The great thing about dark chocolate is that it’s both naughty and nice. As the basis of a decadent dessert, it’s an indulgence. But nibble on a square of it for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, or in a trail mix, and you can feel quite virtuous.
However you choose to eat it, you want one that’s delicious. So which dark chocolate tastes best?
We put 37 supermarket dark chocolates, from brands including Lindt, Cadbury and Nestle, to the test.
We assess dark chocolates for both taste and nutrition, and recommend those that received an overall score (CHOICE Expert Rating) of 70% or more. Of the 37 products we tested, 11 make that list:
- Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa (CHOICE Expert Rating 79%)
- Aldi Just Organic 70% Dark Chocolate (78%)
- Pico Super Dark 85% Cocoa Single Origin (74%)
- Lindt Excellence Smooth Blend 70% Cocoa (73%)
- Lindt Excellence 95% Cocoa (73%)
- Aldi Moser Roth Finest Dark 70% Cocoa (73%)
- Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa (72%)
- Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa (72%)
- Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa (72%)
- Green & Black's Smooth Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa (71%)
- Whittaker's 92% Cocoa Ghana Intense Dark Chocolate (70%)
Two products in particular excelled for taste.
Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 79%
- Price per 100g: $4.50
- Country of origin statement: Manufactured in Germany.
- Experts say:
"Shiny appearance. A good all-round, pleasant, moderately bitter dark chocolate. Smooth texture with a distinct snap. Not sweet at all. Not too complex in flavour, good mouthfeel and melt and a lingering aftertaste."
Aldi Just Organic 70% Dark Chocolate
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
- Price per 100g: $2.79
- Country of origin statement: Packed in Germany from imported ingredients.
- Experts say:
"Unique. Aroma has some floral and roasted notes. Shiny appearance. A very easy eating dark chocolate with good cocoa flavour. Smooth and creamy mouthfeel and aftertaste, pleasant bitterness. A smooth texture with a moderate snap."
The cheapest of the dark chocolates we tested was Woolworths Essentials Dark Choc Cooking Block.
The upside? At just $2.50 ($0.67 per 100g), this massive 375g block is a fraction of the cost of the most expensive blocks on test (Loving Earth chocolates, $8.63 per 100g).
The downside? It scored poorly for taste and is only 15% cocoa, the lowest by a sizable margin. It's also the only product in our test with vegetable fats (palm and shea) added.
If you're on a budget but don't want to compromise on deliciousness, the following products all scored 70% or more for taste, but cost $2.50 or less per 100g.
- Aldi Moser Roth Finest Dark 70% Cocoa ($2.39 per 100g)
- Aldi Moser Roth Finest Dark 85% Cocoa ($2.39 per 100g)
- Coles Finest Belgian Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa ($2.50 per 100g)
- Coles Belgian 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate ($2.50 per 100g)
- Frey (Woolworths) Supreme Dark Satin 69% ($2.50 per 100g)
It stands to reason that the higher the cocoa content of a block of chocolate, the lower the sugar content, as there's less space for it to fit.
So it's not surprising that the three products on test with 90% or more cocoa solids – Lindt Excellence 95% Cocoa, Whittaker's 92% Cocoa Ghana Intense Dark Chocolate and Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa – are among the five products lowest in sugar.
The other products that round out this list – Well Naturally No Sugar Added Dark Chocolate Rich Dark and Lindt Dark Chocolate No Sugar Added – both contain non-nutritive sweeteners in place of sugar.
Of these five products, only the Lindt Excellence 95% Cocoa and the sugar-free products are 'low sugar' by definition (contain no more than 5g sugar per 100g as per the Food Standards Code).
For the sweet tooth, at the other end of the sugar spectrum is Nestle Plaistowe The Finest Dark 45% Cocoa with 53.6g sugar per 100g.
Of the 37 dark chocolates we tested, 23 (62%) are vegan. Despite the name, some dark chocolates – 14 in our review – do contain milk, or its products.
If you're trying to avoid animal products, keep an eye out for the following in the ingredients lists of dark chocolate:
- milk solids (sometimes listed as milk powder or cream powder)
- milk fat
- butter oil
A range of factors determine the quality of chocolate – it's not just about cocoa content or the region where the cacao beans are sourced. While the label won't tell you everything, you can gather some wisdom from it.
The cocoa content (or cocoa solids) percentage on a block of chocolate refers to everything in that block that's derived from the cacao bean. This includes cocoa mass/liquor (ground-up cacao nibs, which are roughly 50% cocoa butter) as well as any extra cocoa butter added to the chocolate.
Percentage cocoa is an indication of the intensity of the chocolate flavour, but it doesn't tell you anything about the quality and type of cacao bean, or the way it's been fermented and dried. Nor does it distinguish the amount of cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter content is arguably a better indication of quality than the overall percentage of cocoa as it's what makes the chocolate melt in your mouth, giving it a luxurious feel.
