Is Chocolate Vegan?

Chocolate bars
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After "Where do you get your protein from?", one of the most common questions asked of vegans is "What about chocolate? Is chocolate vegan?". Being somewhat of a smart talker, I always respond to this with, "Sure! Chocolate comes from beans!". Which is of course, true. Chocolate comes from the pod of the cocoa tree, making it, of course, vegan. But then the omnivorous questioner just gives me a blank stare, as this is clearly not the answer they expected!

Having got my sarcasm out of the way, I manage to come up with a serious response, which goes something like this:

Chocolate itself comes from a plant, making it vegan, yes, but in the process of going from the tree to the grocery store, a variety of additives are added, including sugar and milk or milkfat. A good quality chocolate, however, will have a higher chocolate content, pure ingredients and no additives. The ingredients will be simple: cocoa, cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar and sometimes vanilla. And that's it.

Lesser quality chocolates have a long ingredients list, which, along with cheap fillers such as food starch and artificial flavorings, will often contain milk, milk solids or milk fat.

See also: Homemade vegan chocolate treats: Cookies, cakes, muffins, scones and more

So while most chocolate is not vegan simply due to the additives, the good news is that there are plenty of vegan chocolate options available.

Anything labeled "milk chocolate" usually does, in fact, contain milk and is therefore not vegan, but many chocolates labeled "dark chocolate" also contain milk, particularly lower quality and cheaper brands. A few producers have also started making "milk" chocolates from non-dairy milk substitutes such as almond milk or rice milk.

Whole Foods and other specialty grocers should carry a few of these. 

Where to Find Vegan Chocolate

If you're looking for vegan chocolate, here are a few brands of chocolate that are dairy-free, whey-free and casein-free. You can find these chocolates just about anywhere, including at your regular grocery store. These are what I call "accidentally vegan", that is, they aren't marketed as vegan or labeled as such, but they contain no animal ingredients and are vegan because they are high-quality chocolate with no additives or fillers. 

"Accidentally" Vegan Chocolate Brands

  • Chocolove - Dark Chocolate and Orange Peel
  • Trader Joe's brand chocolate chips
  • Newman's Own Chocolate Bars - Sweet Dark Espresso and Sweet Dark Orange, regular and organic)
  • Ritter Sport - Chocolate Mint (the light blue ones) and Marzipan (the red one)
  • Green and Blacks Organic Chocolate - Dark Chocolate
  • Organic Equal Exchange Chocolate - All flavors except for milk chocolate
  • Fanny May's Dark 70% chocolate bars

More Vegan Chocolate Brands

Here are a few brands of vegan chocolate that are specifically made to be vegan and are marketed and labeled as such.

Most of these vegan chocolate brands are organic and fair-trade as well.

  • Endangered Species Dark Chocolate (most, but not all flavors)
  • Sunspire and Tropical Source (chocolate chips and chocolate bars)
  • Whole Foods Brand Chocolate Chips
  • Whole Foods Brand Dark Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate with Almonds
  • Dagoba
  • Plamil Organic Vegan Chocolate (fair trade)
  • Terra Nostra Rice Milk Vegan Choco Bars
  • Sjaaks
  • Bug Bites

Other Vegan Chocolate Treats:

If it's not just chocolate chips and chocolate bars that you love, try some of these other vegan chocolate treats to satisfy even the most ardent of vegan chocoholics:

  • Chocolate Creme flavored Oreo cookies
  • Vegan Ice Cream (I like Purely Decadent brand Chocolate Peanut Butter Zig-Zag and Temptation Brand Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor)
  • Peanut Chews candy
  • Wax Orchards brand Fat-Free Fudge Sauces (these are seriously good - and guilt-free!)
  • Luna Bars (I like the chocolate peppermint flavor-yum!)
  • Reese's Cereal
  • Cocoa powder, any brand, as long as its 100% cocoa
  • Chocolatey Chip and Chocolate flavor Teddy Grahams
  • Trader Joe's brand vegan chocolate chip cookies

Shop for Vegan Chocolate Online

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