It might feel relatively new or even trendy, but vegan chocolate has been around for millennia.
It’s thought that dairy was only added relatively recently, to help disguise the flavour of mass-produced (read: inferior) cacao, as milk helps to dull the palate and hide flaws, allowing for the chocolate to be made cheaper.
When tasting for this round-up, we really did find this statement to be true, with clean flavours really shining through. It’s incredible how a different origin and cacao percentage can influence a chocolate's flavour, in much the same way as you find with grapes and terroir in winemaking.
While most dark chocolate is suitable for vegans, it’s important to ensure no other animal products, such as honey is included. Milk alternatives aren't off the cards though, as brands have become increasingly creative with oat and nut milk to create indulgent creamy alternatives that you’d never guess were vegan.
We had the tough job of trying a selection of plant-based bars, truffles and bonbons, to find the fullest flavours and the most beautifully decorated.
Whether you’re after sharing bars to stock up on, or pretty truffles to gift someone special, we’ve found a truly outstanding selection of plant-based chocolate from small-scale chocolatiers through to award-winning brands. If you want to taste what all the fuss is about, this selection is a truly delicious place to start.
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Solkiki dark milk collection
This tiny team of two claim its the UK’s only exclusively vegan, vegan-owned, entirely bean-to-bear, organic, direct-trade chocolate maker. Impressive! It has around 50 bars in the core range alone, but we think this bundle is a great place to start. It contains four bars of "dark milk" chocolate, ranging from 60-65 per cent cacao. Indulgently rich and creamy (thanks to the addition of coconut milk and cacao butter) this chocolate is outstandingly full-flavoured. Using just the cacao for flavour, each tastes genuinely unique without any added flavours being used – we particularly loved the malty notes in the 65 per cent. We’re not the only ones to think so, these bars have picked up multiple awards between them.
Buy now £27.50, Solkiki
Eponine vegan chocolate selection
Husband and wife duo Chris and Natalie swapped a life of science for one of chocolate making, and Eponine is the delicious result. This vegan collection is a stunning combination of flavours, with highlights including coffee and cardamon, passionfruit, and pear and tonka bean. We’ve never seen such prettily painted, glossy chocolates! These genuinely wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery, reminding us of beautiful painted glass. The flavours are outstanding, making this box a fantastic gift for someone special – absolute perfection.
Buy now £28.00, Eponine
Nibblette vegan-friendly chocolate collection
Another vegan-friendly selection which was almost too pretty to eat. Exquisitely painted with flecks, swirls and splatters, we say almost, because once you cave you won’t hesitate to go back for another. Handmade in small batches, flavours are regularly updated but we had the pleasure of trying fruity mango and passion fruit, the earthy monsoon Malabar spiced coffee and the Great Taste award-winning raspberry and pistachio among others. You’d never know they were vegan, apart from the fact the flavours were so clean and precise. Choose from 12, 18 or 24 pieces.
Buy now £14.25, Nibblette
Lady Cacao vegan chocolate box
Tied up in a pretty orange ribbon and stamped with a wax seal, this east London-based chocolatier offers a delicious vegan collection including a double-coated 82 per cent dark chocolate water ganache truffle with an impossibly silky middle. There’s also a dark chocolate raspberry heart with coconut milk to make it extra creamy, and a vegan caramel encased in 82 per cent dark chocolate. Available in four, nine, 16 or 25 pieces.
Buy now £9.00, Lady Cacao
Lauden Chocolate 65% single estate peruvian dark chocolate bar
This bar is created with single-origin chocolate sourced from the rainforests of Peru, and much like the terroir associated with fine wine, here you can taste the nuanced fruity flavour of the cacao. Stephen, one of the owners of Lauden, says he eats this one every day! He also used it when he appeared on Bake Off The Professionals while making a chocolate cheesecake, which successfully got him through to the semi-finals.
