Food Choices

Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

Dark chocolate is arguably one of the best feel-good snacks for healthy eaters.

There is a growing body of research showing health benefits such as increased exercise capacity, a ‘protective effect on the cardiovascular system‘ and other benefits to CVD risk factors.

Research points to flavanols – a type of polyphenol in cocoa that helps lower blood pressure and improve vascular function, improve cognitive function, and even provides UV protection for our skin. It’s worth noting that a lot of the research has been over-hyped (nutrition is complex).

Traits of a Healthy Dark Chocolate

When choosing a healthy dark chocolate for eating, here are the qualities to look for in a healthy bar.

  • High cacao content
  • Low sugar content
  • Few additives and overall ingredients
  • No added flavor
  • No preservatives
  • Not “dutched” or processed with alkali
  • Processed at a low temperature.

If your chocolate says “processed with alkali” on the nutrition label, then it’s going to have fewer flavanols. Processing with alkali is called “Dutching“, and is done to reduce acidity, and makes the chocolate a darker color (and arguably improves the flavor). There is nothing unsafe about dutching – it’s just an extra layer of processing.

Marketing labels

Many chocolates are tagged with all kinds of marketing words. Artisan, hand-crafted, fine chocolate. These are opinions and cannot be tested. Some chocolates are labeled gluten-free – which is odd as chocolate never contained gluten.

Healthy Dark Chocolate Brands

Pascha

Organic, fair trade, non-GMO dark chocolate. No soy lecithin. Range of 55%-85%

paschachocolate.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

Hu Dark ChocolateHu Dark Chocolate

Organic, vegan, paleo, non-GMO, house ground dark chocolate. No dairy, soy lecithin, gluten, cane sugar, sugar alcohols, or emulsifiers. In addition, their Chocolate-Covered Hunks have no confectioner’s glaze.

A range of 70% cacao products including bars, chocolate-covered nuts, and chocolate-covered berries.

HuKitchen.com

Discounted at Amazon.com

Endangered Species

72% and 88% bars (panther). Also a 70% organic bar.

Ethically traded cacao. A social enterprise with a great theme focusing on endangered animals.

www.chocolatebar.com

Discounted at Amazon

alterecoAlter Eco

USDA Organic and Fair Trade. Range of dark chocolate. Look for 85% Dark Blackout or 90% Super Dark.

www.alterecofoods.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

Taza

80%, 87%, and 95% cacao bars.

Taza is probably the least-processed chocolate you can find. THE USDA organic chocolate combines just cocoa beans and sugar.

www.tazachocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Green & Blacks

70% Cacao and 85% Cacao bars. Organic and sometimes fair trade (e.g. Maya Gold).

The 70% includes Soy Lecithin – the 85% does not. There are no genetically modified ingredients.

www.greenandblacks.co.uk

Discounted at Amazon.

Bixby & Co Dark ChocolateBixby & Co. Dark Chocolate

70% Cacao and 100% Cacao. Certified Organic and offers bars from cocoa beans sourced from Haiti, Guatemala, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. They also have a 70% bar that has barrel-aged Maine bourbon blended into their dark chocolate.

Ingredients are just Organic Cocoa Beans and Organic Cane Sugar.

bixbyco.com

good chocolate company 65% darkThe Good Chocolate

The Good Chocolate Company only has bars as dark as 65% but they are sugar-free with natural sweeteners and use minimal ingredients and processing. They also have 65% bars with mix-ins like almonds, sea salt, mint, ginger, and turmeric. This is a healthy option for people who don’t like their chocolate as dark and prefer sweeter-tasting chocolate but without the sugar and calories. One, 70-gram bar is 228 calories.

Ingredients are just Cocoa beans, erythritol, cocoa butter, mesquite powder (fiber), stevia, and vanilla. All the ingredients are organic.

thegoodchocolate.com

Lindt

The Lindt Excellence range includes 70%, 78%, 85%, 90%, and 99% Cacao bars.

NOTE: Each bar has a different ingredients list – and these change all the time.

70% – Chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin (emulsifier), bourbon vanilla beans.
78% – Chocolate, cocoa butter, sugar, fat-reduced cocoa powder, milkfat.
85% – Chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, demerara sugar, bourbon vanilla beans.
90% – Chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa powder processed with alkali, sugar, bourbon vanilla beans.

www.lindtusa.com

Discounted at Amazon

Pure7

Pure make a range of organic dark chocolates, from 70% right up to a 100% bar.

100% USDA Organic, Fair Trade, and non-GMO certified.

Discounted at Amazon.

