Technically, a confectionary made without a certain proportion of milk solids can’t legally be labeled as chocolate, meaning that any candy sold as “white chocolate” isn’t vegan.
But, there’s some good news. You can get that delicious white chocolate taste in vegan form. Vegan white chocolate flavored sweets are made with the same cocoa butter and sugar that give white chocolate its flavor and texture, without the dairy ingredients.
You’ve landed on this page because you have questions about white chocolate and other confectionaries. Maybe you’ve recently become a vegan and you’re trying to find out more about your new lifestyle. Perhaps you’re an established vegan and you just want to broaden the range of foods you eat. You might just be looking for a treat for a vegan friend.
Does white chocolate contain non-vegan ingredients? What are the ingredients in white chocolate that aren’t vegan? If white chocolate isn’t vegan, what similar confectionary is available? Is this confectionary healthy? Read on to find out more about white chocolate and vegan alternatives.
Is white chocolate vegan?
The short answer: No, white chocolate is usually not vegan. But let’s dive deeper and learn more about white chocolate.
Something marked white chocolate is almost certainly not vegan. In a lot of regions, food standards prohibit confectionary from being labeled as “white chocolate” unless it contains a minimum of dairy ingredients. Thus, if candy is labeled “white chocolate”, it isn’t vegan.
This is probably very disappointing for vegans who enjoy white chocolate, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Vegan white chocolate flavored confectionery is available — it just can’t be called “chocolate” under the laws governing food labeling in most regions.
If you’ve been a vegan for a while, you’ve probably found vegan chocolate (hands up if your mind immediately went to Fry’s Chocolate Cream bars, everyone’s favorite vegan sweetie). The absence of white chocolate that’s okay for vegans might be a bit confusing. If plain chocolate can be made vegan, why not white chocolate?
It just comes down to labeling regulations. Some regulatory bodies decided that, just as candy labeled milk chocolate has to have a certain amount of milk, a product has to contain milk to be deemed white chocolate (even though the name doesn’t mention milk at all). It’s great to have these regulations so we can all know what we’re putting in our bodies, but sometimes they don’t make a great deal of sense.
The good news is that you can certainly get the white chocolate flavor you love without milk products. The cocoa butter that gives white chocolate its subtle taste and velvety texture is vegan, and the other ingredients can be vegan too. Vegetable fats can replace milk fats, and dubiously sourced ingredients can be swapped for ones with a more ethical origin.
White cocoa-based products for vegans are usually labeled as “white chocolate flavor” or marketed as confectionery bars instead of chocolate bars. Read on to find out more about white chocolate flavor candy for vegans.
What’s in white chocolate?
White chocolate confectionary can contain all sorts of ingredients, but the basics are cocoa butter, sugar, and some kind of fat. For non-vegans, this last ingredient would be milk solids. For us, it might be soy milk, coconut oil, or another plant-based ingredient. You’ll probably find vanilla and other flavorings in the mix, as well as ingredients that help keep the confectionary shelf stable.
There are still concerns for vegans, however. The biggest worry is going to be the sugar. Much of the cane sugar produced in the world is still refined using a substance called bone char. If the name is unappealing, the reality is even less so: bone char is made from the bones of animals that have been burned and turned into a charcoal-like substance, which is used to filter the sugar. Most vegans are not going to be okay with this.
Luckily, you don’t have to use bone char to refine sugar. Synthetic or plant-based materials can be used instead. In addition, beet sugar can be used in place of cane sugar; this is refined using a different process that doesn’t rely on bone char. In short, sugar can certainly be vegan.
Suggested read: Is chocolate milk good or bad for your health?
The next consideration is the source of cocoa butter. Cocoa is a notoriously problematic crop, associated with unsustainable growing practices, environmental damage, and the exploitation of those who grow the crop. Most vegans are motivated at least in part by environmental concerns, and will of course want to choose products that use ethically sourced cocoa butter.
Another potentially problematic ingredient is the vanilla flavoring used in most white chocolate confectionery. Synthetic vanilla flavorings often come with a history of animal testing, so you’ll want to look for natural vanilla. Unfortunately, vanilla beans are often farmed unsustainably and using exploitative labor practices. Even fair-trade vanilla beans can have a dubious ethical background. Look for products that carefully source their vanilla beans, ideally buying directly from the growers.
Can I make white chocolate at home?
Yes, you can. Delicious white vegan chocolate is surprisingly easy to make yourself. You don’t need any special equipment. If you create your own white chocolate, you have total control over everything that goes into it and can decide exactly which ingredients are most in line with your values.
There are a couple of recipes I like, one using coconut oil and the other relying on soy milk powder. I prefer the smooth, velvety, coconut-flavored version but a lot of my friends like the milkier-tasting soy variety. The soy-milk version is also more stable and travels better (the coconut one needs to be kept in the fridge). You can use any powdered plant milk.
The key is really good food-grade cocoa butter. The better quality your cocoa butter, the more successful your chocolate will be. All your utensils need to be made of metal — whisks, and forks, not wooden spoons or spatulas. The reason for this is that any trace of moisture will ruin the chocolate.
If you flavor your chocolate with vanilla, choose an alcohol-based extract or use vanilla beans or vanilla paste. A water-based vanilla flavor will completely wreck the chocolate.
Suggested read: Healthy vegan cheese: Recipe and serving tips
For coconut chocolate, you’ll need 2 cups of cocoa butter, one cup of icing sugar, and 3/4 cups of coconut oil. For the plant milk version, leave out the coconut oil and add three tablespoons of plant milk powder. To help keep the chocolate more stable, add a quarter teaspoon of soy lecithin. A pinch of sea salt will make the flavor more interesting.
Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl. Use a sieve, and whisk to combine everything evenly.
Next, chop up the cocoa butter into small bits. Melt the cocoa butter and the coconut oil (if you’re using it). You’ll need a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan full of hot water. Alternatively, you can melt everything in the microwave.
Take the bowl off the saucepan. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the melted cocoa butter and oil, whisking as you go for an even mix. Add the vanilla. Return the bowl to the heat and melt your chocolate, then pour it onto a tray or into candy molds.
You can also add other ingredients, such as natural colors and flavors, or use it to dip fruits, nuts, and snack foods like vegan mini pretzels. Store your chocolate in the fridge to keep it in good condition.