After deciding on a vegan lifestyle, whether or not the regular consumption of chocolate could continue wasn’t really taken into consideration.  Maybe not too suprisingly being a vegan is about other factors; environment, animal welfare, health.  Fortunately it was quickly established that vegan chocolate existed.  Oh the joy at that news.  So if that is your reason for not being a vegan than think again.

So yes, vegans can eat chocolate, hurrah!    Specifically dark, raw and some drinking chocolate.  Not all dark chocolate though – always read the label.

We have also added where we can confirmation about the fair trade nature of these products (more information in the child slavery section at the bottom).

Raw Chocolate

A controversial topic where there is differing opinion – does raw chocolate exist?  This is chocolate which has not been “cooked” and the cocoa beans cannot be heated over a minimal temperature when roasted.  However cocoa beans cannot be ‘roasted’ below ~40C, (a temperature often given by those that follow raw food diet), so by definition there cannot be any ‘raw roasted cocoa beans’. Cocoa butter, (the natural cocoa fat used in chocolate making) can be used in cosmetics if not steam cleaned, but is not food grade without this cleaning (and actually tastes inedible).

It is rich and deeply intense in flavour which makes it harder to over consume, and it is considered to be a super food because its rich in antioxidents.

Raw chocolate can be bought in bars from health shops or you can learn to make your own.  The cocoa bean can be bought as nibs, powder or butter.  By mixing the powder with a raw natural sugar such as agava you can make a basic raw chocolate.

Srumptious Raw Chocolates Info

  • Sweet Sensations offer raw chocolate making courses and a range of raw chocolate treats.
  • The Raw Chocolate shop – bars and more raw chocolate info.
  • Detox Your World – organic bars, powder, nibs and a host of other raw goodies and super foods. All their products (not just cocoa) is fair trade without use of child labour. Read more here.
  • Raw Intent – make the best raw chocolate pie.
  • The Raw Chocolate Company Fairtrade cocoa (currently not certified) is used but no clarification on child labour policies was given.
  • Conscious Chocolate The cocoa is supplied by Tree Harvest who have visisted the farm and are confident there is no child labour involved.
  • Mulu Chocolate are confident that their cocoa is child labour free, read more about their ethical policies here.
  • Rawr their cacoa is ethically sourced from Peru and they are in the process of gaining Soil Association certification.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate should contain over 70% of chocolate mass and is produced by many chocolate manufacturers but alas, it is not all vegan.  Dark chocolate can contain cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and soy lecithin (plant derived emulsifier).  Always read the label.  Some bars are not marked vegan when they are produced on a production line with milk.

Yummy Vegan Chocolate

  • Organic Chocolate – the definitive chocolate guide, a whole host of interesting companies (includes non vegan).
  • D&D Chocolates Ltd
  • Plamil – Rated highest ethical brand chocolate 2009 Ethical Consumer, free from dairy, gluten and nuts, sourcing cocoa from CONACADO, available in most health food stores.  Read more about the cooperative here.
  • No Moo Cow
  • Hipo Hyfryd– fair trade cocoa is used but no clarification on child labour policies was given.
  • Booja Booja – have confirmed no child labour at all is used in the production of their cocoa.
  • Whizzers – love those speckled eggs, available in Holland and Barrett. Their cocoa is sourced from Barry Callebaut read their ethical policies here.
  • A Lot Of Chocolates – online store selling a range of vegan branded chocolate.
  • The Chocolate Wendy House – omg vegan cream eggs! Wendy uses Plamil chocolate for her products, see Plamils entry for more information on their ethical policies above.
  • Go Max Foods – purveyors of classic choc bars in vegan form – Mars, Bounty, Snickers and Milky Way! UK stockists: VIVA!, Vegan Store and Ethical Wares. Their cocoa is sourced from a company which is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation and they use sustainable palm oil too.
  • Monetzuma – everything clearly labelled on their website, ranges include gluten free and organic. Read about their ethical polices here. If you’re in London why not visit their Spitalfields branch!

Drinking chocolate

Vegan drinking chocolate is out there too, again read the label to make sure it is suitable for vegans.  Twinnings and Sainsbury’s have a vegan hot chocolate in their product range.


