One of the things I love to do on this blog and on social media is give you recommendations for the best products to buy to help you save time (and money!) at the grocery store. I’ve been wanting to write today’s post for years but never took the time to do it, but with Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought now was the perfect time!
I consider myself to be a qualitarian, which is just a fancy term coined by Dr. Mark Hyman that means consuming the highest quality foods and ingredients possible, as often as possible. If you haven’t checked out my food philosophy to learn more about my approach to eating, you can find it here.
When it comes to quality, I’m not just talking about fresh, organic fruits and veggies. Every food counts.
Including chocolate 🙂
That’s why I look for chocolate that has been fairly traded, has a short and simple ingredient list, and is organic (just like the other plant-based foods I consume!). Each of the brands I recommend have dairy-free options and many of their bars are gluten-free. Spoiler alert! Dove, Hershey’s, Lindt, and Ghirardelli aren’t on the list.
It’s time to upgrade your chocolate!
Believe it or not, only 5% of the world’s chocolate is made in a way that respects the humans who grow the beans and environment. Here’s one of my favorite videos from Equal Exchange about why fair trade matters. It’ll open your eyes and give you the nudge you need to upgrade your chocolate the next time you’re at the store.
Supporting a company that exists for a noble purpose, other than just making money, is one of the most important ways you can vote with your dollars. Every decision makes a difference and has the potential to impact the life of someone you may never meet, so buy consciously.
I opt for 70%+ dark chocolate to maximize the health benefits, but start lower if you’re not used to it yet. Your taste buds will adapt! The longer you let the dark chocolate melt in your mouth, the more the enzymes in your mouth activate the sugar in the chocolate to make it taste sweeter and more pleasant.
By the end of today’s post, I bet you’ll have the urge to make a grocery store run and stock up on some chocolate bliss 🙂
Pure Chocolate by Jinji
This is my #1 chocolate choice. Even though it’s mostly truffles and other treats and not mainly bars, I had to include it.
About four years ago, I discovered this gem in the heart of Baltimore and befriended the muse behind the magic, Jinji Fraser. It’s been voted Best Chocolate in Baltimore, so I’m not alone in my love for these raw, vegan chocolates.
I wrote a whole blog post about their chocolate and her story a few years ago, but the good news is that you don’t have to be local to Baltimore to enjoy her bliss-filled treats.
Where to Buy: For a full selection, visit the storefront in Belvedere Square Market. You can also find Jinji chocolate products in stores. Learn more about her Cacao Crossings subscription service to bring them to your home.
Charm School Chocolate
Another Baltimore-based brand that’s making its way around the U.S., this 100% dairy-free, vegan chocolate line includes milk, dark, and while chocolate bars. On their website the meticulous process by which their chocolate is made. It’s clear how much love and intention goes into each batch, from bean to bar. I love how incredibly smooth this chocolate is and how it melts in your mouth and coats your tongue.
Some of their flavors include Vanilla Bean White, Coconut Milk Chocolate, 70% Dark Belize, Vanilla Bean Rice Crisp, and Coconut Milk Chocolate Maple Pecan. Depending on the season, they release limited edition bars like Caramel Malt and Black Sesame.
A few years ago when I had the opportunity to speak at the WELCOA National Training Summit in Orlando, I did an activity with all of the attendees and invited them to savor a piece of dark chocolate. The company whose chocolate I used was Equal Exchange. This chocolate is some of the smoothest and creamiest out there.
Equal Exchange puts people and the plant before profits and elevates the sourcing of their ingredients. Their organic cacao and sugar are sourced directly from small-scale farmers co-operatives in Latin America.
With flavors like Dark Chocolate Mint, Dark Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Orange, Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper and cacao content ranging from 55% to 88%, there is something for everyone, no matter where you are on the chocolate preference continuum.
Where to Buy: Find them online on their website or in stores. Locally, I’ve found Equal Exchange at MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Giant.
These are some of my favorite bars and other chocolate treats. Not only do they have a wide variety of chocolate bars, but they also make decadent truffles and chocolatey clusters.
