Survey 100 random people on the street and you'd be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't love chocolate. There's something about the rich, deep and earthy flavor that makes people react to the stuff as if it were catnip for humans. Despite popular misconceptions, being vegan does not mean that you have to give up chocolate.
Unfortunately, many of the big chocolate brands that might find on the supermarket checkout line are going to contain things like milk or milk derivatives. In an effort to save money, bigger companies will dilute the delectable flavor of cacao with cheap ingredients, even on their dark chocolate products. If you're thinking about giving the vegan lifestyle a try this is something to get excited about. Avoiding milk chocolate and cheap chocolate is going to give you a reason to explore all that the cocoa (or cacao) bean has to offer by trying some high quality chocolate brands.
Believe it or not, chocolate originates from a bean called a cocoa or cacao bean. It mainly grows in tropical locations. The bean itself grows pods and like other beans are the seeds of the tree. The beans are surrounded by a pulp type material and the seeds are scooped out during the harvest.
Once the beans are harvested, they are sent into several different streams of production, creating the products that we know and love today. Whether they are chopped up to make cacao nibs, made into a powder, or a liquid - it all still originates from that same bean! (1)
You may have noticed that nothing about the bean itself involves animal products. This means that chocolate in its purest form is vegan!
The most common non-vegan in ingredient added to chocolate is milk or milk products. The majority of the time, the ingredient statement will state "CONTAINS: MILK" at the bottom. This is not because the companies are trying to warn vegans about milk, but rather because milk is a major allergen (2). Therefore, companies will make it pretty clear that their product has milk in order to make sure people that are allergic don't have a bad reaction. Even if the product has a milk derived ingredient in it such as casein, the label will most likely still have an allergen warning.
However, we have seen some exceptions to this rule, so we do recommend just giving a quick read through the ingredient statement of the bar you're trying to buy and looking for: milk, milkfat, and casein.
Known for being one of the highest quality chocolates available, it is no surprise that Green and Black offers traditional dark chocolate options with no milk. They do offer a wide range of milk containing chocolates as well, so just be careful and be sure to check all of the labels. From what we can find, the vegan offerings they have are the following:
Below we have linked the Classic 70% Dark Chocolate for your eating pleasure:
Pascha is unique because its claim to fame is that its made in an allergen free facility. This means there's no risk of traces of peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, and gluten. Food allergy sufferers rejoice! They keep their ingredient list super simple which allows the sacred cocoa bean to perform at its best. They manufacture a few flavors and cocoa percentages, but from what we can see, they are all allergen free. In addition, they've gone so far as to get Vegan Certified (7)!
They're even coming out with a "milk chocolate" made creamy with rice milk! This is truly a great brand to support as a vegan.
We've linked the 85% dark chocolate below so be sure to check it out. Some of the other vegan varieties they manufacture are:
One of our absolute favorite chocolate bars - Trader Joe's 72% Dark Chocolate is one that you can't miss out on! It's got a simple ingredient list and a taste and texture that's to die for. They've pretty much perfected the dark chocolate bar! To make things even better, they sell a variety with almonds as well.
We've linked the original 72% Pound Plus bar below for you to check out online, but also keep in eye out for the 72% with almonds!
Although not all the products that they make are vegan, Lindt does have a few vegan options which includes some of their super dark chocolate. From what we've seen, Lindt's plain dark chocolate bars that are labeled for a cocoa percentage - say 70% cocoa are above - don't have any milk products in them. However, when you see a package that's not labeled with a percentage, even if it says dark, there's a good chance that it is not vegan. We recommend double checking for milk or milkfat just to be sure, though. Here are a list of the different vegan dark chocolate bars that they offer:
The rule above does not apply to Lindt's truffles. Their 60% dark chocolate truffle still had milk in it, most likely from the filling in the middle.
When it comes to simplicity, Taza Chocolate takes the cake. Their Wicked Dark chocolate bar is 95% cocoa and is made using Mexican stone mills. This gives the chocolate a bit more grit making it closer to the the true authenticity of the cocoa bean itself (7).
When it comes to tradition and simplicity, this brand takes the cake (besides for just the regular cacao nibs of course). Their Wicked Dark bar is made of just two ingredients: Cocoa Beans and Cane Sugar. If you're used to eating Hershey bars, this is going to be a big leap, but high quality dark chocolate is a lot like wine in that there are a wide range of complex flavor notes to appreciate.
Diving a bit deeper into Taza's product line, we were very pleased to see that many if not all of their products were vegan including their peanut butter truffles! They manufacture a variety of bars, barks, discs, and other things that would make any chocolate lover drool.
We've linked their Wicked Dark chocolate bar below for you to check out!
For vegans who like their chocolate bars with added flavor elements, Alter Eco has a lot of great options (8). Unfortunately, not all of their products are vegan, but there are a lot of unique flavors and great options that we haven't seen before. Some of the most delicious vegans options we saw from Alter Eco were:
Choc Zero is an interesting vegan dark chocolate option because they don't actually sweeten it with sugar. They use monk fruit extract as as sweetener and also add some fiber in an attempt to give it some more nutritional value. The lack of sugar gives it a low caloric profile, ideal if you're trying to trim off additional calories. Unfortunately, not all of their products are vegan, so be sure to check the ingredient statements. The one we linked below is, though so be sure to check it out!
