Milk chocolate obviously contains milk. The clue’s in the name with that one. But is dark chocolate dairy-free and vegan?
Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Whether dark chocolate is vegan or not often depends on the brand. While the cocoa content percentage can give you a clue, the only way to know for sure is to read the ingredients on the label.
In this article, I’ll suggest some of the best vegan-friendly dark chocolate brands that you can look out for when shopping for yourself or for a gift.
Is dark chocolate suitable for vegans?
Not all dark chocolate is suitable for vegans. While some dark chocolate brands are dairy-free, others contain cows’ milk. Dark chocolate that contains more than 70% cocoa is most likely to be vegan-friendly.
Is dark chocolate dairy-free?
While dark chocolate should, in theory, be dairy-free, many manufacturers add milk-based ingredients such as milk fat, skimmed milk powder and whey, as this makes it cheaper to produce.
Even if there are no milk products in the ingredients of a dark chocolate bar, there may be some cross-contamination with milk chocolate.
Factory machinery is cleaned when switching from making one product to another, so it’s only trace amounts of milk that will remain. Many vegans are satisfied that products labelled as ‘may contain milk’ are vegan-friendly.
However, anyone with a milk allergy should read the label carefully before eating dark chocolate.
Suggested read: Is food that ‘may contain milk’ vegan?
What percentage dark chocolate is vegan?
The % you’ll see on a bar of dark chocolate refers to what percentage of the ingredients are extracted from cocoa beans – including cocoa butter (the fat part of the bean) and cocoa solids (the non-fat part of the bean). The higher the percentage, the more intense and bitter the chocolate is.
In its simplest form, dark chocolate is made from only cocoa (or cacao) beans and sugar. However, most chocolate manufacturers add other ingredients such as soy lecithin too, to help to bind the ingredients together.
As a general guide, dark chocolate that contains more than 50% cocoa is the most likely to be vegan-friendly. This is because the higher the percentage, the purer the chocolate is, and the less room there is for filler ingredients that are derived from milk.
Is 70% dark chocolate vegan?
70% dark chocolate is usually vegan-friendly. However, just because chocolate contains 70% cocoa, that doesn’t mean that it’s dairy-free. Some high percentage dark chocolate does still contain milk, so you should look out for this in the ingredients.
Is sugar vegan?
Dark chocolate that’s anything less than 100% cocoa will contain sugar to sweeten it. Sugar is usually suitable for vegans, although it may sometimes be refined using bone char (charred and powdered animal bones).
If you’re in the UK, you can relax knowing that all sugar is vegan, so any chocolate that’s made in the UK will be vegan-friendly. However, the sugar that’s produced in the United States is often not strictly vegan, although many vegans choose to eat it regardless and avoiding sugar is incredibly difficult.
What brands of dark chocolate are vegan?
Here’s a roundup of the seven best vegan dark chocolate brands. These brands of dark chocolate are all suitable for vegans as they do not contain any animal-derived ingredients such as cows’ milk.
1. Cadbury Bourneville
Cadbury Bournville chocolate is the only variety of Cadbury chocolate that’s suitable for vegans. This cheap, everyday dark chocolate contains 36% cocoa solids.
As well as the classic blocks of dark chocolate, Cadbury also make orange and rum and raisin flavours of Bournville. You can also buy Bournville buttons, chocolate fingers, Easter eggs and cocoa powder.
While Bournville is cheap and tasty, it’s not the best ethics-wise as it contains palm oil and comes wrapped in plastic.
- Available in most supermarkets
- Choose bars, buttons or fingers
- Made in the UK
- Contains palm oil
- May contain traces of milk
- Plastic packaging
- Large company
For a gift or special treat, Montezuma’s vegan chocolate is ideal. It comes in 100% recyclable packaging, right down to the tape that’s used to seal the delivery boxes.
Montezuma’s has a huge range of over 40 vegan-friendly products to choose from, including vegan dark chocolate buttons, truffles and bars. Choose from great flavours like mint, orange, ginger, cherry, coconut, sea salt, hemp, chilli, peanut, coffee, pistachio and salted caramel. You can also get vegan milk chocolate bars which are made with rice milk.
For the perfect gift, I recommend Montezuma’s Plant Power Gift Box.
- 100% recyclable packaging
- Free from colourings and preservatives
- Supports charities
- May contain traces of milk
3. Conscious Chocolate
Conscious Chocolate is a UK-based vegan company that makes the finest raw vegan chocolate. You can choose from dark chocolate bars in a choice of 16 incredible flavours, plus chocolate coated brazil nuts, dates and figs.
All of the cacao is ethically sourced in Peru and the chocolate is handmade in small batches in the UK.
If you’re looking for a gift for a vegan friend, then may I suggest the Conscious Hamper? It features all 16 bars in the Conscious range, presented in a beautiful gift box.
- 100% vegan company
- Compostable packaging
- Handmade in the UK
- Only available online
4. Green & Black’s Velvet Edition
Green & Black’s is a popular chocolate brand by Mondelez, the company behind Cadbury. Not all Green & Black’s chocolate is suitable for vegans, but vegans can enjoy the dark chocolate Velvet Edition bars.
You can choose from a range of delicious flavours such as salted caramel, raspberry and hazelnut and chocolate and almond.
