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 improve 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 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.
  • 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?

Comments

  • Cherry

    Ooh, I’d like to try the 99%, I’m enjoying the 90% Lindt; now to find where to buy some!

  • Bknapp

    I know there are hundreds, if not more, that you could test and report on. I wanted to take a chance on whether or not you know if See’s Dark Chocolate has the Dutching processing used in it.

  • Pingback: 3 guitless reasons to eat dark chocolate |()

  • Grace Shailene

    I didn’t know cocoa processed with alkali decreased its nutritive content. My personal favorite dark chocolate is Green & Black’s mint. Thanks for the reviews of the many different brands!

  • Anita Hagstrom

    Cocoa processed with alkali makes my daughters & I VERY sick. Headache, irritability, moodiness (anyone up for some “chocolate generated tears?? NOT me!!!)

  • enfuegobuddha

    Nothing wrong with (100% cacao) Baker’s brand is there?

  • Edie

    I love the Lindt 99% dark. It is intense, so I can only eat tiny bites at a time, and let them melt on my tongue. Once you get used to not having everything so sweet, it really works. I like it spread with peanut butter and a tiny drizzle of honey, too.

  • indigobluz

    I buy the Lindt 85% and 90% all the time.. but I’ve never been able to find anywhere where it mentions the use (or not) of alkali. Am I blind? Where is it mentioned?

    • starmartyr

      It doesn’t say, but a few websites/blogs have posed the question to Lindt directly, and show the answer as being that “some” of the cocoa used in the Excellence 90% is dutched. The other Excellence dark are not dutch processed. They do this to reduce bitterness mostly. It’s not like it’s toxic or something; it’s been noted as reducing some of the antioxidant content, but chocolate is very high in antioxidants to begin with, so just how much the benefit is reduced is disputed. Read about it and decide for yourself if you need to worry about it. I myself just rotate 90% Lindt with 85% and others, as I really enjoy the taste of the 90% – it’s like really rich icing, but without all the sugar!

  • Kate Hamilton

    Roasting, heating and high shear rates also destroy the flavanols in the cocoa bean, which is why raw chocolate is so much higher in flavanols. There is also the fact that not all beans are the same, the fine flavour criollo and trinitario beans tend to have higher levels of flavanols. If you can top that with a chocolate that uses an unrefined low GI sugar, like coconut blossom sugar, then you have a chocolate that has all positive calories.

  • Juan Manuel Morales

    very strange that if you are talking about the best chocolate you never mention any Mexican brands which are among the best . Anyway

    • Hedda Martin

      Please, do tell. hedda.britt@gmail.com – I’d love to try some.

    • EdGordonJr .

      Post some of those Juan! We’re all ears and eyes! 🙂

  • mike

    THANKS FOR THE DISCUSSION! I’d recommend dating your comments on different brands. Things change so a time stamp is useful. I’m looking at 85% Moser Roth and 75% Dominican Republic, Both say treated with alkali. Also Lindt 90% as u mentioned. 70% Moser Roth seems to be non alkali

    • Hedda Martin

      The comment board automatically dates for you.

  • Deedon4

    Several years ago I read about a study in which men who ate 1.4 oz of dark chocolate daily had less heart problems then the control group who did not eat dark chocolate. It was recommended to eat (at least) either 70% or 75% (I forget which). I started to follow this and soon moved up to 85% and then to 90%. I have been eating the Lindt bars.

    A few months ago I became aware of the negatives of the dutching process and realized the 90% was dutched, so I moved back to the 85% Lindt bars. I was wondering, if the 90% starts out with more flavonoids than the 85%, does the dutching lose enough flavonoids to make it the less desirable choice?

    A second, unrelated, question. Does anybody put out a dark chocolate syrup that is either unsweetened or sweetened with stevia? I’ve been searching for such a syrup for some time but to no avail.

    • starmartyr

      Came here from: http://caloriesproper.com/going-dutch-on-dark-chocolate/

      The long and short of it is that it seems like dutching doesn’t reduce flavonoids enough to completely negate health benefits. You can try to find non-dutch processed chocolate wherever possible as a good habit though.

      However it also seems that cocoa butter itself has many protective benefits, according to those studies cited.

