Chocolate has always been a popular dessert with many flavors throughout the world. In general, it is vegan with no dairy added. However, popular flavors include dairy products and artificial ingredients. So, in this article, let’s highlight this treat in its natural form since vegan chocolate is not only healthier but also kinder for the animals and planet.
Keep reading to learn about the components of vegan chocolate and its benefits. We will also explore some of the best vegan chocolate brands.
What is vegan chocolate?
Vegan chocolate is a plant-based food free from animal products. Most chocolate bars are plant-based, so people often think it is vegan. However, some manufacturers add dairy milk to their chocolates, making it non-vegan.
Dark chocolate is a prime example of vegan chocolate. Manufacturers make it from fermented cocoa beans. They dry, roast, and grind the brand into cocoa powder, then mix it with cocoa butter to get the desired taste. Cocoa butter is plant-based, adhering to vegan specifications.
Using only cocoa butter and powder makes dark chocolate very bitter. Sometimes, producers add a bit of sugar to improve the flavor and keep its texture smooth. The type of sweetener used might disqualify dark chocolate as a vegan dark chocolate. The sweetener must be plant-based to count as a vegan chocolate bar. So dark chocolate sweetened with honey isn’t vegan because honey comes from bees.
Is there vegan milk and white chocolate?
Milk and white chocolate are not vegan because they include animal products like cow’s milk, milk solids, and insects. However, some manufacturers are catering to the needs of vegetarians.
They get milk from plant-based sources like rice, oats, tiger nuts, and soy. So, chocolate bars with coconut milk, oat milk, rice milk, and tiger nut milk are vegan.
Related read: Environmental Impact of Oatmilk & Other Plant-Based Milks.
Why choose vegan chocolates?
Here are four benefits of eating vegan chocolate candy bars compared to consuming regular chocolate bars made with animal products.
1. It is rich in nutrients.
Vegan chocolates contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron. They have lots of fiber, protein, and antioxidants, which you can also find in vegetables, berries, and fruits.
2. It improves your mood.
Vegan chocolate bars contain anandamide and raw cacao. These ingredients bind the receptors in your brain, making you feel good and happy. Research shows that flavanols in chocolate help reduce mental fatigue. The sensory pleasure from eating chocolates also increases your serotonin levels.
3. Vegan chocolate bars reduce blood sugar levels.
One of the main benefits of making chocolate vegan is that it helps balance blood sugar levels. It has a low glycemic index because manufacturers produce it with cacao beans. A low glycemic index means the bloodstream slowly absorbs vegan chocolates, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes can eat a vegan chocolate bar because it is sugar-free. It helps them maintain their sugar levels and improves the way their cells work.
4. It also improves heart health.
Consuming vegan chocolate can help improve heart health by lowering bad cholesterol and blood pressure. You're also consuming flavonoids and antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as you eat chocolate vegan options. It contains vitamin E, copper, and magnesium, which helps maintain heart health by ensuring adequate blood and oxygen flow.
How is vegan chocolate made?
To make a vegan chocolate bar, you need to get a ripe cocoa bean pod. Inside, you will find enough beams to make a chocolate bar. It is crucial to leave the cacao beans to ferment for a few days before drying them. Using unfermented beans is acidic and tarty. It doesn't develop a rich chocolate flavor.
After fermentation, drying is the next processing stage. Producers sort and clean them before roasting them to release a delicious chocolate aroma. The drying process is necessary because it kills harmful microorganisms.
In the next stage, remove the shells to expose the beans. Grind them and turn them into cacao powder, cacao butter, and liquor. Once you have these final forms of cocoa, you can combine them with plant-based ingredients. Remember that vegan chocolate doesn’t need dairy ingredients.
However, you don’t need to get cacao beans and go through the fermentation, dehydration, and roasting processes before making vegan chocolate bars. Get cocoa solids (butter and powder), coconut or soy milk powder, and vanilla extract.
You could also get other natural flavorings like mint and orange, spices like cinnamon and cardamon, or almond and walnuts, depending on your allergens. Once your ingredients are complete, melt the butter and remove it from the heat.
Then, add the powder and vanilla extract and whisk it until it has no lumps. Prepare a clean silicone mold and pour the chocolate mixture inside. Leave it for about 5 hours to set in the fridge or for 30 minutes to set in a freezer. Once set, remove vegan chocolate chips and bars from the mold and store them properly.
Where To Get The Best Vegan Chocolates
1. Go Max Go
Go Max Go is a vegan candy company with the sole aim of creating candies free from dairy, eggs, artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and cholesterol. They remake your favorite childhood chocolate bar with vegan ingredients.
They have the vegan options of Cleo’s Peanut Butter, Jokerz Candy Bar, Buccaneer Candy Bar, Twighlight Candy Bar, and Mahalo Candy Bar. Mahalo is a vegan chocolate topped with dry-roasted almonds, while Jokerz has layers of dry-roasted peanuts, caramel, and peanut nougat.
They use vegan peanut butter to achieve the flavor of white chocolate without using milk fat or milk powder. Go Max Go also avoids using corn syrup as a sweetener. They make exquisite vegan chocolates.
