Sunday, June 16, 2013

Vegan Chocolate

A guide to chocolate and vegan options for each variety.

Getting away from products that contain dairy and other animal derivatives is one of the most challenging parts of becoming vegan. Dairy-free chocolate is one food item that is tricky to find. Here, I will give a short introduction and guide to chocolate, listing vegan options along the way. I have listed vegan chocolate candies at the end of "Chocolate Grades and Types."

Theobroma cacao – the cocoa bean. 
In order to understand "chocolate", it's important to know how it is made. First, the cocoa bean is removed from its pod, then fermented, dried, roasted and cracked open. The nibs are separated from the shells and then ground to extract most of their cocoa butter. Nibs are about 54% cocoa butter, which is a natural vegetable fat (Herbst 124). The dark, ground, pasty remnants of these nibs is what is referred to as chocolate liquor. From this stage the liquor is further refined, either by the remaining cocoa butter being removed and the remaining solid ground in order to make unsweetened cocoa powder; or by conching the chocolate liquor. Conching is the process by which machines with rotating blades slowly blend the heated chocolate liquor to rid it of moisture and acids. Cocoa butter, lecithin and/or milk and sugar are added to create “chocolate”. Chocolate as we know it is now produced in endless varieties.

Chocolate Grades and Types 
1. Baking Chocolate. (Also called unsweetened chocolate or bitter chocolate.)
 This variety of chocolate does not contain any sugar. By US standards, it contains 50-58% cocoa butter.

Vegan Options
•Baker's Choice Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Bar (100% Cacao) 
•Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bar (100% Cacao)

2. Bittersweet.
Bittersweet chocolate typically contains at least 35% chocolate liquor; however, in the US, there is no regulation to distinguish between semisweet and bittersweet. Companies will label as they please. Contains sugar and usually vanilla.

Vegan Options
•Baker's Choice 66% Cacao
•Newman's Own Super Dark Chocolate Bar (70% cacao)
•Lindt Excellence in 70%, 85%, 90% or 99% (The Lindt website confirms that these are their only bars that do not contain dairy. <>

3. Semisweet. 
Semisweet chocolate typically contains 15%-30% chocolate liquor; however, in the US, there is no regulation to distinguish between semisweet and bittersweet. Companies will label as they please. Contains sugar and usually vanilla.

Vegan Options
•Baker's Choice 56% Cacao (*this is labeled semisweet despite having over 30% chocolate liquor)
•Newman's Own Dark Chocolate Bar
Enjoy Life Mini Chips, Mega Chunks, Dark Chocolate Bar 

4. Couverture.
This is professional quality chocolate. It has a minimum of 32% cocoa butter, but comes in all types (white, bittersweet, semisweet, milk). It may contain vanilla, sugar, dairy, or a variety of other flavorings. It is glossier than chocolate sold in stores, and the added cocoa butter allows it to run thinner, which forms thinner shells. This makes it viable for professional chocolate making.

Vegan Options
At the moment I do not have any vegan options to list here, though I have contacted Callebaut, Valrhona, and Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company. They are working to get back to me with a list of their vegan products. This section will be updated once I have those lists.

5. Other Chocolates – This category covers white chocolate, chocolate candies, and chocolate especially made gluten free, vegan, and for people with allergies. White chocolate is not technically chocolate because it contains no chocolate liquor. White chocolate is usually made from cocoa butter, lecithin, milk solids, and vanilla.

Vegan Options:
Enjoy Life: Mini Chips, Mega Chunks, Dark Chocolate Bar, Ricemilk Chocolate Bar (One of the only "milk" chocolates I have found without dairy.) This chocolate is allergy friendly. They are: gluten free, wheat free, peanut free, tree nut free, egg free, soy free, and non-GMO verified. They may be found at <>

•King David's Real Chocolate Chips, and White Choco Chips. (One of the only white chocolates I have found without dairy.) These are both dairy and egg free. This product is manufactured in a facility that also handles gluten, nuts, almonds, peanuts, and sesame, so they are not allergy friendly.

When looking for a vegan chocolate fix, it is worth it to look into pareve options. PAREVE or PARVE (pronounced par-vuh) is a Kosher designation that means the product was prepared without meat, milk, or their derivatives. Eggs are still considered pareve, so pareve does not completely conform to vegan ideals. However, because chocolate is, for the most part, produced without eggs, most pareve chocolate is vegan. Still, it's important to check the ingredients before purchasing.

If interested in having chocolate candies, there are many pareve options. Pareve chocolate lentils, almond jewels, and nonpareils, to name a few. A simple google search will connect you with many pareve options. Here are a few I've collected:

Making Your Own Chocolate
One way to ensure that your chocolate is vegan is to make your own from scratch. To make your own vegan chocolate, you will need unsweetened cocoa powder, cocoa butter (or another oil that solidifies at room temperature), and a dry sweetener. It's important to use a dry sweetener instead of a liquid one because the chocolate needs to set. Cocoa powder and sugar can be purchased at any regular grocery store. Cocoa butter can be found on, some other places on the net, and in healthstores. It's important to make sure that the cocoa butter you buy is food grade. The process of making the chocolate is very simple, but the ingredient amount varies depending on what oil is being used. I plan on posting a recipe here once I have a result that I am satisfied with, but until then, here are some places that have recipes and show the process:

Chocolate Basics
For a product to be true chocolate, it must contain cocoa butter. Products marked otherwise are confectionery coatings (candy melts, the outside of an ice cream bar, melts when warmed). Chocolate is ideally stored tightly wrapped in a cool, dry environment (60-70 degrees F). True chocolate being used for bark or coatings should be tempered. In order to temper chocolate, you need to melt 2/3 to 115 degrees F, slowly and gently (usually in a double boiler). Add the remaining 1/3 unmelted chocolate to the 2/3 melted chocolate. This technique is called seeding, and it re-introduces the chocolate's crystal formation and cools the chocolate. At 89 degrees F, the chocolate is suitable for coating and dipping and will harden with a glossy sheen and have a nice snap. If the chocolate is not tempered, it will only set in the fridge, and it will bloom. Blooming means that the crystals are no longer stabilized and shows in a streakiness or whitish bloom on the chocolate's surface. There are many videos demonstrating how to properly temper chocolate on YouTube. All true chocolate becomes untempered when melted. Tempering is only nessecary when using chocolate as a coating or for decorations. If a chocolate is required in a batter, you need only melt, not temper it.

Herbst, Sharon Tyler. Food Lover's Companion: Comprehensive Definitions of Over 4000 Food, Wine, and Culinary Terms. Second Edition. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc. 1995. Print.

Rinzler, Carol Ann. The New Complete Book of FOOD: A Nutritional, Medical, and Culinary Guide. New York: Checkmark Books. 1999. Print.

Wybauw, Jean-Pierre. “A guide to the perfect dark chocolate couverture.” Callebaut. Web. 1 June 2013. <,filename=Leaflet%20Chocolate%20couv%20dark.pdf>