If I had to choose between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, I would choose milk 10 times out of 10.

And yet here I am, knee-deep in dark chocolate bars trying to figure which one is the best. It’s not that I don’t like dark chocolate, I’m just often not as fond of the bitterness or overly fruit-forward flavors that some dark chocolates have. I prefer smooth milky chocolate when a craving strikes. My brother, on the other hand, is more known in our family for his preference for snacking cacao and cocoa nibs. He thrives on dark chocolate. My dad lands somewhere between the two of us, and my mom, well, she’s not that into chocolate.

After a heated debate on the merit of dark chocolate between my brother and me, we decided it was time to have a taste-off. Much like my previous bake-off competitions (these ginger molasses cookies are still a favorite and don’t let anyone tell you pumpkin bread is only for the fall), we came into this chocolate taste-off with some guidelines to crown the ultimate grocery store dark chocolate bar.

Ranking Guardrails:

Since there was no actual baking involved in this taste-off, we kept things a little more low-key over at the Avasthi household. All chocolates were tasted at room temperature and served with palette cleansers in between. We stuck to only the 70% (ish) chocolate bars that were available in the HEB candy aisle, though yes, I am told the Valhrona Dark Chocolate Bar is well worth the hype, it was unfortunately not readily available.

Because my brother is the dark chocolate connoisseur I asked him what he looked for in ranking these bars:

  1. Flavor: Honestly I wasn’t expecting any of our selected stack of chocolate bars to taste differently from each other, so I was pleasantly surprised that through the process there were distinct differences in flavor. For the three of us, we were looking for a bar that provided its own unique flavor without leaning too sweet or too fruity. We wanted a balance of flavors with the cocoa. The true test: which is the bar that we go back to for another square? (Let’s be clear, none of us are professional chocolate tasters, so we just wanted chocolate that tasted good!)
  2. Texture: We all agreed that our favorite chocolates are smooth on our tongue, and not chalky or chunky. A properly tempered chocolate should have a nice snap to it, so we kept that in mind as well.
  3. Aroma: I only added this one to the ranking list because my brother said it was important, but I feel like it’s self-explanatory.

At the end of our tasting, I actually found myself with a few new additions to my rotation, a few that I will reserve for chopping into chocolate chip cookies, and a few that I will stick to buying the milk chocolate counterparts. So without further ado, here are the results of our dark chocolate taste test!

 

#6 Green and Black’s Organic 70% Dark Chocolate

I am a Green and Black’s Milk Chocolate STAN. I live for it and stock up when they go on sale at Whole Foods, so I was hoping for this one to rank higher than it did between the three of us. The flavor was only okay, kind of leaning towards slightly smokey and astringent, according to my brother. The texture was also only okay, and we were hoping for a bit more smoothness as we were eating it. Overall, this one ranked #6 because it was exactly that, only okay. I will continue hyping up the milk chocolate variety though and save this bar for some imminent chocolate chip cookie baking.

#5 Ghiradelli 72% Twilight Delight

I live for the Ghiradelli milk and caramel-filled varieties. Sign me up all day every day. This bar though was just fine. My brother noted that the flavor actually leans smokey, and has an almost licorice note to it. My dad also said it’s slightly bitter with just a fruity after taste. My brother did call out that he did not enjoy the aroma of this bar, reminding him of over-roasted coffee. Feel free to DM him to discuss the importance of aroma in chocolate. Again, this bar is nothing to write home about but will find a nice home in some cookie dough.

#4 Chocolove 70% Strong Dark Chocolate

Flavor-wise, this chocolate bar was alright. All three of us agreed that the fruitiness of this bar was just mild enough to be pleasant. However, texture-wise, all three of us had some qualms. The chocolate didn’t melt smoothly over our tongues as we ate it. I wouldn’t call it quite chalky, but overall we just wanted more textural enjoyment from this bar. I have not tried the milk chocolate counterpart here but will be adding it to the list to compare since I liked the flavor of this one.

#3 Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate

We are Lindt chocolate truffle fans in the Avasthi house, so I was excited to try this bar. The flavor definitely leans towards the milder and sweeter side, which I personally didn’t mind as a milk chocolate lover, but my brother called it slightly weaker in flavor than some of the other bars. The texture though was great, nice and smooth with a nice snap to the bar. We did enjoy this bar overall and came back to it for an extra square once or twice.

