, transfer the frosting to an airtight container with a lid instead.)
- To prepare Frosting #2, add the dark chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds. Stir and microwave for another 20 seconds. Stir for at least 1 minute, or until the chocolate is completely melted. (If necessary, return the bowl to the microwave for an additional 5-10 seconds). Add in the milk, Greek yogurt, and both cocoa powders, and stir until smooth.
- To prepare Frosting #3, stir together the cocoa powder, pure maple syrup, milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl until smooth.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Sugar Cookie Bars with Vanilla Bean Frosting
♡ Healthy Mini Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
♡ Healthy Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
♡ Healthy Mini Banana Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
♡ Healthy Cinnamon Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting
♡ Healthy Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
♡ Healthy Blueberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
♡ …and more of Amy’s healthy frosting recipes!