Did you know that cacao (chocolate in its raw form) boasts more than 600 flavour compounds? That is one of the reasons chocolate goes well with so many different spices, foods and beverages—from saffron and citrus, to fennel and cheese. Here, Lindt Maître Chocolatier Thomas Schnetzler shares his six tips for pairing like a pro.

Start with the classics

If you’re new to the world of chocolate pairing, tried-and-true chocolate companions such as citrus and nuts are a great place to begin. The sharpness and zing of citrus—whether it’s orange, lime, grapefruit or clementine—is a perfect match for chocolate. And whether you like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pistachios, all nuts are high in fats which helps to bring out cacao’s flavour profile.

Explore different wine and spirit pairings

Many red wines pair beautifully with dark chocolate, while a Pinot Noir enjoyed with white chocolate such as Excellence Vanilla is also stunning. Spirits such as scotch, which have similar flavour notes to chocolate such as caramel and vanilla, make another excellent beverage pairing. And if a Negroni is one of your favourite cocktails, try Campari with chocolate—its orange and savoury notes offset cacao’s bitter notes.

Let your curiosity guide you

Some pairings make perfect sense, while others might be a bit harder to imagine. But with the exception of crisp white wines such as Pinot Grigio which can be too acidic to pair with chocolate, and oysters, there aren’t many foods and beverages that don’t work well with chocolate, so keep an open mind and palate.

Match the cacao percentage to flavour intensity

As a rule of thumb, the more intense the flavour of what is being paired with chocolate, the better suited it is to higher cacao percentage. For instance, Excellence 85% Cacao paired with blue cheese is fantastic.

Try cooking with chocolate

Adding chocolate to a savoury dish is another way to pair chocolate and explore different flavour combinations. For instance, a curry infused with dark chocolate seems like a strange pairing but is actually delightful.

Experiment with different textures

Chocolate is so versatile, it can be paired with foods that are crunchy, smooth or fall somewhere in between. That being said, soft and creamy textures that mimic the smoothness of the Excellence chocolate work especially well. For instance, a ripe mango or even a beautiful creamy Brie at room temperature.