Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

healthy dark chocolate brands

2020 Edition

Hey chocolate lovers, this guide is continually updated. What we’ve noticed since first publishing 6 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 health 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 me carefully indulge in a piece or two. Compared to milk chocolate when I would eat half a pack before I knew it.

Traits of a Healthy Dark Chocolate

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

  • High cacao content
  • Low sugar content
  • Few additives and overall ingredients
  • No added flavor
  • No preservatives
  • Not “Dutched” or processed with alkali
  • Processed at a low temperature.

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 fewer 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 labeled 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. A social enterprise with a great theme focusing on endangered animals.

www.chocolatebar.com

Discounted 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.

Bixby & Co Dark ChocolateBixby & Co. Dark Chocolate

70% Cacao and 100% Cacao. Certified Organic and offers bars from cocoa beans sourced from Haiti, Guatemala, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. They also have a 70% bar that has barrel-aged Maine bourbon blended into their dark chocolate.

This is bean to bar chocolate and the ingredients are simple, just Organic Cocoa Beans and Organic Cane Sugar.

The company sent us some free samples of the 70% for review and we were quite pleased with this brand. Their chocolate is delicious. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other brands but it is one of the purest. Overall, Bixby makes an excellent product. They ship their chocolate throughout the USA at bixbyco.com

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 Dark Chocolate barTheo

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. Prior to 2017, this bar wasn’t processed with alkali but now it looks like it is according to the updated ingredients. Uses Soy Lecithin as an 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 an emulsifier.

www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Discounted at Amazon.

Amano chocolateAmano

Amano offers 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 has a 72% bar.

Raw, only two ingredients (raw cacao + coconut sugar), however being less than 80% it 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)

Lily’s

Lily’s Dark chocolate bars are sweetened with Stevia (and Erythritol). It uses Fair Trade chocolate and is not processed with Alkali. A good choice if you are following a low-carb or keto diet. There is a range of 70% and an 85%.

lilyssweets.com

See 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.

Strongest Dark Chocolate Bars

The more cacao the bar has, the stronger the bar is. Several of the healthy brands offer really strong dark chocolate bars.

  • Alter Eco 90% Super Dark
  • Taza 95% Wicked Dark
  • Lindt 90% and 99% Extra Dark
  • Pure 7 100% Bar
  • Ghirardelli 92% Intense dark
  • Pacari 100% and 101% Raw
  • Vivani 92% Bar
  • Giddy Yoyo Raw 100% Cacao
  • ChocZero 92%Ultimate Dark
  • Sam’s Choice 90% Dark

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.

  • Solomon’s Gold (New Zealand) – The Flavour Nib 70% has just 3 ingredients – Cacao, Coconut Sugar, and Coconut Oil. 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. They now have higher cacao varieties available.
  • 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%-100% 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.
  • Beyond Good (Madagascar / US) – A chocolate made at the cacao source (in Madagascar). Includes 80% and 92% bars as well as other healthy chocolates.
  • 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 Aren’t Very Healthy

A 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 was also forced to recall the chocolates in 2017 due to almond pieces ended up in some bars.

How to Choose the Best Chocolate

dark chocolate can be a tasty treat when tracking macros and 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 soybeans and is used as 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 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? 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.

Last Updated: July 28, 2020

799 Comments

  1. Jeff Gall 2 months ago

    Innofoods a dark chocolate nuggets with coconut super seeds USDA organic non GMO is the best !!!!!

    Reply
  2. Ann D Hutchinson 2 months ago

    What about TJ’s 72% cacao drak choc?

    Reply
  3. Nick 2 months ago

    The only real scientific issue with chocolate right now is levels of heavy metals: lead, cadmium. It is scientifically proven that every single additional dose of those is very unhealthy. And chocolate has more heavy metals in it than any other product, even one bite of chocolate van be more unhleathy than the rest of your diet. I hoped that the article will be about which brands have the lowest cadmium levels, but these geniuses tell me not to worry about heavy metals and write about flavanols which for now are just pseudo-science.

    BTW in Russian tests your “healthy” Lindt 85% chocolate made in France showed the highest cadmium levels among even the cheapest brands with much less “healthy” flavanols. And I was a fan of that chocolate. Bon Appetit.

