Is Chocolate Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vegan Chocolate

Most chocolate contains dairy, but there are plenty of vegan varieties available.

Close up of Belgian milk chocolate
Diana Miller / Getty Images

Chocolate is a vast category. From bars and bonbons to cakes, frozen desserts, drinks, and sauces, you can get your chocolate fix in any number of ways. Traditional chocolates are usually non-vegan because they contain some amount of milk.

Fortunately for vegans, the advent of dairy-free milks—such as soy, coconut, cashew, and almond milks—has sparked new ideas in the minds of artisanal chocolate producers. While we've got a ways to go before vegan chocolate takes the world by storm, it is much more prevalent than ever before.

Here, we explore the sweet, sweet world of plant-based chocolate products.

Why Is Chocolate Not Vegan?

Many of the most popular candy bars use milk chocolate, which (as expected) contains dairy and therefore is not vegan.

There are three common types of chocolate—milk, white, and dark. White chocolate has more milk than cocoa in its recipe. In fact, white chocolate is technically not chocolate at all; its recipe typically consists of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products or solids, vanilla, and lecithin for texture.

Many dark chocolates also contain milk, milk solids, or milk fat, but in a smaller amount than white chocolate. If a dark chocolate bar is labeled 70% cocoa (or an even higher percentage, meaning it's extra dark and bitter-tasting), it is probably still not dairy-free. You can double-check on the ingredients list.

Chocolate Categories

Beyond white and dark chocolate, candy bars and boxed truffles, there are types used for cooking and baking, as well as beverage mixes and condiments. While most of these have dairy components, new products made with milk alternatives are available.

  • Baking Chocolate: This unsweetened, bitter chocolate is made from pure chocolate liquor, or ground cocoa beans, and is intended to be used as a raw ingredient for baking and blended with other ingredients.
  • Semisweet Chocolate: Most often used to make chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate is another baking variety.
  • Ruby Chocolate: This variety is made from ruby cocoa beans grown in Ecuador and Brazil that have a naturally rosy color. While it is said to have a flavor profile blending white chocolate and berries, there is no fruit in the recipe.
  • Couverture: Available in milk, white, and dark varieties, this is a pricy "ingredient" chocolate often used in pastry and candy making. It contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter than other types.
  • Raw Chocolate: Raw chocolate usually has not been processed, heated, or mixed with other ingredients, which means it is often vegan.
  • Modeling Chocolate: A paste made from melted chocolate combined with a sugar or corn syrup used for decorating cakes and pastries.
  • Cocoa Powder: It is the foundation for "hot chocolate" drinks as well as many recipes for baked pastries and sweets. However, varieties with added milk powders and solids make it not vegan.

When Is Chocolate Vegan?

There are plenty of "accidentally vegan" chocolate candies and bars that do not contain any milk products. Similarly, more people have cultivated a taste for bittersweet dark chocolate and are willing to pay a little extra for products made more sustainably and without harm to animals.

Look for a "dairy-free" label the next time you're shopping for chocolates. If there isn't a dairy-free label, check the ingredients list and avoid any products that contain milk in any form.

Treehugger Tip

How the sugar in chocolate is processed also factors into its vegan status. You may want to dig a little deeper if your chocolate of choice seems vegan but isn't labeled or certified as such.

Vegan Chocolate Products

Several popular and artisanal chocolate brands have products on the market made with almond, oat, cashew, or coconut milk. While some of these products are accidentally vegan, others were made with plant-based chocolate lovers in mind.

  • Taza Almond Milk Quinoa Crunch Chocolate Bar
  • No Whey! Milkless Chocolate Bar
  • Alter Eco Raspberry Blackout
  • Endangered Species Oat Milk Rice Crisp and Dark Chocolate Bar
  • Trader Joe's Almond Beverage Chocolate Bar
  • Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
  • Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lover’s Bar
  • Lake Champlain Chocolate Truffle Boxes
  • Theo Dark Chocolate Sea Salt
  • Theo Dark Chocolate Mint
  • Theo Vanilla Cocoa Nib
  • Lily's Intensely Dark Chocolate
  • John Kelly Dark Chocolate Habanero & Jalapeño Bar
  • Endangered Species Premium Oat Milk and Dark Chocolate Baking Chips
  • Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Mini Chips
  • Nutiva Organic Vegan Hazelnut Spread
  • Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter 
  • Amoretti’s Vegan Hazelnut Chocolate Spread 
  • Vego Fine Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What bars of chocolate are vegan?

    From Trader Joe's to Justin's, there are plenty of brands that carry vegan chocolate bars. Look out for chocolates that are labeled "dairy-free" or "vegan."

  • Is Hershey's chocolate vegan?

    The majority of Hershey's chocolate is not vegan. However, Hershey did come out with Oat Made bars in 2021 that are completely plant-based.

  • Is Nutella vegan?

    Nutella is not vegan because it contains skimmed milk powder. Other hazelnut chocolate spreads might be dairy-free, however.