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What Chocolate Is Vegan Friendly? Practical Tips for Chocolatiers

what chocolate is vegan friendly

As a vegan chocolate-lover or chocolatier, the question arises, what chocolate is vegan? Here, we explain what types of chocolate are vegan friendly, and what to look for when buying and working with vegan chocolate.

When making chocolate for vegans, it is important to be mindful of avoiding ingredients that are derived from animals. Milk is the major and most obvious ingredient in chocolate that is not vegan-friendly, but it is also important to pay close attention to milk derivatives such as whey and honey. Whether you’re a vegan wondering ‘is chocolate vegan friendly?’, or a chocolatier looking to craft vegan chocolates for this growing market, professional chocolatier Simon Knott is here to explain what chocolate is vegan, which are not, and why.

What Chocolate Is Vegan Friendly?

Article by Simon Knott, Professional Chocolatier

There is no question that vegan chocolate is growing in demand. Reasons why vegan chocolate is increasing in popularity, that chocolatiers should be aware of, include:


Growing numbers are intolerant to milk and dairy products. Up to 5% of the global population is allergic to cow’s milk.


Not all vegan products are necessarily healthier, but they are more likely to be free from questionable additives and E-numbers.

An Alternative to Animal Origin Products:

Awareness of animal welfare has become a priority in many people’s lives. Plant-based diets provide the required nutrition without resorting to eating meat and dairy. Many consumers class themselves as flexitarian rather than vegan. They enjoy a mostly vegan diet but still enjoy occasional meat.

Reducing Carbon Footprint:

Crop cultivation has a direct impact on the planet and climate change. Humans eating a plant-based diet make an efficient use of energy, while a meat and dairy-based diet requires far more. A plant-based diet generates 75% less greenhouse gas, and 75% less water pollution while using 75% less land than a meat-based diet.

is dark chocolate vegan
Is dark chocolate vegan? Generally, yes, but always check the label for milk derivatives such as whey, casein and lactose to be certain.

What are the Key Characteristics of Vegan Chocolate?

Non-dairy milk content

By its nature, the recipe for most dark chocolate doesn’t need to include any dairy ingredients. However, this doesn’t mean that all dark chocolate is vegan. Some dark chocolates warn on their packaging about animal traces, such as milk, in their products, which may be present through cross-contamination from the processing of other products on the same production line.

No milk derivatives or animal products

It’s important to be sure there are no other milk derivatives in the labelling of chocolate products. These can include different forms of milk such as whey, casein, and lactose, while a level of cholesterol higher than 0% indicates the inclusion of animal products. Lecithin is frequently used in chocolates as an emulsifier. Traditionally it has always been made with soy lecithin but as soy is classed as an allergen, more and more chocolatiers are turning to sunflower lecithin which isn’t an allergen.

It all comes down to a matter of personal choice but for vegans, it’s always good practice to check the labelling.

what chocolate is vegan white dark milk
What chocolate is vegan? Dark chocolate is usually safe, however, you should avoid milk and white chocolate unless they are specifically labelled vegan or dairy-free.

What Chocolate is Vegan? Tips for Consumers

Dark chocolate

Is Dark Chocolate Vegan?

With fewer ingredients such as 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar most dark chocolates are vegan without the need to replace ingredients. So, to the frequently asked question, is dark chocolate vegan? The answer is ‘Yes’ but check the labelling to ensure other milk additives haven’t been used in production.

Milk chocolate

Milk Chocolate, as the name suggests, contains dairy usually in the form of milk powder, condensed milk, liquid milk, or any combination of these three making it not vegan. Milk chocolate also has a lower level of cocoa solids. In the US milk chocolate only needs to contain 10% cocoa solids, while this is 20% in the UK.

Non-dairy milk such as rice milk powder, almond milk, and oat milk have all become viable alternatives to dairy, providing the richness and mouthfeel we associate with milk chocolate.

White chocolate

White Chocolate also frequently contains milk products such as milk powder, condensed milk, and liquid milk. This is combined with cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier such as soy or sunflower lecithin and flavouring such as vanilla.

As a replacement for vegans’ rice milk powder, almond milk, and oat milk can be substituted.

To learn more about the different types of chocolates and their composition, check out our article Chocolate Types: Dark vs Milk vs White by food scientist Elily Temam.

is chocolate vegan friendly
Chocolate products labelled as ‘Certified Vegan’ must meet specific criteria to ensure it contains no animal products, including honey, egg or dyes such as cochineal red.

What Chocolate is Vegan Friendly? Tips for Chocolatiers

Dark chocolate

For a chocolatier, working with dark chocolate, whether it’s vegan or not should produce very similar results. The ingredients are identical, and the only discernible difference is that the vegan dark chocolate will have been checked to make sure it doesn’t have any dairy-based additives.

Milk chocolate and white chocolate

Comparing milk chocolate and vegan milk chocolate, along with white chocolate and vegan white chocolate is a little more subjective. The lower fat content of rice milk powder, almond milk, and oat milk in vegan chocolate can lead to minor changes in the taste and texture of the finished product. These can include a nuttier flavour and sometimes a slightly grainy texture.

Brands of vegan chocolate

Some chocolate manufacturers such as Callebaut have taken the use of non-dairy milk in milk chocolate to new levels. Using a small tuber, called the tiger nut or chufa, which grows in Spain and Africa they have developed a product which mimics the properties of milk but is completely vegan. They are so confident of its ingredients that they label it dairy-free rather than just vegan-certified. You can learn more about Callebaut NXT Dairy-Free Chocolate on their website.

Chocolatiers find that dark, milk and white vegan chocolate all perform well when used to manufacture commercially. They all melt, temper, and mold as well as their dairy-based equivalents.

Vegan certification for chocolatiers

In the US, products carrying the Certified Vegan logo (administered by Vegan Action) must not contain ingredients of meat, fish, fowl, animal by-products (including silk or dyes from insects), eggs or egg products, milk or milk products, honey, or honeybee products, or be clarified or finished with any animal products.

Whether you’re buying vegan chocolate for personal or professional use always carefully check the labelling to find out the dairy replacement and if any other dairy-based additives have been used.


That wraps up our guide to vegan chocolate. We hope this article from Simon Knott has answered your many questions, such as, is chocolate vegan friendly, and specifically, is dark chocolate vegan. To quickly recap:

  • Dark chocolate is usually vegan as it doesn’t normally contain milk or milk products, but always check the label to be certain as some manufacturers may like to put their own unique spin on things.
  • Milk chocolate and white chocolate usually contain milk powder or other forms of milk, making them unsuitable for vegans.

Consumers and chocolatiers should also be aware of any other animal-sourced ingredients in chocolates and chocolate products (such as cakes and biscuits) that may be easily overlooked, such as honey, cochineal red food dye, and milk derivatives including whey and casein. If you are still uncertain, keep an eye out for ‘Vegan Certified’ labelling, or similar labels in your country, to be sure that the product you are buying and using is vegan friendly.

Happy chocolatiering!

Article Author

  • Simon Knott

    Simon Knott studied a BSc Hons in Catering Management, Food Science, and Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University and started writing in 2006, specialising in food and drink. He worked as Food & Drink Editor for two county magazines, interviewing chefs and local food producers. In 2010 Simon started a company making traditional fudges and chocolate products. The company quickly grew, supplying local outlets and Simon was awarded five Gold Great Taste Awards for his products. Simon recently completed a Diploma in Copywriting, and continues to write about food and drink, business and skiing.

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