Is chocolate vegan? The base product of chocolate, cacao, is vegan. The problems start when we refine or produce chocolate-based products; often turning them into something which is far from vegan-friendly…
This article will talk you through how to tell the difference.
Where Does Cacao Come From?
Cacao comes from South America. It is produced in many South American countries and is a very popular food and flavour product.
For thousands of years, it has been added as a spice and thickening agent in South American cooking. It is thought it was the Incas that first found that you could roast and grind the seed kernels produced by a tree belonging to the plant genus Theobroma.
Although the first recorded use of cacao was by the Incas, it was the Mayas that were to become the principal chocolatiers of the ancient world. In fact, they were the first ones to make what we consider hot chocolate today.
What Makes Your Average Chocolate Bar Not Vegan Friendly?
Where to start? There are many ingredients that don’t make what we today call chocolate vegan friendly. When you look at what is added to chocolate, you almost have to take a step back.
This is a brief list of non-vegan ingredients you find in chocolate:
- Refined sugar
Does that mean you can’t eat chocolate if you are vegan? No, it does not mean that at all. You can still enjoy chocolate when you are vegan.
Vegan chocolate tastes slightly differently but still tastes great. A vegan chocolate bar contains cocoa butter instead of regular butter, raw sugar and a higher content of cocoa.
Can I Cook with Chocolate?
As cocoa powder has many health benefits, you should add it to your cooking. If you have ever travelled to South America, you will know it is often added to cooking including chilli-based dishes.
You can also add cocoa to curry-based dishes which gives them another level of flavour. Currently adding peanut butter to enhance flavour and structure? Try adding cocoa instead!
Of course, you can also add chocolate to dessert, bread, breakfast dishes and sweet treats.
What Does Vegan Chocolate Taste Like?
As no milk has been added, the flavour experience is much richer. It is usually a little more bitter than its non-vegan counterparts, with a harder, yet crumblier, texture. It does melt in your mouth, it just takes longer!
The colour is darker too. As vegan chocolate is far more concentrated than its non-vegan cousin, it is richer in chocolate health benefits. Reason enough for that extra chunk…
Is Vegan Chocolate More Expensive?
Yes, you can expect to pay more for your vegan chocolate. But, at the end of the day, you get better value for money.
Although it is still a sweet treat, your vegan chocolate bar contains more cocoa.
Is Vegan Chocolate Organic?
Not all vegan chocolate is labelled organic. But, most cocoa trees are grown according to organic principles.
This means that almost all of the cocoa powder that makes its way to manufacturers is organic when it reaches the manufacturing facility. It is the addition of other ingredients and compounds that make the average chocolate bar non-vegan.
Fortunately, many manufacturers have picked up on this. Therefore it is easier to buy organic chocolate than it used to be.
Do All Manufacturers Make Vegan Chocolate?
No, not all of them do. But as many vegans are chocolate lovers, the availability of vegan chocolate has increased, as I’m sure you’ve noticed on your supermarket shelves.
Is chocolate vegan? Yes and no. Once again, it is a matter of what you do with the base product.
Thankfully, with the manufacturers increasingly catering for us plant-eaters, we don’t have to give up our favourite treat to live a cruelty-free lifestyle!