Is Chocolate Vegan? | Explained

Chocolate is hyped as one of the greatest sweet treats, and it deserves that hype. Chocolate is delicious, decadent, and satisfying to any sweet tooth. 

We come bearing good news. Raw chocolate is a completely vegan ingredient. 

Chocolate in its bare form is a plant-based food, and in certain applications, it can even be considered a healthy food. Depending on the kind of chocolate you use to satisfy your cravings, it can easily become a part of a balanced diet. You can enjoy a little bit of chocolate every day without the guilt and chocolate is even a traditional gift for a variety of occasions. 

Chocolate only ceases to become vegan when it’s mixed with other non-vegan ingredients. If you’re picking up some raw cacao, you’re in the clear. 

If you’re grabbing a pre-made or packaged vegan chocolate bar, you need to look at the label to be sure there are no animal products hidden in the ingredients list. Our recommendations:

What is Chocolate Made Of?

Chocolate is sometimes referred to as a bean, but raw chocolate is actually a seed. The cacao tree grows large pods that look like giant almonds. The seeds inside of those pods, known as cacao or cocoa benas, are what’s used to create chocolate. The cacao seeds are chocolate solids, and the outer layer of natural fats is called cacao butter, or cocoa butter. Many chocolate products typically combine both. The cacao seeds lend the flavor, and the cacao butter gives the chocolate its signature creamy texture. 

Raw chocolate or dark chocolate is relatively low in calories and carbohydrates. It can contain a significant amount of protein, sometimes as much as 5 grams per serving. It also naturally contains dietary fiber and a substantial amount of iron. Cacao is rich in antioxidants that support your overall wellness. 

In its purest state, chocolate can even be considered a superfood (have we made your day yet?). 

The percentage of cacao refers to how natural the chocolate is. You might see 100% cacao chocolate bars. This means that the chocolate bar is only made from parts of the plant with no added ingredients. It won’t be sweet at all, as natural chocolate doesn’t contain any sugar. 

Varieties with less cacao use sugar or other ingredients to dilute the chocolate, making it sweeter. This moves chocolate from the superfoods category into the desert category. It may also introduce ingredients that aren’t vegan.

Chocolate That Isn’t Vegan

White chocolate is made primarily from cacao butter. White chocolate doesn’t contain any true chocolate in the form of cacao nibs. It’s more of a byproduct of the manufacturing process of other types of chocolate and is actually a very different product from traditional chocolate.

Prepared white chocolate is usually made with milk, although vegan alternatives can be made with plant based milk alternatives. It’s never safe to assume that white chocolate is vegan.

Milk chocolate is obviously not vegan. The addition of dairy to anything revokes its vegan status. It’s also worth noting that milk chocolate is not pure chocolate, and therefore will not provide the same health benefits. 

Milk chocolate is a processed chocolate flavored dessert. Strawberry ice cream is not a serving of fruit, and milk chocolate is not a serving of chocolate (sorry). The addition of less healthy ingredients loses the plot, negatively impacting the nutritional value of the final product.

Chocolate in the form of cakes, brownies, or other baked goods will almost always contain animal products. Eggs, milk, and butter are among the most common ingredients in a baker’s kitchen. 

Unless the chocolate confection specifies that it’s vegan, it more than likely is not. 

You’ll have more luck finding vegan chocolate baked goods when you visit a vegan bakery. If you don’t live close to one, it doesn’t hurt to ask your grocery store bakery if they’re able to prepare vegan desserts for you. Many of them will be willing to accommodate the request.

Are There Any Vegan Chocolate Snacks at the Grocery Store?

Vegans don’t have very many options in the dessert aisle. Most vegans switch grocery stores simply because a different chain offers a substantial amount of vegan options. Your run of the mill grocery store is typically built to accommodate an omnivorous diet. 

The majority of chocolate bars you see at the supermarket checkout aren’t vegan. Anything that isn’t marketed as dark chocolate won’t require a second look. If you see a dark chocolate bar that looks particularly appealing, check the ingredients list. It may contain hidden animal products like milk, butter, or honey. 

There is one big exception, and the exception is a coincidence. Believe it or not, almost all Oreo cookies are vegan. 

It may not seem like a chocolate cookie with a creme filling can be made without any animal products. The answer here is both a blessing and a curse. While the filling inside of your oreos is delicious, it’s also fake. There is no actual “cream” sandwiched between your two cookies. Instead, it’s some kind of combination of sugars and oils. 

Oreo has confirmed that their cookies are vegan, but notes that they may have some cross contact with milk products during the manufacturing process. Many vegans still choose to use products that are inherently vegan but manufactured on equipment that may also be used to manufacture non-vegan treats. 

When you think about it, cream made of palm oil and sugar doesn’t really sound that delicious. Demystifying a cream sandwich cookie reveals how processed and artificial it is. There’s no reason for a sweet treat to be garbage from a nutritional standpoint. There are plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without artificially flavored mystery ingredients.

What About Healthy Vegan Chocolate Treats?

Many people, vegan or not, are looking for better alternatives to the things they normally eat and drink. A lot of people want to cut the trash out of their diets. It’s so easy to run to prepackaged convenience food, but doing so can take a toll in the long run. Processed food is meant to make you feel full, not to nourish you. 

The best thing to do is learn to bake, but that is so much easier said than done. 

If you’ve ever watched baking challenges or cooking competition shows on TV, you know how easy the pros make it look. If you’re the kind of person who destroys half the house in an attempt to make a cake, only to burn that cake or leave it... soupy in the center, you’re probably eager to put the baking attempts behind you. 

This doesn’t leave you without options. There are still plenty of healthy ways to incorporate chocolate into your diet that don’t involve baking. You just have to stray from the beaten path to find them. 

If you’re looking for a grab and go solution to your chocolate cravings, there’s always Mid-Day Squares. Mid-Day Squares Fudge Yah is a vegan fudge superfood bar packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. 

They’re good for you, but they taste like they aren’t. Isn’t that always the goal?

If you’re looking to satisfy the peanut butter chocolate craving, there’s also Busta Peanut. Busta Peanut is made of peanut butter and coated with a layer of raw chocolate. It’s kind of like a peanut butter cup, except it’s actually good for you. Busta Peanut boasts 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving. That sure beats the nutrition facts of the peanut chocolate treats by the cash register. 

The Takeaway

Raw chocolate is vegan, and it absolutely has a place in a balanced diet. Chocolate only gained a bad reputation due to the added sugar and dairy used to make artificial and processed chocolate treats. It was never the pure cacao that was the problem. In fact, raw cacao is actually quite good for you. It’s a plant-based food that provides your body with tons of protein and antioxidants.

Vegans need to be vigilant of labels. They need to understand where some of the more obscure ingredients come from, and whether or not they’re derived from animal sources. Keeping up with all that information and thoroughly reading every label can be a bit daunting. Many vegans choose to make their own sweet treats instead.

If baking isn’t your forte, you can find vegan chocolate treats that are nutritious and ready to eat. 

Mid-Day Squares uses chocolate in our grab and go superfood bars. You don’t have to learn to make your own healthy chocolatey snacks. We’ve already figured that out. All you need to do is chow down on our protein packed bars for a midday energy boost that will satisfy your sweet tooth, too!