Unlike traditional dark chocolate which is sweetened with sugar, Stivii is a brand that has chosen to sweeten their coffee with Stevia to appeal to people that don't want to consume sugar. As a result, their original chocolate bar contains less than 1 gram of sugar. Their fruit flavored varieties are still quite low in sugar, but have up to 4 grams per serving from what we've seen. This may not be the best fit for you if you're sensitive to stevia (which some people seem to be), but many people love it and its a great option for diabetics! Their flavors include:
Trying one of their fruit flavored ones (linked below) may be the best option if you're not too keen on stevia. This is because real sugar and stevia when combine take on a whole different flavor profile than just stevia on its own.
Endangers species makes some really rich dark chocolate varieties and most of them are vegan certified. In addition, they claim to donate 10% of their net profits to protect wildlife (6). While we can't vouch for the effectiveness of their program, we can let you know which of their chocolate varieties are vegan:
Check out the link below to check out one of their vegan offerings online!
When it comes to vegan chocolate chips, things can be split up into two categories: classic chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Classic chocolate chips are probably what you're most familiar with. Cacao nibs are chopped up chunks of the unsweetened bean itself which actually have an entire different flavor and texture profile. Both definitely have their place in the kitchen!
A quick perusal through your grocery store's baking aisle and you'll quickly discover that most of the chocolate chips there aren't vegan - except one. One brand called Enjoy Life is taking the market by storm and can be found in most grocery stores in the US. Their chocolate chip products are not only vegan, but also nut free and soy free. They're manufactured in a bunch of different sizes including mini chips and large chunks. If you're interested in buying them online, please do check the link below. If you want to see if they're in a store near you - check out Enjoy Life's Store Locator.
If you're looking to have tighter control over your macronutrient intake, Lily's Dark Chocolate Chips are also a vegan option that's sweetened with stevia. This means it doesn't have any added sugar and thus packs a smaller caloric punch. Some people are sensitive to the taste of stevia, but these are definitely worth a try! If you put them into something that's already otherwise sweetened, such as cookies or vegan ice cream, you're unlikely to notice a difference. In addition, the company also supports cancer research which you can learn more about on their website.
To learn more about buying Lily's Chocolate Chips online, check out the link below!
Perhaps by accident, the Costco generic brand: Kirkland is also vegan! As with all Costco products, they come in a huge bag as well so you're sure to never run out. Putting them in the freezer or fridge will ensure that they stay good for a long time as well! From a taste perspective, they're very similar to the Enjoy Life chips from our experience!
Note: there have been rumors that this product has been discontinued, but as of July 2017 its still available on Amazon (linked below). Be sure to check the ingredient statement in case it has changed or been reformulated.
You'll probably notice that there are a bunch of cacao nib brands out there. From our experience, they are all pretty similar. We like to buy them at least by the pound that way we get the best bang for our buck. Health food stores and even grocery stores often overprice their cacao nibs, which is why we like to shop online for them. TruVibe (linked below) makes some great nibs, but again they are all pretty much the same. The only exception we've found is that there are some sweetened brands of nibs, however at that point we'd rather just go for the regular chips!
Dark chocolate can be vegan, but it isn't all of the time. For example, Hershey's Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate bar still has Milk Fat in it (3). However, most of the higher end brands dark chocolate will be vegan, especially if the packages read 70% cacao or above. We recommend checking the ingredient statement and looking for the "CONTAINS: MILK "warning. If you don't see it, odds are it is vegan friendly!
Most milk chocolate won't be vegan, but we did find a brand that uses rice milk!
Yes! Many of the Lindt dark chocolate bars we found were vegan. To see our list of the best Lindt vegan chocolate bars, check out the top section of this page.
We were disappointed to find that all of the Dove Dark Chocolate Bars that we researched were not vegan. According to their website (5), all of their dark chocolate bars contain milk fat. In addition, from what we could see most of them contained sugar as a first ingredient which means that they aren't that dark to begin with.
There are plenty of other vegan brands available, though! Check out our list above.
Deciding whether or not something is healthy can be a bit nuanced. Chocolate in its purest form, much like any other whole plant based food, chocolate is high in antioxidants which are beneficial for combating inflammation which is very important for optimal function. When consuming chocolate bars, candies or chips which have added sugar and fat the positive impacts of the cacao bean become more dubious.
To learn more about healthy eating, we highly recommend checking out NutritionFacts.org. Their work on chocolate has been summarized on this page (4).
From an ethical standpoint, there's no reason to be concerned about shared equipment. In fact, it may even be beneficial for veganism as the companies that make the chocolate see the demand for their non-dairy varieties increasing which will prompt them to come out with more!
If you have a dairy allergy, this is obviously a different matter. We recommend consulting your doctor for that one as it depends on how sensitive you are and how severe your allergy is.
Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey’s true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.