- Is chocolate vegan?
- What is chocolate?
- Why does some chocolate have milk in it?
- What is vegan chocolate?
- Does vegan chocolate taste the same?
- Health benefits of chocolate
Is chocolate vegan?
The short answer: Yes, chocolate can be vegan. But it all depends on the ingredients.
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are grown on cacao trees. This means that chocolate is inherently a plant-based food.
Whether or not chocolate is vegan becomes a bit more complicated when you start to consider the process of making chocolate. If you start adding various ingredients, such as milk, the chocolate isn’t vegan anymore.
What is chocolate?
What is chocolate made from?
The process starts with the cocoa tree. Farmers harvest cocoa beans between October and December.
The beans are then placed between layers of banana leaves for six days to drain the wool-like pulp before being sun-dried and sent to a factory for processing. There, the beans are fermented and roasted.
After that, they are broken down into small called cacao nibs, which contain cocoa butter. The nibs are ground down into cocoa liquor and separated from the fatty part, called cocoa butter.
The cacao nibs are further refined into cocoa solids mixed with varying levels of sugar and sometimes milk, depending on the type of bar being made. After the nibs are removed, the cocoa bean is ground into a cocoa powder used for baking or drinks.
Why does some chocolate have milk in it?
Milk and milk powder are added to chocolate to give it a sweeter, creamier, and more mellow flavor than dark chocolate. A high cacao content also makes chocolate more brittle, so milk chocolate is softer in comparison.
What is vegan chocolate?
Vegan chocolate is any chocolate that is made without ingredients that come from animals. Look for chocolate bars with a minimal amount of ingredients. A typical chocolate bar should include chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter (yes, this natural cocoa fat is vegan), and vanilla.
Dark chocolate is an excellent option for vegans. Look for chocolate with a cacao content of 50% or more. The higher cacao percentage indicates a higher chocolate content.
Does vegan chocolate taste the same?
The short answer: No, vegan chocolate does not taste the same as classic milk chocolate bars.
But, dairy milk isn’t necessary for chocolate. Several companies have achieved a creamy texture using dairy-free options, including coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk, and even hazelnut butter.
Some food-tech companies are working on creating dairy-free milk proteins that brands could use to make products, so we might have “true” vegan milk chocolate someday.
Health benefits of chocolate
Eating a square or two of dark chocolate a day comes with some added health benefits. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, a naturally-occurring compound that may help protect the heart against cardiovascular disease. Flavanols are also known to lower blood pressure. Short-term studies have revealed that flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity, meaning they may reduce the risk of diabetes in the long run.
Dark chocolate is also a good source of iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.