Many people worry that when they switch to a vegan diet and vegan lifestyle, that they will miss out on the sweet treats that they know and love. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, there are many vegan-friendly options that can satisfy the sweet tooth of any chocolate lovers out there, options including some but not all dark chocolate.
Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?
The short answer is.. it depends. While most dark chocolate bars are made from a high percentage of cacao beans,(a plant-based product) there are some dark chocolate brands that do add milk, milk fat, or whole milk powder to fill in the gaps.
Most dark chocolates are made from somewhere between 55-80% cacao, and generally the more cacao, the fewer fillers.
A vegan chocolate bar should generally be made from chocolate liquor, vanilla, sugar, and some version of the cocoa bean. That could include cocoa butter, cocoa powder, cocoa mass, or some form of cocoa solids. (Yes all of these are vegan because they are made from cocoa beans which are plant-based.)
Check out our delicious vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe after you are done reading!
In fact, cocoa butter and cocoa powder, are both excellent sweetener substitutes in many vegan recipes.
A lot of dark chocolate is vegan since cacao is plant-based. Many companies use sea salt as a sweetening agent in their dark chocolate due to health reasons and because it inherently complements the taste of dark chocolate. This allows them to skip out on having to use milk products for sweetening purposes. So much dark chocolate is usually vegan but there are some very big exceptions.
Some dark chocolates and dark chocolate bars can include things like salted caramel, toffee, etc. which contains milk and are not vegan. Some also do add milk products in order to create a smoother texture, add a sweetening component, or to fill in the gap left over after adding the cacao.
So to ensure you are getting the best vegan chocolate or vegan dark chocolate do a label check and keep an eye out for things like skimmed milk powder, milk fat, whole milk powder, white chocolate, milk solids, animal products, and even whey powder.
Vegan Dark Chocolate
But thankfully many vegan dark chocolate brands will use milk substitutes such as almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, or other plant-based milk substitutes, to get that creamy texture and add a bit of sweetness without compromising the integrity of the vegan chocolates.
There are even vegan milk chocolate candies and vegan milk chocolate bars now that use those same types of substitutes to bring the delicious world of milk chocolate into the realm of vegan options.
So is dark chocolate vegan? The answer is…it’s complicated. Generally yes, but sometimes no.
But with the addition of plant-based milk substitutes, sea salt type sweeteners, and a higher demand for environmentally conscious products, the answer is more and more often becoming, yes!
How Can You Tell If Dark Chocolate Is Vegan?
So how can you tell if your favorite chocolate bar is in fact vegan friendly or if it contains non-vegan ingredients?
A quick label check should give you all the information you need to know about vegan dark chocolate or a vegan dark chocolate bar.
If the chocolate is around 70% cacao, then you know you are dealing with a great high-quality dark chocolate. But really anything over 50% is considered good. And remember, earlier we said, the more cacao the less likely it is to contain milk or any other filler? So not only are you getting a higher quality type of dark chocolate, you are getting less chance of lackluster ingredients being slipped in.
Sugar: Another Culprit
Another thing to keep an eye out for is that since dark chocolate is inherently bitter, many companies will add sugar. But as dark chocolate can be expensive, to keep production costs low, some brands will use a cheap version of sugar, something that is called bone char, which is made from you guessed it, charred bone.
So while it is not dairy it is definitely an animal product. The label should disclose if this product is being used. But thankfully, many companies do use sea salt or other healthier sugar substitutes to add flavor while keeping their chocolate vegan, if for no other reason than to preserve a high-quality label and taste.
Try our recipe: vegan chocolate peanut butter breakfast bars
Be Wary Of Palm Oil
Another potential roadblock to your vegan chocolate dreams could also be palm oil. While it is technically vegan, in the sense that it does not contain animal by-products, its negative impact on the environment has caused it to be taken off many vegan lists.
Its questionable growth practices can lead to animals losing their homes and natural environments and the harvesting practices often lead to the exploitation and mistreatment of the laborers who collect it.
So depending on your definition of vegan, this might be another product you want to steer clear of as you do your label scan. Cocoa solids can be used as an excellent milk or milk fat substitute in chocolate and other recipes to replace questionable oil or high sugar content sweeteners.
Double Check Label
Another thing to keep an eye on is cross-contamination or other trace amounts of milk ingredients that might show up. A double-check of all the ingredients listed and any warnings on the label should ensure you are good to go.
Because of allergies, companies are required to disclose if a portion of food might have come in contact with nuts, dairy products, etc. If there is anything that contains animal products or is not vegan friendly, the label should let you know.
Most dark chocolate vegan products are proud of their clean branding and are happy to report if their dark chocolate bar is vegan and does not contain milk or any other non-vegan products.
Vegan Chocolate Brands To Try
Lots of vegans choose to keep some tried and true dairy-free brands on their main menu, so here are a few that are now catering to the evergrowing vegan fan base.
Hershey’s Oat Classic Dark
Hershey’s chocolate is not generally known for vegan ingredients, but some of their dark chocolates are now dairy-free!
You read that correctly, Hersheys now makes vegan dark chocolate. Ok, so maybe they were aiming more for more health-conscious than vegan per se, but we will take what we can get. They now have a new line that uses oat milk instead of dairy.
Whole Foods Organic Dark Chocolate
Whole Foods has several organic dark chocolate options all vegan and all delicious. They have chocolate bars blended with cocoa powder, almonds, cranberries you name it! Yum. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
Lindt Dark Chocolate Vegan
The Lindt dark chocolate vegan collection is sure to tame any chocolate-loving sweet tooth. Lindt has a line that is free from dairy. Lindt dark chocolate vegan candies and bars are taking the market by storm as they are completely free of animal products and chock full of chocolatey goodness.
Chocolate Inspirations’ Artisan Bar (In Raspberry)
Excuse us and get out of our way! Did someone say dark chocolate and raspberry? It’s true, this yummy chocolate bar is totally vegan and totally delicious. But if for some reason raspberry just isn’t your thing, not to fear, they have many other fun-filled, additive-free, vegan chocolate options to choose from.
No Whey Chocolate Bar- Semisweet Dark
A delicious chocolate bar with absolutely none of the bad stuff? No whey! Yes, way! With No Whey brand’s dark chocolate bar there is no gluten, no eggs, no allergens, and not only are they vegan, but they are also kosher too! Wow. Sign us up. Not to mention their candy bars. Yum.
Enjoy Life’s Dark Chocolate Bar
Enjoy Life is making sure vegans get to do just that, enjoy life! By using rice milk as a dairy substitute Enjoy Life is making its chocolate options available to all. They are also gluten-free and free of the top 14 most common allergens. Talk about a win-win.
So there you have it, the answers to all your vegan chocolate questions! A comprehensive list that lets you enjoy the sweeter things in life, without the bitter aftertaste non-vegan products tend to leave behind. So get out there and enjoy these fully mindful, fully delicious chocolate bars, and don’t forget to pick us up one too!
Next article: Is Agave Vegan?