Buy now £4.00, Lauden Chocolate
Luisa’s vegan chocolates 72% single origin award-winning bean-to-bar dark chocolate bundle
Melted Inside is an online shopping platform showcasing artisan food and drink producers. Luisa’s is one such brand, and much like Solkiki (above), it use various origins (in this case Makira in the Soloman Islands, Madagascar, Philippines and Vanuatu in the South Pacific), and percentages of cacao to display completely different flavours, without adding anything artificial. Based in Nottingham, chocolates are handmade in small batches and Luisa trades directly with farmers to ensure a fair price.
Buy now £10.00, Melted Inside
Melt vegan mini bars set 4x45g
This mini "library" of chocolate bars is a great way of discovering Melt’s vegan offering. Flavours include the 70 per cent with Maldon sea salt, a bitter 100 per cent from Bolivia, and Melt’s 68 per cent "wild" bar which is made with cocoa trees growing freely in the Amazon rainforest. There’s also the "superfood" bar which is studded with bittersweet blackcurrants and healthy quinoa. The cute little bars break into four generous chunks that resemble Lego pieces, and the packaging is pleasingly free of single-use plastic too.
Buy now £16.40, Melt London
Love Cocoa avocado 71% dark chocolate bar 75g
Vegan avocado chocolate anyone? We know, it sounds incredibly millennial but there’s a reason this popular toast topper is used in this bar. By using the same creamy texture and oils of the fruit, you get a velvety chocolate bar when combined with cacao, but without needing to add dairy – clever. Although we found it a little grainy compared to some of the others, we think the packaging makes this a very cute gift. And for every bar bought, Love Cocoa plant a tree.
Buy now £3.50, Love Cocoa
Booja Booja fine de champagne chocolate truffles 92g
Vegan-friendly, gluten-free and organic, these champagne-spiked chocolate truffles are a rich, decadent treat. There’s no mistaking these are boozy little bites, with a strong hit of alcohol wrapped up in a dusty chocolate square. There are just eight in this box and they need to be kept cool (we stick ours in the fridge), but they’re a lovely thank you gift to keep on hand, or post-dinner treat in lieu of dessert.
Buy now £6.95, Harvey Nichols
Hotel Chocolat vegan sleekster
Hotel Chocolat has an impressive selection of vegan chocolates that tastes every bit as creamy as its regular milk range. A combination of pralines, truffles, caramels and batons, the "sleekster" box offers great variety at a decent price. Of the 27 chocolates included, highlights include the salted caramel "nutmilk" and the rich dark chocolate praline gianduja bombe.
Buy now £22.95, Hotel Chocolat
Paul a Young marmite filled bar 50g
Love it or hate it, you might be surprised to find out that marmite is actually vegan. The layer of yeast extract adds an umami flavour to Paul a Young’s intense and fruity 64 per cent Valrhona dark chocolate bar. Be warned though, this bar is only dinky, so you might want to add a few to your basket. Other vegan-friendly flavours include the 64 per cent Madagascan with Cornish sea salt, and the citrus spiked orange and mandarin.
Buy now £5.95, Paul a Young
Divine dark chocolate with smooth hazelnut bar 90g
Divine is a great chocolate brand to have on standby for a mid-week, post-dinner chocolate fix. Co-owned with cacao farmers, the whole bean to bar range is fairtrade and have wonderful social enterprise initiatives. There are loads of vegan-friendly flavours in the range but we’re particularly enamoured with this smooth dark chocolate bar packed with creamy hazelnut clusters.
Buy now £2.20, Ocado
Benji’s original vegan truffles
Handmade to order in Manchester, Benji’s Vegan Truffles is a relatively new concept, having been dreamt up during lockdown 2020. Benji himself has only been completely vegan since 2019 and during that time he found he really missed truffles, so he created these. There are currently five flavours in circulation, including zesty orange, mint, cherry, warming cinnamon and ginger and our favourite, the original which tastes just like a chunky Ferrero Rocher.
Buy now £8.00, Benji’s Vegan Truffles
The Verdict: Vegan chocolates
We were so blown away by the quality of chocolate we tried, we found it very hard to pick an overall winner, but Solkiki did just make it. For pretty chocolates, you’ll be thrilled by Eponine, Nibblette and Lady Cacao and for bars Lauden Luisa