At times of joy and at times of stress, there’s chocolate. It is always there for you and it always makes things better. Come special occasions and holidays, people will show up with a box of chocolates. And if we are being honest, there is really nothing like it.
Unfortunately, though, most mainstream chocolate brands are not at a place where they carry vegan-friendly varieties of their most popular offerings. No, there are no vegan Kit-Kats or Bounty Bar, but that’s not the end of the road for chocolate lovers who are also vegan.
So, is chocolate vegan, and can I eat it?
Technically, yes, but it is also dependent on the contents of the chocolate. You see, at its core, chocolate is vegan. Chocolate is made out of cacao beans, which are grown on cacao trees — meaning chocolate is plant-based. It’s the process of making chocolates, the addition of milk ingredients, for example, that negates its inherent plant-based nature.
Let’s run it back and talk a bit about the differences between white, milk, and dark chocolate first, though. Each is produced a bit differently, and contains different levels of dairy fat and cacao.
White chocolate does not contain any cacao solids, so it is not considered to be chocolate by some. Milk chocolate contains milk and dairy fat, but contains cacao, unlike white chocolate. Dark chocolate is mostly made of cacao solids, cacao butter, and sugar, and the milk content varies from brand to brand. For dark chocolate to be considered as such, it must include at least 35% cocoa, and for vegans, the higher the better: dark chocolate that’s 50% and above is safe to eat for some.
This, of course, differs from vegan to vegan. Some may consider chocolate that contains 50% of cacao and above to be acceptable for consumption, while others will only eat chocolate that’s certified vegan. Similar to the debate around honey and whether or not that’s acceptable for vegans, there is also much debate around chocolate. What works for one vegan, may not work for another!
The most important thing to note, as always, is to be sure to read the label, even if a bar of chocolate claims to be vegan.
Does vegan chocolate exist?
It’s evident that the answer to this is a little more complicated, but the short answer is yes, vegan chocolate exists. High-quality dark chocolate is less likely to be contaminated by animal products during production, but if you are adamant about not consuming any animal products at all, we recommend looking for plant-based dark chocolate that’s labeled as vegan.
Label reading, as mentioned, is important regardless of a product’s claim. Chocolate that is 100% vegan should only contain a few ingredients: cacao, sugar, and cocoa butter. Anything that contains the word “milk” should be avoided. Some brands use dairy alternatives in place of the usual ingredients you would find in non-vegan chocolate bars.
Where can I buy vegan chocolate?
Dark chocolate that contains 50% or more cacao is widely available in most grocery stores. Most of the big brands, like Lindt and Ghiradelli, usually offer dark chocolate that has high cacao content. Vegan chocolate brands are available at health food stores and stores that specialize in plant-based foods. If your city does not have the aforementioned options, or if your local grocery store doesn’t carry your chocolate of choice, online retailers like Amazon often carry a wide variety.
Some of our favourite vegan chocolate brands are actually based right out of Vancouver! Zimt Chocolates, Chocxo, Living Lotus Chocolate, and Zazu Bean are all local brands that we love to support. Other Canadian brands include Galerie Au Chocolat, Camino, Chocosol Traders, Pascha Chocolate, Theobroma Chocolat, and Giddy Yoyo. Purdy’s, a beloved Canadian brand, has even recently launched a line of vegan chocolate bars!
Easy vegan chocolate by Minimalist Baker
But let’s say you’re having trouble finding good quality dark chocolate. Lucky for you, vegan chocolate isn’t all that hard to make. This vegan chocolate recipe from Minimalist Baker features maple syrup for sweetness, unsweetened cocoa powder, cacao butter, vanilla extract, and salt. It takes less than half an hour to make, and you’ll be glad to have this recipe in your back pocket.
Easy Vegan Chocolate
From Minimalist Baker
1 cup finely chopped cacao butter (packed)
3–5 Tbsp maple syrup (or sub agave nectar with varied results)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1 pinch sea salt (optional, plus more to taste)
- Arrange 14 mini cupcake liners on a small baking sheet. Set aside.
- Add 2 inches of water to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then set a medium glass or ceramic mixing bowl on top, making sure it’s not touching the water (this creates a “double boiler”).
- To the mixing bowl, add finely chopped cocoa butter and let melt for about 2–3 minutes.
- Once melted, add the maple syrup or agave nectar and use a whisk or wooden spoon to mix until fluid and thoroughly combined. Remove bowl and set on a flat surface. Also, turn off stove-top heat and set the saucepan aside.
- Add cacao or cocoa powder, vanilla (optional), and sea salt (optional), and whisk to combine until there are no clumps.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed. I added about 3 Tablespoons agave total and a pinch more salt.
- Carefully pour chocolate into 12–14 mini cupcake liners and top with more sea salt or cacao nibs (optional).
- Transfer chocolate to the freezer or refrigerator to set (around 10 minutes).
- Enjoy straight from the freezer, refrigerator, or at room temperature. Store leftovers in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator for 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Just because you’ve adopted a vegan diet, does not mean you have to give up everything that you love. Dark chocolate can be a part of your diet, and in case you needed more convincing, studies have shown that dark chocolate can help to improve heart health. Cacao beans are rich in flavonoids, the antioxidants that help to fight cell-damaging free radicals in your body. Flavonoids help to lower blood pressure, reduce risk of blood clots, improve blood flow, and control cholesterol.
Because dark chocolate contains the highest percentage of cacao compared to white and milk chocolate, it’s the chocolate that’s best for you and your health. And, of course, the higher the percentage of cacao, the better. Keep in mind, however, that unsweetened chocolate is technically 100% cacao, but will taste very bitter. Though this also means that unsweetened chocolate is vegan, it’s usually only used in baking.
So, do you enjoy dark chocolate? If it isn’t a part of your diet yet, will you start incorporating it into your diet? Let us know in the comments section!