#2 Tony’s Chocolonely 70% Dark Chocolate

I actually hadn’t tried any of Tony’s chocolate before this, though I have seen it in the aisles of Trader Joe’s before. This chocolate had the boldest and fruitiest flavor of all the bars we tried. It was bright in flavor, which my brother really enjoyed. Personally, as a milk chocolate person, would have liked it to be a bit milder, but overall thought the flavor was good for dark chocolate. The texture was smooth which we all liked as well. We do wish the bar was slightly thinner, as the large chunks do make it hard to break off a piece.

This bar won on the packaging.

 

#1 Perugina 70% Bittersweet Chocolate

Honestly, this bar was the underdog of our group, so all three of us were shocked that we enjoyed this one the most. It was the only bar we ate the entirety of during our tasting. What set this bar apart was the flavor. It’s got kind of nutty and coconuty tasting notes while the texture is super rich and creamy. This bar wasn’t bitter at all, mild enough to convert any dark chocolate hater, and the perfect bar to reach for when the chocolate craving strikes. I’m shocked that I found a dark chocolate bar that I would actually buy again and that the same one is one that my brother liked as well. Lesson learned, never count out the underdog.

Overall, I think there’s something out there for everyone! And I’ll even give my brother his “I told you so” moment. Coming into the taste testing, I specifically said, I don’t think I’ll notice any difference. And to that, he said, “you don’t try enough different kinds of chocolates”. And he was right. Now that I’ve tried a few different kinds, I’m able to point to things I liked and disliked about each one that keeps me open to trying new ones to have on hand.

While these are just the selection from the grocery store, I do have some more gourmand and smaller bean to bar choices that I love:

Fossa Chocolate Salted Egg Cereal (my all-time favorite)

Marou Tien Gian

Dandelion Piura Blanco

Madhu Chocolate Dark Rose

Qantu Goat Milk

Compartes Chocolate (literally all of them)

What is your must-have on-hand chocolate? Share it with us below.

60 comments
  1. 1
    Ruben | February 19, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Tony’s chocolonely milk caramel seasalt!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 19, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      Adding to my must-buy list ASAP, Ruben!!! I love anything milk chocolate and caramel!

      Reply
  2. 2
    Sherry Hamilton | February 20, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Your review is vicariously enjoyable! I have never met dark chocolate that I wouldn’t eat, so I enjoyed your subjective standards. I do know that some chocolate I eat faster than others. I also have tried to protect and go more slowly on my international travel chocolate buys! I did a chocolate workshop in Cusco, Peru in 2019, and learned and loved more!!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 11:59 am

      Hahaha thanks so much, Sherry! Totally agree – the chocolate you eat the fastest is usually the one to buy again (:

      Reply
  3. 3
    Jane wilson | February 20, 2021 at 8:47 am

    The best chocolate for me? Hands down..Lidl..has milk, dark, and white..EXCELLENT melting for strawberries..yummy

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 11:59 am

      I haven’t tried their chocolate, Jane! Adding to the list ASAP!

      Reply
  4. 4
    Drea D. | February 20, 2021 at 9:50 am

    As far as dark chocolate goes, i absolutely love Theo’s coconut dark chocolate. The coconut is just hint of flavor but it does give it that nice sweetness similar to milk chocolate. It’s not even big chunks of coconut, which I’ve always hated. It’s just tiny bits nicely mixed into the whole bar -you only notice it as an overall flavor. I get it from Kroger

    I also love the Berry Acai Sorbet dark chocolate from Lolli & Pops (found at malls). The chocolate itself is rich and pretty good, but the amazingly delicious part is actually the filling -a very sweet, jelly-like filling of berries and acai that just explodes in your mouth and makes this overall the sweetest dark chocolate experience I’ve ever had. Coing from someone who used to LOVE milk chocolate primarily for its sweetness (and also someone for whom there is really no such thing as “too sweet”) -this chocolate is SO GOOD. I quit milk chocolate after learning of cows / calves’ atrocious conditions in dairy farms and these are really my go-to desserts now. I hope you can try these!!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      Yes love Theo’s chocolate!

