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.

darkchoc

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 vascular function,  improve 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 a whole lot 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

moser-rothMoser Roth

70% Cacao and 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars.

A German chocolate. Available at Aldi stores.

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

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.
  • 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).

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?

  • Char

    “organic” does not equal 100% organic?? What’s the difference? google doesn’t seem to know… :)

    • JamesF

      The USDA has a slippery definition: “If you see the USDA organic seal, the product is certified organic and has 95 percent or more organic content”

      Which is quite different to 100%.

      Thanks for visiting my site, and not just relying on Google!

  • Simon Brown

    Lindt 99% available at larger Waitrose store in the UK (usually about £2.50 for 50 grams)

    • Marty

      I’ve also seen them in larger Morrisons stores. Never bought one though, as I’m very happy with my 90%. I’m also lucky enough to live near a Lindt outlet shop (it’s in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth) where they do every type of bar imaginable, including the 90% and 99%.

  • nom

    What about frey dark chocolate 85%

  • Joshua Forter

    Uh…Nestle dark chocolate morsels has NO additives not even soy lecithin…and btw LINDT and GHIRARDHELI BOTH HAVE SOY LECITHIN!! Your list SUCKS.

    • JamesF

      The morsels are a milk chocolate. They contain milk products.

      • Joshua Forter

        You think milk products are worse than Soy?

        • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

          That wasn’t his point. He was telling you that Nestle dark chocolate morsels aren’t classified as true dark chocolate but a type of milk chocolate. Therefore, they can’t be listed above.

          • Joshua Forter

            Ah. got it.Well that addresses half of my point.

    • Kristy Olney

      I’m sitting here, eating the Lindt 85%. There are FIVE ingredients, and soy IS NOT one of them.

      • Joshua Forter
        • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

          Exactly what she said. The 85% does not contain soy.

      • Steve

        The following are stated in Lindt’s web page:

        http://www.lindtusa.com/shop/lindt-frequently-asked-questions

        Soy Lecithin in Lindt Products

        Soy lecithin can be found in our regular dark chocolate products, as well as milk and white chocolate. The Excellence 85%, 90%, and 99% bars are our only products that do not contain soya lecithin. We have an allergen control program in place and adhere to strict Good Manufacturing Practices in order to reduce the risk of cross contamination. However, we do label all of our products with “may contain traces of soy” as a precaution for the most sensitive consumers.

  • Roxanna

    My new favorite – chocolita. So amazing!

    • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

      These look good ingredient-wise, but I couldn’t see percentages of cocoa anywhere?

      • Roxanna

        I see on her Etsy page that the dark & sweet is 80%, not sure about the others. The white chocolate is AMAZING! So unlike anything I’ve ever had. I buy on Vegan Cuts – 6 bars for $21 with free ship, then I use a 20% off coupon, so it cuts down the cost quite a bit.

        • Heather Brown Henderson

          White chocolate has no flavanols and therefore doesn’t impart the same health benefits as dark chocolate. Except possibly that first one, feeling satisfied with what you’ve eaten and so eating less other junk food.

  • Lucia Cavcaliuc

    Yes i ate Lindt 99%, It takes times to get used to it. I put a small piece in my mouth and let in melt and with the time you start enjoying it. But as fast as you try a sweeter chocolate it becomes hard again to eat the 99% one. Tried also to melt it and make syrop from it with milk and a pinch of honey.

  • Christopher Supertramp

    What about Falize Dark chocolate 74%?

    • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

      This one looks decent ingredient wise.

  • Terri

    They have forgotten the best chocolates in the world from New Zealand, Whittakers, superior quality.

    • JamesF

      Whittakers have a 72% Dark Ghana which is quite good.

    • Andrew

      Whittaker’s chocolate is ok. They contain sugar and Soya Lecithin though. In my opinion Alter Eco is far better. Especially their 85% blackout.

  • Northernwatch

    Tasted all of those above…except for two which I’m now going to have to find…but just picked up a bar of 80% Panama Extra Dark Chocolate from “Equal Exchange Chocolates” which was phenomenal. Was resisting purchasing a bar because it markets itself heavily as fair trade, organic, etc., etc., and I’ve been burned before, but this bar is seriously good. Might be a bit sweet if you are used to 85%-90%, but for an 80%, definitely smooth and worth a taste.

  • http://www.kahiniwalla.com Austin Miller

    Equal Exchange is amazing. I like some of Divine’s as well. Both Fair Trade.

  • Corinne jenden-Selway

    Xocai healthy chocolate is the best chocolate that you will put in your mouth. It is only available through distributors. I am one of them. Check out my fb page http://www.facebook.com/antioxchocs or email me for more information at health@antioxchocs.com It is not like these other chocolate bars. It is cold pressed and not heated up so all the goodness is still with you. All natural ingredients.70% cacao.

  • Lori

    How much is a good amount daily??

    • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

      It really depends on what amount can fit within your total calorie allotment for the day.

    • Heather Brown Henderson

      Most of the studies use 50-70 grams per day, equal to 1.75 to 2.5 ounces, or 1/4 to 1/3 cup. That can be a lot of chocolate… and a lot of calories. (If you’re doing Weight Watchers, it equals out to 9 PPV.) Also, almost all of the studies look at the effects on men, and extrapolate the effects on women, who may benefit from smaller amounts of dark chocolate due to usually smaller body mass. If you’re going to add dark chocolate to your daily intake, you’ll need to eliminate something else, add more activity, or do both. To be safe, check with your doctor about the true benefits YOU should expect to see.