    Reply
    • Marcos Dean 2 months ago

      If you compare the heavy metals content of even the higher content cocoa beans, the amount found in chocolate is significantly lower than in many other foods we consume on a daily basis, like fish and anything made from wheat. Chronic dietary exposure to heavy metals is never going to come from chocolate consumption.

      Reply
      • Chris Meyers 2 months ago

        That doesn’t address the issue. I am not going to buy something discretionary that has heavy metal contamination. Period. Doesnt matter if other things have it, or if by your crackpot science it doesn’t matter. Put your name on articles Marco, and stop rationalizing things with ‘Im going to eat them so they really are ok, reallly’. Use your article to indicate which brands have the lowest cadmium/ heavy metal percentages.

        Reply
        • Peter Alise 2 months ago

          Well then, since you seem so incensed by by how much “heavy metal” contamination is in chocolate, then why don’t you do your own study, and then then let everyone know what you found out. It’s bad form coming to someone else’s website and then insulting them because the article didn’t cover what you wanted it to cover. Now, you’ve contaminated the comments with your toxic verbiage.
          Go for it.

          Reply
  4. Nathaniel T Hughes 2 months ago

    I understand that a lot of brands on this list made it because they are available in most stores. However, there are some better brands that are growing, offering bean to bar quality that stands out over most on the list here. The struggle is finding a bean to bar dark chocolate bar over 80%, that’s clean and doesn’t use refined sugar or some other artificial sweetener. The only one out there is Abejitas raw honey sweetened chocolate. http://www.abejtaschocolate.com

    Reply
  5. Bob VanHoek 3 months ago

    Why was Eclat Peruvian Chocolates of PA, not included in your list?

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach) 3 months ago

      There are literally 100s of good brands around the world, we can’t possibly add or cover them all.

      Reply
  6. Barbara 3 months ago

    Zotter also has an online store in the U.S. and offers 2 different 100% bars as well

    Reply
  7. Ibrahim Inusa 3 months ago

    I am not used to taking chocolate. Yesterday was my first experience. A friend told me it can reduce blood pressure. I don’t know if that is true, never the less, I started eating Vanelli Daisy. Did I make a good choice.

    Reply
  8. Tony 3 months ago

    Last email from Lindt
    Thank you for your email and my apologies for the delay as I was awaiting to hear back from Lindt Germany regarding the Excellence 78% Cocoa.

    My colleagues have advised the Lindt Excellence 78% Cocoa is Dutch processed.

    If there is anything further I can assist with please let me know.

    Kind regards

    Maryann Romeo

    Lindt Australia Consumer Service

    Reply
  9. Tony 4 months ago

    “Is chocolate really a health food?

    Most chocolate candy is low in flavonals.

    This treat is fine in small quantities, but its benefits for heart and brain health are still unproven.
    Chocolate has been hyped as a food that may ward off cardiovascular disease and help to improve your memory, but at this point that’s an overstatement.”

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/is-chocolate-really-a-health-food

    Reply
  10. Tony 4 months ago

    No, Dark Chocolate Is Not a Health Food

    https://www.healthline.com/health-news/dark-chocolate-is-not-a-health-food

    This article points out that there is no completed studies on the health of eating chocolate.

    The final statement here says
    “Stay tuned for the conclusive evidence (on flavanols). At some point, there may be a recommendation to consume more cocoa flavanols, probably in powdered mix-in food. It won’t be a bunch of candy bars at once.”

    So whether chocolate has been alkali treated or not it is not really a health food.

    Sad to say.

    Reply
  11. Tony 4 months ago

    Email today from Lindt Australia
    Thank you for your email and for your interest in our products.

    We understand your interest in valuable phytochemicals contained in chocolate products. Positive effects on human health have been attested to the polyphenols, a group of natural anti-oxidative substances , which include the flavonols, in various studies and investigations. Lindt & Sprüngli has followed this researches with interest.

    During the manufacturing process a large part of the flavonoids are lost. Most of the molecules already disappear during the fermentation, some during the roasting process. The fermenting and roasting belong to the most important steps when producing aromatic chocolate of premium quality, it is therefore difficult to change this process.

