Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
5 Aug

The 5 Best Dark Chocolate Bars in the World

The Modern Paleo blog’s been doing chocolate reviews recently, which struck me as a novel but totally understandable practice for a blog called Modern Paleo. In my mind, good dark chocolate – high cacao content, high fat, low-ish sugar stuff – makes any downsides to living in this modern world well worth it. Good dark chocolate really is that good. And one of the best parts about going Primal has been the way my heightened sensitivity to the slightest dash of sugar enables true appreciation of the bean’s slightly sweet product.

I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate in my day. Cheap American milk chocolate with an absurdly low cacao content was regularly gobbled up in my endurance days, but I’ve since moved on to more bitter pastures. About five years ago, I could enjoy your standard mid-grade bittersweet dark chocolate without worrying about the cacao content percentage. Now, I find the sweetness of anything lower than 72% cloyingly overpowering. That’s not to say I don’t like being overpowered by intense flavor, because I do – but only when that flavor is based on the bean. So, yeah, 72% is too low, and even the late 70s are generally pushing too much sugar. I try to stick to the 80s and even 90s.

You might notice that my picks are not inexpensive. They aren’t throwaway bars to be wolfed down in between mouthfuls of movie popcorn in a single sitting. In fact, throughout the composition of this post (the tasting, the writing, the sampling), I probably ate almost an entire bar’s worth of really high-quality, super dark chocolate. It wasn’t easy. It was probably too much. Normally, I’ll eat a square, maybe two, after dinner a few times a week, so I’m preparing myself for an impending stomachache. We’ll see. My point is this: good dark chocolate is self-limiting. You won’t go crazy and pig out on it because it isn’t pleasant to do so. The quality stuff always lasts longer than the cheap stuff.  Quality dark chocolate is definitely worth the extra expenditure.

Of course, what actually constitutes the best dark chocolate in the world is subjective. These happen to be some of my favorites, at least for now. My top picks are always changing as I never fail to try whatever high-quality, low-sugar dark chocolate wanders into my life or appears in the checkout line.

In no particular order, the list:

Valrhona Noir Extra Amer – 85% Cacao

2.5 servings per bar

Each serving:

20g fat (12g saturated)

15g carbs (6g fiber; 5g sugar)

This bar looks fantastic: sleek, smooth, and dark, almost black, with a hint of red. A single square, if given sufficient mouth time, will slowly, smoothly melt, revealing floral, nutty, and coffee notes. If you try real hard, you may notice cinnamon, too. I think the biggest draw is the texture, which is silky (gosh, I sound like a chocolate advertisement using words like “silky”). That single square will resonate for several minutes, provided you don’t just chomp down without allowing it to melt.

The Noir Extra Amer goes well in a pot of spicy chili, right at the end just before serving. I get mine at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 a bar.

Chocolove XOXOX Extra Strong Dark – 77% Cacao

3 servings per bar

Each serving:

13g fat (8g saturated)

11g carbs (3g fiber; 6g sugar)

The Chocolove XOXOX may have a ridiculously cheesy name and a slightly higher sugar content, but if you want a non-abrasive, introductory dark chocolate for beginners, this is it. If you’re trying to wean your significant other off of milk chocolate, go with the Chocolove XOXOX. You get the unmistakable flavor and light sugar content of a high-cacao bar with the creaminess and accessibility of a lesser-cacao bar. I keep these on hand for those times where I just want a bit of sweetness without the commitment required by the heavy darks. It tastes a bit like coconut.

You can find this bar at Whole Foods, Target, or Cost Plus.

Green and Black’s Dark – 85% Cacao

2.5 servings per bar

Each serving:

21g fat (13g saturated)

14g carbs (5g fiber; 6g sugar)

Another brilliantly dark bar with glimpses of red, the Green and Black’s Dark is similar to the Valrhona in its mouthfeel. It’s creamy, silky, smooth, and melts very well, but it’s not quite so bitter. Oh, the bitterness is there, lurking and noticeable, but it isn’t overpowering. You almost have to look for it (although beginners might notice it right away). Sometimes I like the bitterness to dominate. When I don’t want that kind of bitterness, I reach for a Green and Black’s, which strikes an impressive balance between robustness and delicateness.

