The 7 Sinful Secrets of Vegan Chocolate

vegan chocolate date truffles on a plate

Vegan Chocolate Date Truffles: CC BY-SA 2.0, by Veganbaking.net, via Wikimedia

Why Vegan Chocolate Is Healthier, Tastier… and Why You Can Eat More of It!

You're at an informal party. It's a potluck-style gathering, and the guests are chatting about the various dishes on the table. One in particular catches your eye… a delicious-looking plate of chocolate truffles. Then you see the label: vegan. Great. Who wants vegan chocolate?

But then the other guests start raving about how good it is.

Even your friend who is an avowed meat-eater says these vegan chocolates are “out of this world.” So you give it a try and are transported to another dimension.

No matter your dietary preferences, when it comes to chocolate, vegan really is not only “good”, it's really good.

Vegan chocolate has been a favorite of aficionados for years. In fact, much of the fanciest chocolate is already vegan, it just isn't always marketed that way. If you love rich, high-quality dark chocolate, you may have already eaten some vegan brands without knowing it.

So here's secret number one, right away:

Secret #1: You're almost certainly eating vegan chocolate already!

The best part? This category of chocolate is typically the healthiest for you. So you can eat it knowing that you're staying ahead of the game by sticking with vegan chocolate.

(Or, if you're like us, you snag just one more and call it even.)

What You Don't Know About Vegan Chocolate

vegan chocolate on a cup with strawberry on top

Image: by sidharawat, via Pixabay

There are a few misconceptions about vegan chocolate. The majority of these comes from widespread associations with the label “vegan.”

When we think of vegan food, many of us might think of tofu-based meat substitutes. Maybe salads that don't have eggs or bacon, or plates of vegetables that are definitely not covered in cheese.

In short, “vegan” is often associated with substituting non-meat for meat. Somewhere in the recipe, an ingredient has been taken away or replaced.

But with chocolate, this trend actually goes in the other direction.

Chocolate Is Historically Vegan

Most of the chocolate consumed in the United States is non-vegan today, because it has added milk. But chocolate doesn't need to have any milk in it. And for a long time, it never did.

Chocolate has been around for centuries, and the earliest chocolate lovers ate it without any added dairy at all.

Secret #2: In the beginning, all chocolate was vegan!

raw chocolate chips

Image: CC0, by Mx. Granger, via Wikipedia

It was only in 1875 that Swiss candy-maker Daniel Peter developed milk chocolate. He produced and marketed his new invention with his friend Henri Nestlé, the founder of the now-famous Nestlé Company. Their success led to the popularization of milk chocolate, which is the most common (and obviously non-vegan) variety.

We're Going Dark

Today, about 51% of consumers prefer the sweeter taste of milk chocolate, while just 35% prefer dark.

But chocolate connoisseurs, who are drawn the complex flavors of the cocoa, often gravitate toward dark chocolate, which is predominantly vegan.

Secret #3: Much of the best chocolate is vegan chocolate!

different kinds of chocolate

Image: by Soorelis, via Pixabay

(Oh, and if you're wondering where white chocolate fits into all this…it doesn't. White chocolate, which was invented in the 1930's, lacks cocoa solids and is technically not a chocolate, although it does contain cocoa butter. But white chocolate is rarely vegan as it is almost always made with milk.)

The plus side to all this? If you go for the dark (vegan) variety can have more of it.

Go Ahead, Have Another

vegan chocolate brownie

Image: CC BY 2.0, by Andy Har, via Flickr

Not all dark chocolate is vegan, as some may have added milk-based products after the initial process. But if your chocolate doesn't have milk in it, it usually includes lower levels of fat.

Secret #4: Vegan chocolate is healthier!

Dark chocolate typically contains fewer carbohydrates than milk chocolate, and contains more nutrients. So it's the healthier way to go.

So go on! Have another… we won't tell!

Milk & Dark Chocolate: A Few Quick Facts

As a handy reference, here is a reminder of the main differences between milk chocolate and dark (vegan) chocolate.

vegan chocolate cake drizzle

Image: by skeeze, via Pixabay

  • Contains more cacao (chocolate beans)
  • Contains less sugar
  • Cacao has anti-oxidant flavonoids (which have health benefits)
  • Is typically vegan
  • Contains less cacao
  • Sweeter Flavor (contains more sugar)
  • Fewer health benefits
  • Not vegan
raw white chocolate

Image by caja, via Pixabay

What Is Vegan Chocolate Made Out Of?

cake vegan chocolate

Image: by shokotov, via Pixabay

The three main ingredients in chocolate are usually:

