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 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 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.
  • 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).

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

  • anaxjor

    Disappointed to not see Vosges on here. (I’m completely in love with the new Super Dark bars, especially this one: https://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/vosges-super-dark-chocolate-candy-bar-reishi-walnjt ) I thought maybe they got left out because they have other ingredients in them, but the godiva pictured has almonds, so… (They do contain soy, but are 93% fair trade, 72% cacao.)

    • Charles Werner

      Do u think dark chocolate is the healthiest from all the other types of chocolate

  • StevenHB

    I’ve tried the 99% also. Was also to much for me.

    There are no reliably documented cases of actual harm done by a GMO. GMO-free is unimportant.

  • disqus_l1egYFLaJm

    I have a “cheat” that works for my eating plan. I eat one or two Ghirardelli 100% bars at a sitting with hot tea. But I also put an Altoid mint in my mouth along with the chocolate! Turns the bitter just a wee bit sweet. 3 mints = 2 sugars, which is do-able and decent health wise, depending on your goals. I eat only 15 ADDED sugars max daily, including this little cheat. I eat no other desserts, pastries, sugars, gums, sodas of any kind (except for infrequent special occasions). Having this little cheat a few times a week after dinner takes care of my cravings.

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

      Sounds like you should check out flexible dieting. I used to be afraid of sugar as well, but not anymore. I can have desserts again and I’m the most fit and healthy I’ve ever been. https://healthyeater.com/personal-experience-with-flexible-dieting

      • disqus_l1egYFLaJm

        I think I am generally doing flex dieting–my version–and, as I said, I do have dessert. I simply stay conscious about how much and how often. To me, the flexxie thing translates into “stay conscious, keep up diaries to ensure accuracy (as opposed to flights of fancy), and enjoy your choices.” I’m 67, healthy as a horse, at “fighting weight”, in terrific shape, never been happier. 40 years ago, I weighed over 300 pounds. Life has been a lovely journey of correcting that unfortunate situation. Managing added sugars is one of the keys to my overall physical and mental health.

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

          Great Job! Very inspirational! Thanks for sharing a little bit of your story. :-)

  • http://www.biologylabreport.com/ adam

    The 99% Lindt is very common in South Africa – you can buy it at Woolworths. It doesn’t take long to get used to it and then you can eat it solo.

  • CurlE

    This article was extremely helpful and thank you for sharing. I’ve become a fan of the Green and Black’s and Lindt’s Dark Chocolate but anything past 85% coaco I can’t tolerate yet. *sad face*

    • JXJ

      WAST OF TIME!!

  • snerpripoosel

    This article showed me a myriad of chocolate possibilities while staying true to my high chocolate standards for those deemed accetpable. So far, I have newly discovered two brands mentioned: Alter Eco and Pascha. Both the bars have the same four organic, fair-trade ingredients (cacao powder, cacao butter, sugar, and vanilla) but the Blackout bar had higher cacao content and lower sugar resulting in a more intense chocolate experience. The Pascha bar, an ounce heavier than Alter Eco, had very crisp texture that resembles candy due to the high sugar content (75% cacao) and was too sweet for my taste.

    • JamesF

      Thanks for your thoughts, I haven’t had a chance to try these two bars.

  • thedon bran

    I’ve been eating Lindt 90% for ages and at no point does it say ‘processed with alkali’ or ‘dutching’. These words do not appear anywhere on the label. Where are you getting this bogus information from? I write this with a bar next to me. And I live in England if that is of any consequence.

    • JamesF

      I’ve come to the conclusion that different 90% bars around the world have different formulations (or different batches). I’ve definitely had in my hand a 90% bar processed with alkali.

      • bilzy2020

        New to Dark Chocolat. Bought a 90% Lindt today and love it.I can and have a taste for bitter and an aversion to sweet.Took organic chicken broth and organic hot sauce back to Costco today as both were very high in sugar….yuck.Anyway,I am in AB Canada and nothing on the label about Alkali.Off to the Italian Centre tomorrow to do a lot of label reading .They have a great selection.

    • HHH

      The ones in the U.S. say processed with alkali.

  • Craig Crestford

    Theobroma is likely Milk Chocolate, I am so peeved. There’s no way it’s 72% Dark. It tastes like cheap Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

  • Lazar

    I love this brand http://www.santabarbarachocolate.com
    They offer great dark Belgian and organic chocolates for candy making and baking applications.

  • Stacey

    Slightly confused. I sit here with a Ghirardelli 72% bar next to me. It lists sugar as the second ingredient (below unsweetened chocolate but above cocoa butter), and says it contains soy lecithin, but these are 2 things you say to avoid, correct?

