Categories of Chocolate Products
In convenience stores across the country, you can find a wide variety of chocolate bars on display. If you take the time to examine the ingredient list on many of these products, you will find all sorts of things that are not chocolate, which makes many people wonder which chocolate brands they can trust.
To figure out which kinds of chocolate are vegan-friendly, it’s worth looking into how different types of chocolate are made.
Like any recipe, there are lots of potential variations out there, but white chocolates are usually made using a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla and soy lecithin.
As you may have noticed, chocolate solids are not found in this ingredient list, which is why some people argue that white chocolate isn’t part of the family of chocolates. In the end, this debate largely comes down to a question of semantics because the rules surrounding chocolate marketing and labelling vary from place to place. In general, white chocolate uses the same base ingredient – cocoa – as other chocolates, so it has a place in the chocolate family tree.
“Regular” white chocolate is never vegan chocolate because it contains milk ingredients, although there are some vegan versions out there.
As the most popular form of chocolate in many places, milk chocolate products can be found almost anywhere. The three primary ingredients in any milk chocolates are cocoa, sugar and some form of dairy milk derivative, like powdered or condensed milk.
Because it contains milk by definition, you can cross milk chocolates off your list of vegan chocolates. Although some companies have created vegan, dairy-free “milk” chocolate by using plant alternatives, like almond milk or rice milk, they are few and far between.
For vegans, high-quality dark chocolates are your best bet. Why? Because the ingredients list on the best dark chocolates are short, easy to understand and (usually) free of animal ingredients.
Instead of using dairy products for their fat content, dark chocolates are primarily made using cocoa butter. However, some kinds of dark chocolate still use a small quantity of milk solids so it’s worth checking the ingredients list the next time you come across a dark chocolate bar to make sure it is, in fact, dairy free.
SEMISWEET, BITTERSWEET AND UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE
These kinds of chocolate are the base for many chocolate products and all sorts of delicious baked goods. They are all made mostly from raw cacao, which is usually clearly indicated on the product label.
Bittersweet chocolate contains roughly 70% cacao, and can be used interchangeably with semisweet, even if it does have a slightly higher cacao concentration.
Semisweet chocolate has about 60% cacao content. You are most likely to find it in the form of semi-sweet chocolate chips, which are usually featured prominently in grocery store baking aisles because classic recipes for chocolate chip cookies almost always call for this kind of chocolate.
Unsweetened chocolate is chocolate in completely raw form, so it is bitter and has a chalky, crumbly texture. This kind of chocolate should be reserved for recipes that include some sort of sweetener.