Your Complete Guide To Vegan Chocolates

Your Complete Guide To Vegan Chocolates

Published by Chocolatier Jason Vishnefske on 13th Feb 2023

For the past 5,300 years, cacao has been enjoyed by humans. Throughout these years it has been used as currency, a status symbol, and comforting food. What chocolate was 1,000 years ago is very different from what we have today. In Western culture, J.S. Fry & Sons of England made the first chocolate bar molded as a rectangular thin shape using a metal mold1847.

In the New World, Mesoamericans had been molding chocolate with their hands into long cigar shapes and also small circular mounds - easy-to-use shapes for making drinking chocolate or eating plain. The Incas, whose empire stretched along the coast of Peru all the way 2,000 miles to the inland Amazon, were likely the first people to mold chocolate. These first molded pieces were as small ingots for easy transit along the paths from cocoa growing areas to the spiritual capital city of Machu Picchu high in the Andes mountains and the political capital in Cusco. These small hand-formed cacao bricks (ingots) were carried in backpacks on both human and llama caravans.

Today the most famous chocolate varieties being sold all over the world are not usually vegan but there is a trend toward plant base confections. Some of the top selling brands are making adjustments to recipes so they can offer vegetarian plant base chocolates. Top brands working toward satisfying this growing trend include the great tasting crunchy hazelnut Rocher by Ferrero with premium Belgium chocolate maker Guylian, and luxury chocolate bar producer Lindt & Sprungli. These brands are recognizing the importance of vegetarianism and they are introducing plant based chocolates all over the world. This plant based chocolate trend is expected to continue with vegetarianism becoming more popular than ever. Here in California most chocolate consumers want plant based desserts and ask for these confections specifically. We love the fact that our company, Santa Barbara Chocolate, a specialty chocolate supplier in the USA, makes premium plant based chocolate ingredients with most of them being certified vegan.

Vegan and vegetarian food is becoming more popular and as a result, vegan chocolates are becoming more popular. The global vegan chocolate market will likely hit sales of US$ 4.0 billion by 2032.

What is Vegan Chocolate?

Vegan chocolate is made from ingredients that are not coming from animals. Ingredients like milk, butter, and eggs are not used in vegan chocolates. In the USA and specifically California, vegan chocolates are being reviewed to ensure that they do not contain traces of milk. Even though chocolate may not have milk as an ingredient, if the chocolate is made on shared equipment it might contain traces of milk. The State of California along with the state of New York have been working on legislation to ensure the definition of vegan chocolate means it will have less than 5 parts per million of dairy in a kilogram (2.2 pounds). This by the nature of the test parameters means vegan chocolate will likely have to be produced on dedicated equipment that has never processed or handled dairy ingredients.

Many top brands have started marketing that their chocolate is vegan, but it is likely vegetarian and not actually vegan. If not mentioned on the chocolate wrapper, you need to have a look at the ingredient list. Avoid chocolates with animal-based ingredients if you seek vegan foods. Vegetarian chocolate will not have animal ingredients (but may have been made on equipment that processes milk and will contain milk traces) while real vegan chocolate will not have animal ingredients and will also have passed proper testing to ensure no milk traces.

Chocolate bars generally have fewer ingredients than truffles or complex chocolate recipes like pastries. Hence bars are most likely to be vegetarian and if also vegan will likely advertise this mark of quality. High-quality dark chocolates marketed as vegetarian or vegan will be made from premium cacao and likely have a cocoa content of over 60%. Some of these premium chocolates will really be vegan. To verify, it is important to know your source and to ask if the manufacturer tests for milk traces. Vegan chocolates will typically be dark although there is the new popular category of vegan milk chocolate, which is dark chocolate with the inclusion of a non dairy milk like oat milk or rice milk. Again be sure to check to see if the chocolate is really vegan (no milk traces) or if it is vegetarian (containing trace milk particles due to the shared manufacturing equipment).

Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?

Generally speaking the answer is yes. We have already mentioned above that certain high-quality dark chocolates can be vegan, but the ingredients and how the chocolate is made will determine the true vegan nature.

How Can You Tell If Dark Chocolate Is Vegan?

If you have plans to choose vegan food and want to know whether or not your favorite dark chocolate is vegan, the easiest way to confirm is to check the ingredients label. Pay attention to the ingredient lists and also make sure that the dark chocolate does not have a milk or dairy allergen list even if the allergens are not listed as an actual ingredient (there can be traces of milk even still not listed as an ingredient).

Other than this, there are a few more factors that will decide whether or not the chocolate you’re eating is vegan or not.

For instance, sugar. Yes, the sugar used in dark chocolate plays a crucial role. As long as normal beet or cane sugar is used with high-quality cacao, don’t worry! You can go for that organic vegan dark chocolate without fail.

The problem is – Many dark chocolates are expensive, yet these same chocolates can be made by manufacturers that use low-quality sugar filtered through bone char. Yes this is correct, the sugar is made using charred bones for filtration. Clearly, it’s an animal product as a result. Thus, such dark chocolate could be organic and dairy-free, but not vegan.

Also check to see if there is any type of oil used. Palm oil is not used in high-quality vegan dark chocolates typically. Even though palm oil is thought of as vegan since it has no animal product ingredient, many don’t consider it a vegan ingredient as its production often creates a negative impact on the environment. The palm oil industry has been seen as making animals' lives very difficult. Have you ever seen the video of the orangutan living in the last natural forest tree cut down? The natural trees were cut down for replanting of palms for palm oil cultivation.

