In a word, yes! Some of the best chocolate in the world is vegan. Surprised? It’s one of the food industry’s best kept secrets. We say vegan chocolate, but it isn’t usually marketed that way, probably because it is one of those “accidental vegan foods.”
In certain forms chocolate is vegan, but if that is a concern for you then you need to read your labels.
Generally speaking, the higher quality chocolate will have pure ingredients, a higher content of chocolate, and is free of additives. Lower quality chocolate, on the other hand, is stuffed with food starch and other cheap fillers as well as artificial flavoring. This can include dairy based ingredients like milk fat, milk solids, or milk. This is true for not only milk chocolate but dark chocolate as well.
How Chocolate is Made – It Starts with a Bean
Actually, it’s a seed. You may have heard about “cacao beans” but in reality, it is the seed of the cacao tree. Now to get these seeds from the tree to your favorite chocolate bar, there is a bit of a process. The beans are bitter right off the tree, so they have to go through a fermentation process in order for the flavor to develop. This can take up to eight days and it gives the bean its chocolatey flavor, richness, and body.
Some parts of Central America and Mexico use unfermented cacao for local traditional dishes. However, in the United States the majority of chocolate sold comes from fermented cacao beans.
Once they are fermented, the beans are cleaned, dried, roasted, and the shell is removed. This leaves cacao nibs which are ground for either pure chocolate or cocoa mass (typically a liquid called chocolate liquor). It is the cocoa mass that is usually combined with other ingredients to create the chocolate bars you find on store shelves.
The chocolate liquor may also be processed to produce cocoa butter and cocoa solids.
Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?
Dark chocolate is typically a dairy free chocolate made with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Still, you should read the label if you are looking for vegan chocolate. Some brands and types of even dark chocolate can contain milk, butter fat, milk fat, or whey.
Milk chocolate does not contain the same ingredients as dark chocolate in most cases. Dark chocolate is usually devoid of any milk or dairy products. This is not to say that some milk chocolate can be dairy free, but for the most part, dark chocolate is the vegan chocolate and milk chocolate is not.
Chocolate ingredients to avoid if you want vegan chocolate:
- Milk fat
- Butter fat
- Whole milk powder
- Condensed milk
There are other alternatives as well. Several brands are introducing dairy free chocolate, even dairy free milk chocolate made with coconut milk. The good news is, it’s all right there on the label.
How do You Know it’s Truly Vegan?
Any chocolate that does not have animal products in its ingredient list is a vegan chocolate. With that said, identifying vegan chocolate may be a bit tricky.
Milk is considered an allergen so by law manufacturers have to include any milk products in their ingredient list, even if it is just a tiny bit. You may also see the “may contain” statement on your vegan chocolate, indicating that is may contain milk.
What this statement means is that at some point in the processing there is a possibility that the product may have been in contact with the allergen that is noted on the warning – in this case, milk. Even if milk in anywhere in the vicinity of where the chocolate is produced, the label still has to be included. Often this means that products containing milk are produced in the same factory or area. It does not necessarily mean that dairy is in it, but a warning that the risk exists.
Some of the language of “may contain” statements include:
- May contain…
- Manufactured in the same facility as products containing…
- Produced in the same facility as…
- Made on shared equipment with…
- May contain traces of…
There are also many different names for milk based ingredients. Take a closer look at chocolate with ingredients that include custard, nougat, pudding, and caramel flavoring. Even some natural flavoring may contain dairy.
No Milk Milk Chocolate
Dairy free chocolate, even “milk” chocolate, is available. While dark chocolate is “accidentally” vegan (for the most part), there are intentional vegan chocolate options. Brands are coming to understand that more people are moving away from dairy and choosing plan-based. This has opened the door for the creating of plant-based chocolate.
When you think of milk chocolate you think of its sweet creaminess, so how is that achieved if they remove the dairy? It’s simple. They replace the dairy-based ingredient with a plant-based ingredient like oat milk or coconut milk. This allows you to have the milk chocolate experience without the milk. It is actually richer and creamier with fewer ingredients – all of which you can pronounce.
Dairy free chocolate is a healthier option that supports a vegan lifestyle. Whether you are avoiding dairy due to allergies or because you are vegan, these plant-based chocolates are a delicious alternative. You won’t even miss the milk!
Where to Buy Vegan Chocolate
Vegan chocolate is available in some health food stores but it can be difficult to find. There are online retailers that will ship your dairy free chocolate right to your door. The key is to make sure you are getting the highest quality vegan chocolate that is truly dairy free.
SuperMajor Snacks has an exciting line of plant-based milk chocolate. Our oat milk chocolate bars and snacks are not only totally vegan, they are better for you. The oat milk adds a special creaminess that makes it comparable or even better than regular milk chocolate bars.
If you are looking for high quality vegan chocolate, give us a try. Browse our line of vegan chocolate bars and snacks, try a few, and discover just how delicious dairy free chocolate can be.