Find where to buy Green and Black’s near you.

Dagoba Eclipse – 87% Cacao

1 serving per bar

Each serving:

26g fat (16g saturated)

19g carb (8g fiber; 7g sugar)

Dagoba is an odd one. I like it, nay, love it, but it’s definitely not an everyday sort of chocolate bar. If it’s the only thing in the house, I can probably work my way through it in two weeks – with dedication – and yet it’s the most intriguing chocolate I’ve had. Complex flavors include fruit, clove, allspice, and other spice mixes. There’s even a bit of red wine in there, making actual wine pairing redundant or even antagonistic. No, this bar stands alone. The texture isn’t great, though, and instead of melting into smooth oblivion it gets rather dry toward the end, but this is accompanied by flavor intensification (if you can imagine such a thing). There’s a tradeoff that’s worth exploring.

I get Dagoba Eclipse at Whole Foods, but you can also order it online.

Scharffen Berger Extra Dark – 82% Cacao

2 servings per bar

Each serving:

19g fat (12g saturated)

17g carbs (6g fiber; 8g sugar)

Figs and red wine, honey and spice(y). There’s even a bit of esperesso lurking in there. It’s not just the cacao that’s bitter; there’s a bite that lingers minutes after you’ve taken it. That acidic bite effectively staves off the worst of the (let’s face it – sometimes too much) bitterness, where a lesser manufacturer would have loaded a bar up with sugar to dull it. I’m glad Scharffen Berger did not do so.

Give this to daring beginners.

One of my new personal favorites that didn’t make the cut is the 85% Ecuador dark chocolate out of the Santa Barbara Chocolate Company. We had the 72% at PrimalCon, but the 85% is even better. Definitely keep your eyes out for it. If I had it on hand to sample, this list woulda been six-deep.

Lindt 85% is another good option, especially if you can’t find any of the above choices. Lindt is available in most standard grocery stores and Walmart.

One last thing: remember that the serving size listed on the back of dark chocolate bars is usually quite high, often around half a bar per serving. Depending on the bar, I get 6-12 or more servings per bar. Consider this when calculating the carb values per serving above.

What are your favorites? Have I missed anything? What should I try next? Let me know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Uncle Herniation wrote on August 5th, 2010
  2. Perugina always the best in my book, because they push the cocoa fat up, but somebody recently gave me something called “Blackout” that was intense and wonderful. I should have saved the wrapper.

    Great post.Yum.

    slacker wrote on August 5th, 2010
  3. No mention of theo’s chocolates (http://www.theochocolate.com/)? They’re hard to get outside of Seattle (some flavors available on Amazon).

    They have a 100% USDA organic certified 91% dark chocolate single origin from Costa Rica:

    https://www.theochocolate.com/store/products/chocolate-bars/single-origin/costa-rica-91

    Their chocolate factory tour is a must if you’re ever in Seattle.

    Matthew wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • Thanks for mentioning Theo Chocolates, Matthew!! I was going to put a post about them if someone hadn’t already. I love their chocolate and it has ruined me for a lot of other brands. Including some on this list today. I love that Theo is an organic and fair trade company. (The first in North America–FYI, and no, I don’t work there!) You can order their chocolate online and I highly recommend you try it!!

      Lauren wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • I had no idea we had a chocolate factory here! Thanks for posting this. Now I’m going to have to check them out. And a tour–yum!

      Heather wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • Good Call. I second the 91% Costa Rica Chocolate from Theo’s. It’s my go to chocolate bar.

      Brian wrote on August 11th, 2010
  4. Mark, I recently fell in love with these chocolate squares – http://intemperantia.com/veganchocolatespecialties.aspx – they are dark, but not bitter because they are heavy on the cocoa butter side. Though I understand that the cocoa bean is made of the cacao and the cocoa butter, is there health benefit to the cocoa butter too? I guess I am still a bit confused on where the nutrition lies in the bean and if I can enjoy more of the fatty portion for health too!