Where can I buy Vegan Chocolate?

For quality vegan chocolates, the best place we think is the SantaBarbaraChocolate.

Made from premium-grade ingredients and by seasoned experts, vegan dark chocolate from the house of SantaBarbaraChocolate is perfect for every vegan lover.

Our brand offers a wide range of couvertures that will please the vegan chocolate lover. The unforgettable taste of our chocolate comes from the premium-grade vegan ingredients that we hand-pick and audit for safety and quality.

Organic, Pareve and responsibly sourced ingredients make the vegan Santa Barbara Chocolate stellar.

What Makes Vegan Chocolates Special?

Gluten-free premium blended ingredients, a texture that melts in your mouth, top grade Criollo cacao are the secret to extra fine quality.

Different Ingredients Overview: What’s Used For Vegan Chocolates

Since you’re interested in vegan dark chocolates, knowing the ingredients is important. Some of the most common ingredients for making dark chocolate that you can use also, are:

  • Cacao paste is pure ground cacao mass in solid form. Generally, it’s offered in buttons or discs. Opt for organic and vegan versions.
  • Cacao butter is the fat that is derived from cacao beans. This is also available in the form of solid blocks and buttons.
  • Powdered confectionery grade sugar, cane sugar, or coconut sugar is what you need to give your dark chocolate a smooth sweetness. Grind (mill) sugars like coconut sugar to form a smooth powder before you use it in making bulk chocolates.
  • Coconut milk powder should be of premium quality if you want a vegan milk option.
  • Vanilla can give your chocolate fragrance, and only real vanilla pods should be used in making high-quality dark chocolate. If you are making the chocolate from scratch using cocoa mass as a base, avoid using vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste as it will add moisture to your chocolate making it thick.
  • Sea salt can be added to dark chocolate as it can enhance the taste. Used in extreme moderation it can showcase the cacao flavor and balances it with the sweetness of added cane sugar.

Different Ways For Making Dairy-Free Vegan Chocolate At Home

Want to try your hand at vegan chocolate making? We can help you with this quick ‘Vegan Chocolate Making At Home’ guide.

Method 1: Using Unsweetened Chocolate: aka Cacao Liquor (Cacao Paste)

Add cacao paste to a large bowl (use 60% by weight of the total recipe). Ensure you’re using a heat-resistant bowl in the double boiler. Set up the double boiler over low heat to melt the cacao paste. Let only indirect heat melt the ingredient not higher than 50ºC.

Once the cacao paste (unsweetened chocolate) is fully melted, add finely ground cane sugar (special confectioner’s sugar - about 40% by recipe weight) and whisk until the sugar mixes well with the chocolate. Add coconut powder milk (if wanting a version), vanilla, and salt - if thick fluidity results add some cocoa butter (add around 3% of recipe weight on top of everything else you’ve added) to thin the mixture Mix once again.

Take the bowl from the top of the water bath and place a thermometer in the fully melted mixture.

Place the bowl on ice water and stir the mixture vigorously until the temperature drops to 277°C. Once at that temperature, take the melted mixture and place it briefly atop the warm water bath from the double boiler and slightly heat up to 30ºC to make it more fluid and easy to work. Remove promptly from the warm water bath and pour into molds. Put the molds in the fridge for 20 minutes. Your chocolate is ready to pop from the molds to eat after the 20 minute cool down has passed.

Method 2: Using Cacao Nibs

In this recipe, we will use cacao nibs (about 60% of recipe weight) in place of cacao liquor and will make cacao paste. Even though this requires more effort, it’s worth a shot as the chocolate will be an interesting tasting experience. To make cacao paste from cacao nibs, you need to grind (use a high speed blender) them and form a thick paste - keep grinding to make paste or fluid like (machinery is typically used but it can be done by hand).

The rest of the steps are the same as above in Method 1.

Expert Advice on Making The Best Vegan Chocolates from Scratch

Don’t want to mess up your first-ever chocolate making attempt? Keep these tips in your mind.

  • Keep all the ingredients and equipment ready beforehand. Running here and there for cocoa paste (, cocoa mass), or a grinder or blender in between will only create chaos.
  • Make sure you’re sticking to cocoa fats and avoiding water/steam or liquids of all sorts while making your own style of vegan sugar-free chocolate (don't use liquid sugar free syrups) and sugar chocolate (don’t use cane sugar syrup or invert sugar). Liquids will make your chocolate lackluster and thick like glue.
  • Don’t use thick large crystal granular sugar, while making chocolate unless it is extremely finely ground without additives / fillers. Large crystals, liquid sweeteners, agave syrup or sugar syrups will make your chocolate excessively thick and difficult to work with in the bowl.
  • Cacao powder can be used but instead, try cacao paste or cacao nibs for exotic flavors. Cacao nibs contain both cacao solids and butter just like the cacao paste. Cacao powder has had the butter pressed mostly out.

Storage Instruction & Required Equipment

Quality vegan dark chocolates are made from quality ingredients. How you store them and protect the quality of chocolates also makes a lot of sense here. Hence, we strongly recommend carefully removing the chocolates from the molds and wrapping them in parchment baking paper. Always place them in an airtight container. For long term shelf stability result, you can also put them in the fridge.

As you plan to make chocolates, make sure that equipment like a candy thermometer, high-speed blender (cocoa nib grinding), and silicone chocolate molds or polycarbonate molds are by your side. And if you want authentic vegan chocolates prepared by experts, please consider buying them directly from the top wholesaler in the domain, Santa Barbara Chocolate.