      Reply
  5. 5
    Nancy | February 20, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Hershey’s Special Dark: affordable and readily available.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      Nancy this is actually my dad’s go-to chocolate! He always has a bag of the Hershey’s Special Dark in the house (:

      Reply
  6. 6
    Nancy | February 20, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Hershey’s Special Dark: affordable and readily available

    Reply
  7. 7
    Lori | February 20, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Hiya
    Never really a chocolate lover aside from the seasonal box of Sees milk chocolate creations, I much preferred a good crispy on the outside and hot out of the fryer inside, French fry. If I was going to indulge on calories that was my go too.
    I was with my daughter shopping not too long ago and she pulled out of her purse a bar of Ghiradelli dark chocolate with sea salt. She broke of a chunk, shoved under my nose, and said “ here”. How could I resist? I was slightly intrigued by her sales pitch on the benefits of dark chocolate so that began my quest to find my favorite dark chocolate. Like you, at the urging of your brother, I started buying a variety of dark chocolate bars. Something I could share and enjoy with my daughter kinda thing. I have to say to date, Dove Dark Chocolate wins for taste, texture and maybe aroma? After I’m done writing, I ll go have a sniff. Cheers, Lori

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks so much, Lori!! Love this so much, it’s always fun to just try new brands with other people and share in the process (:

      Reply
  8. 8
    Randal Collen | February 20, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Check out Cacao’s Meow, available in Northern California or online. Nothing compares.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 12:01 pm

      Adding to my list, Randal!

      Reply
  9. 9
    Sally | February 20, 2021 at 11:47 am

    Nothing approaches Valrhona. Love it.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 12:02 pm

      I have heard so many good things about the Valrhona bar! Hoping I can find it soon so I can try it!

      Reply
      • Lynn | February 20, 2021 at 12:54 pm

        I buy Valrhona on Amazon. It makes wonderful hot cocoa!

        Reply
        • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 9:34 pm

          So excited to try it!

          Reply
  10. 10
    Tamara Gribling | February 20, 2021 at 11:54 am

    There is a little chocolate factory that is from the bean to the bar in a tiny community called Cottage Grove Oregon. It’s name is sanity chocolates, because everybody find sanity when they enjoy their chocolate. The factory is owned by a firefighter he is an amazing chocolatier. Between him his wife and their young son they come up with amazing combinations of 100% organic chocolate. They have an amazing story and are an amazing couple. I had no idea what chocolate could taste like I was used to only store-bought brands. I learned the chocolate is like a fine wine meant to be tasted not chewed. You should check them out they have a web page and their prices are extremely reasonable

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      Love this, Tamara! Adding to my list to check out – and my brother says that exact same thing about tasting chocolate!

      Reply
  11. 11
    karen ratza | February 20, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    Look into Ratza Chocolate Tarpon Springs, FL for a real treat. Owner Sara Ratza.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 9:30 pm

      Adding to my list, thanks Karen!!!

      Reply
  12. 12
    Sue DeRoy | February 20, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    I guess I should give dark chocolate another try based on your reviews. But I a dyed in the wool Milk chocolate lover!
    Thanks for the recommendations!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 9:31 pm

      I’m with you, Sue! Milk chocolate all the way – but definitely some bars here worth a try (:

      Reply
  13. 13
    towfigh ghodsizadeh | February 20, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    would have preeferd no or little salt

    Reply
  14. 14
    judith benedict | February 20, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    70% dark chocolate trader Joe’s from Uganda…..

    Reply
  15. 15
    Brenda | February 20, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    Perugina 70% and Villars 70% are our go to chocolates. Always have several bars on hand.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 9:31 pm

      I was so surprised with the Perugina, Brenda! Definitely a new favorite!

      Reply
  16. 16
    Deborah | February 20, 2021 at 6:31 pm

    If you’re doing a review of dark chocolate and you open with the statement, “If I had to choose between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, I would choose milk 10 times out of 10.” just know it’s going to be hard for me to take you seriously.
    Having said that, I was pleased to see you have some really great brands a go. We don’t have to all agree.

