Dark chocolate is a healthy sweet treat that's been linked to numerous health benefits, from reduced blood pressure to better memory. But if you've ditched dairy or are following a 100 percent vegan diet, finding a bar you can eat can be tricky.
Although dark chocolate generally doesn't contain milk, it might be made with anhydrous milk fat (created from butter or cream), or include other ingredients derived from dairy products.
There are plenty of vegan-friendly chocolate bars out there, though, and we selected five of our favorites here. All fall under the category of 'raw chocolate,' meaning the cacao beans are minimally processed at low temperatures to keep the beneficial enzymes and antioxidants intact. They are also all free from refined sugar and 100 percent natural.
Essentials Bar - Mint, $2.99 (1.1 oz)
www.rawguru.com/store; tel: 800-518-0727
USDA-certified organic, fair trade, and free of refined sugar, this chocolate bar is a luxurious combination of Peruvian raw cacao nibs, cacao butter and coconut sugar (70 percent minimum cacao solids), stone ground at low temperatures and infused with mint essential oil. Rawmio also makes pure chocolate and orange-flavored Essential Bars, as well as Chocolate Bark, Chocolate Hearts and chocolate-covered fruit and nuts that meet the same rigorous quality and ethical standards.
To the extreme
Organic Raw Chocolate Bar, Extra Dark Extreme 93%, $59.80 (20 bars, 1.1 oz each )
Italian chocolatier Vivoo (Italian for 'alive') has a mission to produce raw chocolate "packed with the vital force of nature." The Balinese Criollo cacao used in all their chocolate is known for its complex flavor, with notes of caramel and vanilla. This extra-potent bar, with 93 percent cocoa solids, is great for people without much of a sweet tooth who want to appreciate the flavor of natural chocolate at its best, enhanced with only coconut-blossom sugar, known for its low glycemic index, which removes any hint of bitterness.
Wild and Alive
Ebonyzer, $2.99 (0.85 oz)
This silky smooth bar containing 70 percent cacao solids is made with raw, stone-ground cacao paste, cacao butter combined with evaporated coconut blossom nectar and a hint of salt that really enhances the flavor. Like all Wild and Alive products, this chocolate bar is vegan and certified organic. The other bars contain scrumptious fillings like activated nuts, cinnamon, ginger and goji berries.
Cacao & Goji Truffle Bar, $5.99 (2.3 oz)
www.righteouslyrawchocolate.com; tel: 760-734-1867
This decadent bar consists of 90 percent raw cacao, sweetened with raw agave nectar and poured over a rich truffle center of antioxidant-rich goji berries, used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to improve the immune system, circulation and eyesight. All chocolate made by California-based company Righteously Raw is produced from raw, ethically sourced ingredients, certified as organic and non-GMO. The innovative 'superfood' range also includes Acai, Rose and Maca flavors. Like all the products here, it's also vegan and free from gluten, soy and refined sugar.
Sweet and simple
Raw 85% Organic Chocolate, $8 (1.76 oz)
Pacari chocolate bars are all organic, free from gluten and refined sugar, and ethically produced "from tree to bar" in Ecuador. The company's raw chocolate products come in many shapes and sizes, from raw chocolate-covered banana bites to the pure chocolate '101% Bar' containing only cacao and nibs with no sweetening whatsoever. We're fans of this delicious '85% Bar,' made with just two ingredients: cacao (butter and powder; a minimum of 85 percent) and coconut sugar.