International standards for couverture (professional quality) chocolate, for example, specify that cocoa butter must make up at least 31% of its total cocoa solids content.
Unfortunately for consumers, there's no requirement to label cocoa butter percentages on chocolate. The best indication as to cocoa butter content is how far up the ingredients list it is.
Many lower-grade chocolates such as compound chocolate have the more valuable cocoa butter extracted and replaced with less-expensive hard vegetable fats such as palm oil.
A good chocolate should have very few ingredients:
- cocoa mass
- cocoa butter
- milk in a milk chocolate (dark chocolate, by definition, shouldn't have any milk but some do)
- emulsifier such as soy lecithin, which helps to bind the ingredients together.
Other factors, such as the raw ingredients used and the way it's made and stored will also affect the quality of the chocolate.
Many chocolate products carry the logos of certification programs on their labels, most commonly UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade.
These logos certify that the cocoa used in the chocolate has been sourced from producers that comply with a specific code of conduct. While this varies between certification programs, it tends to encompass sustainable farming methods, improved working conditions and sustainable incomes for farmers and their families.
Being able to shop ethically is important for many people, so we've partnered with Shop Ethical on our dark chocolate review. Shop Ethical utilises formulas based on third party independent ratings to derive an ethical rating for each company (not product) ranging from A for the best to F for the worst, and we've displayed this rating for each company featured in our review.
Get smooth and silky liquid chocolate – without burning it – in just two simple steps, by following this advice from CHOICE home economist, Fiona Mair.
- Place the chocolate squares, buttons or chips into a plastic microwave-safe bowl (plastic is better as it doesn't heat up like glass) and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir thoroughly.
- Heat for an additional 30 seconds then stir well, even if it looks solid. If necessary, repeat this step until fully melted.
- Based on a 200g quantity and a 900W microwave. Different microwave wattage, chocolate quantity and chocolate type (dark/milk) can affect melting time.
Of the 37 products we tested, seven are labelled as 'cooking' or 'baking' chocolate, and they're all among the cheapest products on test. The highest scoring of these is Nestle Plaistowe The Finest 70% Cocoa.
Dean Gibson is one of the pioneers of the Australian pastry scene – dedicated to the baking, patisserie, hotel and restaurant industry for nearly 40 years.
He is a TAFE NSW technical education teacher of professional bakery and patisserie trade education, and a consultant to the global hospitality industry.
Dean is a judge in the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Chocolate Competition and has appeared on television programs such as MasterChef Australia, Masters of Chocolate and Pastry Battlers.
Brigid Treloar has been a freelance food consultant for over 30 years. The author of eight cookbooks, she also contributes to newspapers and magazines, reviews restaurants, judges cookery and recipe competitions, and is a judge in the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Chocolate Competition.
Brigid has presented specialist cooking classes around Australia and overseas, and often appears on TV and radio.
She's an industry assessor for Le Cordon Bleu, and advises many of Australia's food companies on product and recipe development.
Andre Sandison has worked as a pastry chef in hotels, restaurants, and production patisseries in Japan, Britain, Switzerland and around Australia for more than 25 years.
He has competed in patisserie and gelato competitions both nationally and internationally, in Singapore, France and Italy, with success.
He loves craftwork and in a pandemic, getting back to basics where a focus on simplicity and quality is more important than ever.
Jodie Van Der Velden
Jodie Van Der Velden is the founder and owner of Josophan's Fine Chocolates in Leura, Blue Mountains. She is a firm advocate for and committed to the use of fair trade and ethically sourced ingredients.
Jodie has won Salon Culinaire medals for dessert making, Champion Chocolate Exhibit twice at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Chocolate Competition, and the Callebaut Australia Chocolate Dessert Competition.
In 2018 she was named as one of Australia's first 'Chocolate Heroes', a prestigious program run by the Belgian chocolate company Callebaut. Jodie is the Chair of Judges of the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Chocolate Competition.
How we test
We tested 37 chocolate blocks labelled as 'dark' (including cooking and compound chocolate) that are available nationally in major supermarket chains. We excluded flavoured varieties.
Price is as purchased in Sydney stores (not on special) in August 2020.
Our experts tasted the dark chocolate samples 'blind' (without knowing the brands). Two sets of samples (set A and set B) were prepared and posted to each expert. The tasting order was randomised for each expert.
The "A" tasting samples had all packaging removed, and identifying features on the chocolate surface (logo, pattern, etc.) were obscured. Each sample, regardless of the presence of identifying features, was treated the same.
Each sample was tasted and independently judged on three criteria: aroma, texture and flavour.
The "B" presentation samples had all packaging removed, but any identifying features remained untouched. These samples were judged on one criterion only: appearance.
The CHOICE Expert Score is made up of 90% taste (35% flavour, 35% texture, 5% aroma and 25% appearance) and 10% nutrition (based on the Health Star Rating, calculated from the details in the nutrition information panel and converted to a percentage). We recommend products with a CHOICE Expert Score of 70% or more.