Is Dark Chocolate Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vegan Dark Chocolate

While dark chocolate has a "healthy" reputation, it isn't necessarily vegan.

Is Dark chocolate vegan illustration stacks of chocolate bar

Treehugger / Aleksandra Dymochkina / Getty Images

You may have heard that dark chocolate is milk chocolate's healthier counterpart. Or maybe you've assumed that since it doesn't have the word "milk" in it, dark chocolate is free of dairy and vegan-friendly.

The truth? It's all a little bit nuanced. While some dark chocolate products can be vegan, not all are cruelty-free. For this reason, it's important to read ingredient labels and note any certifications before chomping down on a bar of the stuff.

And while some dark chocolate can be vegan on its own, many specialty products will have additives, like maple bacon or honeycomb, so it's in your best interest to not assume.

Still, just because dark chocolate is a little complicated when it comes to being categorized as vegan doesn't mean you have to swear it off. There are plenty of ways to ensure your chocolatey goodness is cruelty-free, so let us show you how.

Treehugger Tip

Consider the brands. While we're brand agnostic when it comes to delicious dark chocolate, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with companies that do vegan dark chocolate right. This way, you can easily pick up a bar (or seven) of your favorite without spending extra time studying the label.

Why Dark Chocolate Is Usually Not Vegan

Chocolate comes from a plant—the cocoa bean—so you'd think it be vegan. But it's not that simple.

Lower-quality dark chocolate, unless stated on its packaging, is rarely vegan because manufacturers tend to add butterfat or artificial colors or flavors. Milk and milk fat are not traditional ingredients in dark chocolate, but they can make their way into the food both intentionally and unintentionally.

Conventional dark chocolate differs from its milky counterpart, but it's not the milk that makes the difference. Dark chocolate gets its richer, more bitter taste from its high concentration of cocoa solids, which are the dry components of cocoa beans used in the chocolate-making process.

While milk chocolate contains 10% to 50% cocoa solids, dark chocolate contains 50% to 90% of the ingredient. High-quality dark chocolate (which tends to be more expensive) shouldn't contain milk, though cross-contamination is possible since milk and dark chocolate are often processed on the same machinery.

Non-Vegan Ingredients in Dark Chocolate

Reading labels is going to be your ticket to finding delicious, vegan dark chocolate. If you spot any of the following listed on the product's packaging, you can assume the chocolate is not vegan.

  • Milk Powder
  • Condensed Milk
  • Anhydrous Milk
  • Milk Fat
  • Natural Flavors (this can be vegan, but it's not cut and dry)

We feel we must mention, because of its popularity, that Hershey's "Special Dark" chocolate bar is not vegan—nor is it truly dark chocolate! The bar contains 45% cocoa and is made with milk and milk fat. (Fortunately, Hershey's does have a new oat-based dark chocolate bar.)

Vegan Ingredients in Dark Chocolate

You'll likely see a couple of the ingredients below listed on the label of your dark chocolate bar. Fortunately, these are all vegan.

  • Cocoa Powder
  • Cocoa Liquor
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice

Signs That Dark Chocolate Is Vegan

There are a few distinguishing signs that a dark chocolate product is vegan, though nothing is as much as a guarantee as reading the ingredients label. You can look for the following:

  • A "Vegan" Label
  • A High Percentage Of Cocoa Solids
  • A High Price Tag

Vegan Dark Chocolate Brands

While it's disappointing that not all dark chocolate is vegan, there's good reason to smile: There are many vegan dark chocolate brands on the market, and the options are only increasing. The following brands and product are quite popular among chocolate lovers:

  • Green and Black's Chocolate
  • Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate
  • Hu
  • Trader Joe's 72% Dark Chocolate
  • Taza Chocolate
  • Alter Eco
  • Choc Zero Ultimate Dark Chocolate
  • Stivii Vegan Dark Chocolate
  • Endangered Species Chocolate
  • 365 Dark Chocolate From Whole Foods
  • Chocolove
  • Newman's Own Dark Chocolate
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is every dark chocolate vegan?

    No, not every dark chocolate product is vegan. Some contain milk products, so you'll have to read the ingredients label to be sure.

  • Does dark chocolate have dairy?

    While dark chocolate should not technically contain dairy, many varieties do. This can be due to cross-contamination during the chocolate-making process. Some companies may use milk as an ingredient; these tend to be lower-quality chocolates that contain more additives.

  • Is all 70% dark chocolate vegan?

    While 70% dark chocolate contains a lot of cocoa solids, not all of it is necessarily vegan. Some 70% bars contain milk, whether it's milk fat, skimmed milk powder, or just plain milk. Even when dark chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa solids, it's still important to read to the label to ensure the food is vegan.