Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

healthy dark chocolate brands

2020 Edition

Hey chocolate lovers, this guide is continually updated. What we’ve noticed since first publishing 6 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 health 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.

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.

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 fewer 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 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)

Endangered Species

72% Cacao and 88% Cacao 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.

This is bean to bar chocolate and the ingredients are simple, just Organic Cocoa Beans and Organic Cane Sugar.

The company sent us some free samples of the 70% for review and we were quite pleased with this brand. Their chocolate is delicious. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other brands but it is one of the purest. Overall, Bixby makes an excellent product. They ship their chocolate throughout the USA at bixbyco.com

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 an 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 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% 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.
  • 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 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 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 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.

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

Last Updated: March 10, 2020

751 Comments

  1. Johny 1 hour ago

    Why is Godiva still in the ‘Healthy’ category, if it’s processed with alkali?

    Reply
  2. Mary Juzwik 2 weeks ago

    Hi, Thanks for this comprehensive review. I have one comment and one question.

    First the comment: I recently discovered what appears to be a high-quality (albeit quite expensive) boutique option: Antidote chocolate bars available at https://antidotechoco.com. I’m curious about how it stacks up to your criteria.

    I also have another question: I wonder if you might provide a discussion of the saturated fat content of dark chocolate in relation to its other health benefits? I personally am more concerned about saturated fat than sugar (although I do pay careful attention to both). My husband and I have been focusing on eating healthy fats, and I’m realizing that most of the dark chocolate bars on my shelf (for example, Lindt 78 percent) have extremely high saturated fat content — like 3g per small square or 9 g per portion. Taza Wicked Dark has 10 g of saturated fat per serving. Would it make a difference regarding saturated fat if the dark chocolate is raw? Or if it wasn’t made using cocoa butter? I am having trouble finding data from many chocolatiers on this question. Perhaps this is why folks are not recommended to eat too much? For folks with fatty liver and related health issues, however, 10 g per serving seems an unhealthy amount of saturated fat.
    Thanks,
    Mary

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 2 weeks ago

      Thanks for the suggestion. We can’t list and evaluate all brands but the article does tell you how to evaluate a product, so use those guidelines with the brand mentioned. Not all saturated fat is unhealthy. Plant-based saturated fats like those in cocoa butter are fine and can be a healthy part of one’s diet. But, you do want to make sure the fat in the dark chocolate chosen is from the cocoa beans and not added from some other source.

      Reply
  3. Aurora Haydostian 3 weeks ago

    What happened to Divine Chocolate?? We are a certified B Corp and use no palm or soy only 100% cocoa butter. 44% of Divine Chocolate is owned by our farmer co op in Ghana.
    http://Www.divinechocolate.com

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 3 weeks ago

      There are 100s of great chocolates around the world and it’s impossible to list all of them.

      Reply
  4. Daniel Mitchell 1 month ago

    Oh no, I eat Hershey Dark Chocolate Kisses everyday. I was so happy thinking I was doing the right thing and eating healthy. Thank you for waking me up. I have a few kisses left and will stop eating them. I do want to eat 70% are higher. I may try SAM’S Choice 90%
    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  5. Alfie 1 month ago

    Montezuma’s is not just in the UK, aand they do 100% BLACK BARS too! I could have cried when I was in the US for a month last year and I found their 100% black bars in trader joes!
    Sorry USA but your chocolate just isnt the same as it is here. https://www.montezumas.co.uk/bars/absolute-black.html

    Reply
  6. Connie K Westcott 1 month ago

    Please list safest 100% bakers chocolate

    Reply
  7. Anne Barnstone 5 months ago

    Why is the artisanal product made by Portland’s Chocolate Maker’s Studio not on your list? They look amazing, taste wonderful, and seem to be/claim to be made from the best ingredients. In Austin I’ve only found them in a small chain of boutique grocery stores–is it because they’re not widely distributed? Thank You.

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 5 months ago

      Hi Anne, You answered your own question, It’s impossible to list all the 1000’s of “boutique brands” here. We mainly focus on the ones that are widely available.

      Reply
  8. Russ 5 months ago

    Hi, any updates on current published lists of dark chocolate containing the lowest levels of lead and cadmium?

    Reply
  9. Theresa 5 months ago

    I loveover Theo’s, but also enjoy Equal Exchange Chocolates (Fair Trade), which was not on the list.