  • Pegah

    I recently found 100% countries dark cocoa when I went to Walmart

    • Pegah

      Chocolate *

  • Cristopher Lima

    Hi Sir James, I would like to ask your opinion about dark chocolates.Which is better between Godiva and Frey? Thanks.

    • JamesF

      Unfortunately I can’t help you there. I personally have not tried or seen Frey. From a brief look at ingredients lists, they seem to be quite similar chocolates.

  • claire

    Hey is old gold dark chocolate high in cocoa beans

    • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

      No, not really:
      “Ingredients: Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Milk Solids, Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Flavour.
      Dark Chocolate contains Cocoa Solids 45%. ”

      It would be considered a dark milk chocolate.

  • Ron

    Hi James, Sorry you missed us. HNINA. We’re new on the market but I think you’d be impressed. We’re 90% raw cacao, sprouted nuts & seeds, sweetened with raw honey & pure maple syrup, pure Bourbon vanilla, and no other ingredients or additives whatsoever. All ingredients are certified organic. Please check us out. http://www.hninagourmet.com Thanks!

  • Lynette Henk

    You also missed out on Xocai healthy chocolate which is the highest antioxidant dark chocolate on the market. Made with cold pressed chocolate, not heated or dutched, it has no waxes, fillers or processed sugars. It is also diabetic friendly and gluten free. Before you eat that dark chocolate, make sure the ORACfn score is listed so you know exactly what you are getting. Do your research. http://GoColdPressed.com

  • Tamara

    I just noticed Lindt 70% stopped listing soy lecithin on the label. Last month it was there, now in the new batches – gone. Does it mean they stopped using it or is it marketing?

    • JamesF

      Interesting. Previously only the 85% was soy free. I’ll get some soon and take a look.

  • Health Food

    They missed one. http://www.yummyhealth.com/

  • Laura

    Horrific opening line. Mediocre, relatively intelligent review which, if you ignore the projection of the author’s insecurities, could be considered helpful.

    • stuckerboyer

      Wow, is it necessary to be so rude?

    • Andrew

      One must question why this creates such vitriol on your behalf?

    • Penelope

      Pathetic

  • M.Robins

    Is it very practical to make your own quality dark chocolate? My mother uses Hershey’s Dark Cocoa powder for baking, but I really doubt it’s as simple as using that seeing how Hershey is on the no-no list. Can you just get away with taking powder or adding it to smoothies, if you get the right quality or do you need something very raw and expensive?

    • JamesF

      Hi M.Robins, a quick look at Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder shows that: “Blend of natural and dutched cocoas”. In other words, you can’t really be sure exactly what’s in there – some may be dutched which means you are not getting as many of the flavanols.

  • Marty

    I find the Lindt 90% to be a lot smoother, tastier, and not nearly as bitter as a lot of 85% chocolate I have tried (including its own 85% bar). It’s creamy and chocolatey without the powdery cocoa taste a lot leave behind. The worst (for taste) for me is Moser Roth, which is incredibly bitter and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.

    • John Scott

      Processed with alkali. The 90% is. The 85% is not Dutched and that is why it is more bitter and healthier than the 90%.

      • Dreviathan

        Absolutely. It’s that bitter taste that shows its what you should be eating haha

  • lmaxx

    What about the issue of mold? I’ve recently read that mold forms during the fermentation process, and it will continue to grow. The article suggested that European chocolate has higher mold standards, and in his own personal experience found Lindt 90% and 99% to be lowest in mold. (He said he has a very specific reaction to mold and has none with Lindt.) I would like to get some, but it’s not organic. Does anyone know if organic necessarily makes a difference in Euro dark chocolate or not? It’s dairy-free, so, it should be devoid of any non-organic issues involving milk, but is the fruit they source grown with pesticides?

  • S3r3nity

    These are in the baking section of my grocery store but they’re quite tasty for eating. https://www.guittard.com/our-chocolate/detail/bake_bittersweet-baking-bars

    • http://www.caffeineinformer.com/ Ted

      Cool, thanks for sharing. Their eating varieties look pretty good also.

  • Neeraj

    I am die hard fan of dark chocolate. My brother went to Singapore for a trip and I told him to bring the darkest chocolate if even 100 percent is available. He brought the only 99percent lindt excellence which is the only one of this maximum cocoa content available and trust me that chocolate ia divine unlike other brands that are crappy with sugar content. I even eat it without using coffee as my taste buds are just used to it now.

  • Dreviathan

    I eat the 99 percent Lindt all the time and I actually like it now. I think it’s an acquired taste

  • monarose23

    I live in NY & have been buying Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate; comes in a 3 bar (1.65 oz. each) package, says Imported from Belgium; ingredients list: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, cocoa solids 72%; has a great flavor but don’t see it mentioned here at all; do you have any info. on quality & whether it’s dutched or processed with alkali? I did recently read that in CA this chocolate (& many others) was recalled or taken off shelves because of high lead & cadmium levels, (levels that are higher for CA standards than in NY). This was disturbing b/c I’ve been buying & consuming it for at least a year so would appreciate if you have any info. on this issue as well.