But how do you know if dark chocolate is vegan? It all boils down to the intensity of individual dark chocolate products and what ingredients are used to make them.
What Makes Dark Chocolate Vegan?
The base ingredient of any chocolate type is cocoa, which is a naturally vegan product that comes from cocoa beans.
After cocoa beans are processed into raw chocolate, they are roasted and ground into chocolate liquor. Additional ingredients and flavours are then added to create the signature taste and texture of dark chocolate.
Altogether, the main components of dark chocolate are:
- Cocoa solids. The percentage of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is much higher than milk and white chocolate. This determines how dark the chocolate will be, as well as the flavour intensity.
- Cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a type of fat that orchestrates the melting properties of chocolate. Dark chocolate has less cocoa butter than milk and white chocolate, which is why it is less creamy in texture and doesn’t have that “melt-in-the-mouth” feeling like milk chocolate.
- Sugar. To get that rich, bitter taste, dark chocolate contains less sugar than milk and white chocolate. Not all chocolate is made with the same type of sugar – some manufacturers will use brown sugar or white sugar, for example, depending on the taste and texture they want to achieve.
- Subtle aromas and flavours like vanilla may also be added to plain dark chocolate.
With this list of ingredients, dark chocolate is considered vegan. The reason why they may not be labelled as vegan is that some dark chocolate products are produced in the same environment as chocolate containing dairy (like milk chocolate). Even if milk products haven’t been added to dark chocolate on purpose, 'possible traces of milk' would be printed on the packaging as a precaution, in these instances.
When is Dark Chocolate Unsuitable for Vegans?
With its intense chocolate flavour and bitter taste, it’s clear to see why many people believe all dark chocolate is suitable for a vegan diet, however, there are multiple dark chocolate products – chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, chocolate spreads and hot chocolate cocoa powder to name a few - that do contain non-vegan ingredients like milk powder to create a smoother texture.
Some manufacturers may add ingredients like skimmed milk powder, anhydrous milk solids, milk fat, milk emulsifiers and other dairy products to their dark chocolate – those following a vegan lifestyle should look out for these ingredients on the label. Whey, casein, and lactose should also be avoided, as these are all milk derivatives.
Most dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (70 – 100%) won't contain any dairy, as this would take away from the intensified flavour of dark chocolate. Still, it's important to check the product label, especially if dark chocolate is flavoured with caramel, nut, fruit or mint for example. Flavoured bars like these are more likely to contain non-vegan ingredients due to the extra components required to achieve the right taste.
Can Vegans Eat Other Types of Chocolate?
The short answer is, yes!
While many dark chocolate bars are inherently vegan, milk and white chocolate products do contain animal-derived products. But alternative plant-based ingredients like almond paste and oats can be used alongside cocoa butter and cocoa mass to create vegan milk and white chocolate.
We have a range of deliciously decadent, vegan-friendly chocolate here at Lindt. For vegan chocolate lovers, Lindt & Sprüngli's oat-based range of vegan milk chocolate bars are the perfect treat. With a creamy texture and delicious hazelnut and caramel flavours available, our vegan chocolate range is simply irresistible.