Tell Me What to Eat

Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

By Ted KallmyerUpdated August 23, 2022
Best and worst dark chocolate brands

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

Research points to an increased exercise capacity and improved cardiovascular system..

This is due to the flavanol content – a type of polyphenol in cocoa that helps lower blood pressure and improve vascular function and even provides UV protection for our skin.

What is a high quality dark chocolate?

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

  • High cacao content (> 70%).
  • Low sugar content.
  • Few additives and overall ingredients.
  • No added flavor.
  • No preservatives.
  • Not “dutched” or processed with alkali.

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 it’s done to reduce acidity, making the chocolate a darker color (and arguably improving the flavor).

There is nothing unsafe about dutching – it may make the flavor more appealing to some, but lead to less health benefits.

Beware of marketing labels

Many chocolates are labeled with all kinds of marketing words like 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.

The best dark chocolate brands

My top 5 at a glance:

  1. Pascha is the best all round.
  2. Hu is a great choice if you can’t handle more than 70% 😉.
  3. The Taza 85% Mexicana Chocolate disk is special: Just cacao beans & sugar 😋
  4. Alter Eco 85% Raspberry Blackout – Dark with a tang of flavor.
  5. Lindt 85% is the best combo of value-for-money and healthy benefits.

Here’s the whole list, sort-of in order from best:

Pascha

Range of 55% – 100% cacao.

  • Organic, fair trade, non-GMO
  • No soy lecithin
  • Is not dutch processed

paschachocolate.com

Buy at Amazon

Hu Dark Chocolate

Hu Dark Chocolate

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

  • Organic, vegan, paleo, non-GMO.
  • No dairy, soy lecithin, gluten, cane sugar, sugar alcohols, or emulsifiers.
  • Is not dutch processed.

HuKitchen.com

Buy at Amazon

Taza

70%, 80%, 87%, and 95% cacao bars.

Taza is among the least-processed chocolate you can find.

  • USDA organic
  • Is not dutch processed.

www.tazachocolate.com

Buy at Amazon

Alter Eco

USDA Organic and Fair Trade. No soy lecithin. Is not dutch processed.

The darks range from 70%, 85%, 90%, and the 100% total blackout.

  • USDA Organic and Fair Trade.
  • No soy lecithin.
  • Is not dutch processed.

www.alterecofoods.com

Buy at Amazon

Lindt

The Lindt Excellence range includes 70%, 78%, 85%, 90%, 95%, 99%, and 100% Cacao bars.

Ingredients: Check your label as these change:

  • 70% – Chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin (emulsifier), bourbon vanilla beans.
  • 78% – Chocolate, cocoa butter, sugar, cocoa powder processed with alkali, 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.
  • 95% – Chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa powder processed with alkali, sugar
  • 100% – Chocolate, cocoa powder processed with alkali, cocoa butter.

www.lindtusa.com

Buy at Amazon

Beyond Good

70%, 73%, 80%, and 92% bars made at source in Madagascar.

  • Completely organic
  • Direct trade
  • Is not dutch processed

beyondgood.com

Buy at Amazon

Pacari

70%, 85%, 100%, 100% + nibs.

  • USDA organic, direct trade, raw bars.
  • Is not dutch processed.

pacari.com

Buy at Amazon

Green & Blacks

USDA organic and fair trade.

70% and 85% dark.

greenandblacks.co.uk

Buy at Amazon

Endangered Species

72%, 75%, and 88% bars.

  • Fair trade.
  • Donates 10% of profits to conservation efforts.

www.chocolatebar.com

Buy at Amazon

Theo

85% and many different flavored 70% bars.

  • Fair trade and organic.
  • No emulsifier

www.theochocolate.com

Buy at Amazon

Righteously Raw

80%, 83%, and 90%.

  • Organic, fair trade, raw.

As far as we’re aware only chocolate is processed on their machinery, so is allergen-free.

righteouslyrawchocolate.com

Vivani

Vivani is a German organic chocolatier with 70%, 75%, 85%, 89%, 92% and 100% bars.Use coconut sugar.

  • Organic,
  • Is not dutch processed
  • No Soy Lecithin.

vivani.de

(Limited range at Amazon).

Giddy Yoyo

Huge range: 70% up to 100% (and almost everything in between). Based in Canada with simple ingredients (cacao paste + sugar + cacao butter).

