Can chocolate be dairy-free and still taste delicious? Well, the vast range of vegan chocolate makers out there would dare to say so, and so would we. A 2010 study into the effect of adding milk to chocolate even found that cacao drastically loses its antioxidant properties when it contains dairy. If you can get something that is healthier and tastes just as good, why wouldn’t you give it a go, vegan or not?
Cacao has been consumed without the addition of dairy products for much longer than it has been mixed with milk. Chocolate drinks were first prepared in Mexico as early as 1750BC and it wasn’t until 1875, over 2000 years later, that Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by mixing a powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé with chocolate liquor (a mix of cocoa butter and cocoa solids liquified by heat).
Vegan chocolate is not simply a trend then, but a way of consuming cacao that’s far truer to these roots.
For those of you unfamiliar with the vegan chocolate world, we’ve decided to round up a few of our favourites. Most of the brands in this selection are Fair Trade as much of the industry remains based on the exploitation and slave labour of farmers in West Africa (the episode ‘Bitter Chocolate’ in season two of Netflix documentary series Rotten exposes this dark side well).
Humans need £2 a day to guarantee the basic human rights of food, housing, education, health care, and safe water. But a Fairtrade International report revealed that the average income for cocoa farmers (74p per day) is less than half of this. What we spend here in the UK on one chocolate bar is what can sustain a fair living to cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast for a day. We can help improve farmers’ income and lives by simply educating ourselves on the origin of the cacao we eat and by supporting ethical and transparent brands.
The Best Vegan Chocolate
The Best Vegan Chocolate Overall: Booja-Booja Hazelnut Crunch
If you are only going to buy one, this is the safest place to start. These truffles have won over 32 international awards, are made in Norfolk with the finest cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic and sweet roasted Italian hazelnuts, and have only six ingredients, all of which are organic. The result is a velvety piece of heaven that literally melts in the mouth.
Founded over 20 years ago, Booja-Booja is an independent business that has chosen not to use the Fair Trade logo, despite its standards surpassing that of the certification. In a statement, they say: “trading fairly is essential to how we operate as a business and this is reflected in the array of relationships we have with suppliers around the world which often go far beyond the requirements of the Fair Trade standards.”
The Game-Changer: Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Almond & Sea Salt
Tony’s Chocolonely is a choccy disruptor. The Dutch brand brings fun, honesty, and flavour to the industry, challenging the traditional bar division from square pieces to irregular chunks and making its finance report open to the public and available to download on their website.
Its efforts to end modern slavery wouldn’t be sustainable if their products didn’t attract and keep consumers coming back, so they’ve done an awesome job at making a rich, distinguished, and truly delicious chocolate bar, one that we’re positive you will become loyal to.
The Best For Your Porridge: Ombar Coconut Mylk Bar
We won’t judge if you add a full 35g bar to your morning porridge instantly turning your breakfast into a decadent dessert. Anyway, Ombar contains creamy coconut milk and raw cacao to induce the production of feel-good endorphins to set you up for a happy day. So really, there’s no better way to start your day.
It also doesn’t use refined sugar and only uses organic cacao from the renowned Manabi region in Ecuador, famous for having the best tasting cacao in the world. Ingredients are sourced from cooperatives owned by farmers in the area and Ombar has a commitment to paying higher than fair trade prices for native Ecuadorian cacao.
The Best In Your Smoothie: CHOC Chick Raw Cacao Powder
CHOC Chick is one of the only businesses in the UK to import directly from cooperatives in Ecuador, sourcing the finest sustainable, national, and single-origin cacao. They are also able to trace each cacao bean batch from the plantation to fermentation, drying, and production.
This chocolate powder includes only natural, organic, and unprocessed ingredients, preserving all the goodness from cacao and keeping the nutritional properties of this gorgeous superfood, such as having three times more antioxidants than green tea. It does a magical job of reducing sugar cravings and taking your smoothie or hot chocolate to the next level.
The Best For Baking: Islands 65% Chocolate Buttons
Islands are the grooviest chocolate brand out there. Grown on the island of St Vincent in the Caribbean, this British chocolate venture is the result of a father and son effort to bring passion and provenance back to an industry that has turned chocolate into a simple commodity. By having full control over the supply chain, from farming to flavouring, this company can guarantee the highest product quality, sustainability, and ethical standards.
Chocolate buttons make any baking taste better. Muffins, banana bread, cookies, you name it. I like to use Island chocolate buttons is because they don’t easily burn, so you can bake up to 40 minutes at 180°C and the chocolate melts beautifully without leaving a burnt aftertaste. It also doesn’t add unnecessary sweetness to the recipe, overpowering your creation, and overshadowing the other ingredients.
The Best Vegan White Chocolate: Vego Almond Bliss
White chocolate is traditionally made from cacao butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla, the lack of cacao solids giving the chocolate its cream-coloured sheen (it also means white chocolate doesn’t contain caffeine).
A good white vegan chocolate is hard to find though. Sometimes the taste of coconut milk (the most common replacement for dairy milk) is too strong and very often the chocolate is overly sweet. If you are a white chocolate lover and have been disappointed in the past by vegan emulations, give these two options a chance and you won’t regret it.
Vego Almond Bliss is a treat best eaten in moderation as the first ingredient listed on its eco-friendly packaging is sugar, followed by 26 percent cacao butter and 26 percent almonds. It’s very naughty, super creamy, and mega nourishing. Vego is also organic, fair trade, and made without the use of palm oil.
The Best White Chocolate (Without Nuts): Ichoc White Vanilla
White Vanilla I Choc has a high percentage of cacao butter (37 percent) which gives this chocolate a lovely velvety texture and the high-quality Bourbon vanilla brings a delicate taste. Tiger nuts are also on its ingredient list, but if you are allergic to nuts no need to worry as they’re not actually nuts. They’re tubers (vegetables which grow underground on the root of a plant, like sweet potatoes) that come from a plant called yellow nutsedge, and their taste is often compared to almonds.
Also, don’t be put off by the wrapping. It might look like plastic but it’s actually made by a natural, sustainably-obtained wood fibre, and can even be home composted within 50 days.