If the description below doesn’t make you want to try one of their treats, I don’t know what will 🙂
Plucked from organic trees in the Peruvian Amazon and Ecuadorian Coast, our cacao beans journey to the base of the Andes Mountains, where they are transformed into some of the world’s finest cocoa products. The final destination is Switzerland, where expert chocolatiers craft our unique and habit-forming bars and truffles.
Their cacao beans from Ecuador and Peru, and their products are always fair trade, organic, non-GMO and never made with soy lecithin (a common ingredient in chocolate bars that acts as an emulsifier).
Some of their dairy-free options include Dark Salted Almonds, Deep Dark Sea Salt, Super Blackout (90% cacao!), Dark Quinoa, Dark Cacao, Dark Almond, and Dark Mint. All of their chocolate bars (except Dark Salt & Malt), truffles, quinoa pouches, and rice pouches are Gluten-Free Certified.
I first found out about this company at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore and fell in LOVE with their Chai flavor. The company was started in Helsinki, Finland by Jukka, who used to work for the gaming company that created Angry Birds. On a quest to optimize his own health, he ditched dairy products and started adding raw cacao and noticed significant changes in how he felt.
Goodio’s cacao is sourced from South American and African farms. What I love is the company’s commitment to sustainability and integrity. As their founder said, “There has to be greater transparency in where our food comes from, how it’s sourced, and how it’s treated.”
I couldn’t agree more!
All of their chocolate bars are vegan and made from raw cacao that is stone ground in Helsinki for three days. Here’s a quick look at their story.
Goodio brings unique flavor combinations through their bars, including Chai (my #1), Ginger and Lemongrass, Wild Blueberry, and Cranmary. They also have some familiar staples like Mint, Coffee, Sea Salt, and 80% dark Peruvian (Nacional), among others.
Where to Buy: Use their store locator to find where they are sold near you. I buy them at MOMs Organic Market in Maryland.
Last summer, Bill and I went to NYC for a long weekend and hit up Hu Kitchen, a paleo restaurant, about three times. We had to grab one of their paleo, vegan chocolate bars while we were there, and I’m glad that we can find them closer to where I live, too.
Their dark chocolate is stone ground organic and fair trade, and it contains NO dairy, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), emulsifiers, soy lecithin, gluten, refined sugar, cane sugar or sugar alcohols.
They have fun flavors (some with punny names), including Why the Fig Nut?, Almond Butter and Puffed Quinoa, Cashew Butter and Vanilla Bean, Salty, Vanilla Quinoa Qrispy, Hazelnut Butter, Crunchy Mint, Crunchy Banana and Simple Dark Chocolate.
Where to Buy: Find them online and in health food stores near you. We buy them locally at MOMs Organic Market.
All of their products are certified organic, dairy free, gluten-free, paleo, and vegan, and they don’t contain any additives. They use coconut sugar as their sweetener of choice, which has a lower glycemic effect than other sugars. In addition to selling yummy chocolate products, they also have dozens of free recipes on their site that use them.
They sell dark chocolate bars and coconut butter cups (Caramel Sea Salt, Banana Cream, Mint Cream and Strawberries and Cream) as well as chocolate bars with flavors like 72% Signature Dark, Almond Sea Salt, Crunchy Caramel, Midnight Coconut, Cashew Milk, and Cashew Milk and Almonds. Their recently released Keto Cups (high fat) are likely to be popular, too, considering the popularity of that trend.
Salazon Chocolate Co.
With Jinji, Charm School and Salazon Chocolates all originating within a half hour of where I live, I feel like one lucky woman 🙂 Fortunately, you don’t have to live in Baltimore to buy their products!
Salazon’s 100% USDA organic, Fair Trade certified, Hispaniola cacao beans sourced from CONACADO, a democratically run cooperative of small-scale producers in the Dominican Republic. These farmers grow their cacao using sustainable practices and put great care into their work.
