i like chocolate. a lot. i blame my mother, because growing up there was always an open bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the fridge, for chocolate emergencies.
when i went vegan, i was slightly concerned that my new dietary choice might hinder my chocolate habit, since lots and lots and lots of "mainstream chocolate" contains milk (or milk products of some kind). snacks that i love but no longer eat due to presence of milk products: milky way bars, m&ms, dove dark squares (or hearts, or bells, or eggs, depending on time of year), cadbury mini-eggs (not the creme ones, these are solid chocolate with a candy shell), reese’s peanut butter cups, sno-caps, big kat (not regular kit kat, mind you), and york patties (which also contain gelatin–something i didn’t realize until after i went vegan).
i was cheered, however, when i learned that there are many dark chocolate bars out there that are indeed vegan. i have preferred dark chocolate to milk chocolate for years now, so it didn’t seem quite so bad once i knew there would still be options. unfortunately for my butt and thighs, i seem to have mistaken veganism for a license to constantly buy New Vegan Chocolate Products That I Haven’t Yet Tried. i cannot go to a store without searching ingredients lists and buying some chocolate thingie in order to see how i like it. it’s ridiculous but it’s also so darn tasty! i can’t break the habit. oh well.
one thing i have learned is that some chocolate is kind of "on purpose vegan" and other chocolate is more "accidentally vegan." the accidentally vegan stuff tends to be cheaper and easier to find, of course. i have also found that a lot of the "on purpose vegan" chocolate leans toward the bitter side of the taste spectrum. while i do love dark chocolate, i still like it to be creamy and sweet, and that has probably been my biggest challenge.
chocolate bars: my very favorite solid chocolate bar is the lindt swiss bittersweet. i can find this at regular ol’ grocery stores and it is wonderful. lindt makes about a million bars, and there are a couple that are too bitter for my liking, but this one (usually in a white label) is awesome. it has pretty much served as a substitute for dove dark chocolate in my life. other solid bars that are pretty darn tasty are the tropical source rich dark and the ritter sport dark. i have also tried dagoba’s dark 59% bar, once, and i liked it. there are tons of vegan dark chocolate bars out there, but in my opinion the cocoa percentage is too high on most of them. if you favor bitter chocolate, though, it’s a bonanza!
chocolate with peppermint: for me, this is its own category because i am so obsessed with it. i have always loved junior mints and york peppermint patties, and the be-all end-all in my opinion is the ritter sport peppermint bar. i discovered these about 8 or 9 years ago, and fell in love instantly. they are without a doubt my very favorite chocolate candy bar in the whole world, infinity. i used to buy them at central market in austin, and then later found them at world market stores (scattered around the US). when i went vegan i was beside myself with joy, because i had already prepared myself to never eat another ritter sport, and then realized that it was So Totally Vegan. hooray! well, the bummer about it is that around the same time i went vegan, peppermint ritter sports kind of went underground. they became really hard to find. they weren’t selling them at world market or central market anymore, and the only places i could find them online were german delis and the like. nothing in america, boo. the good news is that they have resurfaced (temporarily? permanently?) at pangea, and i’m hoping that i can always find a hook-up when i need one. in the meantime, i’ve been buying in bulk when i get the chance.
in the drought when i couldn’t find peppermint ritter sports, i started sampling any vegan chocolate peppermint stuff i could find. there’s a lot of good stuff out there. the dagoba mint bar is good, as is the rainforest bar. both of these are just smooth chocolate with a minty flavor infused into the bar. tropical source mint crunch is delicious–a dark chocolate bar with bunches of crushed up peppermint candies inside. yum. lake champlain makes a similar bar, also tasty.
if you’re looking for chocolate with pepperminty centers (more like junior mints or ritter sports), i’ve got you covered there as well. if you can’t find peppermint ritter sport and are in immediate need, head over to target and buy these after eight thin mints. they are really, really good. or, go to vegan essentials and pick up a bag of sorbee peppermint patties. these taste a lot like andes candies, and they’re sugar-free. while i’m yammering, i feel compelled to say that i really don’t like the green & black’s peppermint bar so much. too strong in all areas.
random tasty things: you may have heard about the maya gold bar, made by green & black’s. it’s kind of famous. i’m not really a fan of fruit (or nuts) in my chocolate, but after hearing lots of raves for the maya gold bar, i decided to give it a shot. it rocks. there’s not fruit in it, per se. it’s more like a solid chocolate bar with yummy spicy/fruity flavors lurking inside. in a similar vein, latest on my list of "yay, it’s vegan!" is the dagoba lime bar, which i first tried a week or so ago, and i can’t wait to buy more. it is a solid bar with limey flavors, and macadamia nuts. i’m making an exception of my usual "no stuff in my chocolate bar!" rule for this one.
a word about dagoba bars: proceed with caution. there are some good ones, and there are some scary ones. unfortunately for me, i started with (what else?) the chai bar, and i was really unpleasantly surprised by how weird it was. there’s pepper in it. as my husband pretty accurately put it, "this tastes like bad breath." and actually, i just realized that i first tried the chai bar before i even went vegan, and that one’s milk chocolate, so don’t eat it regardless. heh. anyhow, it took me several months to even bother trying another type of dagoba bar (but i’m glad that i did, or i would have never discovered the super-duper lime bar). i am fascinated with the concept of their lavender bar, but i can’t get past the idea of dried blueberries in there. not for me.
hey, what about the beloved sno-caps? never fear! there are vegan non-pareils! dig if you will, the picture: girl least likely to, standing in the ghirardelli store off michigan avenue in chicago, catching sight of a gigantic container of dark chocolate non-pareils. same girl snatching them off the shelf and reading the ingredients list immediately. reading it again. reading it twice more, just to be safe. squeee-ing out loud and rushing over to husband with exciting news. purchasing non-pareils and carrying them around downtown chicago like precious gold. bringing them home and eating herself sick on them for the next few weeks. (tip: they are really good right out of the fridge, dragged through a little bit of peanut butter.) i have also found an awesome candy shop 30 minutes from my house that makes vegan non-pareils, and have promised to whip me up a batch whenever i like. i love them.
okay. but what about chocolate for the fridge door? ah, chocolate chips. good for cookies, good for brownies/bars, good for snacking. my two favorite kinds of vegan chippers are ghirardelli semi-sweet and tropical source semi-sweet. mmmm. ghirardelli also makes a double chocolate chip, which are more bittersweet, and larger in size. i’ve been able to find ghirardelli chips in pretty much any regular grocery store. my co-op carries the tropical source chips.
one note: i love refrigerated chocolate. i always store my bars/candies in the fridge. it’s possible that some of these lovely treats might taste different at room temperature (i.e., more or less bitter). i only say this because i know it’s kind of weird and i’m going for full disclosure. heh. oh, and if anyone knows of a really good vegan peanut butter cup, i’m still looking for one.