Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

2018 Edition

Hey chocolate lovers, this guide has been revised for 2018. 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 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 – 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. Not processed with alkali. 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)

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%-90% 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.

623 Comments

  1. Sanford White 6 days ago

    Years ago there was a candy bar named Hollywood. It was in a blue wrapping and was dareally chocolate with a wHite negative center. I ate a boat load of these. Are they still made by aNY compan?

    Reply
  2. Rash 6 days ago

    What about Butler’s dark chocolate? Please comment..

    Reply
    • James 4 days ago

      A look at the ingredients here shows a fairly standard set of ingredients for a 70% bar.

      Reply
  3. April 1 week ago

    I love love love Taza chocolate! For those who haven’t tried it before, it has an amazing crystalline texture from being stone ground. I live near the factory, and, yes, it smells delicious.

    Reply
  4. Graham Gairn 2 weeks ago

    I live in Spain and eat about 3 squares of Valor whole almond 70% dark chocolate a day. I am amazed not to see Valor chocolate in the Healthy Chocolate list as I have always thought it is a quality product especially with its Spanish Royal Family approval. Can you comment please.

    Reply
    • James 2 weeks ago

      Thanks for the find. Have added this particular bar to the Boutique chocolate list.

      Reply
  5. Kathy 2 weeks ago

    My favorite is pure7

    Reply
  6. Ray 3 weeks ago

    I am happy to see my favorite brand is very high in the list Pascha.

    Reply
  7. Mary DAngelo 3 weeks ago

    what about equa;l exchange?

    Reply
  8. GRAHAM POTTER 3 weeks ago

    https://marouchocolate.com/
    Marou is perhaps the most famous brand of chocolate (including dark chocolate) in Vietnam. Many types, sourcing in 6 different provinces here. Now sold worldwide. And they have a truly amazing chocolate RESTAURANT shop in downtown Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) too.

    Reply
  9. Harold Taylor 1 month ago

    Hello, I’m pretty sure Green & Blacks is ‘Dutched’. Just from the smoothness of their 85% dark chocolate bar. Not that difficult to tell. I’m sticking with Endangered Species.

    Reply
  10. Scott 1 month ago

    I recently bought “Super Raw Chocolate” from Go Raw. It tasted great and the package stated there were only two ingredients – Raw Cacao and Raw Agave Nectar. Sugar was 3g per serving and saturated fat was 1g per serving (3% of daily value). All other dark chocolates I have seen had way higher saturated fat numbers (from 25% to 50% of Daily Value). Furthermore, Go Raw’s web site states all their products are minimally processed. How can their saturated fat number be so low? I want to make sure that they are not doing something that reduces nutrients.

    Reply
  11. omonike olarewaju 1 month ago

    Are you sure eating a dark chocolate will not make me fat and put on weight?

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer 1 month ago

      It depends on how much you are eating it and how much other foods you are eating.

      Reply
  12. Jean 1 month ago

    For the nut allergy sufferers, could you list the chocolates that had traces of nuts even though no warning was on the label? Thanks.

    Reply
  13. Ryan Feyk-Miney 1 month ago

    Just started seeing the endangered species bars being sold at some of my local stores, and they are excellent. If I can’t find those, Godiva will do in a pinch. I’d be interested to see where Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bars stack up on a list like this one.

    Reply
  14. Simon Kendrick 2 months ago

    We hope to see our chocolate on the list soon. Ecuadorian/Canadian company brands YAAL and Choco Soleil
    http://aogfoods.ca/products/

    Reply
  15. Sean Thompson 2 months ago

    Green & Blacks and Lindt are my favourite from this list. I’ll admit that’s partly for availability, but there’ no point liking a chocolate you can’t buy!

    I’ve compiled all the foods which work well with dark chocolate here – https://cookuntilcooked.com/how-chocolatey-should-chocolate-be-4be4a66c3f38

    Reply