Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

2019 Edition

Hey chocolate lovers, this guide is continually updated. What we’ve noticed since first publishing 5 years ago is that there is an ever-increasing variety of dark chocolate out there. And… disappointingly it has become very difficult to find which manufacturers are using the dutch process (see below).

Dark chocolate: once considered a rare treat is now mainstream. It’s become the snack of choice for healthy eaters.

For good reason. It feels decadent, tastes great, and has researched healthy benefits (1) (2) (3). One small study showed participants ate less junk food after eating dark chocolate. This did not happen with milk chocolate. Another small study showed food intake following dark chocolate consumption was significantly lower than when eating milk or white chocolate (ref).

Even exercise capacity is increased when consuming dark chocolate!

There’s something about dark chocolate that makes me carefully indulge in a piece or two. Compared to milk chocolate when I would eat half a pack before I knew it.

The Flavanols

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. Note there are many counter-arguments to this research (see more).

Dark chocolate has a higher proportion of flavanols than milk chocolate.

A higher percentage of cacao (cocoa) means a higher amount of flavanols.

Warning: Lookout for Dutching

The method used to process the raw cacao bean can affect the amount of flavanols in the end product.

If your chocolate says “processed with alkali” on the nutrition label, then it’s going to have less flavanols (more). Processing with alkali is called “dutching“.

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 labelled 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)

Endangered Species

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

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

www.chocolatebar.com

Discounted at 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.

Lindt

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

NOTE: Each bar has a different ingredients list. Here are ingredients as at 2018 (as sold in the US). The 85% is the best choice.

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.

pure7chocolate.com/

Discounted at Amazon.

Theo

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 emulsifier.

www.godiva.com

Discounted at Amazon

Pacari Organic Chocolate

USDA organic raw chocolate.

Wide selection including 70%, 85%, 100%. There is also a ‘101%’ (100% plus some extra coca nibs).

Most contain sunflower lecithin except for the 100%. They use coconut sugar to sweeten the less than 100% cacao bars.

Pacarichocolate.us

Available 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 emulsifier.

www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Amano chocolateAmano

Amano offer 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 have a 72% bar.

Raw, only two ingredients (raw cacao + coconut sugar), however being < 80% 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 the 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.

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.

  • Whittaker’s (New Zealand) – A huge variety of flavors – 72% Dark Ghana being a popular choice.
  • 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.
  • Madecass (Madagascar / US) – A chocolate made at the cacao source (in Madagascar). Includes an 80% and 92% bar.
  • 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 Don’t Make The Grade

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 were also forced to recall the chocolates in 2017 due to almond pieces ended up in some bars.

How to Choose the Best Chocolate

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 soy beans and is used 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 recent testing of 88 bars concluded that “a high proportion of dark chocolate products contain milk at concentrations associated with allergic reactions in sensitive individuals” (see the 2017 study)

What about peanuts? The good news is that all bars labelled 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.

See also: Almond Milk: The Best and Worst Brands.

Do you make or sell Dark Chocolate? Don’t add a silly fake comment pretending you discovered it. Just email us! We’d love to hear about your chocolate.

679 Comments

  1. Ryk 5 hours ago

    Excellent list. I saw many brands that I’ve tried through the years before soy was something I wanted to avoid. I search for the lowest carb content, around 90% cocoa, lowest sugar and of course no soy. To my surprise I discovered Sams Club via Walmart that satisfied all my needs and still had a good taste. Great price too! Been hitting dark chocolate for about 10 years. Just turned 67, still lift weights, still chase the wife around the kitchen table, and have a libido that will beat any 30 year old! Only about 7 lbs heavier than when I wrestled in college.

    Reply
  2. Carey 1 day ago

    Yes I am curious about the Sams Choice Dark Chocolate as well. The first ingredient is Chocolate Liquor but says 72 percent cocoa and no soy and doesn’t say alkali it Dutch on it. Is it still good for you?

    Reply
  3. David 1 week ago

    I’m buying the Sam’s Club (Walmart) dark chocolate. 68-72% cocoa. It definitely tastes great! I started eating dark chocolate for my heart, vascular, etc.

    I hope this is a good brand. Made in Switzerland.