  • Certified organic
  • Is not dutch processed

giddyyoyo.com

Bixby & Co.

70% and 100% single origin darks. Ingredients just cocoa beans and cane sugar.

  • Certified organic

bixbyco.com

Valrhona

70%, 75%, 85%, and 100% cacao bars. French chocolatier with a large range of ‘taster’ bars.

Ingredients: Cocoa Beans, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, sunflower lecithin, Natural Vanilla Extract

www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Some product at Amazon.

Amano

70% bars, single origin.

Sweetened with sugar and vanilla beans (no soy lecithin).

amanochocolate.com

Moser Roth

70% and 85% bars. A German-made chocolate supplying Aldi stores.

Uses Soy Lecithin emulsifier.
85% is dutch processed.

Note that ingredients differ between countries.

aldi.co.uk

Buy at Amazon.

Scharffen Berger

70% and 82% bars. (Scharffen is owned by a subsidiary of Hershey).

Ingredients: Chocolate, Sugar, Whole Vanilla Beans.

www.scharffenberger.com

Buy at Amazon

Lily’s

70%, 85%, and 92% – sweetened with Stevia (and Erythritol).

  • Fair trade
  • Is not dutch processed

lilyssweets.com

Buy at Amazon

Chocolove

Small producer with 70% and 88% bars. Does contain soy lecithin.

www.chocolove.com

Buy at Amazon

Ghirardelli

70%, 72%, 86%, 92% and a 100% “baking” bar.

Uses soy lecithin as an emulsifier, and also has milk fat and “natural flavor” in their dark bars.

www.ghirardelli.com

Buy at Amazon

ChocZero

Chocolate squares for keto diet market. 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

Notable Mentions

There are many chocolate brands with a local market, some of whom offer exceptionally good chocolates.

Here is a curated collection of some that we’ve come across.

  • Solomon’s Gold (New Zealand) – 70% bars and a 75% with cacao nibs. 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. The specialty blocks range from 70% to 92%.
  • Loving Earth (Australia) – A great 72% and 85% bar – organic, and with some nice flavors.
  • Camino (Canada) – The ‘Intensely Dark’ 88% is the best 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.
  • Antidote (USA) – Does 100% raw chocolate bars.
  • Eden Confections (US Northeast) – 70% – no sugar (sweetened with Monk fruit and erythritol.
  • Eating Evolved (NY) – Organic right up to 100%.
  • 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%, 75% and 85% bar. Similar formulation to Lindt.
  • Montezuma Chocolates (UK) – The biggest range of 100% bars you’ll find.
  • Vannucci Chocolate (Italy) – 73% and 100% bar.
  • Moonstruck Chocolate (USA) – Specialty chocolates – 68% and 73% dark.
  • Askinosie (USA) – Single origin – try the super dark 88%.
  • Zazubean (Canada) – Fair trade and organic. Includes an 85% bar – for the keto market.
  • Frey (Switzerland) – Look for the 85% bar.
  • Claudio Corallo – Artisan chocolate made from the most simple ingredients.
  • Vosges (USA) – Lots of interesting flavors including the 85% cacao fruit bar.
  • HNINA (USA) – raw organic dark chocolate – 85%. No sugar, soy, or dairy.
  • Cocoa Parlor (USA) – USDA organic and fair-trade, 70% up to 100%. The subtitle is “organic plant-based chocolates”. Well, I guess cacao does come from a tree !?
  • Vanini (Italy) – Range from 70%-100% single origin.
  • Pana Organic (UK) – Selection of raw organic bars, including ‘Eighty’ – sweetened with dark agave nectar.
  • Sam’s Choice (Walmart) – Choose the 90% dark. Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla beans.
  • Ritter Sport (Germany) – Mostly milk chocolates, but they do have a 74% and 81% dark bar.
  • The Good Chocolate – A selection of chocolates for Keto dieters (sweetened with Stevia and erythritol).

Bean to Bar: Soleil Chocolate

Posing with the bars we made

I recently traveled to Costa Rica and participated in a chocolate tour at Soleil.

The tour involved a learning about cacao, trying whole raw cacao beans. We learned how to make bean to bar chocolate by removing the outer shell, and then grinding the cacao nibs to release the oils.

We then tempered the processed cacao and sugar and put the chocolate into molds.

