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 name the best dark chocolate brand. 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 bars 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 on cacao nibs and cocoa. (Yes, really.) 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, my brother and I decided it was time for 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 best dark chocolate brand from the grocery store.
All chocolates were tasted at room temperature and served with palate cleansers in between. We stuck to only the 70% (ish) chocolate bars that were available in the HEB candy aisle. (Sadly, while I’m told the Valhrona Dark Chocolate Bar is well worth the hype, it was unfortunately not readily available.)
Because my brother is a dark chocolate connoisseur I asked him what he looked for in ranking these bars. Here’s what he said.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting any of our selected stack of chocolate bars to taste differently from each other. But through the process, I was pleasantly surprised to discover distinct differences in flavor. For the purposes of our taste test, we were looking for a bar that provided its own unique flavor without leaning too sweet or 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!)
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.
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.
Taste-Off: The Best Dark Chocolate Brand
#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, leaning toward slightly smoky and astringent, according to my brother. The texture was also just fine, 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 Ghirardelli 72% Twilight Delight
I live for the Ghirardelli milk and caramel-filled varieties. Sign me up all day every day. But this bar sadly missed the mark. My brother noted that the flavor actually leans smoky and has an almost licorice note to it. From my dad came a review saying it’s slightly bitter with a fruity aftertaste. My brother did call out that he did not enjoy this bar’s aroma, 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, we 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 toward the milder and sweeter side. As a milk chocolate lover I personally didn’t mind it, but my brother called it slightly weaker in flavor than some of the other bars. The texture though was smooth with a nice snap to the bar. We did enjoy this bar overall and came back once or twice for an extra square.
#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, I would have liked it to be a bit milder. But overall, I 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. And the packaging? This bar was a clear winner when it came to aesthetics.
#1 Perugina 70% Bittersweet Chocolate
Honestly, this bar was the underdog of our group, so all three of us were shocked that we enjoyed it the most. It was the only bar we ate the entirety of during our tasting. What set it apart was the flavor. It has nutty, coconut-infused 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 was shocked to find a dark chocolate bar that I would actually buy again and that my brother liked it 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 reminded me, “you don’t try enough different kinds of chocolates.” 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
Marou Tien Gian
Madhu Chocolate Dark Rose
Qantu Goat Milk
And if you’re looking for that perfect bar with the prettiest wrapping, consult our list of the best “status chocolate bars.” Give the folks what they want this Valentine’s Day, am I right?
This post was originally published on February 20, 2021, and has since been updated.
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Tony’s chocolonely milk caramel seasalt!
Adding to my must-buy list ASAP, Ruben!!! I love anything milk chocolate and caramel!
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!!
Hahaha thanks so much, Sherry! Totally agree – the chocolate you eat the fastest is usually the one to buy again (:
The best chocolate for me? Hands down..Lidl..has milk, dark, and white..EXCELLENT melting for strawberries..yummy
I haven’t tried their chocolate, Jane! Adding to the list ASAP!
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!!
Yes love Theo’s chocolate!
Hershey’s Special Dark: affordable and readily available.
Nancy this is actually my dad’s go-to chocolate! He always has a bag of the Hershey’s Special Dark in the house (:
Hershey’s Special Dark: affordable and readily available
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
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 (:
Check out Cacao’s Meow, available in Northern California or online. Nothing compares.
Adding to my list, Randal!
Nothing approaches Valrhona. Love it.
I have heard so many good things about the Valrhona bar! Hoping I can find it soon so I can try it!
I buy Valrhona on Amazon. It makes wonderful hot cocoa!
So excited to try it!
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
Love this, Tamara! Adding to my list to check out – and my brother says that exact same thing about tasting chocolate!
Look into Ratza Chocolate Tarpon Springs, FL for a real treat. Owner Sara Ratza.
Adding to my list, thanks Karen!!!
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!
I’m with you, Sue! Milk chocolate all the way – but definitely some bars here worth a try (:
would have preeferd no or little salt
70% dark chocolate trader Joe’s from Uganda…..
Perugina 70% and Villars 70% are our go to chocolates. Always have several bars on hand.
I was so surprised with the Perugina, Brenda! Definitely a new favorite!
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.
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!!
I might have to make an Aldi trip just to try their chocolate!
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!
Thanks so much, Linda! Adding an Aldi trip to my agenda so I can try their chocolate (:
BarkThins dark chocolate with almond & sea salt, snacking chocolate.
You should try whitakers’ chocolate. Heavenly.
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?
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
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!
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!
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
Thanks for sharing, Harry! Adding to my list to check out their chocolates!
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.
Thanks for sharing, Andrea! Adding all of these to my growing list of chocolate to try (:
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!
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!
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.
Dove is a classic for sure! Thanks, Cindy!
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.
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.
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!
The best black chocolate is ARIBA by Lidl 95 por cent and very cheap
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.
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.
My choice is Endangered Species 88 %
Equal Exchange 71% dark (panama i think) – by far the best!!!
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! 🙂
Carrie as a Minneapolis resident I can attest to the Cub Foods chocolate!!! It has saved many a chocolate craving before hahaha!
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!
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?
Best chocolate companies are
Nothing in USA is even close.
Good article. Good comments.
If you want, try Aldi’s Moser Roth mafe in Germany. 85% cocoa, 72% cocoa, milk, dark chocolate with chilis, dark chocolate with carmel & sea salt, milk with toffee bits and some others. Fairtrade cocoa. Awsome quality for the price.