Theo Dark Chocolate barTheo

Based in Seattle, WA. 85% and a large range of different flavored 70% bars. A very simple ingredients list with no emulsifier.

Theo was the first US chocolate maker to be fair trade and organic and continues to have one of the most ethical and transparent ‘bean to bar’ processes.

www.theochocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Chocolove

Another company with ethical principles, offering 70% to 88% bars.

www.chocolove.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark

86% Cacao Chocolate Bars (and a 92% if you can find it!). They have bars as well as small squares. The 86% uses Soy Lecithin as an emulsifier.

www.ghirardelli.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

Godiva

72% Cacao Chocolate Bars. Prior to 2017, this bar wasn’t processed with alkali but now it looks like it is according to the updated ingredients. Uses Soy Lecithin as an emulsifier.

www.godiva.com

Discounted at Amazon

Valrhona

70%-85% Cacao bars.

This French chocolate is distributed in the USA but can be difficult to find. Has a range of bars up to 85% – uses Soy Lecithin as an emulsifier.

www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Amano chocolateAmano

Amano offers a large range of single-origin chocolate bars up to 70% dark chocolate.

www.amanochocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Moser Roth

70% Cacao and 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars.

A German-made chocolate made for the Aldi stores. 85% is processed with alkali (we’re having trouble confirming this). Uses Soy Lecithin emulsifier.

www.aldi.co.uk

Discounted at Amazon.

Loving Earth

Australian-based Loving Earth has a 72% bar.

Raw, only two ingredients (raw cacao + coconut sugar), however being less than 80% it does have a high sugar content.

Organic, processed without alkali, no Soy Lecithin.

Discounted at Amazon.

Vivani

Vivani is a German chocolatier that sources ingredients from Ceres (100% organic).

85% bars and 92% available in USA and Canada.

Organic, processed without alkali, no Soy Lecithin.

www.vivano-chocolate.de

Discounted at Amazon.

Ritter Sport

Based in Germany, look for the Fine Extra Dark (73% cocoa).

Uses butterfat to make it creamier (rather than Lecithin).

www.ritter-sport.de

Discounted at Amazon.

Giddy Yoyo

Based in Canada. Raw, USDA organic.

A large range of dark chocolate bars up to 100%.

www.giddyyoyo.com

scharffenScharffen Berger

US chocolate company (owned by a subsidiary of Hershey). Selection of chocolate squares and bars (from 62% up to 82% cacao),

www.scharffenberger.com

Available at Amazon

Righteously Raw

Organic, fair trade, raw, dark chocolate (83%). As far as we’re aware only chocolate is processed on their machinery, so is allergen-free.

www.righteouslyrawchocolate.com/

(Discounted at Amazon)

Sweetriot

Organic, fair trade, dark chocolate. Seem to be having availability issues – only 70% still available (2018).

www.sweetriot.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

Lily’s

Lily’s Dark chocolate bars are sweetened with Stevia (and Erythritol). It uses Fair Trade chocolate and is not processed with Alkali. A good choice if you are following a low-carb or keto diet. There is a range of 70% and an 85%.

lilyssweets.com

See at Amazon.

ChocZero

These squares have been developed for the diet market (specifically low-carb or keto diets). Monk Fruit extract is used as a sweetener, and fiber has been added (soluble corn fiber). The 85% or 92% are best.

www.choczero.com

See the sampler at Amazon.

Notable Mentions

Sam’s Choice (Walmart) – Choose the 90% dark. Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla beans.

Strongest Dark Chocolate Bars

The more cacao the bar has, the stronger the bar is. Several of the healthy brands offer really strong dark chocolate bars.

  • Alter Eco 90% Super Dark
  • Taza 95% Wicked Dark
  • Lindt 90%, 95% and 99% Extra Dark
  • Pure 7 100% Bar
  • Ghirardelli 92% Intense dark
  • Pacari 100% and 101% Raw
  • Vivani 92% Bar
  • Giddy Yoyo Raw 100% Cacao
  • ChocZero 92%Ultimate Dark
  • Sam’s Choice 90% Dark

Boutique Chocolates

There are numerous dark chocolate makers, and their products are often available in a few outlets (or very localized). These are some that we’ve come across.