The taste was amazing and some of the best dark chocolate I’ve ever had.

If you ever go to Costa Rica I recommend paying them a visit at their facility just outside San Jose in Atenas, Costa Rica.

soleil

Strongest dark chocolate bars

The more cacao the bar has, the stronger the bar is.

10 years ago it was hard to find many bars above 70%, but now there is great choice. If you have a sweet tooth, it will take some practice to go beyond 70%.

Is there such thing as 100% dark chocolate?

Yes. It means there is no form of sweetener at all, giving the chocolate a bitter savory flavor.

Generally dark chocolates above 90% have very little sweetness, and are an acquired taste.

The following brands make very dark chocolates (including 100%).

  • Pascha 100%
  • Alter Eco 90% and 100%
  • Taza 95% Wicked Dark
  • Lindt 95%, 99%, and 100%
  • Pacari 100% and 100% + nibs
  • Vivani 92% and 100%
  • Giddy Yoyo Raw 100% Cacao

Dark chocolates that aren’t very healthy 👎

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

There is no legal definition of dark chocolate. Most people consider anything above 55% cacao content to be dark.

That doesn’t stop candy manufacturers calling their product dark, when the cacao content is very low.

  • Dove Dark Chocolate
    Low cacao content. All processed with alkali.
  • Godiva 72% dark mini bars
    Lots of packaging, uses Soy lecithin, and butter oil.
  • CocoaVia Supplement Packs
    These are similar to Crystal Light, except they have flavanols 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 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.

What is a high quality dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate can be a tasty treat when tracking macros but not all could be considered healthy.

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

What’s the deal with Soy Lecithin?

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).

It is considered safe, although some people object to the solvent that’s used to extract the lecithin.

Many chocolate manufacturers have moved on to other emulsifiers (such as sunflower lecithin).

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 like cadmium and lead?
Dark chocolate, like many foods including meat, grains, fish, and vegetables has traces of heavy metals. This has nothing to do with manufacturing, but the presence of these metals in soils where cacao is grown. The EU has limits on the amounts of cadmium – 0.8 mg/kg for dark chocolate. California is stricter: 0.45 mg/kg for 65%-95% chocolate. In CA if the chocolate has more than this – it must be labelled with a health risk warning. Given the small volumes of dark chocolate that we eat, cadmium in chocolate should not be viewed as a major concern.

More of the best and worst:

References

References

  • Vlachopoulos, C., Aznaouridis, K., Alexopoulos, N., Economou, E., Andreadou, I., & Stefanadis, C. (2005). Effect of dark chocolate on arterial function in healthy individuals. American journal of hypertension, 18(6), 785-791.
  • Grassi, D., Desideri, G., Necozione, S., Lippi, C., Casale, R., Properzi, G., ... & Ferri, C. (2008). Blood pressure is reduced and insulin sensitivity increased in glucose-intolerant, hypertensive subjects after 15 days of consuming high-polyphenol dark chocolate. The Journal of nutrition, 138(9), 1671-1676.
  • Sansone, R., Rodriguez-Mateos, A., Heuel, J., Falk, D., Schuler, D., Wagstaff, R., ... & Flaviola Consortium. (2015). Cocoa flavanol intake improves endothelial function and Framingham Risk Score in healthy men and women: a randomised, controlled, double-masked trial: the Flaviola Health Study. British Journal of Nutrition, 114(8), 1246-1255.
  • Williams, S., Tamburic, S., & Lally, C. (2009). Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 8(3), 169-173.

905 Comments

  • A.Anderson 1 week ago

    I recently discovered loiza in Puerto rico. They told me it has no soy lecithin or soybean oil . It’s a very good quality.not overly sweet.
    You also mentioned a few of my go to chocolates but once a year I buy bulk white and dark blocks from loiza.

    Reply
  • Mark Denham 1 month ago

    Can’t believe Galler or Côte D’Or (originally from Belgium) did not even get a mention. Incredibly nice dark chocolate from both brands.

    Reply
  • Cecelia Wankel 2 months ago

    Why no mention of percentages of lead? I read all chocolate contains some lead and other contaminates. Consumer Labs has good research.

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 2 months ago

      You didn’t read the article. There is mention of lead and cadmium.