2. Enjoy Life Foods
Enjoy Life Foods produces vegan-friendly and allergen-free milk and dark chocolate bars. Their chocolate is great for people allergic to wheat, soy, mustard, fish, peanuts, shellfish, and crustaceans. It doesn't have sulfites, lupin, dairy, or casein.
Enjoy Life Foods uses naturally processed dried rice syrup for their rice milk chocolate. The crunchy version uses rice crisps made from rice flour, cane sugar, and sea salt. They also sell baking chocolate. These mini chocolate chips come in 5 different flavors: semi-sweet mini chips and mega chunks, dark, rice milk, and white chocolate.
Their vegan white chocolate chips use sustainable palm kernel oil, brown rice syrup solids, vanilla extract, and sunflower lecithin as emulsifiers. Enjoy Life chocolate bars are an excellent replacement for conventional chocolate.
3. Unreal Vegan
Kris and Nicky established UNREAL to provide naturally sweetened vegan treats to everyone. They don’t use up to 51% sugar in their chocolate bars like most chocolate brands. They simply use organic and sustainable ingredients for their chocolate vegan treats.
UNREAL is one of the vegan chocolate brands with the most flavor varieties. They have dark chocolate bars in coconut, peanut butter, and almond flavors. The milk chocolate isn’t dairy-free because they added whole milk powder and non-milk fat.
Each gluten-free chocolate bag is resealable, so you don't have to worry about leftover chocolates getting bad. They used beet juice and spirulina extract instead of artificial colorants.
4. No Whey Foods
No Whey Foods is a vegan chocolate brand specializing in creating allergen and dairy-free chocolate. They make seasonal chocolates, vegan truffles, and occasional chocolates.
Their occasion-themed vegan chocolates are Good Luck, Happy Birthday, I Miss You, Get Well Soon, Thank You, I Love You, etc. They have chocolates for Easter, fall, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day.
No Whey’s vegan chocolates are great for people with food allergies because they avoid using soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and fish as ingredients. They even produce vegan white chocolate bars suitable for people who suffer from lactose intolerance.
5. Theo Vegan Chocolate Bar
Theo prides itself on its sustainable chocolate supply chain. They even have a fair trade, USDA organic, and Kosher certification to show for it. They are one of the best vegan chocolate brands with various dark chocolate levels.
Theo has over 20 vegan chocolate flavors. These are sea salt, almond brittle crunch, orange, coconut, and raspberry flavors. Their dark chocolates have up to 85 cocoa mass. However, they do not have vegan milk chocolate bars. They use whole milk in production.
Theo ensures that their production process doesn’t involve forced child labor. They recognize the importance of recognizing human rights while producing delicious chocolate bars.
6. Lindt Dark Chocolate
Lindt, established in the 1800s, had years to perfect their vegan chocolate-making skills. In 2008, they introduced sustainability into the company's philosophy. It influenced the brand's core strategy, including where they source their cocoa beans from and how they process them into chocolate.
They mix high-quality beans with various spices, nuts, and fruits to create beautifully blended flavors. They often combine fruits like orange zest and raspberries to create fruity dark chocolates. Lindt also uses chili, mint, ginger, hazelnuts, and coconut to produce vegan chocolates.
You'll love Lindt dark chocolate because it has a wide range of flavors to select.
7. NOMO Chocolates
Nomo is a top vegan chocolate brand in the United Kingdom. They cater to people who have food allergies or have to make some changes in their diets due to health reasons or vegans. These people often experience FOMO- the fear of missing out.
Thankfully, NOMO- No Missing Out is here to cater to these groups of people. They produce gluten-free, animal-free, and nut-free chocolate goodness. They succeeded at having multiple chocolate flavors by substituting milk with caramel flavor and sea salt.
Other ingredients used to produce vegan chocolate include crispy rice, raisins, shea oil, rice starch, and glucose syrup. Nomo won the UK's top independent brand for three years.
Things to look for before buying vegan chocolate bars
It is easy to mistake regular chocolate bars for vegan-friendly chocolate at your local supermarket. There isn’t an assurance of purchasing an authentic vegan one unless you are buying pure dark chocolate.
Even then, some manufacturers add dairy products to dark chocolates, so be careful. So, you should:
Check the label for ingredient composition, especially for milk chocolate.
Only go for chocolate labeled vegan at the supermarket. Also, check the ingredients list to ensure animal or dairy ingredients are absent. Checking the label will help you avoid purchasing vegan chocolate that contains products you're allergic to.
A label reading ‘may contain milk’ means manufacturers produced it in a factory that produces dairy products, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.
Check for sustainability certifications.
Another way to identify vegan chocolate is by checking the certifications listed on the label. A Vegan chocolate bar should have a "V or Certified Vegan" logo on the package. Also, check for a Fair Trade label because it shows the manufacturers provide decent working conditions for their workers in developing countries.
Conclusion: Vegan Chocolate
Vegan chocolates are dairy-free sweet in various shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors. It could be a hazelnut truffle or a raspberry crunch chocolate. It could also be maple syrup flavored and layered with dried fruit. The possibilities are endless. Vegan chocolate bars are a great addition to gift boxes for every season.