  • starmartyr

    Just as an FYI to people anywhere having trouble finding Lindt 99% – it seems most people only find it in exotic places – it’s widely available in Canada. Generally around $3.50/bar as well, as opposed to the $5+ in the USA (if you can find it). Also bonus for Americans, your dollar is higher than ours!

  • John Fields

    my sister in law and I took a week to eat a 99% Lindt bar, I found a tangy red Bordeaux like a St Julienne worked best with it. but then I like red Bordeaux or Cabernet varietals with chocolate. I am also psychotic about dark chocolate. but 99% is damned tough

  • Gerald Michael

    I’ve never had a problem finding Lindt’s 99% cocoa bars, since there’s a Lindt store near my office, though now I get Ghiraradelli’s 100% cocoa bars.

  • Hedda Martin

    You can purchase the Lindt 99% from their USA website at $5.00 a bar however, I do not eat chocolate processed with alkali and this one is.

  • Yasmin Kemper

    Fyi if you want to find lindt 99% dont look un the candy aisle but in the baking aisle by the caje. Your welcome 😉

  • Jessie

    What about equal exchange chocolate?? Their nutrition labels indicate that they have some of the highest concentrations of vitamins and minerals of any chocolate bar I’ve seen, and they are fair trade and organic. Thoughts?

  • ChocolateDude

    I’m surprised you recommend Lindt, their chocolate is mediocre at best in terms of savour.

    • gadge77

      Lindt is the chocolate of kings. Definitely the best chocolate I’ve tasted.

  • Lotak

    I bought a bar of the 99% dark Lindt.
    It’s delicious! Very sticky, but I really, really like it.

  • Edward Bednarovsky

    Q: I eat the Kroger Dark Chocolate (baking) Chunks, 60% Cacao, Private Selection during break at work with a handful of blueberries and almonds, and sometimes add cherries (which is really fun to eat), and I think I’m doing something good for myself; am I? The ingredients include: Belgium unsweetened chocolate, sugar, anhydrous dextrose, soy lecithin. Contains: soy. Is there any health benefit to this chocolate? It’s only $2.99 for a 10oz. package.
    2Q: Is there any health benefit to adding a scoop of Hershey baking cocoa powder to a smoothie/shake? Is it safe? I’m thinking about adding it to a shake with Almond Silk Milk, whey, blueberries, cinnamon and honey.

    • JamesF

      Something 70% or more would be a better choice. As for adding baking cocoa. Well it wouldn’t do much for flavor (quite bitter), and dubious about possible health benefits due to the processing of the product. I’ve experimented with straight cacao nibs – but they are quite challenging to use in a smoothie (they stay crunchy and bitter!).

    • John Landau

      No, Hershey is not quality chocolate – I think it has soy lecithin and other not so good stuff in it. Plus, it’s not organic. Look up to see how much cadmium was found in Hershey. I think the levels were unhealthy. By the whey 😉 you want your whey to be grass fed non-denatured.

  • Laura Harwood

    Give me a nice family sized bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut straight from the freezer…y’all can keep your 90% raw cacao bollocks. Gross. The emperor is naked I reckon 😉

  • Laura Harwood

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEN4hcZutO0

    all this chocolate snobbery, and the people who break their asses to make it, have never even tried it. So sad.

  • Laura Harwood

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEN4hcZutO0

    all this chocolate snobbery, and the people who break their asses to make it, have never even tried it. So sad.

  • https://fastingandtraining.com/ Fasting and Training

    Why is dark chocolate so better than white and milk chocolate? Because of cocoa. If chocolate has more than 60% cocoa, you will get all health benefits from it.

  • Karen

    Nice article, I am actually a fan of lindt 99% dark

    • Jinesh

      i also love lindt 99% Lovely taste………

  • Jessica Burford

    I like the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86%. I noticed that they also sell Intense Dark Sea Salt and Intense Dark Toffee and other flavors of Intense Dark. These bars with nuts and added flavors in them don’t show cocoa percentage, but the company claims between 60 and 70 percent. I’m not understanding… is the dark chocolate itself a different percentage than the regular Intense Dark or is it just a different percentage because the added sea salt and almonds and things?