While milk chocolate is obviously not vegan as it’s made with dairy products, one can wonder if dark chocolate is vegan. What’s the difference between milk and dark chocolate?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple. Most dark chocolate bars are not vegan since they contain dairy products, but keep reading to learn more – no animal-based ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean vegan.
What is Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate is a form of chocolate that has a darker color than milk chocolate. That’s about as much as the chocolate industry managed to agree on as a definition.
Unfortunately, there’s no international standard on what constitutes dark chocolate, and as a result, the recipes used to make it vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next.
Dark chocolate is commonly made with cocoa butter, cocoa solids (roasted nibs or cacao powder) and can then contain sugar, milk, butter, nuts, etc.
Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?
Since there’s no agreed definition on what ingredients should be in the recipe for dark chocolate, the answer is not as simple as saying that all milk chocolates aren’t vegan and all dark chocolates are.
In fact, the vast majority of dark chocolates use milk solids, making them not vegan.
But a few brands are making openly vegan dark chocolate, and some make accidentally-vegan dark chocolate.
Always read the label to find any non-vegan
Accidentally Plant-Based Dark Chocolates
The following chocolate slabs are accidentally plant-based.
- Cadbury Bournville
- ChocZero Dark Chocolate
- Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense (72% Cacao and up)
- Lindt Excellence (70% Cacao and up)
- Divine Dark Chocolate
- Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao Belgian Dark Chocolate
However, plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean vegan.
Should I Worry About Traces Of Milk?
A factor to consider is that most dark chocolates are produced on the same manufacturing line as milk chocolate. As a result, it is almost always potentially contaminated by traces of milk and/or honey.
This is often a reason why manufacturers don’t put the Vegan or Vegan-friendly stamp on their products.
Now, this is a debated topic among vegans. Should we care about potential traces?
We’ve decided not to care about that. As for us, it still means the products we consume haven’t been directly harming any animals. However, it does mean that we are, in a way, supporting a business that does.
But veganism is about reducing as much as possible the harm to animals, and having large companies making an effort to make animal-free products is a step in that direction and as a greater benefit.
Chocolate Production & Ethics
The other factor to take into consideration is whether the chocolate is produced ethically.
Have you ever wondered why so many manufacturers mention that their chocolate is ethically sourced, fair-trade, or rainforest-alliance certified?
This is because the cacao industry has a pretty appalling track record:
- Contribution to deforestation and unsustainable production (source)
- Using of child labor (source)
- Unethical treatment of cacao producers (source)
- Corruption (source)
So, can dark chocolate be vegan?
The majority of dark chocolates are not plant-based. The majority of dark chocolates are not ethically and sustainably sourced.
True vegan chocolate brands are at the intersection: Ethical, Sustainable, and Plant-Based.
Here are some of the brands making a real effort:
- Hu Kitchen (Simple Dark Chocolate)
- Theo Chocolate (Dark Chocolate)
- Endangered Species Chocolate Extreme Dark, Dark Almond
- Taza Chocolate: All Versions
- Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate
- Green & Blacks
These brands are made with good cacao beans, sourced and manufactured ethically, and contain no animal products.
They are a treat that can be enjoyed!
How To Spot Non-Plant-Based Ingredients In Dark Chocolate?
Most dark chocolate bars found in stores contain animal-derived ingredients.
You’ll find on the label them under the following names in the ingredient list:
- Milk Solids
- Milk Fat or Milkfat
- Milk Powder
More rarely, you might also find the following animal products on the list of ingredients, in particular for dark chocolate with additional toppings like toffee, coffee, nougat, etc.
The following ingredients are generally vegan-friendly:
- Cocoa Powder
- Cocoa Beans
- Sea Salt
- Coconut Sugar
- Soy Lecithin
- Shredded Coconut
- Natural Flavors (though you should worry if chocolate needs flavors to taste good)
Is Milk Chocolate Vegan?
Milk chocolate is almost certainly not vegan. Some milk chocolates are made with plant-based milk, but the vast majority are made with milk.
Is White Chocolate Vegan?
The base recipe for White Chocolate contains Cocoa Butter (which is often vegan), soy lecithin, sugar, sometimes vanilla, and almost universally, milk solids.
As a result, unless it’s specifically labeled vegan, white chocolate is not a plant-based chocolate.
My favorite Vegan Chocolate Recipes
If you like dark chocolate, you’ll love these vegan recipes with chocolate!