      Reply
  • Diedrik 3 months ago

    It’s weird that the biggest producer of chocolate in the world aka Belgium isn’t even mentioned. Most of the fore mentioned brands get their chocolate from this country.

    Reply
  • Andy Showalter 4 months ago

    Does Dark Choc have to say if it is processed with Alkalai? For example Sam’s, yes it’s Walmart, 90% dark does not say dutched and it uses cocoa liquor, is that good for you?

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 4 months ago

      The alkali process means you have fewer flavanols (which are good for you). However, the flip side is some people prefer to taste and texture of dutched chocolate. In the US chocolate should say “cocoa processed with alkali” if needed. Cocoa liquor just refers to the ground up nibs in the form of paste.

      Reply
  • Red Thalhammer 4 months ago

    Thanks for creating awareness for chocolate. I’m the tastemaker and owner of Antidote chocolate and I would like to make some points to show you that some of the brands you feature as healthy are actually not that healthy. The percentage of cacao no matter if it’s 70% or 85% counts for the total cacao percentage – which includes also cacao butter. Cacao butter is not bad for you but the benefits are in the solids and in the beans before separation of butter/solids. You mention a lot of big brands such as Lindt who use low grade cacao compared to Antidote or other specialty brands. Meaning in order to make it edible they have to add extra cacao butter to stretch the flavor resulting in a less potent bar. Also as you feature many of them have alkalized cacao powder added which you clarify at the beginning as to avoid. As for added cacao butter it is the same with Hu when you taste it, you can feel how much extra cacao butter there has been added. Lastly I challenge you to taste Antidote compared to those top 5 bars you list and see and feel which bar truly gives you the benefits and energy and mood boost. The way it makes you feel as you eat it, 5 and 10 mins after should tell you more than a thousand words about the potency and effectiveness of the cacao properties.

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 4 months ago

      Thanks for sharing. We will add antidote chocolate into the list soon.

      Reply
    • Debra Linari 3 months ago

      Hi, what stores sell your chocolate? I would like to try it.

      Reply
  • Christian 5 months ago

    From my experience the best manufacturer of dark chocolate is Zotter from Austria. They offer a large variety of dark chocolates with cocoa from many different locations. The taste is great and all chocolates are organic and fairtrade.

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 4 months ago

      We’ve had Zotter listed on our page here for many years. But I realize it’s an enormous article to read through.

      Reply
  • humberto 8 months ago

    The article in the British newspaper used as a reference of exaggeration in claims about chocolate’s health benefits is even worse than I first thought as I found out after more research. The author of the article, Nic Fleming, doesn’t care to say that the study about blood pressure had participants taking up to about 1200 mg flavonols and they didn’t have to eat 12 100 grams bars of chocolate for that. 105 grams of chocolate powder was enough. Many clinical studies show that as little as 200 mg of flavonols are good for the health . You could get that amount roughly in 20 grams of chocolate powder of high quality which are easy to find on amazon. The essence of that article is “Big Chocolate” is paying for clinical studies to say that chocolate is good for you but chocolate is not good for you. It’s not a serious article. It belongs to the realm of conspiracy theories. First of all, he insults all those good chocolatiers such as the ones listed in this article, for example. They are people who work hard and cut their profits in order to provide high quality chocolates with lots of flavonoids to their customers. Second, the Badianus manuscript, written almost 500 years ago was already saying that chocolate is good for the heart ! Third, it’s extremely hard to believe that all clinical studies presenting positive results about chocolate are paid by ‘Big Chocolate”. This site from the American government contains literally hundreds of studies about the positive effects of chocolate on health. Can anyone on their normal minds really think that all those thousands of scientists are corrupt and dishonest whilst the Guardian reporter, who is not a scientist, is a bastion of truth?

    https://www.science.gov/topicpages/d/dark+chocolate+consumption#

    Reply
  • humberto 8 months ago

    I would like to know how exactly the author , who uses a very misleading and poorly researched article from the Guardian as source of information, found out which chocolates are Dutch processed and which are not. I checked the website of some of those chocolates and found no information whatsoever that they didn’t use the Dutch process.

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 8 months ago

      Where label information was not available, the author of the article reached out to each companies customer service. For example, here is Taza chocolate’s response: “Thanks for reaching out! We grind whole cacao beans rather than use processed cocoa solids. As such, our chocolate will never contain alkali. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Take care!”

      Reply

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