Vegan sweets are having a moment: After all, they’re top of mind for not only those on a vegan diet but also people who don’t do dairy or who are full-on paleo. And I have good news for everyone: All high-quality dark chocolate should naturally be dairy and animal by-product free.
I say “should” because unfortunately, a lot of dark chocolate is not dairy free. I tackle this in my book, “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution,” writing, “As soon as you start to see dairy like butter oil on the ingredients list, you know you’re in trouble.” That’s because some companies will substitute cheaper ingredients like butter oil or milkfat for expensive cocoa butter, bringing down the quality of the whole shebang. And who wants to eat subpar chocolate? (The one exception is the category of dark milk chocolate, but those bars should be labeled as such.)
Fortunately, more and more chocolate is truly vegan (with plant milk at a new popularity level, there are plenty of delicious vegan “milk” chocolate options as well), and the quality keeps skyrocketing. Here are some of the best of the best in each category.
Dark Chocolate Bars
Chocolate maker David Menkes is fastidious in his devotion to his craft, and it shows in LetterPress’ Amaranth Crunch, a grown-up version of a childhood favorite. Crunchy amaranth is the perfect counterpoint to the fruity single-origin Belize beans Menkes uses here. No wonder it won bronze in 2018’s Academy of Chocolate Awards.Try It
LetterPress Amaranth Crunch, $12.99 on Amazon
In case you were looking for a little something extra to add to your Amazon cart...
Areté’s Single-Origin Dominican Republic 70% Bar is bean-to-bar chocolate at its finest. The bright, dried-fruit notes of cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic gives way to the silky smooth texture of this decadent bar. And the understated mold with a figure of a ballerina makes me smile every time.Try It
For the serious chocolate lover who doesn’t have time to even mess with sugar, Antidote Chocolate to the rescue! The health-minded brand is completely vegan, and this 100 percent bar (read: only one ingredient, cocoa, and zero percent sugar) is delightfully mild and delicious.Try It
Antidote Chocolate 100% Cacao Bars, 6 for $49.50 on Amazon
Try this fascinating chocolate in a mixed pack, half with cocoa nibs and half with dates.
Most of us think of vanilla and chocolate as opposites, but in reality most chocolate bars include either vanilla or vanillin (the fake version) in the background. Chocolate maker Robbie Stout turns that on its head in Ritual’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, highlighting whole bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar, which are currently some of the most expensive ingredients in the world.Try It
So you’re avoiding dairy, but how about some wood in your chocolate? It’s not as crazy as it sounds: Cloudforest chocolate maker Sebastian Cisneros infuses his Holy Wood bar with Palo Santo wood, which is venerated in his home country, Ecuador, though he’s been calling Portland home for years now.Try It
Vegan Milk Bars
As a completely vegan company, Raaka was one of the first to start offering coconut milk chocolate. It’s rich, creamy, and addictive. Unlike most bean-to-bar chocolate makers, Raaka doesn’t roast its cocoa beans, so the bright notes of the single-origin chocolate using beans from the Dominican Republic shine through. (Check out their vegan oat milk chocolate too.)Try It
Chocolate maker Josh Rosen adds house-made maple-cinnamon candied pecans to his decadent coconut milk chocolate bar called Charm School’s Maple Pecan for a crunchy, delightful treat. He sources the cocoa beans from Belize, which are known for their fruity flavors—so it’s like eating the best PB&J ever.Try It
The creaminess of Askinosie’s Coconut Milk bar always blows me away. It’s less coconut-forward than the others in this category, which can be a good thing. And another good thing: Askinosie shares profits with its farmer partners, like those in Del Tambo, Ecuador, where the cocoa beans in this bar are from.Try It
No Valentine’s Day should go without truffles and bonbons! French Broad’s Buddha Collection is an all-vegan lineup from the bean-to-bar maker in Asheville, North Carolina, and includes truffles made with fun ingredients like coconut cream, peppermint oil, and strawberry and balsamic vinegar.Try It
Caramel and toffee are usually made with a base of butter, which is why the vegan bonbons from Lagusta’s Luscious are super special. Lagusta’s punk rock persona takes it to the next level. (Keep your eyes peeled for a vegan chocolate cookbook coming from Lagusta’s in September 2019.)Try It
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