    In regard to the content of flavonols in our chocolate products we are not able to share detailed information since our products are not systematically analysed on this substance.

    Apart from some versions of Excellence bars with high percentage cocoa content (Excellence 85%, 90%, 95% and 99%), alkalized cocoa is not an ingredient or process step we use for our products. Examples such as our Lindt Excellence 70% cocoa and Lindt Gold Bunnies are therefore manufactured with non-alkalized cocoa.

    Our Lindt Excellence 85%, 90%, 95% and 99% blocks are meticulously crafted to be a full-bodied dark chocolate; masterfully balanced to be neither bitter nor overpowering. These are the only high cocoa content chocolates that we use cocoa powder processed with alkali, otherwise known as “Dutch Processing.” The Dutch Process, has been used in the chocolate industry since the early 1800’s, and it has been in use in these particular bars since their inception.

    As our Lindt Excellence 85%, 90%, 95% and 99% blocks contain a “very high content” of cocoa, the majority of the cocoa solids found in this specific bar are comprised of chocolate and cocoa butter. A much smaller portion of cocoa is comprised of the cocoa powder processed with alkali. This special cocoa powder simply helps to mellow the bitterness normally associated with high cocoa content products, while providing a balanced, flavourful experience.

    We trust this information is of help to you and wish you many more delightful moments with our Lindt chocolates.

    Kind regards

    Maryann Romeo| Consumer Service Coordinator

    Reply
  12. Kenneth Gafa 4 months ago

    What about the Spanish brand Valor? They have wonderful dark choclates.

    Reply
    • Cyndee Wenzel 3 months ago

      I think the article mentioned Valor? I’ll have to try this! Thanks for the tip.

      Reply
  13. Neil 4 months ago

    Hi,
    Thank you for this article about Dark Chocolate. Just wanted to let you know that having been in contact with the manufacturers concerned, I found out that all of Green & Blacks Range and Lindt 90% and 99% all use the alkalising conching process.

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach) 4 months ago

      Thanks for letting me know.

      Reply
  14. Lizzie 4 months ago

    Hi Ted, This is a great list, thank you for that!! I think you have the best job in the world 😉
    I wondered, if you happen to know a great dark chocolate with either whole or LARGE pieces of almonds or other nuts (besides hazelnuts), can you let me know? Thank you!!

    Reply
  15. Anthony Thompson 4 months ago

    Whittakers Chocolate from New Zealand. Email from the company I wrote to

    Thank you for contacting us with your enquiry.

    Whittaker’s are a “beans to bar” chocolate manufacturer, which means that we ethically source & select all our cocoa beans, import them, batch roast them ourselves here in Porirua, shell them, crush them and refine them to produce our delicious chocolate bars. These cocoa beans make up the very vast majority of our products and do not go through any Dutching/alkalization process as we want to retain high levels of flavanol antioxidants in our finished products.

    If you have any question, don’t hesitate to contact us again.

    Kind regards.

    Danielle Machado Rios

    Quality and Customer Services Coordinator

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach) 4 months ago

      I love Whittakers and I always eat a lot of it when I travel to New Zealand. The only reason they aren’t in the first set of brands is because they don’t have a product with a cacao percentage higher than 72%.

      Reply
  16. Ann V 4 months ago

    Thanks! Really great for dark chocolate lovers!

    Reply
  17. anonymous 5 months ago

    great article! I learnt a few things 🙂

    Reply
  18. Yuriy Bubnov 5 months ago

    Yeah, and what about Amedei?
    That’s the best I bet.
    I am talking about Amedei Porcelana 70%

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 5 months ago

      Hi Yuriy, There are 100’s of boutique chocolate brands around the world if not 1000s. We can’t list them all and I’m sure a lot are great. This page also allows you to use the information here in order to evaluate your favorite dark chocolate and see if it fits the healthy standards.

      Reply
    • Cyndee Wenzel 3 months ago

      Wow, I googled this bar and it’s probably the most expensive too. But now I want to try this, thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  19. Yuriy Bubnov 5 months ago

    Where is the Michel Cluizel’s Chocolates?
    That’s a much better one than the bunch of above “Best” listed !

    Reply