    Reply
  17. 17
    VICKIE BRUTON | February 20, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    Don’t underestimate the chocolate bars found at Aldi’s. They have a good selection from milk to the darkest of darks with different flavor additions. The bars are big, smooth, creamy and delicious. I am hooked! Delicious!!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      I might have to make an Aldi trip just to try their chocolate!

      Reply
  18. 18
    Linda Morrison | February 20, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    My must have dark chocolate comes from Aldi’s. Choceur 49% Dark Chocolate. I was always a milk chocolate lover as well. I never would have believed that an amazing chocolate bar would come from a place like Aldi’s but Aldi’s is full of surprises! Choceur carries a variety of varieties and sizes. I haven’t tried their higher percentages of dark chocolate bars yet but I am addicted to this one for now!

    Loved your review. Will have to try some of your top two or three!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 20, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks so much, Linda! Adding an Aldi trip to my agenda so I can try their chocolate (:

      Reply
  19. 19
    Fran McPhie | February 20, 2021 at 9:23 pm

    BarkThins dark chocolate with almond & sea salt, snacking chocolate.

    Reply
  20. 20
    M | February 20, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    You should try whitakers’ chocolate. Heavenly.

    Reply
  21. 21
    Rebecca W | February 20, 2021 at 11:20 pm

    I’ve tried many, but Dove Dark Chocolate is currently my favorite! I’m not a fan of the bitter dark s. It’s got to have a sweetness to it, like myself?

    Reply
    • Jack | February 26, 2021 at 6:17 pm

      Dove dark is great and so is Hershey’s special dark. I love the dark kisses and the dark chocolate syrup on my chocolate ice cream. Please don’t mix anything with my chocolate. I used to drink a can of Hershey’s choco syrup on my way home from high school in the 60s

      Reply
  22. 22
    Troy | February 21, 2021 at 12:03 am

    Love the article! All great choices and I would love to see a list of some smaller bean to bar companies. I love Marsatta Chocolate out in S. California. They actually have a 100% bar that is very well done. It tastes like red wine if you can believe it. They also have a 76% bar that rivals those you’ve listed in your column. Again, great article!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 21, 2021 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Troy! Definitely working my way through some more local and smaller bean to bar brands and will for sure check out Marsatta, they sound amazing!

      Reply
  23. 23
    Harry Popke | February 21, 2021 at 8:59 am

    Zotter chocolates! Hands down! If you ever tried their dark Labooko bars, you know what I am talking about. For example the Peeu Criollo Blend or Chuncho, or their Belize baes, or Madagascar or Guatemala. They have so many fine single origin bars, it’s hard to find a favorite. They melt wonderfully on the tongue. And the flavors are incredible.
    Notnso well known, but it deserves to be mentioned, as they are well known and respected in the craft chocolate community

    https://www.zotterusa.com/13-labooko-pure-chocolate

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 21, 2021 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Harry! Adding to my list to check out their chocolates!

      Reply
  24. 24
    Andrea | February 21, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    Chocolate springs out of the Berkshires in MA! Love it! Also, Cocoa dolce out of Wichita, KS.
    As for favorite chocolate shops: the two above plus dancing lion, cricket & fig, lake Champlain, Christopher Elbow.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 21, 2021 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Andrea! Adding all of these to my growing list of chocolate to try (:

      Reply
  25. 25
    Cocoa expert | February 21, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    If you like less bitter tasting dark chocolate, then pay attention to the origin of the cocoa used. The West African based cocoa chocolates (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria) are generally more fermented cocoa and thus have less bitter cocoa flavanols present and higher chocolate notes. Unlike more under-fermented origins such as Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, etc. These origins have more heart-healthy cocoa flavanols, but have an increased bitter note because of it.

    Also pay attention to the cocoa butter vs. cocoa solids content if it’s listed in the ingredient deck. Higher cocoa butter content equals a smoother, faster melting chocolate. And just an FYI if you didn’t know already, % cocoa content is total cocoa material present. So cocoa butter and cocoa solids combined. You can have some 70% cacao bars that have very different flavors due to a difference in cocoa butter content along with the origin of the cocoa used. Happy chocolate enjoyment!