    Reply
  4. Phil gigacz 2 weeks ago

    Supposedly I was going to find out just the simple answer of what chocolate bars are the best for me health wise. Considerable effort was made to NOT choose this Dutch method.So right there on the list of good choices was the bar that I am currently experimenting with(the 78% and 90% dark chocolate bar from Lindt) But yet there it is right on the label that they are in fact using this method(SAYS PROCESSED WITH ALKALI)So thanks for nothing ,nothing here making any sense.

    Reply
    • James 2 weeks ago

      The reality is that Lindt appear to keep changing their formula. Sometimes we see a label that is processed with Alkali, sometimes not. At the least, this article has educated you on the complexity of chocolate processing, and maybe steered you away from some of the poorer brands (Hershey, Cadbury, etc).

      Reply
  5. Vidhi 3 weeks ago

    I want them all …I am a dark chocolate freak , thanks to the unloader !!!! You deserve heaven !!:)

    Reply
  6. Yas 4 weeks ago

    Hi, For those of us with celiacs, gluten free designation is important. It is not about do cocoa beans contain gluten (they don’t) ; it is about the other ingredients. For example; does the chocolate use a malt or barley sweetening ( which does contain gluten) or is the chocolate thickened with wheat flour, or includes flavors that have wheat, barley or rye components? Is wheat flour used on the production line to make the beans or ingredients flow smoother?
    For many with celiacs, less than a crumb of gluten is enough to cause digestive or in some cases, neurological or arthritis type inflammation, effects that most doctors say take about two months to resolve from the time of gluten intake. So, please roll on gluten free chocolate!

    Reply
  7. Fariel 1 month ago

    In regards to hot chocolate, what are the best brands? Or do I need to use the chocolates that you’ve mentioned in this article?

    Reply
  8. susan pendleton 1 month ago

    What about the San Francisco based company, Tcho? I love their chocolate.

    Reply
  9. Kameron 1 month ago

    It pains me to see that NONE of My Favorite cacao bars are on this list!! I have become absolutely obsessed with quality
    chocolate and for me honestly the more bitter the better! 😀 I am incredibly distinctive in the companies I give my business and these are the bars I love and enjoy on a near daily basis:
    (All Companies have various options)
    • Eating Evolved :
    – 100% Midnight Coconut
    • Pump Street Chocolate
    – ECUADOR, HACIENDA LIMON 100%
    • Hu Kitchen Chocolate
    – Simple Dark 70%
    • Antidote Chocolate
    – 100% w/ cacao nibs
    • Madecasse
    – 92% Heirloom Cacao
    •Nohmad Chocolate
    – 85% Extra Dark – Sweetened w / maple sugar
    •Cocoa Parlor
    – Into Dark 80% Peruvian Single Origin
    – Royal Dark 88%
    – Garden of Eden 100%

    Reply
    • Jade 1 month ago

      Yes!!! HU is the best especially their Dark Chocolate Fig!!!

      Reply
  10. Gursharan Jutley 2 months ago

    Hi ombar are doing 100% raw chocolate. Their range of chocolates are tasty. Also there is a brand called IQCHOC there chocolate is made in scotland using Peruvian chocolate

    Reply
    • James 2 months ago

      Thanks. Added.

      Reply
  11. teaberry 2 months ago

    Kit Kat dark ingredients aren’t the same globally, correct? I do occasionally eat Japanese Kit Kat dark and it seems to taste different from the American version. https://www.amazon.com/Nestle-KitKat-Dark-Chocolate-Flavor/dp/B006R6PLVO

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer 2 months ago

      Unfortunately, Kit Kat would be considered candy in any country… even if it’s “dark chocolate” it has a lot of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. This post covers pure dark chocolate like the brands listed above.

      Reply
  12. Elizabeth 2 months ago

    Trader Joe’s brand name makes a wonderful dark chocolate (72%). it comes in small bars that are perforated so you can easily break off a little piece at a time if you dont want to bother eating the entire bar. They also make an enormous brick of the same chocolate, but it is very difficult to break it apart into smaller pieces.

    i am diabetic and i eat this all the time. it has never spiked my blood sugar levels; in fact it always seems to keep them steady throughout the day.

    Reply