There are few things as tough as chocolate to give up when you start following a plant-based diet, but if you want to do it right, it’s inevitable.
Although standard milk chocolate is off the table as a vegan, other types of chocolate can be just as good, including the dark variety.
Is dark chocolate vegan? Yes, some types of dark chocolate are vegan as they’re made without any milk products, but not all of them could be classed as dairy-free.
However, the ingredients list of any chocolate you plan on eating should be examined for contents like milk solids or with a statement that reads “contains milk”.
The world of vegan chocolate is only getting larger, and thankfully better tasting, as the years go on.
If you’re wondering what types of chocolate are okay to eat now that you’re a vegan, this guide to dark chocolate and how to choose brands that are dairy-free will make it easier to navigate.
Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?
Before we can discuss the vegan factor of dark chocolate, it’s best to look at the process of how it’s made.
At its core, all chocolate starts with the cacao bean which is harvested, dried, and roasted, with the cocoa nibs then removed from it to be turned into chocolate at its simplest form.
From there, many things can happen, including the addition of milk which creates some forms of milk and dark chocolate, or it can be turned into a powder.
At its simplest form, chocolate is inherently vegan, it’s only what we do to it after that can lose this plant-based status.
Dark chocolate can be classed as vegan friendly as long as it’s had no dairy added to it. You can easily spot the vegan chocolate by reading the ingredients list on the label, or by its cocoa percentage.
Usually, anything around 70% cocoa or more will be suitable for vegans, but not always, which is why it’s essential to check the label.
The Types of Chocolate
If you’ve ever taken the time to truly inspect the chocolate section of the supermarket aisle, you’ll know how many variations there are.
Learning a little about the different types of chocolate and what flavors they deliver will help you make your choice.
Dark chocolate: To be classified as dark, chocolate needs to have at least 35% cocoa but can have up to 80%, and it comes in many different varieties. The higher the cocoa, the darker and more bitter it will be.
Milk chocolate: This type of chocolate has at least 10% cocoa and 12% milk, giving it a lighter, sweeter, and milkier taste when compared to its dark counterpart.
White chocolate: This chocolate is made primarily with cocoa butter, but none of the actual cocoa itself. It has a white or cream color and is sweet in flavor, but with the undeniable texture of milk chocolate.
Bittersweet chocolate: This is a step up from standard dark chocolate and it contains at least 50% cocoa solids. The bittersweet name is an accurate description of how it tastes.
Semisweet chocolate: Semisweet chocolate is any chocolate that has between 35% and 65% cocoa solid, so it’s not usually milky and creamy. However, it’s sweet enough to enjoy while still getting an intense chocolate hit.
Unsweetened chocolate: This variety is used for cooking and usually comes in a powder form known as cocoa powder. It’s added to cakes, slices, hot chocolate, and anything else that has chocolate in it.
What is Dark Chocolate Made Of?
A quick look at the ingredients list of the most popular dark chocolate brands will show ingredients like cocoa butter, cane sugar, vanilla extract, and cocoa solids.
The formula used by each manufacturer and product can differ greatly though, so you should never assume that all dark chocolate is suitable for vegans.
Cocoa butter, contrary to its name, does not contain any animal products and is safe for vegans and vegetarians to eat.
The pale yellow butter is technically an oil that is extracted from the cacao seed and it gives the chocolate its solid form which then melts in your mouth as you enjoy it.
When dark chocolate is not vegan, this is usually because it includes some form of milk which may be listed as ‘milk solids’, ‘full cream milk, or something different entirely.
If you’re scanning the label and find an ingredient that you don’t understand, it’s best to search for it online first, as it could be another term for dairy.
Another potential problem that vegans need to be mindful of is the inclusion of white sugar in their dark chocolate products.
Although not all sugar is off-limits for vegans, some of the refined white kinds have been processed using bone-char which means they feature some animal content.
How to Find Vegan Dark Chocolate
Before you head to the supermarket in search of your next favorite dessert, there are some things you should know.
These tips can ensure you choose a bar of dark chocolate that’s plant-based, healthy-ish, and delicious.
Choose minimal additives: A bar of good chocolate should have nothing added to it except for the key ingredients. The appearance of additives like sweeteners and preservatives likely indicates that the chocolate isn’t as pure as you thought it would be.
Learn your plant milks: Not all plant milks are created equally and not all of them are as suitable for making milk chocolate as others. The creamier options like coconut and macadamia milk are often regarded as the better choice as far as chocolate making is concerned.
Look for hidden ingredients: Some manufacturers are sneaky in how they present milk on their packaging, and it’s up to you to learn the various terms they used instead. Casein, lactose, ghee, and whey are just a few different ways they can write milk on an ingredients list, or with a simple ‘may contain milk’ label.
Higher percentages of cacao: Higher cacao percentages don’t always mean vegan, but it does mean it’s better for you. the higher the cacao, the more antioxidants you’ll get in each serving, which can take away some of the guilt from your chocolate eating session.
Is There Vegan Milk Chocolate?
With vegan alternatives for just about everything being made these days, it’s no surprise to see that there are now vegan milk chocolates on the supermarket’s shelves as well.
This is ideal for those times when you want nothing more than to bite down on some creamy, luxurious chocolate, but want to stick to your plant-based diet.
Vegan milk chocolate is made with the help of plant milk like almond and coconut. Because they still feature all of the usual ingredients of other milk chocolates, like cocoa and cocoa butter, the taste isn’t that different.
While it won’t taste exactly like the milk chocolate of your past, it’s a new and delicious way to enjoy a sweet treat.
As well as having a few selections from health food brands, some of the bigger names in chocolate have also made vegan alternatives.
Hershey and Nestle are just two of them that have created vegan chocolate bars, but some plant-based followers might not be comfortable buying from these larger brands.
The Wide World of Vegan Treats
There are plenty of delicious ways to treat yourself as a vegan, whether it’s a few squares of dark chocolate or plant milk chocolate that can taste just as good as the real deal.
With the market for these vegan chocolates only getting wider, there’s no need to make major sacrifices just to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Dark chocolate comes in many varieties, but it’s not the only way to enjoy a sweet treat when you’re following a vegan diet.
If you have questions about the type of desserts that you can enjoy while you live a plant-based life, read on as we answer some of the most commonly asked ones.
What Desserts Can Vegans Have?
There are lots of typical dessert foods still accessible to vegans like peanut butter cups, lollipops, gummy bears, sorbet, and more.
Otherwise, you can opt for a vegan substitute like non-dairy ice creams, slices, and cakes, plus a wide selection of accidentally vegan treats found at your local supermarket.
Is Vegan Ice Cream Good For You?
Vegan ice cream should be enjoyed in moderation as with its non-vegan counterpart, due to its high sugar and fat content.
However, when compared to dairy-based ice cream, it’s usually lower in saturated fat so it could be considered slightly healthier, depending on the brand and type of ice cream.
Can Vegans Eat Pastry?
There are many vegan-friendly store-bought pastries you can enjoy, including puff pastries and shortcut pastries, as traditional recipes are made with water, flour, and some type of oil.
However, you’ll need to check the ingredients list for signs of dairy products like milk and butter, as well as the presence of eggs.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.