If you’re looking for a gift for a vegan chocolate lover, take a look at the G&B Velvet Edition Ultimate Bar Collection which contains seven 90g chocolate bars.
- Available in supermarkets
- Competitively priced
- May contain traces of milk
- Large company
5. Cocoa Loco
Cocoa Loco offer an exquisite range of vegan dark chocolate that includes truffles, hot chocolate spoons and bars of chocolate filled with fruity flavours like raspberry and mango.
All of their chocolate is organic and certified Fairtrade, so you can be sure that the small-scale cocoa farmers in the Dominican Republic are free to control their own futures. Cocoa Loco chocolate is handmade in the UK and free from palm oil. It is, however, made in the same kitchen as nuts, gluten and milk products.
There’s range of vegan dark chocolate gifts to choose from, including the Dark Chocolate Lover’s Letterbox Gift Box.
- Fairtrade certified
- Handmade in the UK
- May contain milk
7. Definite Chocolate
Definite Chocolate is a boutique, high-end chocolate brand that makes vegan dark chocolate using only cacao and sugar with no additives.
This award-winning chocolate is made in a small factory in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, from only the highest-quality, locally sourced cacao beans. Much like a fine wine, Definite Chocolate has rich and complex tasting notes – ideal for chocolate connoisseurs who want quality over quantity.
If you’re looking for a gift, take a look at The Ultimate Collection which contains one bar of each flavour.
Read more: Definite Chocolate review
- No additives
Where to buy vegan dark chocolate
Large supermarkets often sell vegan dark chocolate, although you’ll probably have noticed that the range is quite limited. If you’re looking for everyday chocolate from big brands like Bournville and Green & Black’s you’ll do just fine, but for something more special, you might need to move your search online.
One of the places I like to shop for chocolate online is The Chocolate Trading Co. Here you’ll find all kinds of vegan chocolate from brands that you’ve probably never heard of.
Of course, if you want fast and free delivery Amazon is always an option too.
Why is vegan chocolate so expensive?
Vegan chocolate is often more expensive than other chocolate because there is less demand for it so it must be made in smaller batches. Accidentally vegan chocolate such as Cadbury Bournville and Lidl Simply dark chocolate doesn’t cost any more than regular non-vegan chocolate.
Vegan dark chocolate FAQs
Here are some answers to your most commonly searched questions about vegan chocolate brands.
Some Lindt dark chocolate bars are vegan and some are not. The Lindt Excellence range with at least 70% cocoa is generally free from animal products. Some other varieties of Lindt dark chocolate contain milk and/or honey.
Unfortunately, Hershey’s dark chocolate is not suitable for vegans as it contains milk. Hershey’s chocolate is suitable for vegetarians and The Hershey Company does not conduct or contribute to animal testing.
Some Whittaker’s chocolate is vegan-friendly, but some contains milk. Vegans can enjoy Whittaker’s dark chocolate that has over 50% cocoa, with the exception of any caramel flavours as those also contain milk.
Green & Black’s ‘Velvet Edition’ dark chocolate bars are vegan-friendly as they do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. However, Green & Black’s bags of dark chocolate ‘Velvet Fruit’ and ‘Bark’ are not suitable for vegans as they contain milk fat.
Terry’s Chocolate Orange Dark is suitable for vegetarians. Unfortunately, it is not suitable for vegans as it contains milk fat and skimmed milk powder.
Unfortunately, Bounty bars are not suitable for vegans. Even the dark chocolate Bounty bars contain milk fat, skimmed milk powder, lactose and whey powder.
Cadbury Bournville chocolate is suitable for vegans. Although it’s not certified as vegan, it doesn’t contain any milk or other animal-derived ingredients.
Read more: Is Bournville vegan?
Callebaut offer 63 varieties of dark chocolate and 54 of them are vegan. The Barry Callebaut website has the option to filter by vegan certification, making it easy for chefs and manufacturers to choose vegan-friendly chocolate.
Some Tesco dark chocolate bars are suitable for vegans and some are not. Vegans can enjoy Tesco Classic 74% Dark Chocolate and Tesco Intense Dark Chocolate. However, the cheaper dark chocolate bars such as Tesco’s Ms Molly’s Plain Chocolate do contain milk.
While some Aldi dark chocolate brands such as Moser Roth and Dairyfine have been vegan-friendly in the past, Aldi does not currently offer any vegan chocolate.
Aldi’s product ingredients change fairly regularly, so it’s important to always check the packaging, You can find a list of Aldi products that are suitable for vegans here.
Lidl Simply dark chocolate is suitable for vegans and only costs 30p for a 100g bar! This cheap dark chocolate contains no animal-derived ingredients and is a great value buy for vegans on a budget.
Dark chocolate digestive biscuits are often not suitable for vegans as they contain milk However, vegan chocolate digestives do exist. Vegans can enjoy Tesco’s own brand dark chocolate digestives as well as McVitie’s Digestives Twists.
McVitie’s dark chocolate Hobnobs are not suitable for vegans as they contain butter which is made from milk. However, vegans can enjoy McVities chocolate chip Hobnobs as those don’t contain any animal ingredients.
Read more: 15 best accidentally vegan biscuits