    Alisa - Dairy Free wrote on August 5th, 2010
  5. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Michel Cluizel chocolate. Exceptional product!

    http://uk.cluizel.com/fr/hight-cocoa-contents/5/15.html

    In NYC I buy it in a store called Garden of Eden but you can find them elsewhere:

    http://worldwidechocolate.com/shop_cluizel_bars.html

    http://www.igourmet.com/shoppe/prodview.aspx?cat=&subcat=&prod=2643&name=Michel+Cluizel+Chocolate+Bars

    http://www.google.com/products?q=%22michel+cluizel%22%2B%22bar%22&hl=en&aq=f

    Good choices are the Noir de Cacao 72%, the Grand Noir 85% and the Noir Infini 99%.

    Wilma Flintstone wrote on August 5th, 2010
  6. I have to second the recommendations for the Pralus. Yum. Also, try Claudio Corallo 73.5 with nibs. Interesting texture, and delightful taste. I am very fond of Michel Cluizel, as well. Mangaro, 65%, from Madagascar.

    Sarah wrote on August 5th, 2010
  7. The proliferation of organic-free trade-and the standards we all know from the baking aisle are endless now.
    GO OUT AND EXPERIMENT!…THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT! I stick with 85% or higher.
    Trader Joes 85% is the best value. but add some Almond butter or Marscapone cheese to any super dark chocolate and its Heaven!! even 100% is just like a cup of black coffee. dark and strong but totally do-able.
    A little good red wine and dark chocolate never hurt anyone either..
    So go out and “HUNT” SOME chocolate!

    DAVE PARSONS wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • i read as long as it was 70% or better it was good for weight loss.. Am I wrong?

      LCF wrote on May 18th, 2014
  8. How this list could possibly omit the François Pralus Le 100%, single origin bar is mind boggling!
    Ingredients
    Cocoa, pure cocoa butter
    thats it.. no sugar at all.

    KestrelSF wrote on August 5th, 2010
  9. I’m surprised not to see Guittard, it’s inexpensive, delicious, easy to find, oh and delicious. Easily better than Ghiradelli and Lindt.

    http://guittard-online.stores.yahoo.net/bars.html

    SLS wrote on August 5th, 2010
  10. Guittard 91% is my personal favorite. It’s dark, smooth, creamy heaven!

    DebFM wrote on August 5th, 2010
  11. The Endangered Species dark chocolate with espresso beans is KILLER. Its the one with the Tiger on the label. I can only get it at WF and i dread when we are out.

    Geoff wrote on August 5th, 2010
  12. Posts like this make me wish I liked chocolate. Then I remember that my dislike of chocolate has helped me avoid a lot of sugar calories in life, and figure I’ve perhaps broken even. ;)

    Jenny wrote on August 5th, 2010
  13. Too much sugar in all of them. I prefer 100% cacao. 6% carbs only

    http://www.sugarcompany.net/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/EN/IDPagina/86

    Marcus wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • As I just stated.. I am right with you – just add a touch of honey!

      Primal Toad wrote on August 5th, 2010
  14. My favorite is 100% Ghiradelli with a touch of honey. That’s right – 100% guys!!

    100% Chocolate on its own is hard to take in so I add a touch of honey to sweeten it. Per 1 square I add about 1-2 grams worth of sugar from the honey.

    Is there anyone else that does this? I am sure adding coconut oil would do the trick too.

    I have not purchased chocolate bars in a while yet as I have been enjoying 100% cacao powder and 100% cacao nibs in smoothies. I LOVE these products!

    Primal Toad wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • I really can’t eat the 100% plain (88-90% is high enough for me) even with honey. Is there anything I can bake it into with the honey so I can use it up?

      Marisa wrote on August 6th, 2010
      • Marisa, I realize I’m late in responding but here goes. Sometimes I chop the 100% chocolate bar, then melt it with about half as much coconut oil as chocolate, then stir in the honey (I use maple syrup). I usually also stir in nuts, possibly cinnamon and unsweetened shredded coconut. Put in refrigerator to harden. You will have to experiment with proportions but you really can’t go too wrong. Oh yeah, in case you don’t know…melt the chocolate mixture in a bowl over simmering water or in some very warm place, not directly over a fire.

