Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

Dark chocolate: once considered a rare treat is now mainstream. It’s become the acceptable snack for wannabe 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.

There’s something about dark chocolate that makes you carefully indulge 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 – substances that help lower blood pressure and improve vascular functionimprove cognitive function , and even provides UV protection for our skin! 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“.

Healthy Dark Chocolate Brands

paschaPascha

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

paschachocolate.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

sweetriotSweetriot

Organic, fair trade, all natural dark chocolate. 60% with nibs, 70%, or 80%. Around 20 calories/square.

www.sweetriot.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

alterecoAlter Eco

USDA Organic and Fair Trade. Range of dark chocolate. 85% Dark Blackout is best.

www.alterecofoods.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

ghirardelliGhirardelli Intense Dark

72% Cacao and 86% Cacao Chocolate Bars. They have bars as well as small squares.

www.ghirardelli.com

(Discounted at Amazon)

godiva-chocGodiva

72% Cacao Chocolate Bars. Not processed with alkali. There used to be an 85% – but we can’t find it anymore. There is also some controversy over whether they use GMO Soy Lecithin.

www.godiva.com

Discounted at Amazon

lindtLindt

70%, 85%, and 90% Cacao bars. They also make a 99% cacao (this is hard to find).

NOTE: Some of the bars are processed with alkali. Check labels carefully. As of writing the 90% is processed with alkali, but the 85% is not.

www.lindt.com

Discounted at Amazon

greenandblacksGreen & Blacks

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

The 70% includes Soy Lecithin. There are no genetically modified ingredients.

www.greenandblacks.com

Discounted at Amazon.

valrhonaValrhona

70% Cacao bars.

French chocolate. (img: chocoblog)

www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Amano chocolateAmano

Artisan single origin chocolate. Range of 70% dark chocolate.

www.amanochocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

moser-rothMoser Roth

70% Cacao and 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars.

A German chocolate. Available at Aldi stores. 85% is processed with alkali.

www.aldi.co.uk

endangeredEndangered Species

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

Ethically traded cacao. Social enterprise.

www.chocolatebar.com

Discounted at at Amazon

chocoloveChocolove

70% Cacao and a 73% Fair trade bar.

www.chocolove.com

tazaTaza

70%, 80%, and 87% cacao bars.

All 100% USDA organic.

www.tazachocolate.com

vivaniVivani

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

72% and 85% bars available in USA and Canada.

Organic, processed without alkali, no Soy Lecithin.

www.vivano-chocolate.de

giddyGiddy Yoyo

Based in Canada.

Raw, USDA organic.

A large range of dark chocolate bars up to 89%.

www.giddyyoyo.com and www.trulyorganicfoods.com

theochocolateTheo

Based in Seattle.

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

85% and a large range of different flavored 70% bars.

www.theochocolate.com

scharffenScharffen Berger

Atrisan US chocolate company (owned by Hershey).

Selection of chocolate squares and bars (from 62% up to 82% cacao),

http://www.scharffenberger.com

Available at Amazon

pacari organic chocolatePacari Organic Chocolate

Raw, direct trade, from tree to bar chocolate made in Ecuador.

Wide selection including dried fruit varities, 70%, 85%, 100%, and 101% cacao.

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

The company sent us some samples to try and Pacari makes some great tasting chocolate. I prefered the 70% varieties but I’m sure people who like darker chocolate would be pleased with their 85% and even 100% bars.

Pacarichocolate.us

Available at Amazon

Notable Mentions

  • Eating Evolved (NY) – Boutique. Organic, processed without alkali.
  • Zotter Chocolates (Austria) – they offer a mouthwatering array of flavors, and also, 80%-90% dark chocolate bars (the Labooko range) – also certified Fair Trade.
  • 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 !?).
  • Fearless Chocolate (USA) – Organic Fair Trade 70-85% chocolate.
  • 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.

Dark Chocolates That Don’t Make The Grade

Popular bar, but Dove dark chocolates 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Brookside Dark Chocolate with Pomegranate or Blueberries: Even though this appears to have some fruit – a closer look at the ingredients says something different.

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
  • > 70% 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).

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

Can You Eat 99% ?

During a trip to Thailand I stumbled across a Lindt 99% bar. I knew they made them but had never seen anyone stock them.

Like Charlie looking for his golden ticket, I had to buy it.

It actually had a golden wrapper inside.

The taste? Hardcore. I’m a seasoned dark chocolate eater, but this was tough. It reminded me how bitter the cacao fruit is. It only really worked when I ate while drinking black coffee.

Anyone else up to the challenge?

508 Comments

  1. Niela Miller 2 days ago

    I can now actually eat Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate (no cadmium) or use it to make cocoa with a little Stevia. Delicious!

    Reply
  2. Deb Smith 2 weeks ago

    What about enjoy Life Gluten Free Datk Chocolate?

    Reply
  3. Kathleen Ross 2 weeks ago

    Interesting information! My husband’s dark chocolate isn’t as healthy as we thought. Back to the dark chocolate drawing board!!

    Reply
  4. cherie 3 weeks ago

    i’ve tried a 99% and it was intense .. too bitter. while i can still handle it, i prefer my dark chocolate from 72-85%

    Reply
  5. Matt 4 weeks ago

    I eat an ounce of 100% dark chocolate while sitting at my desk as a snack. They are small pieces and eat them with raw almonds. So good.

    Reply
  6. Alek 1 month ago

    Check out Cocoa Parlor!!! The most amazing organic vegan dark chocolate bars! Sooooooo good
    http://www.cocoaparlor.com

    Reply
  7. Audrey Darrow 1 month ago

    How did Righteously Raw Chocolate not make it on the healthy brands?

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer 1 month ago

      There are hundreds of good brands and we can’t possibly list them all. This article helps people identify how to spot a good brand and gives examples but isn’t an exhaustive list. Glad you found one that you love.

      Reply
  8. Remabelle 1 month ago

    We don’t have those good brands at the local supermarket. 🙁 just the bad ones. D;

    Reply
  9. Philip E. Minich 2 months ago

    To what extent, can processing with alkali be done without removing to much of the flavaniods? Does it remove them all?

    Reply
  10. Jeff 3 months ago

    Actually a question regarding processing with alkali. Lindt Excellence 90%. Ingrdiemts: Chocolate, Cocoa Butter,cocoa powder processed with alkali. Is this the same as processed with alkali????

    Reply
  11. Fahad 3 months ago

    Can you please review the Pana Chocolate from Australia. It says on the box Raw, Organic, Handmade. Can you please tell if its processed by alkali or not . Thanks

    Reply