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Is dark chocolate vegan?

Dark chocolate can be vegan. Here's everything you need to know!

Milk chocolate contains milk. But is dark chocolate dairy-free and vegan?

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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on March 8, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on August 11, 2021.

Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Whether dark chocolate is vegan or not often depends on the brand. While the cocoa content percentage can give you a clue, the only way to know for sure is to read the ingredients on the label.

Is dark chocolate suitable for vegans?

Not all dark chocolate is suitable for vegans. While some dark chocolate brands are dairy-free, others contain cows’ milk. Dark chocolate that contains more than 70% cocoa is most likely to be vegan-friendly.

Is dark chocolate dairy-free?

While dark chocolate should, in theory, be dairy-free, many manufacturers add milk-based ingredients such as milk fat, skimmed milk powder, and whey, as this makes it cheaper to produce.

It’s not just chocolate that milk is added to unnecessarily. Vegans will be familiar with how annoying it is to find milk in the ingredients list of everything from noodles to stock cubes.

Even if there are no milk products in the ingredients of a dark chocolate bar, there may be some cross-contamination with milk chocolate.

Factory machinery is cleaned when switching from making one product to another, so it only traces amounts of milk that will remain. Many vegans are satisfied that products labeled as ‘may contain milk’ are vegan-friendly.

However, anyone with a milk allergy should read the label carefully before eating dark chocolate.

To learn more about the ‘may contain milk’ label, read this article: Is food that ‘may contain milk’ vegan?

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What dark chocolate cocoa percentage is vegan?

The percentage sign you’ll see on a bar of dark chocolate refers to what percentage of the ingredients are extracted from cocoa beans – including cocoa butter (the fat part of the bean) and cocoa solids (the non-fat part of the bean). The higher the percentage, the more intense and bitter the chocolate is.

In its simplest form, dark chocolate is made from only cocoa (or cacao) beans and sugar. However, most chocolate manufacturers add other ingredients such as soy lecithin too, to help to bind the ingredients together.

As a general guide, dark chocolate that contains more than 50% cocoa is the most likely to be vegan-friendly. This is because the higher the percentage, the purer the chocolate is, and the less room there is for filler ingredients that are derived from milk.

Is 70% dark chocolate vegan?

70% dark chocolate is usually vegan-friendly. However, just because chocolate contains 70% cocoa, that doesn’t mean that it’s dairy-free. Some high percentage dark chocolate does still contain milk, so you should look out for this in the ingredients.

Is sugar vegan?

Dark chocolate that’s anything less than 100% cocoa will contain sugar to sweeten it. Sugar is usually suitable for vegans, although it may sometimes be refined using bone char (charred and powdered animal bones).

Suggested read: Is pasta vegan?

To learn more about whether sugar is vegan or not, read this article: Is sugar vegan?

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