Dark chocolate is one of those controversial ingredients. Either you like its bitter flavor and intensity or you don’t. If you are a member of the old camp, this list is for you. Don’t click if you’re the latter, though: we’ve got a few picks that might lead you to the dark side. But before we get to that, here’s some dark chocolate facts you need to know.
What is dark chocolate?
The origins of chocolate date back to the Olmecs of southern Mexico, who were probably the first to ferment, roast and grind cocoa beans. But what we would today consider dark chocolate probably hit its stride in Mayan times, when it was used to make drinks for celebratory and medicinal purposes. It wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th century, however, that modern chocolate manufacturers like Nestlé and Cadbury emerged. They heralded the era of milk chocolate, which became the most popular style of chocolate across the world.
Dark chocolate, however, has – and always has had – a unique charm. Although it technically has no legal definition, in the confectionery industry, dark chocolate is recognized as having a cocoa content of 50% or more. (To use the word “chocolate” in the US, a chocolate bar must contain at least 10% cocoa, which is kind of a low bar!) As for the other 50%? It is made of milk, sugar or any other ingredient added by chocolatiers.
Why do people like it?
The bitter substance saw a surge in popularity in the late 20th and early 21st century when a series of studies suggested that dark chocolate had health benefits. It was probably too good to be true, however: Vox found that many of these studies had questionable funders (many were funded by big chocolate companies, like Mars, Incorporated) and other studies have revealed that cocoa probably cannot, in fact, directly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Of course, dark chocolate is probably better for you than milk chocolate and contains flavanols, a chemical found in fruits and vegetables that can improve blood circulation. But the amount of these flavanols varies from product to product, and most of them also contain not-so-healthy extras like sugar.
Yet, dark chocolate has benefits beyond the realm of health. Generally speaking, the higher the cocoa content of a chocolate bar, the less sweet its flavor. When the palate is not bombarded with sugar, it is better able to pick up the more nuanced notes of chocolate, such as fruitiness or hazelnut.
So, in short, don’t eat dark chocolate thinking you’re healthy. Instead, be like the Mayans and eat dark chocolate to celebrate life and appreciate its wide range of flavors. Here’s a list of dark chocolate brands we love.
Lindt Excellence Bar
The 70% cocoa content of this bar makes it relatively dark, but not so dark that it is off-putting bitter. Creamy and balanced, its flavor is intense but not overwhelming.
Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Squares
Take the name of this chocolate – “Intense Dark” – literally. These squares contain a whopping 86% cocoa, so they’re not for the casual chocolate eater. Amazon shoppers love their bitterness, intense chocolate flavor and the fact that they are individually wrapped. After all, it’s a treat you might want to eat in small doses!
House mix 60% bar
We love Mr. Chocolate Jacques Torres here at Delish, and his chocolate bars too. Torres uses this House Blend dark chocolate to make all of its popular dark chocolate candies and chocolate chip cookies. The flavor on its own is rich and, at 60%, sweet enough to tempt some milk chocolate lovers.
Hu dark chocolate bars
Hu Chocolate is all about the noes. No refined or cane sugar, no dairy or soy, no palm oils and no emulsifiers. It contains only four ingredients: cocoa, unrefined organic coconut sugar, cocoa butter and sea salt. Many Paleo reviewers swear by this product, which is one of the few Paleo-approved chocolate products on the market.
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate
If you dig a candy bar brand with a mission, that’s what Endangered Species is. The company donates 10% of its annual net profits to conservation organizations like the National Forest Foundation. Oh, and her chocolate is good too. At 88%, this is a bold-tasting, full-bodied bar with a velvety smooth texture.
Godiva Signature 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate
For dark chocolate without bitterness, Godiva is for you. “There’s no bitterness, just a deep, rich chocolate flavor,” reports one reviewer. “The mouthfeel is perfect, not waxy or gritty like cheap chocolates.” Who needs more convincing than that?
Bouchard Premium Belgian Dark Chocolate
One of the first things you’ll notice when unwrapping a Bouchard chocolate are the ridges on one side, designed to increase the surface area of the chocolate. Bouchard bets that more surface area equals more contact with your tongue’s taste buds, making the chocolate experience more delicious and intense. Tip: The company recommends eating the chocolate upside down and letting it melt slowly on your tongue.
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