        Sharon wrote on August 7th, 2010
        • Thanks for the response – sounds delicious! I actually just posted my question in the forums too :)

          Marisa wrote on August 9th, 2010
  15. Well, although I agree that these choices are wonderful, I have to add that almost all of these bars (or all of them, I don’t know Valrhona,) have soy lecithin in the ingredients. If you’ve gone paleo because you have gut issues, you should know that soy lecithin is considered an intestinal tract irritant. If you have inflammation issues or thyroid issues, then any soy is contraindicated. My son loves dark chocolate, but has Crohns disease. The only bar we can find now that is made without soy lecithin is Rapunzel- and it’s a little waxy.

    Elisabeth wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • My Dogoba and Lindt ones do not have soy lecithin. I do notice that ingredient is in my other “organic” dark chocolate though. Yuck to anything soy! The second biggest health food scam next to artificial sweeteners!

      ArcticBear wrote on August 6th, 2010
  16. I’ll second the repeated recommendations for Endangered Species bars. I love the Panther 88%, but also the Bat 72% with cacao nibs.

    I also really like El Rey chocolate from Venezuela, but it’s hard to find and expensive.

    One thing to keep in mind is that there have been allegations that much cacao is produced in near-slavery conditions in Cote D’Ivoire. See http://tinyurl.com/m65n2r (yes, I know it’s Wikipedia — that’s why I said “allegations”) Endangered Species isn’t marked “Fair Trade,” which would be the gold standard, but at least they seem to make an effort.

    danthelawyer wrote on August 5th, 2010
  17. Missing some of my favorites — Grenada and Galler. Both are available from the *very* dangerous website: https://www.chocosphere.com/

    Plus — you should really try single-source cocoa bars. It changes the taste significantly — will quite often have a ‘fruit’ taste with no fruit in the actual bar.

    rozska wrote on August 5th, 2010
  18. strange i was never into chocolate much on my old (lower-fat, “healthy”) diet.

    since i switched to hyperlipid diet, i become addictive to cacao beans or nibs (100%). i buy raw then i soak them then slow roast/dry them myself. i only like cacao that way (crunchy & slightly bitter). also a good replacement for my breath mints & gum. LOL.

    but i still don’t care for chocolate as much in any other form (no matter what %).

    go figure!

    PHK wrote on August 5th, 2010
  19. I discovered my favorite chocolate in the Grand Central Station Market in New York – made by Mast Brothers in Brooklyn, the chocolate is 70% cacao and sugar – that’s it for the plain bars – other varieties include olive oil, nuts, sea salt, and coffee nibs – not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way

    http://www.mastbrotherschocolate.com

    Jayne wrote on August 5th, 2010
  20. I love the post and the list. There is one bar/brand of bars you should definitely try. They are the BEST and are #1 on my list.

    They are Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s bars.

    http://www.williescacao.com/

    Count of Monte Christo wrote on August 5th, 2010
  21. Only tried the Green and Black brand but never 85% chocolate. Can’t wait to try the rest!

    Susan Campbell Fitness wrote on August 5th, 2010
  22. I like Green and Black but I think I like Ghirardelli 86% as well or better, and it’s cheaper. I’ve had the Dagoba but don’t remember much about it. (I’ve never met a dark chocolate I didn’t like, really, though 99% was too bitter for me — the honey is a good idea but sort of defeats the purpose in my view.)

    In another state I recently found Godiva — in a CVS drug store of all places — 85% and it was awesome.

    Anne wrote on August 5th, 2010
  23. Green & Blacks Every time. I also like the 55% Cacoa maya gold bars. Dark chocolate, sweet, bitter with spices. I have 2 or 3 squares after a meal of red meat. Finishes off the evening for me.

    I could devour the whole bar so need to hide it in the fridge.

    Ben wrote on August 5th, 2010
  24. I got some 100% Cacao from Equador and it was absolutely amazing. One little 2inchx2inch square lasted me for weeks. I would just break off a tiny nibble and the flavor was fantastic. I really cant eat anything below 75%. Otherwise its much too sweet. Endangered 88% is a great one too, i saw some other people mention that.

