The Economist named 2019 as ‘The Year Of The Vegan’ claiming that “a quarter of 25- to 34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians”. It’s clear that what once may have been seen as a niche trend is now fast becoming mainstream so it makes sense that more and more young people are looking towards animal-friendly alternatives of their favourite snacks.
Those not so willing to make the jump probably have a few foods in mind which they can not live without, and I’m sure for many, chocolate is very high up on that list. However, is chocolate being unfairly branded as something it’s not? Is chocolate vegan?
It’s commonly known that chocolate in it’s purest form is far from naughty. Filled with antioxidants and proven health benefits, opting for bars with high percentages of cacao is considered by many as a healthy alternative to dessert. But chocolate hasn’t been given this reputation as being a treat for no reason. With many mainstream brands filling their bars with a long list of cheaper ingredients, to replace the more expensive cacao beans and cocoa butter – a worrying amount of chocolate contains more milk, sugar and unpronounceable ingredients than actual cacao.
Dark Chocolate IS Vegan Chocolate
Generally speaking, the shorter the list of ingredients, the more cacao flavour, and nutrition is packed inside your bar. A high-quality, dark bar of chocolate comes with three core ingredients; cacao beans, cocoa butter, and sugar. Sounds pretty vegan-friendly, right? If you’re avoiding dairy then you don’t need to look for vegan brands, although some makers will add the certified vegan logo to their packaging. Because dark chocolate is by default, vegan. As long as there is no milk powder or milk derivatives (whey, casein, or lactose) in the ingredients list then you have a bar of vegan chocolate. If you’re choosing an inclusion bar, just make sure there are no animal products added, for example, pieces of shortbread or meringue.
Despite this, you may notice a range of specifically named ‘vegan chocolate’ in your local health store. These are of course, like any other bar of dark chocolate, dairy free. They’re also most likely, more expensive and limited in range – with more thought into the marketing than the origin and quality of the bar. Whilst you might find some great chocolate in this corner of your store, don’t be fooled into paying more than you need to for the luxury of milk free and check out the labels of there other dark bars before making the all-important choice!
Now you might be thinking, that’s all great but I don’t like dark chocolate. In which case I would first say – have you tried a craft bar or dark chocolate? Because when chocolate has been lovingly made by a skilled artisan you won’t find any of those bitter flavours which may have scared you off anything above 70% in the past, and you’ll be surprised at how sweet and creamy a bar of dark chocolate can be.
Still prefer milk chocolate? That’s fine, we love it too! Luckily there’s a whole range of dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolate bars available using a range of alternative milk and many add a whole new dimension of flavour to the bar. Like Chocolate Tree’s vegan coconut milk bar with the dreamy addition of creamy coconut milk. You can also find a wide range of nut milk chocolate bars which are free of dairy or if it is just cows milk you’re skipping, then why not try a sheep or goat milk bar?
It’s important to note that if your avoidance of milk is because of a severe allergy, then you, unfortunately, need to take extra steps to secure absolute certainty. If your chocolate bar is dairy free but made in a factory or kitchen that uses milk then always double check with the maker that it’s safe for serious milk allergies.
I wanted to end this by saying that chocolate really is for everybody and unless you’re allergic to cacao (our thoughts are with you) you’ll be able to find a bar that’s right for you.
Sounding more complicated than chocolate should be? Follow these helpful tips to simplify your shopping experience!
- Milk is an allergen, so most commercially sold food products will pop it in bold and make it extra easy for you to spot. Additionally, ‘contains milk’ should be specified in the allergen statement.
- Avoid: Milk, Whey, Casein, or Lactose.
- Avoid: A cholesterol level greater than 0%, as cholesterol is only found in animal products.
- Although the name may seem misleading, ‘Cacao Butter’ is 100% dairy free and does not contain butter.