This is an excellent question, and we hear about it quite often. There are various chocolate varieties over there, and many people like to find out what is so special about vegan chocolate. Besides, some of them only want to check if the manufacturing of vegan chocolate needs any processing, which is considered unhealthy.
What is in vegan chocolate? Vegan chocolate is mostly made of cocoa solids, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, and a surfactant like soy lecithin. It’s necessary to understand that while vegan chocolate is always dark or semi-sweet, the opposite may not be exact i.e., dark chocolate is not still vegan due to the possible use of milk-derived ingredients.
We will check all these ingredients, see what they exactly are, their primary functions, and why they’re considered vegan.
Table of Contents
Ingredients in Vegan Chocolate
Whenever you notice cocoa solids on a label of a food product, it means merely ground cocoa beans that are defatted. When you take out the cocoa butter, you are left with cocoa or cacao powder. It’s simple like that.
All of the flavors come from here. If you’ve ever tried cocoa butter, you may have seen that it’s quite tasteless.
Cocoa solids have all of the elements that provide chocolate its distinctive taste. It also has caffeine and theobromine, which is a stimulant that dogs can not digest and renders chocolate potentially fatal for our K9 friends.
We use cocoa or cacao terms, and both the conditions may be used to explain the same matter. Cacao perhaps refers to lightly processed cocoa beans, but they can be used interchangeably, as no regulation governs their use.
Cocoa butter is a scarce source of saturated fat in the plant world. Its fat is got naturally from cocoa beans. It’s an off-white color and a little half-translucent.
It means all the taste comes from the cocoa solids as cocoa butter doesn’t have any unique flavor profile. Cocoa butter is the key ingredient added to manufacture white chocolate, that is why it has a slight chocolaty taste to this confection.
White chocolate contains milk fat and proteins, and they add flavor and gives a better mouthfeel.
Milk chocolate is mostly considered non-vegan and is named so because it uses a lot of milk fat. The saturated fatty acids (SFAs) in the milk provide a smooth mouthfeel when compared to the SFAs in cocoa butter.
If you’ve ever dealt with cocoa butter, you must have seen that it is more brittle. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a desirable property. You see several folks like the texture of dark chocolate.
The main distinguishing characteristic between dark chocolate and milk chocolate is that the first one has the cocoa butter, and hardly uses any milkfat.
Also, It must be noted that dark chocolate isn’t always vegan chocolate as many manufacturers of dark chocolate, for that matter, one with a lower percentage like Hershey’s particular dark use some dairy derivatives.
At the cost of repetition, we again say that vegan chocolate is always dark or semi-sweet, but dark chocolate isn’t still vegan as they may contain dairy additives.
E.g., Hershey’s special dark chocolate contains sugar, chocolate, milk fat, cocoa butter, cocoa processed w/alkali, soy lecithin, natural flavor, and milk.
Surfactants and Emulsifiers
These are mostly absent in vegan chocolate.
Emulsifiers keep constituents remain sweet and mixed by binding water and fat molecules.
These elements also do the job of surfactants and thus used in the manufacturing of chocolates.
Some of the emulsifiers can create extra trouble for strict vegans. E.g., monoglycerides and diglycerides, mostly used in baked goods, are made by reacting glycerol and triglycerides, both of which can be obtained from plants as well as animals.
For your information, triglycerides live in our fat cells. They consist of glycerol and fatty acids. Monoglycerides and diglycerides have only one and two fatty acids, respectively, as the name suggests, tied to a glycerol backbone, instead of three fatty acids in triglycerides.
These are mostly thought of as apt for vegans, but especially strict vegans may avoid them sometimes.
Luckily (for strict vegans), chocolate producers mostly use emulsifiers like soy and sunflower lecithin and not monoglycerides and diglycerides, even though they may be used.
It is interesting to note that they’re added for their surfactant features and not their ability to mix water and oil easily.
Here, chocolate doesn’t have any water. Surfactants are required to decrease the surface tension of liquids, to allow them to spread quickly.
So effectively, it decreases the viscosity of matter i.e., if anything has a little thickness, it pours out quicker and is easy to stir.
So, chocolate factories mainly use soy or sunflower lecithin so that they can efficiently work with chocolate making stuff.
Lecithin may indeed be sourced from eggs, but it’s quite non-prevalent these days in the chocolate industry. We’ve seen numerous labels, and if there use emulsifiers at all, it’s always soy or sunflower lecithin.
That was the fact file of Vegan Chocolates. Thanks for reading.
- Cacao vs. Cocoa: What’s the Difference? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cacao-vs-cocoa
- Hershey’s Giant Special Dark Chocolate Candy Bar, 6.8 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Hershey-s-Giant-Special-Dark-Chocolate-Candy-Bar-6-8-Oz/10452234
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- Sonntag, Norman O. V. (1982). “Glycerolysis of fats and methyl esters — Status, review, and critique.” Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 59 (10): 795A–802A. https://aocs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1007/BF02634442
- IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the “Gold Book”) (1997). Online corrected version: (2006–) “glycerides” http://goldbook.iupac.org/terms/view/G02647
- Colbert LB. Lecithins tailored to your emulsification needs. Cereal Foods World 43(9):686–688, 1998.