Cocoa Powder
This is the dry ingredient that comes from the tasty tropical cacao beans that are the source for chocolate. The beans are roasted and pressed, which separates out the fat (that's cocoa butter, more on that next!). If the beans are not roasted, this leaves you with raw cacao.

cocoa powder

Image: by thecakeschool, via Pixabay

Cocoa Butter
This is the yellow-colored fat that is produced from the bean. It is used in making dark, milk, and white chocolate

cocoa butter

Image: CC BY 2.0, by Nina Nelson, via Flickr

Sugar
This could be any of a number of types of sweetener, cane sugar or liquid syrup, depending on the recipe. The amount can be adjusted to taste.

sugar on the table

Image: by Pixabay, via Pexels

black forest vegan chocolate

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake, Image: CC BY 2.0, by Vegan Feast Catering, via Wikimedia

So that's it. Cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sweetener. That's all you need to get started. Just three things.

Secret #5: Vegan chocolate is very simple!

After this, you can mix it up. That's where the fun begins, and where you can add your own personal style and preferences to your creations.

There is a lot of variety, but vegan chocolate will often also include:

Vanilla
Just as with non-vegan chocolate, vanilla is a popular additive for its flavor.

Lecithin
Lecithin is used to reduce viscosity and give the chocolate an ideal texture. It is a naturally occurring substance that can be found in animal products or in plants, so although not all lecithin is vegan, you know that it will be plant-based if it is used in vegan chocolate.

Vegan "Milk" Chocolate?

lady enjoying a chocolate bar

Image: by Murilo Folgosi, via Pexels

For those who prefer the sweeter “milk chocolate” style of the treat, there are a number of vegan options on the market. Usually, these rely on some form of dairy substitute. Soy, almond, or hemp milk all can be used to replace dairy (this is also a great option for anyone who has a dairy intolerance).

Secret #6: Vegan “milk” chocolate is a real thing!

(We're just not using milk from animals, in this case.)

Soy Milk

Soy milk was one of the first dairy substitutes to become widely available in the mainstream market. It's originally a by-product of tofu manufacturing. The “milk” (shocker: it's not really milk) comes from the soy bean.

almond and milk

Image: by rawpixel, via Pixabay

Almond Milk

Almond milk gradually gained traction in popular consciousness until it overtook soy as the leading non-dairy milk in 2013. Although soy still is useful in many instances, the flavor of almonds is a popular pairing with coffee, chocolate, and many baked goods.

Hemp Milk

The least prevalent of the three we have listed here, hemp milk is still relatively unknown in many places. It is known among baristas and coffee artists for maintaining its foam shape (thus lending itself to barista art). This non-dairy milk substitute can also be used in making chocolate.

Okay, But Is This Really Good For Me?

chocolate desserts

Image: by pasja1000, via Pixabay

As with most things, the answer is in moderation.

Dark vegan chocolate contains a higher level of cocoa, and lower levels of sugar. That's good news! That's healthier than the alternative.

Still, you still shouldn't go completely overboard, as there typically is at least some sugar in any chocolate confection. So don't consume one bar after another simply because it's vegan!

It's also important for some people to watch their potassium intake. For any readers that may have a sensitivity here, the dark vegan chocolate variety has plenty of potassium, so you'll want to keep an eye on this if it's an issue for you!

But the basic rule is that you can get away with eating a little more vegan chocolate than non-vegan. And if you eat the same amount, you'll be eating better than you would have otherwise.

The recommendation, for those who want an exact figure, is that one shouldn't consume more than two ounces on an average day (birthdays, Halloween parties, and screenings of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” are not average days, and are therefore exempt from this rule.)

Choc It Up! Make Easy,

Delicious Vegan Chocolate at Home

kid stirring chocolate in a pan

Image: by dghchocolatier, via Pixabay

Ok, it's time to get our hands dirty! Or chocolate-y.

The great thing with cooking vegan chocolate at home is that it's really a very simple process. The basic techniques of making chocolate date back to the first brave chefs who discovered the methods hundreds of years ago.

You can also vary it up a little bit down the road, but for starters, let's begin with our basic trio of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar.

small chocolate cake

Image: by DanaTentis, via Pixabay

You will need:

  •  A pot for the stove
  •  A spoon or whisk for mixing the chocolate together
  • Some sort of mold or a container where the chocolate can set
  • Cocoa powder 1/2 cup
  • Cocoa butter 1/2 cup + 1 tb
  • Sugar to taste (2-3 tb is a good place to start with this recipe)

Step One
Put the cocoa butter into the pot. On medium-low heat, melt the cocoa butter.

Step Two
Stir or whisk the cocoa powder into it.