    Reply
  10. Nathaniel T. Hughes 5 months ago

    One more to add to this great list: Abejitas raw honey sweetened Chocolate, using only raw single origin organic honey and cacao. 74-85% dark, no additives, low heat and minimally ground to preserve flavonoids.

    https://abejitaschocolate.com/shop

    Reply
  11. Norbert Heitmann 5 months ago

    Where is El Rey – being among the best in the world?

    Reply
  12. Frida 5 months ago

    I went to a chocolate exhibition in Sweden not to long ago. Made me think a lot about the differences in candy and healthy chocolate. I went to listen to a women speaking about health and chocolate. Super interesting! We got to try a lot of different brands. My favorite being the new Ethiquable. They have a raw cocoa bar, fairtrade.. it tastes exactly like a great red wine! The ivory coast one was good to. Tasted buttery and a bit like cheese.

    Anyways she told us that every chocolate that has milk in it, even if it’s not a lot, is a milk chocolate. And also that the precentage of the cocoa is not everything. Eco- and fairtrade bars are usually the best ones because of the toxic processes and child labor in those that lack this. Trust me when I say they are worth every penny. These bars contain only the GOOD stuff and taste amazing!
    http://www.ethiquable.be/en/who-are-we

    Reply
  13. Kenny 6 months ago

    I live in Israel and would like to know what is the healthiest chocolate that I can buy here

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 6 months ago

      Hi Kenny, I suggest that you look at the qualifiers mentioned in the article and then compare those to the labels of the dark chocolate that’s available in Isreal.

      Reply
      • Kenny 6 months ago

        Thanks Ted. I’ll start to compare

        Reply
  14. rpgman1 6 months ago

    Bought the Ghirardelli 92% in store but it has soy lecithin as the last ingredient. I would like to buy dark chocolate that doesn’t have soy lecithin, isn’t sweetened much, and should be close to having natural ingredients.

    Reply
  15. sugesh aravind 6 months ago

    useful information

    Reply
  16. scott 6 months ago

    lindt chocolate clearly states “processed with alkali” on the label. best chocolate, really ???!!!!

    Reply
    • James 6 months ago

      A closer inspection of Lindt chocolates show that most don’t say this.

      Reply
    • Taneka 6 months ago

      Not sure what Lindt you’re speaking of but the package I have does not. I have the 85% cocoa dark chocolate bar 🍫

      Reply
      • Clint Wonderful 6 months ago

        Last time I contacted Lindt, the 85% was not alkalised although the 90% was. Hope this is still the case with 85% as it is my main choice. Here in the UK, I don’t ever recall seeing any label information whatsoever regarding Dutching so have always needed to inquire.

        Reply
  17. Barbara 6 months ago

    You mentioned Zotter Chocolates in your article. They are available in the US as well. Selected stores and http://www.zotterusa.com

    Reply
  18. Bradley Potter 6 months ago

    I understand that this list needs to be somewhat easy for people to find so you have mostly big industrial brands. But most of these aren’t very good. I can’t reconcile how Amano is on this list (it’s amazing but very hard to find), then Askinosie is under “boutique” even though it’s easier to find than Amano, and then dozens of other incredible makers get no mention. Including Ritual, Dick Taylor, Dandelion, Amedei, Domori, Akesson, Maverick, fresco, fruition, castronovo, original beans, arete, acalli, chocolarder, French Broad, Marou, Patric, Pump Street, Rogue, Solstice, Soma, Raaka, cluizel. There are soooo many great makers that are much more deserving of recognition than most of this list.

    Reply
  19. Leo Kayser III 6 months ago

    Raaka Chocolate has a 100% in roasted cocoa dark chocolate without sugar.

    Reply
    • Leo Kayser III 6 months ago

      unroasted

      Reply
  20. Paul Pickering 6 months ago

    I have an unrelated question that I hope you can help me with??
    A few years ago I used to purchase dark chocolate discs, highly concentrated with cacao, at least 80%. Now I cannot remember the name brand, or where to find them again, even though I have Googled until my goggles fogged, LOL! Could you possibly help me find them?

    Reply
    • Drew 6 months ago

      Droste “pastilles”???

      Reply
    • MELISSA ESCUETA 6 months ago

      Trader Joe’s?

      Reply