These bars are gluten-free but are made in a facility that also handles peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and milk, so if you are super sensitive, be aware of that. All of the bars are vegan except for the Sea Salt & Caramel Bar. Here’s a peek at some of their flavors: 57% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt; with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar; with Sea Salt and Black Pepper; with Sea Salt and Coffee. 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds, with Sea Salt and Coconut; with Sea Salt and Cayenne; with Sea Salt; with Sea Salt & Orange Zest.
They recently rebranded, so be on the lookout for their new packaging the next time you need a chocolate fix.
Theo’s model is based on a core idea – chocolate can be made in a way that allows everyone in the bean to bar process to thrive.
Now that’s the kind of company I want to support. Theo was the first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker in North America, and they remain committed to pushing the industry forward today. To learn more about what makes Theo different, click here.
A few of their gluten-free, dairy-free options include: Black Rice Quinoa Crunch 85% Dark, Coconut 70% Dark, Raspberry 70% Dark, Salted Almond 70% Dark, and Ginger 70% Dark. I also love their Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter and Peanut Butter Cups, which are vegan as well.
Where to Buy: Online on the Theo website and in stores like MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant, and other natural food stores.
Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace.
Flavors include 85% Dark Chocolate, 70% Dark Chocolate and Mint Dark Chocolate; Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt; Dark Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt; 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries; Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Truffle; 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange; Dark Chocolate with Almonds; Dark Chocolate with Mango and Coconut; Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Raisins; Dark Chocolate with Hazelnuts and Cranberries.
Where to Buy: On their website, Whole Foods Market, Amazon, Walgreens, Giant, and some Target stores.
If you care deeply about the environment, especially about wild life, you may want to switch your chocolate to this company.
10% of our net profits are donated annually to current 10% GiveBack Partners; each is guaranteed a minimum annual donation of $10,000 and is free to use the funds on projects they deem most important. With over $1.3 million generated in the past three years alone, each chocolate purchase adds up to big support that helps wildlife thrive.
They are the first American-made chocolate using fully traceable fair trade beans from West Africa.
Here are a few of their dark chocolate flavors: Sea Salt and Almonds; Forest Mint; Peppermint Crunch, Lemon Poppy Seed; Cinnamon, Cayenne and Cherries; Cacao Nibs; and 72% Dark Chocolate.
Where to Buy: Buy them at one of these online retailers or at MOMs Organic Market, Giant, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and other natural food stores.
Green & Black
“Green symbolizes our commitment to always sourcing ethical cocoa. Black stands for our high quality and the delicious intensity of our chocolate.”
This company’s new signature Pure Dark Chocolates are sourced through Cocoa Life, a holistic, third-party verified cocoa sustainability program, that will invest over $400 million by 2022 to empower over 200,000 cacao farmers.
Their organic flavors include Mint Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Currant Dark Chocolate, Ginger Dark Chocolate, Maya Gold Dark Chocolate, and 70-85% Cacao Dark Chocolate.
Where to Buy: Find them online and in stores like MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Giant.
And this last one doesn’t align with the fair trade model (as far as I know), so it’s not one of my personal top pics, but it is an option for diabetics because it has zero impact on blood sugar 🙂
If you or someone you know struggles with blood sugar control or are consuming no added sugar in your diet, the monk fruit and erythritol-sweetened chocolate from Lakanto could be an option for you. It’s diabetic-friendly because it scores zero on the glycemic index due to its combination of sugar-free sweeteners. This chocolate is also vegan, gluten-free, keto, and paleo-friendly!
I’m confirming the sourcing of their beans (whether they meet the same standards as the bars above!), but for someone who wants chocolate without the impact of sugar, give these bars a try. The three varieties are 55% chocolate plain, with almonds and with cacao nibs.
Where to Buy: Find them online.
Aaaand that’s a wrap, my friends! This post was a labor of love, so I hope it helps you and those you love upgrade your chocolate to the best you can buy. Feel free to leave a comment below about your favorites and about any that I may be missing and should consider.