Step Three
Stir or whisk the sugar into the mixture. Continue to stir or whisk until it's an even consistency.

chef stirring and whisking a vegan chocolate

Image: by dghchocolatier, via Pixabay

Once it's evenly mixed, pour the chocolate into your mold, and pop it into the refrigerator until it hardens into a solid shape.

This is a very quick process! The liquid chocolate is already very thick, and it will harden in about 10-15 minutes.

Can't wait to see your creation? If you want to see the finished product even sooner, you can put it in the freezer.

And that's it! Vegan chocolate in just a few minutes. Easy, right?

Too Easy! What's Next?

vegan chocolate cupcakes

Image: by ponce_photography, via Pixabay

A few things to remember about this recipe. First of all, it is great to do with kids. Not just because most kids love chocolate (although that's certainly one reason!) but also because it doesn't require sharp objects or a high setting on the stove top.

Once you feel confident with the process, you can use this recipe with kids who are beginners in the kitchen. It'll help teach them some basic preparation skills without having to incorporate knives and high heat.

boy helping to open an egg

Image: by laterjay, via Pixabay

On top of that, the chocolate will set quickly in the fridge, meaning that the kids can quickly see (and taste) their handiwork!

The other great thing about this basic formula of solids, butter, and sugar is that it is incredibly versatile. It can be altered based on your own personal taste, so if you really love raw cacao? You can use that instead of cocoa powder.

dried cocoa seeds

Image: by gate74, via Pixabay

Is the grocery store fresh out of cocoa butter? You could use coconut oil instead here.

If the coconut oil is the kind that's already liquid, you don't even have to use the pot to melt it; you can mix it all together at room temperature. (Just make sure to melt it if you get the solid kind of coconut oil).

And then there's the sugar. You can use regular sugar, sure… but if you want to mix it up, you could also use honey, agave, or maple syrup. Whatever you like. Each one will lend its own characteristic flavor to the finished product.

raw vanilla

Image: by gate74, via Pixabay

Then there's the option of adding vanilla, nuts, or other flavoring. If you want to give the chocolate a little depth, try adding a few drops of vanilla extract (not more than a teaspoon! Vanilla extract is very potent).

Continue playing around with this and find the specific ratios and ingredients that you personally love.

Cacao!

Much has been made recently about cacao as a “superfood”, which not an official label, but basically means that this food has some sort of special properties or nutrients. }

 So if you're all about the health benefits, try making your at-home vegan chocolate with pure cacao for a different experience.
person pouring chocolate seeds on a sack

Image: by 526663, via Pixabay

While roasted cocoa powder loses some of the nutrients that make cacao a health food, there is a growing market for pure, raw cacao. This style of powder will give the chocolate an earthier flavor, and typically will not be as sweet. You can really savor that pure chocolate vibe, though.

Getting Shmancy: Adding Extra Ingredients

Once we've got our basics down, there are tons of other ingredients we could work into our rotation. After all, simple chocolate can pair with a wide variety of other flavors. Here are just a few that we particularly love…

bunch of almonds and chocolate

Image: by ExplorerBob, via Pixabay

Almonds

Almonds have been a favorite pairing with chocolate for a long time, both for their complimentary flavor and for the added bit of “crunch” they lend to the confection. They're wonderfully aromatic, and are a fun and easy way to add some variety in your home made chocolates.

Coconut

A classic combination that shows up in candy bars and Girl Scout cookies, the coconut-chocolate duo has lasted for a long time. The creamy texture of the coconut is an especially good foil to dark chocolate, making it an excellent ingredient to add to a vegan candy.

Ginger

If you like your chocolate with a little more zing, try some candied ginger. This pairing isn't for everyone, and kids in particular may find it a little strange, as ginger is such a strong element in its own right that it really changes the nature of the chocolate.

Mexican hot chili peppers and chocolates

Image: by tabu, via Pixabay

Chipotle

Another for the ones who like a little kick, although this is a different kind of complimentary flavor. If you've ever had Mexican Hot Chocolate, this is the closest item on this list. Try taking some chipotle powder and melting it into your chocolate for a marriage of spicy and sweet.

Hazelnut

Another highly aromatic ingredient! Hazelnut has a robust flavor that is strong enough to stand up to chocolate.

In fact, back in the 1800s when importing cocoa was more difficult than it is today, hazelnut was sometimes substituted by Italian chocolatiers when their supplies of cocoa ran low. The combination ultimately led to the hazelnut-chocolate paste that eventually became Nutella.

Sea Salt

It seems that every candy store you enter has “____ with sea salt” written in chalk on one of their displays. And why not? For those who prefer a savory counterpoint to their sweets, sea salt provides an experience you won't get from a nut or fruit.