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 21, 2021 at 9:50 pm

      Love this information! I’m excited to dive more into where different beans are grown and understanding the different flavors – thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
  26. 26
    Cindy House | February 21, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    Nota big dark chocolate person either, but I can easily eat a whole Dove dark chocolate bar. It melts in your mouth, and there’s no doubt it’s dark chocolate.

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 21, 2021 at 9:51 pm

      Dove is a classic for sure! Thanks, Cindy!

      Reply
  27. 27
    Joanna | February 21, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    Try Manoa chocolates! They have so many kinds to choose from, and some are even from Hawaiian cacao! Currently favoring their single origin Mililani bar, their 70% Hawaii, their Ghost Pepper bar, and the Goat Milk bar.

    Reply
  28. 28
    Olesya | February 21, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    Lindt Madagascar 70% dark chocolate. It’s a part of their single origin series. Absolutely amazing, so so smooth, you wouldn’t even think it is actually dark chocolate.

    Reply
  29. 29
    Nikki Hawkins | February 22, 2021 at 3:07 am

    I love a chocolate bar called Symphony milk chocolate with toffee and almond pieces! Omg! The best chocolate Ive ever had and its extremely inexpensive. Better than the pricey ones if you ask me. Try it out, I keep one around the house for a sweet tooth!

    Reply
  30. 30
    Manolo Rico | February 22, 2021 at 8:40 am

    The best black chocolate is ARIBA by Lidl 95 por cent and very cheap

    Reply
  31. 31
    Lynn Meheran | February 22, 2021 at 10:09 pm

    I highly recommend both Askinosie Chocolate and Goodnow Farms Chocolate bars. Both of these small producers craft single origin bars that are both incredibly flavorful and amazingly smooth because they incorporate cocoa butter from the same single origin chocolate during production. Both producers have won awards for their chocolate. I really encourage everyone to support them because they’re direct trade. They travel to the cacao regions they support to work directly with the farmers to help ensure a consistent product. This ultimately provides ever-expanding benefits to many, far beyond those directly involved in the process.

    Reply
  32. 32
    Paul S | February 23, 2021 at 5:29 am

    I have found a very enjoyable way to get the health benefits.
    I put 2 squares, which is half a serving, of Lindt 85% dark chocolate in a microwave safe cup. I add just enough milk to barely cover it. Even skim milk works. I heat on full power for 60 seconds. I then stir in one packet of trivia, or one packet of sugar, stir, and you have a delicious, thick and healthy chocolate syrup. I then add blueberries and sliced bananas, and stir well.

    Reply
  33. 33
    Kevin D. | February 23, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    My choice is Endangered Species 88 %

    Reply
  34. 34
    Diedre Austin | February 23, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Equal Exchange 71% dark (panama i think) – by far the best!!!

    Reply
  35. 35
    Carrie @ Season It Already! | February 25, 2021 at 9:45 am

    You are going to laugh, but I still can’t find anything better than my local Cub Foods’ brand Wild Harvest Dark Chocolate, Belgian, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt! I’ve even tried other flavors of the same brand and other brands of dark chocolate with Sea Salt and nothing compares! 🙂

    Reply
    • Suruchi Avasthi | February 25, 2021 at 7:25 pm

      Carrie as a Minneapolis resident I can attest to the Cub Foods chocolate!!! It has saved many a chocolate craving before hahaha!

      Reply
  36. 36
    Cari | February 26, 2021 at 5:56 am

    Hands Off My Chocolate Seriously Dark! I’m not sure if it’s available outside the Netherlands yet, but for your sakes, I hope it will be soon! 85% cocoa and gorgeously creamy. The pieces snap off into “pop in your mouth”-sized pieces and the packaging is gorgeously fun and playful . I love Tony’s (also Dutch) but I also dislike the shapes of the bars because they never break into nice pieces. Thanks for your article! I must try to find that Perugina!

    Reply
  37. 37
    Suzanne | February 26, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    I was going to suggest Aldi too. Their Moser Roth is so good! It comes in multiple flavors (milk and dark), is made in Germany and fair trade! Did I mention it was so good?

    Reply
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