Whether you're doing it for animal welfare, for the planet, for your own health or just for Veganuary, switching to a plant-based diet has many benefits. But fortunately giving up animal products doesn't mean you have to give up on sweet treats (or savoury food favourites, such as mayonnaise).
With the plant-based food market expanding rapidly, there are now plenty of options for vegans (and flexitarians) seeking a sugar rush. But what's the best way to satisfy your chocolate cravings?
We threw several dairy-free curveballs into our dark and milk chocolate taste tests to keep our judges on their toes. They didn't know which products were vegan and which weren't, so they were judged on an even playing field.
So we reveal the best tasting plant-based 'milk' chocolates and dark chocolates from our expert taste test – and how they compare with non-vegan products.
How did we choose the best tasting vegan chocolate?
We set four chocolate experts the unfortunate task of tasting 24 milk/m*lk chocolates and 37 dark chocolates to see which ones they rated the best.
Our experts are all highly regarded chocolate connoisseurs who have decades of experience between them. They tasted each chocolate 'blind', which means they didn't know what brand they were tasting – and they didn't know which products were dairy-free or not, so the vegan products had a fair go.
They judged each product on its aroma, texture, flavour and appearance. We also assessed each product's Health Star Rating – although, being chocolate, none of them scored particularly well in this respect!
But you'll be pleased to know that taste accounted for 90% of each product's score – since taste is the most important factor when it comes to chocolate!
Raising the bar: Pico Original M*lk chocolate came top of the plant-based crop.
Best tasting vegan 'milk' chocolate from our tests
There was one plant-based chocolate in our test that stood head and shoulders above the rest: Pico Original M*lk chocolate.
Our expert taste testers rated it the best tasting of all the dairy-free chocolates in our test, with a taste score of 70% – almost 20 percentage points higher than the second-best vegan chocolate.
What's more, it had the second-highest cocoa content of all the products we tested, not just the vegan ones.
On the downside, it was also one of the most expensive, costing $7.50 per 100g. In fact, vegan chocolate products are among the priciest on the market. The most expensive in our test was Pana Organic Mylk, costing a steep $11.25 per 100g.
But a bit of extra cash may be a reasonable tradeoff for you if your motivations for cutting down on dairy are ethical or environmental.
How the top scoring vegan chocolate compares
Although 67% may not seem like a very high score, when compared with all the other milk chocolates we tested, the Pico actually does quite well. It outperforms brands like Green & Black's, Darrell Lea, Lindt and Cadbury – and by a big margin. For comparison, Darrell Lea scored 55% and Cadbury Dairy Milk just 49%.
For a plant-based chocolate to stand up so well against dairy-based traditional milk chocolates is no mean feat – so you know it's good stuff
For a plant-based chocolate to stand up so well against dairy-based traditional milk chocolates is no mean feat – so you know it's good stuff.
Here's how the top three vegan 'milk' chocolates stack up:
Pico Original M*lk.
1. Pico Original M*lk
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 67%
- Taste score: 70%
- Price per 100g: $7.50
- Country of origin: Made in Switzerland.
LovingEarth Creamy Coconut Mylk Chocolate with Raw Ashaninka Cacao.
2. LovingEarth Creamy Coconut Mylk Chocolate with Raw Ashaninka Cacao
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 47%
- Taste score: 51%
- Price per 100g: $8.06
- Country of origin: Made in Australia.
Pana Organic Mylk.
3. Pana Organic Mylk
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 46%
- Taste score: 50%
- Price per 100g: $11.25
- Country of origin: Made in Australia using imported ingredients.
To learn more about milk chocolate, check out our guide to buying the best milk chocolate.
Prefer dark chocolate without the dairy? There are plenty of offerings out there.
The dark side
If you're a dark chocolate lover, there are plenty of plant-based options available. Of the 37 dark chocolates we tested, no fewer than 23 were vegan – so you won't have to miss out!
Many dark chocolate products are 'accidental' dairy-free foods – that is, they're not made specifically for the vegan market, but by virtue of them being dark chocolates, they just happen not to contain any animal products. This is why you'll see many more 'mainstream' brands like Lindt, Whittaker's and even Coles' own-brand dark chocolate in the plant-based dark chocolate category.
Many dark chocolate products are 'accidental' dairy-free foods – that is, they're not made specifically for the vegan market… they just happen not to contain any animal products
In case you didn't know, other accidental vegan foods include Burger Rings, Coco Pops and Oreos!
Once again, Pico was one of the star performers, scoring 74% and taking third place overall with its Super Dark 85% Cocoa Single Origin. It was also one of the most expensive, but also had one of the highest percentages of cocoa.
But it couldn't quite trump Lindt's Excellence 90% Cocoa bar, which topped the group with a score of 79%. Coming in just behind it was Aldi's Just Organic 70% Dark Chocolate with a score of 78%.
Here's how the top three stack up:
Lindt Excellence 90% cocoa.
Lindt Excellence 90% cocoa
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 79%
- Taste score: 83%
- Price per 100g: $4.50
- Country of origin: Manufactured in Germany
Aldi Just Organic 70% Dark Chocolate.
Aldi Just Organic 70% Dark Chocolate
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
- Taste score: 84%
- Price per 100g: $2.79
- Country of origin: Packed in Germany from imported ingredients.
Pico Super Dark 85% Cocoa Single Origin.
Pico Super Dark 85% Cocoa Single Origin
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 74%
- Taste score: 79%
- Price per 100g: $7.50
- Country of origin: Made in Switzerland. Cocoa from Dominican Republic.
To learn more about choosing the best dark chocolate, check out our guide to buying the best dark chocolate.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.