One of the most common questions, when someone is taking on the vegan lifestyle, is whether or not chocolate is vegan. Of course, people are concerned with this little fact because chocolate makes some people’s worlds go round. It does ours!
Chocolate is made from the cacao tree and has been said to be more than 2,000 years old! With such a rich (and delicious) history, chocolate has been used in a variety of different ways from hot tea to even alcoholic drinks.
But why do people like chocolate so much? The flavor alone will make almost anyone dance in place (especially after a hard day), but there truly are some health benefits associated with chocolate. For instance, some of the antioxidant properties, as well as the boost in cardiovascular function abilities that chocolate carries, reasons enough for you to indulge in a nightly piece of decadent chocolate.
Knowing the Differences
Chocolate isn’t just chocolate. In fact, there are three very distinctive types of chocolate that most are aware of. The three types of chocolate are:
Milk Chocolate – This common type of chocolate is the combination of cocoa solids, milk products, and sugar. Milk chocolate is rarely vegan-friendly due to the fact that it is made with milk products (which come from cows). However, if a milk chocolate product claims to be a vegan-friendly option, read the product label carefully to determine if it truly is vegan-friendly!
Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is one of the richest chocolates on the market with a more bitter taste than most other options. It is made from a high percentage of cocoa and has very low sugar content. It is also typically lacking in the dairy department, which is good for vegan-conscious chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate is known for having some of the richest antioxidants that are great for your health.
White Chocolate – Even though the name chocolate is in white chocolate, it’s actually a deception. White chocolate doesn’t actually contain cocoa solids, which is what most other chocolates are made of. You may find more dairy products in white chocolate, so read the labels carefully before consuming this decadently sweet treat.
To be safe, most who live a vegan lifestyle should reach for the dark chocolate on the shelf over the other two chocolate types. And even though we assume dark chocolates are more vegan-friendly than others, always read the ingredients list to ensure that you don’t have some sneaky animal products or by-product ingredients hiding in the background. Be aware of some ingredients that are sometimes included that contain dairy are caramel and toffee!
Ingredients of Chocolate
Most people will argue that chocolate is vegan due to the simple fact that it is made from the cacao bean. However, if you look closer at the ingredients list on most chocolate, you will notice some non-vegan ingredients. It’s important that if you’re starting out on a vegan journey that you understand what is vegan chocolate and what is vegan chocolate made of?
The process in which chocolate is made is what most likely will make it a non-vegan choice. Additives that are included, such as sugar, milk, or milk fat, can alter the vegan status of chocolate. However, there are high-quality stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes that provides chocolate without such additives, which keeps it well on the vegan path.
What is vegan chocolate made of? Great question! You will notice that the ingredients listed on a vegan chocolate package are simple. The ingredients will most likely only include cocoa, cocoa butter, and sugar. Sometimes you may notice lecithin and/or vanilla added to the ingredients list, but these are not always included and don’t bother the vegan status of chocolate.
The key here is to look for fewer ingredients! The higher quality chocolate, the lower number of ingredients!
If you notice any labels on the chocolate package that says, “milk chocolate,” avoid it! These ingredients will not be vegan-friendly due to the inclusion of milk (which is an animal product). It’s also important to read the ingredients list because some “dark chocolate” products will actually contain milk, as well. This would make the chocolate non-vegan as well.
Some alternatives to milk products in chocolate are milk substitutes like almond milk or rice milk, which can make the chocolate milkier than other vegan chocolate options. You can find high-quality vegan chocolate products at grocers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes (but you can certainly find them other places, as well)!
You can’t always count on the fact that chocolate may be vegan-friendly if it simply doesn’t contain milk. There are some sneaky ingredients that are not vegan-friendly that you should watch out for before picking up a piece of chocolate and indulging!
If you see any of the following ingredients listed on the back of your chocolate package, you don’t have a vegan-friendly product:
- Milk (obviously)
- Any wording that says “contains milk”
- Cholesterol levels higher than 0% (cholesterol only comes out of animal products)
The shorter the ingredient list, the more vegan-friendly products you’ll find!
Say what? Cocoa Butter Is Vegan-Friendly?
The name may trick you up a bit, but cocoa butter is actually dairy-free and completely vegan! The fatty part of the cocoa bean is harvested to create the cocoa butter, which makes the chocolate smooth and creamy, just like its non-vegan chocolate counterparts.
What are Vegan Chocolate Brands?
With the rise of vegan lifestyles in the United States over the last couple of decades, manufacturers have created numerous products that are vegan-friendly to cater to a wider variety of consumers in their marketplace. While there are some really awesome brands out there that are specifically vegan-friendly, there are some brands that have “accidentally” been deemed vegan without even realizing it.
Here are some brands that have vegan-friendly chocolate (and didn’t even really know it):
- Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips
- Chocolove – Dark Chocolate and Orange Peel
- Newman’s Own Chocolate Bars – Sweet Dark Espresso and Sweet Dark Orange – regular and organic
- Fanny May’s Dark 70% Chocolate Bars
These are just a few brand options and certainly, do not list all of the possible vegan chocolate brands out there! The best thing you can do is read the labels to get an idea of the ingredients used in the product creation to determine if it is vegan-friendly or not.
What Dark Chocolate Is Vegan?
We know that milk chocolate can be made with milk substitutes to give you the same creamy texture as real milk chocolate, but what dark chocolate is vegan, and how do you know?
Dark chocolate is known for its antioxidants. It is often thought of as the most expensive option of all of the chocolates. At first, you might think dark chocolate tastes a little bitter. However, it is simply due to the fact that your taste buds are used to the smoother and lighter flavor of milk chocolate you grew up with! Dark chocolate is made of 80% + chocolate, which causes the more bitter taste. Here are some options for your vegan dark chocolate journey and exploration:
- Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs
- Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate
- Equal Exchange Organic Extreme 88% Dark Chocolate
Why Vegan Chocolate Is the Best Chocolate Option
If you are choosing to live a vegan-friendly lifestyle, you are already aware of the benefits of living such a life. Vegans are especially sensitive and aware of the treatment of the animals in order to make food products for humans, hence why they opt not to eat animal products or by-products at all.
Because we know that chocolate can be created without using animal products such as milk, there is no reason to go for chocolate that uses animal products or by-products. Most people are unaware of why cow’s milk isn’t a great option for their lifestyle, so let’s explore that quickly.
In order for humans to receive cow’s milk, cows must produce milk. They create milk inside of their bodies to nourish their own babies, much like humans do. Therefore, the only reason a cow would produce milk is to feed their calves. So that cows can continue to produce the milk to be harvested for humans, calves are removed from their mother’s vicinity within as little as 1 day of being born!
If we can find alternatives to milk products that make foods taste equally as delicious (like chocolate), take a chance and explore vegan-friendly chocolate products!
What Is Vegan Chocolate?
When you’re at the store searching for the perfect vegan-friendly chocolate, be sure to check out the Certified Vegan logo. With the certified logo, you are guaranteed to get a product without any animal products! This is a great logo to look out for – especially people who suffer from dairy allergies because the product is sure not to include any dairy as it is an animal product. Therefore, when you’re looking on the shelves for what is or is not vegan chocolate, look for certified logos and read the ingredient lists!