  • Solomon’s Gold (New Zealand) – The Flavour Nib 70% has just 3 ingredients – Cacao, Coconut Sugar, and Coconut Oil. The nibs give it a unique texture and mouthfeel.
  • Whittaker’s (New Zealand) – A huge variety of flavors – 72% Dark Ghana being a popular choice. They now have higher cacao varieties available.
  • Camino (Canada) – The ‘Intensely Dark’ 88% is a great choice.
  • Valore (Spain) – Have a 70% bar with very high almond content (25%).
  • Ombar (UK) – Raw chocolatiers with 72%-100% dark.
  • Guittard (CA) – 80%-91% dark chocolate.
  • Eating Evolved (NY) – Boutique. Organic, processed without alkali.
  • Zotter Chocolates (Austria) – they offer a mouthwatering array of flavors, and also, 80%-96% dark chocolate bars (the Labooko range) – also certified Fair Trade.
  • Heidi (Romania) – Do a 70% and 85% bar. Similar formulation to Lindt.
  • Montezuma Chocolates (UK) – Have a selection of organic dark chocolate (70%) bars.
  • Vannucci Chocolate (Italy) – Have a 100% cacao bar, along with 73% chocolates.
  • Malmo Chokladfabrik (Sweden) – The 1888 range has a selection of dark chocolates (organic and fair trade). There is even an anti-oxidant boost chocolate (with olives !?).
  • Moonstruck Chocolate (USA) – Specialty chocolates – 68% dark.
  • Askinosie (USA) – Single origin handcrafted – 70% dark.
  • Zazubean (Canada) – Fair trade and organic. Includes an 80% bar.
  • Frey (Switzerland) – Look for the 85% bar.
  • Claudio Corallo – Artisan chocolate made from the most simple ingredients.
  • Vosges (USA) – A variety of chocolates including a ‘super dark’ – that is 72%, and some fair trade and organic bars.
  • HNINA (USA) – The real deal – raw organic dark chocolate. No sugar, soy, or dairy.
  • Cocoa Parlor (California) – USDA organic and fair-trade.
  • Vanini (Italy) – Made with sustainable practices, includes 70%-95% dark chocolate bars.
  • Beyond Good (Madagascar / US) – A chocolate made at the cacao source (in Madagascar). Includes 80% and 92% bars as well as other healthy chocolates.
  • Butler’s (Ireland) – have a 70% bar.
  • Pana (Australia) – Selection of raw organic bars, including ‘Eighty’ – Cacao (min 80%; cacao butter, cacao powder), dark agave nectar.

Dark Chocolates That Aren’t Very Healthy

A popular bar, but Dove dark chocolates don’t make the grade.

  • Dove Dark Chocolate
    Low cacao content. All processed with alkali.
  • CocoaVia Supplement Packs
    These are similar to Crystal Light, except they have flavanols (the main chocolate antioxidant) added in. You will get some health benefits from this, but it is more important to eat the whole food that contains the fiber.
  • Hershey’s Special Dark
    Processed with alkali. High in sugar.
  • Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses
    Despite claims on the package about flavanols, this is a milk chocolate.
  • Dark Chocolate M&M’s
    The ingredients list is ambiguous (they list “chocolate” as an ingredient). However, these are high in sugar (more like candy than healthy dark chocolate).
  • Milky Way Midnight
    Like all the candy brands, this is not really a dark chocolate. It has more sugar than cacao and is processed with alkali.
  • Kit Kat Dark
    Not sure how they can call this dark. Lots of sugar and palm kernel oil.
  • Nestle Dark Hot Chocolate
    Ouch! This beverage mix is the worst of the lot. Sugar, trans-fat, and processed with alkali.
  • Cadbury Bournville
    60g of sugar per small bar.
  • Cadbury Old Gold
    It says dark chocolate on the label, but it is a dairy milk – with a high sugar content.
  • Cadbury Royal Dark
    Ingredients: Semi-Sweet Chocolate (Sugar; Cocoa Butter; Chocolate; Milk Fat; Natural and Artificial Flavor, Soy Lecithin; Milk). Again – a milk chocolate.
  • Brookside Dark Chocolate. This Hershey’s brand is a milk chocolate. Originally marketed as ‘containing fruit’, they have now changed their wording to fruit ‘flavors’.
  • Choceur
    This brand is exclusive to Aldi stores. However the ‘dark’ is only 45% cocoa and is really a milk chocolate. Aldi was also forced to recall the chocolates in 2017 due to almond pieces ended up in some bars.

How to Choose the Best Chocolate

Dark chocolate can be a tasty treat when tracking macros and there are dozens of boutique chocolate brands out there. If in doubt, use the following guide.

A true dark chocolate will never have sugar listed first in the ingredients. It should always be below the cocoa ingredients.

