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: October 2, 2020

820 Comments

  1. Stephanie 1 month ago

    Wow! So much information and now I am not sure which to get. LOL! I just want to know which dark chocolate is healthier and actually taste good. Any suggestions? Thanks

    Reply
  2. Pam Otte 2 months ago

    Why not Equal Exchange ??? Excellent Organic fair trade ?

    Reply
  3. John McEvoy 2 months ago

    Which is the best dark chocolate bar for a person with heart failure

    Reply
    • Marie 2 months ago

      Enjoy the chocolate with moderation. None will help with heart failure. Your daily meds will and doctor follow up appts

      Reply
  4. Marie 2 months ago

    Hi, I have high cholesterol but am aware of its flavanol benefits. Would you recommend a least processed brand with low saturated fat and sugar? Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Ksniff 2 months ago

    As of a few months ago Scharffen Berger is no longer a subsidiary of Hershey

    Reply
  6. Scott 2 months ago

    French Broad Chocolate (Asheville, NC) is missing from your boutique chocolatiers. Ethically sourced, fair trade certified, nothing but cacao and sugar. Ranges up to about 90%. Best chocolate I have had, and I am very picky!!

    Reply
  7. Lea 2 months ago

    You are missing Theobroma produced in Montreal, QC Canada. They are Organic Certified, Fairtrade Certified, Vegan, Gluten Free, Non-GMO and Peanut Free.

    https://theobromachocolat.com/

    Reply
  8. Wes Alexander 2 months ago

    I think the dark chocolate’s benefits depends on the individual. The best brand for me is Moser Roth. I usually eat a half of those bars before walking to the doctor’s office. My blood pressure ends up being less than the 120/80 mark. So I’ll stick with Moser Roth which does not have “processed with alkali” on its label.

    Reply
    • Mary Olson 2 months ago

      Wrong. I’m holding a 5 bar container of Moser Roth right now, and it clearly states on the ingredients the words… “Processed with Alkali”. It also contains Soy Lecithin. Yuck!

      Reply
  9. Fiona 2 months ago

    Does anybody know if the cocoa powder in Moser Roth 85% is alkalised/dutch processed? It mentions in the article the writer is still unsure on this but I wonder if anyone knows for sure

    Reply
    • Mary Olson 2 months ago

      It definitely is unfortunately. I just bought some at Aldi the other day and I’m reading the label and is says, “Cocoa processed alkali” Also it contains Soy Lecithin

      Reply
  10. Ben Depuydt 3 months ago

    Hello, great article, thanks!
    I live in Belgium, and although this country is famous for its chocolate, it’s very hard to find any info on which brand uses alkali processed cocoa and which doesn’t.
    Would you have any information on Belgium’s most popular brand, which is Cote d’Or (owned by the company Mondelez)? They have bars ranging up to 86% cocoa, amongst them a “Bio” of 85%, but I have no clue whether or not these are alkali-processed.
    Would you have any info? Thanks!!!

    Reply
    • Michelle 2 months ago

      Loved Belgium. Stayed in Namur for close to two months. They had so many good chocolates I wouldn’t know which chocolate is healthy or not..

      Reply
  11. Ashifa h 3 months ago

    Can u pls tell me the brand about
    ” Amul 99% cacao chocolate – ultimate dark “

    Reply
  12. Dan 3 months ago

    Needs Lauden Chocolate in the UK adding! Delicious AND beautiful to look at!

    https://www.laudenchocolate.com

    Reply
  13. Kris D 4 months ago

    This article would have been much more helpful if it had stated which chocolate bars are peanut and tree nut free since this is such a huge issue for so many people. Pascha is the only bar that I know of which states this. Pascha is very hard to find in stores.

    Reply
  14. Bradley Potter 4 months ago

    This list is so strange. It is mostly large, industrial scale makers that you can find in any old grocery store. If it were just that, with endangered species, lindt, Godiva, things like that, then I would understand. But then they throw Valrhona and Amano on the main list, which are drastically better chocolates and way, way harder to find. Then they have a separate “boutique” list, which at least Amano, and probably Valrhona, should be on. It’s also not clear whether you are naming the “best” dark chocolate or the “healthiest” dark chocolate. I think you should do the “best” because the things that make them the best will also make them healthy (no additives, just cocoa and sugar, with high cocoa content, quality ingredients that are reliably sourced, etc.). But there are plenty of “healthy” dark chocolates that are really poor quality in terms of taste and flavor because they don’t use fine-flavored cacao or because the maker doesn’t know how to properly process cocoa.

    If you’re going to try to have a boutique list, it has to be more thorough. There are so many excellent craft chocolate makers now, and they are easy to buy from either directly from the maker’s website or from a site like Bar and Cocoa, that to leave them off just doesn’t make sense. I’ll try to list some for reference, but can’t possibly name them all. These makers all have exceptional, world-class chocolate, and many have been awarded at the International Chocolate Awards or other similar competitions. While awards aren’t everything, I’ve found it quite rare to find a highly awarded bar that wasn’t at least pretty darn good.
    A. Morin
    Acalli
    Akesson’s
    Amedei
    Arete
    Askinosie
    Belvie
    Benns
    Brasstown
    Castronovo
    Charm School
    Chocolarder
    Crow & Moss
    Dandelion
    Desbarres
    Dick Taylor
    Domori
    Dormouse
    Escazu
    Firetree
    Fjak
    Fresco
    French Broad
    Fruition
    Goodnow Farms
    Hogarth
    Letterpress
    Luisa Abram
    Madre
    Manoa
    Map
    Marana
    Marou
    Maverick
    Michel Cluizel
    Mirzam
    Original Beans
    Patric
    Pralus
    Pump Street
    Qantu
    Raaka
    Ritual
    Rogue
    Smooth Chocolator
    Soma
    WM Chocolate
    Woodblock
    Xocolatl

    Reply
    • Vick 2 months ago

      Jesus man, maybe you should be writing the article.😂😂😂😂

      Reply
      • Anubhaba 2 months ago

        Yes lol

        Reply
  15. KL 4 months ago

    Please give Madre chocolate a try. Organic and made in Hawaii of local ingredients.

    Reply
  16. Barb 4 months ago

    DickTaylor Craft Chocolate in Eureka, Ca

    Reply
  17. Surjit Prewal 4 months ago

    Is there any place or where i can see or get verification of Healthy Chocolate Certification Claim, Registered Patterned Trademark by USFDA or any other Gov’t,

    Reply
    • Pat bowman 3 months ago

      Yes, that’s a very important question.
      I’m being searching for the best before our company start making edibles with chocolate.
      We desire the very best

      T

      Reply
  18. SURJIT Prewal 4 months ago

    It’s interesting to know what process different manufacturers use to produce and make their own claims.

    Reply
  19. Karen 4 months ago

    What about Landmark Confections made in Poland?

    Reply
  20. Tod Shields 4 months ago

    I don’t see RUSSELL STOVERS mentioned.
    Commment?

    Reply