11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Is vegan chocolate always ethical?

Finding vegan chocolate is easier than ever. But, even though many brands now offer dairy-free options, the way they’re made often relies on human exploitation. Here’s what to know about buying ethical, vegan chocolate bars.

Chocolate Ingredients

What’s in a chocolate bar? Chocolate comes in three varieties: milk, dark, and white. Both milk and dark chocolate traditionally contain sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder, cocoa liquor, lecithin, vanilla, and cocoa. Fat, sugar, and cocoa content varies by brand. Dark chocolate tends to have the highest cocoa content and lowest sugar content while milk chocolate lies on the opposite end of the spectrum.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
How do you tell if chocolate is vegan? | Raaka

Vegan Chocolate

Chocolate, even milk chocolate, can be made without dairy ingredients. Instead of dairy, brands may use coconut, rice, or oat milk. Some brands blend their chocolate with nut butter, such as cashew or hazelnut, to create a creamy texture similar to traditional milk chocolate.

The Chocolate Trade

The chocolate trade has an effect on both humans and non-humans alike. Many top chocolate brands, including Nestlé, Hershey’s, and Mars, source cocoa from farms that rely on child and slave labor.

According to the Food Empowerment Project (FEP), a nonprofit organization that “seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices,” recent investigations have uncovered child labor and in some cases, slavery, on Western African cocoa farms. As the chocolate industry has grown, so has the demand for cheap labor.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Who is harvesting cocoa?

Slave Labor

Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon supply 70 percent of the world’s cocoa. This drives farms to source child labor to keep costs competitive. Traffickers buy children from their families or coerce them into working on the farm with promises of good pay. Traffickers may abduct children from two of the world’s poorest countries, Burkina Faso and Mali. Child laborers on cocoa farms risk never seeing their families again. A day’s pay may be less than $2. Additionally, some children are coerced without pay, beaten for not working fast enough, or whipped for trying to escape farms. “While the term ‘slavery’ has a variety of historical contexts, slavery in the cocoa industry involves the same core human rights violations as other forms of slavery throughout the world,” says the FEP.

The work is dangerous and exploitative. The workday begins at 6 am and ends in the evening and meals commonly consist of cheap foods like banana and corn paste.

According to FEP, “Some of the children use chainsaws to clear the forests. Other children climb the cocoa trees to cut bean pods using a machete. These large, heavy, dangerous knives are the standard tools for children on the cocoa farms, which violates international labor laws and a UN convention on eliminating the worst forms of child labor.”

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
What about Fair Trade chocolate?

Fair Trade Chocolate

Some chocolate may be labeled Fair Trade Certified — but, not all brands adhere to this standard. According to chocolate brand Equal Exchange, “Fair Trade is a way of doing business that ultimately aims to keep small farmers an active part of the world marketplace, and aims to empower consumers to make purchases that support their values.”

But, labeling isn’t without its complications. Not all brands that use ethically sourced chocolate use the Fair Trade label. Refer to FEP’s Chocolate List for ethical vegan chocolate. The nonprofit even has a free app that you can access while offline.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
This chocolate bar has a malty, smoky flavor.

Hotel Chocolat Saint Lucia Chocolate

Saint Lucian cacao beans, imparted by rich, volcanic soil, give this Hotel Chocolate bar its smoky, savory flavor. This 84 percent dark chocolate bar was won the Bronze winner of the 2018 Academy of Chocolate Awards.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
The Food Empowerment Project recommends Hu Kitchen.

Hu Kitchen Cashew Butter Chocolate

This creamy Cashew Butter + Pure Vanilla Bean Dark Chocolate bar from Hu Kitchen is free from dairy, palm oil, and emulsifiers. It’s made with 80 percent organic dark chocolate, real vanilla bean, and cashew butter, which gives it a milk chocolate-esque texture.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Absolute Black is one of Montezuma’s best-selling chocolate bars.

Montezuma’s Absolute Black

For true fans of dramatic dark chocolate. Montezuma’s Dark Chocolate Absolute Black bar is made from 100 percent cocoa. Plus, it’s free from added sugar and soy. Food Empowerment Project recommends this popular British brand on its Chocolate List.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
New Paltz, New York-based brand Lagusta’s Luscious is vegan.

Lagusta’s Luscious

Ethical vegan, feminist-run chocolate brand Lagusta’s Luscious holds social justice as one of its core values. So, its chocolate is ethically sourced. This set comes with four flavors: Semisweet 66%, Ginger Nibby, Maple White Chocolate, and Smoky Corn on the Cob. Founder Lagusta Yearwood recently shared her years of experience as a chocolatier in her first cookbook, “Sweet + Salty: The Art of Vegan Chocolate.”

Check it out here.

Smooth, dairy-free chocolate and whole hazelnuts.

Vego

Hailing from Germany, Vego chocolate bars are made with fine Italian Gianduja chocolate, fine hazelnut paste, and whole hazelnuts. It has a creamy, milk chocolate-like texture that melts in your mouth.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Alter Eco’s chocolate is organic and Fair Trade.

Alter Eco Quinoa Crunch

This Swiss-made chocolate brand Alter Eco crafts its bars from organic cacao grown by farmers working to replenish South American rainforests. The Quinoa Crunch bar is made from 60 percent Ecuadorian cacao. It has a crunchy texture, thanks to royal pearl quinoa crisps and a nutty, malty flavor.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
This chocolate bar tastes like an oatmeal cookie.

Raaka Oat Milk Chocolate Bar

Bean-to-bar brand Raaka crafts artisan chocolate at its Brooklyn factory using single-origin cacao. According to Raaka, its Oat Milk Chocolate Bar has a flavor “reminiscent of homemade granola covered in creamy chocolate, similar to a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
A mouthwatering blend of dark chocolate and refreshing orange.

Equal Exchange Orange Chocolate

Just like its name implies, all Equal Exchange chocolate is fairly traded. Its organic Orange Chocolate bar has the best of both worlds: rich, 65 percent cacao and citrus-y orange.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Smooth, creamy chocolate mixed with bites of real cherries.

NibMor Chocolate Cherry

Ethical chocolate brand NibMor’s Chocolate Cherry bar combines 72 percent cacao with chewy bites of real tart cherries. Also, it has a surprisingly sweet and smooth texture.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Long Island-based brand Eating Evolved is vegan, keto, and paleo.

Eating Evolved Crunchy Caramel

Organic, ethically-sourced chocolate brand Eating Evolved keeps things simple. Its Crunchy Caramel bar features four ingredients — cacao, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and cacao butter.

Check it out here.

11 Ethical and Vegan Chocolate Bars
Sweet, salty, and chocolate-y.

Theo Salted Almond

Seventy percent cacao meets crunchy almonds and a hint of sea salt in this vegan chocolate bar. Theo sources its cacao beans responsibly from cocoa beans from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Peru.

Check it out here.