Try sprinkling some of it on top of your chocolates before putting them in the refrigerator, and they should be well set by the time the candies harden.

 coffee beans and chocolates

Image: by chopchopnom, via Pixabay

Coffee

Ah, coffee, the other bean we can't live without. What would life be without either of these two glorious tropical beans?

There are basically two approaches to putting coffee into your chocolates. First, you can add the roasted coffee bean itself, (either whole or coarsely ground up). This will give your confection a solid crunch from the coffee bean.

The second option is to use very finely ground coffee so that the chocolate texture remains on the creamy side overall. Either way, you're going to get a good buzz from this pairing.

Mint

The last on our list! This highly aromatic ingredient is a perennial favorite and appears in many classic candies. A few drops of mint extract is probably the simplest way to add this flavor, but (as with vanilla), a little goes a long way.

Of course you know what you like best and what you don't. Play around with these combinations, and you'll never be at a loss for new ideas!

The Best of Vegan Chocolate

chocolate shop

Image: by pasja1000, via Pixabay

Of course, you may not want to do everything yourself. These vegan chocolate companies, located in all areas of the country, are a great way to broaden your horizons and check out a few different flavors and styles you might like.

Many of them ship directly, and most will have a directory showing where you can buy their goods. Check them out and see what sparks your interest!

Charm School

This Maryland-based company sells their goods in stores all across the country and in Canada as well. Check out their selection here.

Go Max Go

Another great one to check out. These folks make candy bars to go, in a variety of flavors. All of their food is ethically sourced (you'll find a lot of that among vegan chocolatiers).

chef preparing a waffle with nutella

Image: by Huy Phan, via Pexels

Lulu's Chocolate

Lulu's handcrafted chocolates have been around since 2006, and specialize in organic vegan dark chocolate.

Missionary Chocolates

If you like truffles (come on, who doesn't?) then you need to check out this Portland, OR company. They are serious about their chocolate, livening up their creations by adding flavors like lavender, lemon, elderberry and whiskey.

Raaka

This Brooklyn-based chocolate-maker used unroasted cacao in their bars, and some of their selections even offer zero sugar as well. If you're on a no-sugar diet but still crave a chocolate fix, this could be the answer you need.

Rescue Chocolate

This is one indulgence that won't leave you feeling guilty. The upstanding folks at Rescue Chocolate donate 100% of their net profits to animal rescue shelters. How sweet is that?

cashier at a chocolate shop

Image: by dj_fat, via Pixabay

Rose City Vegan
Rose City vegan makes detailed and varied selections and has a dazzling Easter set for those who want to go all-out for the holiday.

Skaack's Organic

Founded by Jacques Sjaak this Petaluma, CA company has a wide selection of vegan and organic offerings.

A few samples from these and you'll be hooked. You might even find a new favorite supplier! Just don't order from all of them at once.

Up next, some more advanced recipes, and our seventh and final secret…

A Few More for the Advanced Students

For those of you who aced Vegan Chocolate Cooking 101 (and 102) without breaking a sweat, perhaps you're looking for something that will be a little more of a challenge in the kitchen.

(To be honest, all of these are pretty easy. But they'll add variety and deliciousness to your vegan chocolate repertoire!)

Vegan Cake from noracooks.com

This delicious vegan cake has more than a couple ingredients, but the actual cooking is fairly simple.

slice VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Image: by beatrize, via Pixabay

Almond milk shows up in both the cake and the buttercream (vegan buttercream, of course) so hopefully you're a fan of the almond flavor with your chocolate. The silky texture of this cake will soften even the most hardened hearts…

Vegan Truffles from lovingitvegan.com

These truffles are super addictive so watch out! These are decadent, rich goodies and totally gluten-free.

truffle with milk

Image: by kichos, via Pixabay

Aside from the vegan chocolate, the only ingredients you'll need are coconut cream, coconut oil, and some unsweetened cocoa powder. This is a great one to begin with if you're still getting started in your career as a confectionist.

Vegan Brownies from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Last but not least - can you believe it's taken us this long to get to the topic of chocolate brownies? There's a lot to cover here. These are great for bringing to a party, super easy to make, and will impress your friends at the next potluck.

vegan brownies

Image: by jaroas, via Pixabay

Which leads us to…

Secret #7: Vegan chocolate is a crowd pleaser!

In fact, you might even become the person that everyone is talking about the next time you're at one of those gatherings. “These brownies are amazing! …Who the heck made these?”

Bean There, Done That

Holy smokes, that was a lot of vegan chocolate we just went through…

I need a nap!

…after one more.

With quality ingredients and the right recipes, soon you'll be bringing the desserts everyone looks forward to eating.

And you'll be enjoying not only the healthiest but also the best chocolate in existence. And that is worth celebrating.

Bon appetit!

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