Chocolate has not always been produced in bars and sold by shops.  The cocoa bean originates from the South American rain forests.  Historically Malayans consumed chocolate by way of a drink – the nib was ground down into a powder and mixed with spices.  After the Aztecs discovered the cocoa bean they valued it so much that it was used as their trading currency.

Drinking chocolate was brought into Europe in the 1600 by the Spanish,  rather than drink it with spices, sugar was added to sweeten it up.  It was hugely popular but expensive to import, so only royalty and the wealthy could afford to buy it.

The “Dutch process” allowed the first chocolate bars to be developed and mass production did not occur until after the industrial revolution.


images2The cocoa tree grows within 20 degrees of the equator to ensure that it has plentiful rainfall and rich, well drained soil.  The tree grows in the rain forest under the canopy, reaching up for the sunshine when it is ready for it and after 5 years it starts to bear fruits.  The pods are cut down from the tree, the cocoa bean and pulp are scooped out.  The beans ferment in the pulp, after which  they are cleaned and roasted.  Then the cocoa shell can then be opened to extract the nib which will be ground into a powder or split into cocoa mass and cocoa butter.

The flavour of chocolate varies depending upon the type of bean; criollo, forastero and trinitario, the length of time that the bean is roasted for (this creates the chocolate flavour) and the additional ingredients the chocolate manufacturer adds.  The higher the level of cocoa mass and cocoa butter in chocolate the stronger the flavour of chocolate.

Once all the ingredients are added to the chocolate mixture it goes through a conching process to refine and smooth out the mixture.  Then the final stage is tempering – this involves heating the mixture so the best type of chocolate crystals form to ensure a smooth finish.

The most expensive chocolate you can buy should contain the criollo bean which grows in central America.  The purest ingredients are utilised followed by lengthy conching for the smoothest, melt in your mouth experience.

Ethical Factors

Rain Forest

Although it originates from South America two thirds of the worlds chocolate now comes from West Africa.  Worldwide it is thought that 50 million people are dependent on cocoa income.  The natural rain forest production does not supply enough cocoa beans to meet worldwide demand so plantations have been established in the rain forest.  This has resulted in deforestation of the rain forest.   Rather than wait for the tree to produce pods and earn any income from the trees fruits, the farmers grow the trees in direct sunlight and feed them with fertilisers to grow the pods within 2-3 years.  This affects both the quality of the cocoa bean (it will not be organic), and the life of the tree which is not normally much longer than 5 years.

There are projects going on to encourage farmers to use a more sustainable approach.  By following the natural way the cocoa tree grows, under a canopy, the farmers can also grow nut and banana trees.  This reduces the need for fertilisers; insects in the mulch under the tree do this job, and also provides the farmer with additional income.

More info

Child Slavery

The Ivory Coast produces about half the West African cocoa beans.  In 1998 a UNICEF report from the area revealed high numbers of children between 9-14 years old working on these plantations.  They are tempted away from home under the guise of earning money to send back to their poor families home.  They end up being trafficked to the Ivory Coast and sold for $50-$100.

Once at the plantations there is no escape for the young children who are forced to work 80-100 hour weeks for free, under the constant threat of violence.  They are fed little and locked up at night.  These children sit outside the scope of the law with no protection and are seen as expendable by the plantation owners.

Two US senators set a deadline to end child slavery in the industry within 5 years, many chocolate manufacturers signed up but little has been achieved.  The manufacturers do not see it as their responsibility to resolve.   One reasoning behind using slave labour is because of the poverty of the cocoa farmers who need to meet the quantity of cocoa bean required by the market but for the additional yield they do not earn substantially more money.  It is the market traders and manufacturers that benefit.

More info

Happily there is something you can do to help.  BUY FAIRTRADE.  Fair trade ensures that

  • Ths chocolate is slave free
  • The cocoa plantation owners earn enough for an adequate standard of living
  • The plantation must be environmentally sustainable

Food Standards

Cocoa tree growers are protective of the name chocolate name, both to preserve their income and reputation.  To do this they need to ensure that the highest percentage of cocoa mass and cocoa butter is maintained in production.  These percentages vary from country to country.

In 2007 several US chocolate manufacturers approached the Food and Drug Administration and requested that they could replace partly hydrogenated vegetable oils as well as using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes and call their product chocolate.  The FDA refused.

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