Let’s be honest with ourselves, we all love a little bit of chocolate every now and then. That sweet, creamy, delicious taste all crammed into one sweet treat! You just can’t beat it! As a vegan, you can find it easy to give up some foods, but a little more trying to give up your favorites. For many vegans chocolate is one of the things that they struggle to give up, or miss the most.
Luckily, with the surge of veganism soaring across the world, there are now more vegan alternatives than ever before, and there are many vegan chocolates that you can enjoy. Leading a vegan lifestyle can be difficult at first, and you may be left wondering which foods are suitable for a vegan lifestyle, and which are not 100% vegan friendly.
One of the biggest questions we get asked is: is chocolate vegan? Whilst chocolate is made mainly of cocoa beans, which are derived from a plant, you may be thinking that chocolate is actually vegan. Luckily for you, we have all of the facts, to help you uncover whether chocolate is 100% vegan or not.
What is chocolate?
The best way to discover whether something is vegan or not is to dive deep into what it actually is, and how it is made. Chocolate is described as a food that is made in a solid block from roasted and ground cacao seeds, typically sweetened and enjoyed as confectionary.
This means that chocolate is made mostly from a plant based product, cocoa, which is actually vegan. In most cases, the base ingredient for chocolate will be derived from the cacao plant, or the cocoa tree as we call it. The cocoa tree is generally native to tropical locations such as America, West Africa or even Asia. Seeing as this is grown from a tree, the cocoa part of chocolate’s ingredient list is thus far vegan.
However, there is the addition of sweeteners, which may not necessarily be vegan friendly. These sweeteners are most commonly milk or milk derivatives, which are derived from an animal, and will not be suitable for a vegan.
Is chocolate vegan?
With its ingredient list in mind, you may be still wondering, is chocolate vegan? The answer to this question is not so black and white as you may have thought. There are so many different types of chocolates available, so you would have to check the specific ingredient list and processes of the chocolate to know whether it is 100% suitable for a vegan.
That being said, if a chocolate is made with cocoa beans and pure ingredients with no animal derived ingredients, then it would be considered vegan. However, if there is milk, egg or other dairy products, then the chocolate would not be vegan friendly.
What makes chocolate non vegan?
The main ingredient that you will have to watch out for is milk, as this would make any chocolate non vegan. Milk is the most common addition in chocolate, and even though there are milk, dark and white chocolate options, sometimes all three will include milk in their ingredient list somewhere.
In most mass produced chocolate, milk is one of the most prevalent ingredients that you should watch out for. With this in mind, all milk chocolate will be non vegan unless specifically stated, where a milk alternative is used.
Unfortunately, just watching out for milk on the ingredient list is not enough for a chocolate to be considered vegan. Many other chocolate companies will also use milk derivatives in their products as fillers, sweeteners or added ingredients to make the chocolate taste better. These milk derivatives are also dairy products, and so will also make the chocolate non vegan. The main ones to watch out for are:
- Milk solids
- Milk fat
- Milk powder
- Whey powder
In addition to milk, you will want to check your chocolate’s ingredient list for egg products too. Many chocolate manufacturers will use an ingredient called lecithin, which is often utilized as a cheap filler. Lecithin will also reduce the viscosity of the chocolate, melt better and help the chocolate flow, stopping the sugar from crystallizing.
Whilst most lecithin is considered vegan and is made from soy, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, most of the commercially available lecithin comes from eggs. This would make the lecithin in your chocolate animal derived, and therefore not vegan.
As chocolate is one of the best sweet treats, you can expect to find a lot of sugar in it. Many chocolates will contain one type of sugar in the ingredients, and sugar typically is not an issue if you want to stay vegan. That being said, some refined sugars are made by bleaching the sugar will charred animal bones...so you will have to make sure that the sugar used is not refined, or check online with the manufacturer to see if it is made in this way.
There are so many different types of chocolate bars out there, from caramel to honeycomb to cookie crunch. With this in mind, you should always be mindful of the flavor chocolate that you choose as this can make your favorite chocolate non vegan. Flavors such as fruit and nut do not pose as much of an issue, but flavors such as biscuits, fudge and caramel are sure to contain some form of butter, which would make them non vegan.
Although, some flavored chocolates can still be vegan, and would be made with butter alternatives or synthetic butters, so it is best if you check for a vegan certification, or read the ingredient list thoroughly before purchasing.
Some chocolates can also contain cocoa butter. Although it says butter, it is not actually made from a dairy product, and is in fact 100% plant derived, from the cocoa bean itself. So, if you see cocoa butter on the ingredient list, do not worry, this is usually a good thing as the more cocoa butter, the less room there is for non vegan fillers and additives in your chocolate.
You may even notice that some chocolates contain bacon! It is honestly crazy how much popular culture loves bacon, and will literally put it on anything! Yes, that means bacon is sometimes found in chocolate. With this in mind, we would just like to warn you to always check the ingredients listed on the packaging, and search for that little V that certifies your chocolate as vegan, just to be on the safeside!
Vegan friendly chocolates
It’s not all doom and gloom, and there is a silver lining. You do not have to avoid chocolate all together, as there are many vegan friendly chocolates that you can choose from. Most of these however are dark chocolate, as there is more pure cocoa in the ingredients, whilst the other option is vegan ‘milk’ chocolate made with vegan substitutes.
Most vegan chocolate options are dark chocolate because good quality dark chocolate can be made with 100% cocoa solids, and so there is no need for other non vegan filler ingredients.
However, dark chocolate is an acquired taste for some people, as it is much more bitter and less sweet than regular chocolate. In addition, dark chocolate needs much less sugar so there is no risk of refined sugar, or non vegan ingredients added into the mix.
This is why most dark chocolates are inadvertently vegan, and you do not have to worry too much about the ingredients in good, quality dark chocolate. However, you still need to be wary of lecithin or milk derivatives in many major brands. That being said, most quality dark chocolate brands are naturally vegan, and so if you are a fan of the flavor, then you shouldn't have to worry about whether your favorite chocolate is vegan or not.
On the other hand, you may purchase ‘milk’ flavored chocolate that is vegan, as these are made with vegan substitutes and milk alternatives. Luckily, many brands do offer vegan options when it comes to their chocolates.
Best vegan chocolates
Luckily, there are many chocolate alternatives that you can choose from if you still want to enjoy your favorite sweet treat, guilt free. We have gathered some of the best vegan chocolates that are currently available on the market.
Hu Chocolate Bars Simple Chocolate
One of the best vegan chocolates that you can get is the Hu Chocolate Simple Chocolate. This chocolate is completely 100% vegan, and tastes absolutely delicious.
UNREAL Vegan Variety Chocolates
UNREAL also offers vegan chocolates and candy in many different varieties that you can choose from.
No Whey Foods Choco No No’s
If you used to love M&M’s then the No Whey Choco No No’s are perfect for you! They are peanut free, dairy free, soy free, gluten free and vegan!
No Whey Foods Choco Covered Pretzels
No Whey also makes tasty chocolate covered pretzels that are 100% vegan friendly!
Pea Not Cups
Don’t ever miss out on Peanut Butter Cups again, with No Whey foods, you can enjoy the taste of a Peanut Butter Cup without the butter, milk or peanut!