Is chocolate vegan? How do you cope without chocolate? These questions will almost definitely sound familiar to you if you are vegan and have probably elicited much eye-rolling over the years before you endeavour to explain that yes, chocolate can be vegan. The only technically non-vegan element in most chocolate bars is the milk content.
Yet it is this milk content that so many non-vegans love. How can you resist the creamy taste of a Galaxy bar or possibly turn down a selection of Thornton’s finest milk truffles? This is something we all struggle with if we have a sweet tooth and here at Jan de Vries we are no different.
Yet it is because of this bias towards traditional chocolate brands that we non-vegans could be missing out on a whole new chocolate experience, one that’s surprisingly guilt-free and loaded with health benefits! So come along as today I explore vegan chocolate and how it compares against classic milk chocolate.
Why is vegan chocolate becoming so popular?
The popularity of vegan chocolate may seem a bit strange – surely vegan chocolate, as it is named, is specifically for that target demographic. Why would a non-vegan go through the hassle of buying vegan chocolate when they can just pop round the corner to their local street shop and pick up a bar of Cadburys?
Well it’s milk chocolate’s quantity of milk that can be its downfall. If you are lactose intolerant, too much milk chocolate may upset your condition and lead to all sorts of unpleasant symptoms. Vegan chocolate is also favoured by those who struggle with their blood glucose levels.
Now we all know that milk chocolate comes with one big drawback – it’s loaded with refined sugars and fat, and is extremely processed. Not good if you’re trying to avoid a blood sugar spike or keep an eye on your weight!
It’s natural then that we would be tempted to turn to an alternative – hello vegan chocolate!
How is it healthier than milk chocolate?
But you might be asking why vegan chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate. Well a lot of it is to do with the ingredients used in vegan chocolate and how they are processed. The first immediate contrast that sticks out is the treatment of cocoa.
Cacao vs. Cocoa
Many people still sometimes seem surprised when they learn that chocolate is derived from a plant, namely the cacao tree. The edible parts of this tree, namely the cacao beans, are used to produce cocoa powder, the main ingredient in traditional chocolate. These cacao beans are roasted at high temperatures which means that they lose much of their nutritional value and enzyme content.
Cacao powder, on the other hand, is produced by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans, meaning that most of the innate goodness is maintained. This is a big deal, especially when you consider how nutritious cacao actually is! Bursting with antioxidants and minerals such as mood-boosting magnesium, cacao is also an excellent source of fibre and protein, helping to improve your energy levels and keep you on-the-go for longer!
Coconut blossom sugar vs. cane sugar
We’ve already spoken about the unfortunate sugar content of ordinary chocolate but how does that compare to vegan chocolate? Surely it too, contains sugar in order maintain a sweet, enticing flavour? While it is true that some vegan chocolate companies simply remove the milk and keep the sugar, there are a lot of vegan chocolate brands that instead opt to use coconut blossom sugar.
Why is this so much better than ordinary cane sugar though? Well, coconut sugar is still a type of sugar so a little can still go a long way. However, coconut sugar is significantly less processed than cane sugar and contains more trace minerals! It’s also a rich source of inulin, giving it a distinctly lower score on the GI index than traditional chocolate.
Dairy vs. alternatives
Dairy – the real difference between a vegan chocolate bar and a milk chocolate bar. It’s also the line in the sand for many non-vegans – after all, the rich bitter taste of a raw cacao bar may not be for everyone. However, there are plenty of dairy alternatives that vegan chocolate companies utilise to give their chocolate that familiar creamy taste.
Coconut milk is a popular dairy milk alternative, favoured for its sweet, creamy flavour. It’s also rich in minerals such as selenium, calcium and magnesium whilst also containing crucial B vitamins! Rice milk is another widespread option and is considered to be the least allergenic of milk alternatives, making it very popular with those who suffer from digestive issues!
Which brands are best?
Okay, so you’ve heard me out and you’re now wondering what type of vegan chocolate would suit you best. Well if you’re used to milk chocolate, try to look for a vegan chocolate that has mild levels of cacao – 60%-70% would be a good bench mark.
It’s also worthwhile to keep an eye on how much sugars are in your chocolate bar – a lack of milk is no guarantee that what you’re eating isn’t saturated in sugar. Coconut blossom sugar is the preferred alternative and it’s quite commonplace in most respectable vegan chocolate bars.
Here are some of our personal favourites to kick-start your adventure!
Ombar Coconut and Vanilla Centres: Sweet vanilla and cream coconut encased in chocolate - this is a delicious combination that's guaranteed to please! Velvety smooth, you can enjoy these vegan coconut & vanilla centres knowing that they are 100% dairy free (really, we promise!) and do not contain any refined sugars.
Lovechock’s Almond and Mulberry Mylk Bar: Suffused with bourbon vanilla and warming cinnamon, this supercharged bar is bursting with gorgeous flavour, incorporating crunchy almonds and soft mulberries! Sweeter and creamier, it’s so delicious that some of our customers have been tricked into believing that this mylk bar is in actual fact milk chocolate. In reality, this bar contains no milk or milk alternatives!
Booja-Booja’s Rum Sozzled Sultana Chocolate Truffles: If it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day or your Birthday, definitely do NOT leave these mouth-watering truffles off your list. Winner of the Vegfest UK 2015 Awards, these luxuriously rich treats combine sultanas soaked in spiced rum with agave syrup and coconut oil. Although they do contain 55% cane sugar, these truffles are definitely for special occasions so a little indulgence here and there shouldn’t do you any harm!
Accidental vegan chocolate: Well we’ve already mentioned our favourite brands here at Jan de Vries but did you know that many high-street branded chocolate is also accidentally vegan too? Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate Bar contains no dairy while Lindt Excellence’s 70% and 90% Dark Chocolate is also milk-free!1 Great if you need a quick vegan fix, but if you really want to invest in a premium product that’s bursting with cacao, we’d recommend sticking with our favourites!