It should also tick as many of the following points:

  • 100% Organic
    Note that “organic” does not equal 100% organic (confusing!).
  • Fair Trade
  • > 80% cocoa
  • Not processed with alkali

Also, note that some manufacturers use GMO (genetically modified) ingredients (this is usually the soy lecithin).

Soy Lecithin is a byproduct of processed soybeans and is used as an emulsifier (prevents water and fat from separating).

Does Dark Chocolate have undeclared allergens?
Most dark chocolates are produced on the same processing line as chocolate products containing milk. Which is why most of them have advisory labels. A 2017 testing of 88 bars concluded that “a high proportion of dark chocolate products contain milk at concentrations associated with allergic reactions in sensitive individuals”.
What about peanuts?
The good news is that all bars labeled as peanut-free were peanut-free. However, 17% of chocolates that had no labeling about nuts DID contain traces of peanuts.
What about heavy metals?
In recent years there has been press about Lead and Cadmium levels in chocolate. This has nothing to do with manufacturing, but the presence of these metals in soils where cacao is grown. To keep in context, dietary cadmium exposure can come from all kinds of foods – cereals, vegetables, nuts, etc. Given the small volumes of dark chocolate that we eat, cadmium in chocolate should not be viewed as a major concern.

MORE Brand Comparisons:  

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

865 Comments

  1. Reina Espada 4 days ago

    I’m looking for dark chocolate with at least 75%cocoa in it to help me with my cholesterol. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  2. Sonny 1 month ago

    Very disappointed in this article. Recommends Lindt products which are all processed with alkali. Makes me question the research quality and resulting recommendations.

    Reply
  3. Phil Hemmings 1 month ago

    What about Ross Chocolates???

    Reply
  4. Sophie Faulkner 1 month ago

    I prefer healthiest lose weight chocolates.

    Reply
  5. Alex 2 months ago

    What about AMMA 100% Organic Cocao its ingredients are listed as Organic Cacao, eternal brightness of the stars and infinite love. It’s from Brazil and tastes extremely bitter so I assume it’s good?

    Reply
    • Sophie Faulkner 1 month ago

      I sometimes have Lindt dark chocolate on my birthday 30th October I use 70%,78%,85%,90%,99% and unsweetened 100%. I always eat one square a day every weekend after healthy breakfast.

      Reply
  6. Fox Loretta E. 4 months ago

    Hi, does Lulu’s chocolate have lead and cadmium etc.
    what brand of coco powder do you recommend?
    Loretta

    Reply
  7. Add Moore 4 months ago

    So what is the number one dark chocolate to eat name brand please..

    Reply
  8. Ahsan Javaid 4 months ago

    I love it !

    Reply
  9. Robin Chapman 5 months ago

    Love my dark chocolate. I try and get 85, 90 and if lucky enough 95

    Reply
    • Ahsan Javaid 4 months ago

      Sure!

      Reply
  10. Michael Lockamy 5 months ago

    😊 great article…going to pay closer attention to my purchases

    Reply
  11. Mallory 5 months ago

    In 2015 on Yahoo there was legal action taken against some of the chocolate bars you mention because of failure to warn of lead and/or cadmium in those products. Has there been any kind of change that you are aware of in some of those bars, i.e. Lindt, Green & Black, Whole Foods, Theo, & Ghirardelli to name a few. Thanks.

    Reply
    • James 4 months ago

      The result of the case was a settlement to conduct a joint study into investigating sources, and coming up with a solution (labels, or other ideas). This study is still ongoing.

      Reply
    • Olive 2 months ago

      Thank you for pointing at this Mallory, I was wondering the same, but no mention of heavy metals in many chocolates brands here in this article, hmmm…

      Reply
  12. Chrystie Henderson 5 months ago

    Lulu’s chocolate should be on this list. The best!

    Reply
  13. Rebecca 6 months ago

    Please please please, do you have any recommendations for dark chocolate syrup? I understand that to be liquid the first ingredient cannot be cocoa, and I’m frustrated by the fact that syrups don’t disclose their cocoa percentages the way that bars do. I just tried Monin and although it’s delicious (don’t come for me Monin fans) I would not call this ‘dark chocolate’.

    Reply
    • James 4 months ago

      Most dark chocolate syrups are high in sugar (the word syrup gives it away). They really shouldn’t be called ‘dark chocolate’.

      Reply
  14. Catherine 6 months ago

    Thank you for such a deep analysis! I noticed that some brands started to claim at label “fat-reduced cocoa “. Is it alkali treatment?

    Reply
    • James 4 months ago

      No, dutching is a separate process to reduce cocoa’s natural acidity. Reducing the fat is another process to remove more of the cocoa butter fat.

      Reply