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

      All 72%’s are higher in sugar so it is often the second ingredient. As for the soy, it didn’t say avoid it but just that it was questionable if it was from GMO sources. The 86% will give you less sugar and more antioxidants but it may be too bitter for your liking.

      • Stacey

        Thanks for responding! That definitely clears things up for me!

  • Vampirecat

    I once found a Lindt 99% dark too, years ago. Inspired by the flavor pairing of mole, I ate it alongside barbecue-flavored corn chips, alternating bites. It was great. I’ve also tried a 99% at Cacao in Portland, OR, sometime back. Amazingly, it wasn’t bitter at all.

  • esands1

    Not on the list, but I found a great bar called Antidote Chocolate. They have some yummy flavored dark chcoclate bars, but also have a 100% Raw Cacao bar! They’re delicious and worth the visit – http://www.antidotechoco.com

  • Gail Williams

    Willie’s cacao make amazing single origin dark chocolate and cacao 100% for cooking with.

    • CacaoLover

      Had it. Loved it. Why wait to cook it? it’s great right from it’s cylindrical block!

  • ChocoBoy

    Thats’s what’s up! This article was very helpful. I’m all about the Dark Chocolate and Green Tea so….
    Gracias el Confrade.

  • Stuart M.

    Great discussion of good dark chocolate bars. Too bad about the fixation with non-GMO. The scientific consensus is in and it says there is no health difference between conventional foods and those using GMO biotechnology. When will you guys grow up?

  • dickens

    I make hot chocolate with the Ghirardelli 100% bars and hot water. Two squares per 16 oz cup. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, add a couple of tablespoons of hot water and mix well into a loose paste. Now dilute with the rest of hot water to whatever consistency you like. If you drink your coffee black, you’ll probably like this as well.

  • CacaoLover

    All of the bars listed here are candy. 70% cacao means 30% sugar. Cacaos can’t be appreciated diluted with sweeteners. If a chocolatier can’t produce a good 100% product, then it’s just a candy maker. Once you taste a good 100 percenter, 85% will taste too sweet. For example, Sirene 100% Ecuador is amazing. So is the award-winning Akesson’s Single Plantation Chocolate 100% criollo bar. You’ll find great 100% bars like these at 2 Beans and The Meadow chocolate shops in New York City. Yes, I usually walk away from these places spending at least $50 for only 4 or 5 100% bars, but I know I’m getting the best tasting cacaos. As for Lindt 99%, I’ve had it once, even though it’s available all over NYC, which tells you what I think of it.

  • BELLA PHI

    Better Bitter Reishi & Co.
    BELLA PHI

  • Dude Huxley

    “Mars’ patented COCOAPRO® process ensures that DOVE® Dark Chocolate retains much of the healthy cocoa flavanols.” http://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutDove

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

      Well, looking at the ingredients of their PROMISES® SILKY SMOOTH DARK CHOCOLATE, we see the following: SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, CHOCOLATE PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, COCOA BUTTER, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS). No mention of the Cacao percentage, high in sugar, and it’s processed with alkali. So many other better choices than this.

      • Dude Derby

        Was pointing out that “processed with alkali” is not the whole story of Dove dark chocolate. They have a process that probably preserves the flavanols more than many other chocolates that process with alkali.

  • Ron

    I would like to introduce you to our Los Angeles based chocolate company HNINA. http://www.hninagourmet.com We make healthy gourmet dark chocolate and sprouted nut truffles. Our ingredients are all certified organic, we use raw single origin cocoa mass, we sprout non-radiated raw nuts & seeds, add a bit of raw honey and pure maple syrup (not overly sweet), pure Bourbon vanilla bean and absolutely no other ingredients or additives. These are extraordinarily pure and healthy chocolate truffles. Please visit our website and use coupon code PROM20 for 20% off. Through Valentine’s Day VAL25 for 25% off.

  • M

    Just to be clear are you stating ALL those chocolate bars in the first list under Healthy Brands are non-dutched/alkali treated even if it does not state this in the additional text? Thanks

    • JamesF

      As far as is possible we’ve tried to determine that each chocolate in the first list is non-dutched. However we are discovering that formulations can vary from batch to batch, so you must check the nutrition label of the product you are buying.

  • Telmo

    What dark chocolate to buy from Europe rich in polyphenols? Lindt 85% is good? Are there better?

  • Georg

    Good post. But you make it seem as if 100% cocoa bars are hard to find; for anyone reading this, just buy 100% cocoa baking bars – preferably by Ghirardelli. After a few weeks of eating totally clean (no sugar, just meat, fruits and vegetables), and occasionally nibbling on a 100% cocoa Ghirardelli bar, while extremely bitter at first, it can come to taste very good. The unsweetened version of these bars contain, of course, zero sugar and are inexpensive.