    Athena wrote on August 5th, 2010
  25. I second the vote for Theo chocolates. They have an 84% Ghana and 91% Costa Rica bar that are fantastic! All their chocolate is organic, fair trade and soy-free. Sadly for the gluten-intolerant among us, they don’t guarantee wheat-free chocolate, so for now I’m sticking with Lindt 85%.

    MamaBee wrote on August 5th, 2010
  26. Second the Pralus and Michel Cluizel recommendations. Cluizel’s 99% bar is awesome and super intense.

    Chocolat Bonnat is one of my favorite brands. Their main range of single-origin bars are all 75%, which I normally find a little low, but theirs taste really rich and intense.

    Another favorite of mine is Guittard’s Nocturne bar. It’s 91%, but much more approachable than other high-percentage bars I’ve tried, both in taste and price. Guittard sells a ton of baking chocolate, but their tablet bars meant for eating are very reasonably priced for the quality and underrated in my opinion.

    Fine and Raw is a company out of Brooklyn I believe and they do a truffle bar made from raw cacao and coconut oil that is v. primal and absolutely decadently delicious.

    My favorite company right now, though, is a little outfit called Rogue out of Minnesota. Check them out – they do three different dark chocolate blends, and the differences are actually discernable. The packaging is stunning, too.

    Diane wrote on August 5th, 2010
  27. Dark chocolate organic coffee beans?? I saw these yesterday in the store, so I don’t know the % of cocoa in it, but definitely a caffine kick. Any suggestions?

    Zac wrote on August 5th, 2010
  28. I just came back from the local Coop (It’s on the otherside of the wall from where I work) and they had the Dagoba bars right up front – They did happen to have ‘another’ dark chocolate version of the Dagoba bar that included ‘chilis’. I’m interested in trying that!

    Mike Wootini wrote on August 5th, 2010
  29. Weak. Most of those have soy lecithin in them. Vivani and Alter Eco blow all of these away. Weak post. Very disappointing. Do your homework, guys.

    Robb Dodd wrote on August 5th, 2010
  30. Just remember that if it doesn’t say free trade or organic, it’s most likely produced by indentured servants and child slaves. This is no joke. So stick with Dagoba, Green&Black’s and other organic options until the others clean up their business practices.

    lethargist wrote on August 5th, 2010
  31. Oh, I love that Scharffen Berger was listed, but I like their 99% best. It’s my chocolate of choice. Happy to see Green & Black’s listed as well. :) I’m a big fan of Dagoba’s drinking chocolate. Might have to try a bar of chocolate one of these days.

    Deanna (Diana Renata) wrote on August 5th, 2010
  32. I like Endangered Species and Green & Black bars in the 72-75 range. Above this, I’m having real difficulty finding something that doesn’t taste like mud. I’m working on two bars right now, both Lindt, one is Lindt’s Chili bar and the other is their 70% Intense Dark. The Chili bar seems like it would be perfect without the chili, which produces a little heat on the back of the tongue but doesn’t seem to thoroughly mix the chili flavor throughout, but the bar is only 47%. The 70% Intense Dark? MUD. Edible with a glass of Cab, but mud otherwise.

    JD wrote on August 5th, 2010
  33. I like Endangered Species Dark Chocolates. I am gluten sensitive and these are certified to have less than 10ppm gluten by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. http://www.gfco.org

    Lindt says their chocolates should not be considered gluten free.

    Anne wrote on August 5th, 2010
  34. While in Thailand, I came across a company called “Well Naturally” that apparently is made out of Australia. I’m not sure if it can be found in the U.S.; however, they produce a sugar-free line of dark chocolate bars amongst other supposedly healthy alternatives to standard chocolate that is both cheap, and for the non champagne-taste category of people, quite good. From the website, I do recall that GMC may sell them. I haven’t done much research into the accuracy of their statements but its worth the indulgence if you are really avoiding sugar.

    RJ wrote on August 5th, 2010
  35. I love chocolate but I can’t just have one square or half a bar. When it is chocolate time I get crazy and eat until I am nauseous. Then of course comes all the guilt and regret and promises never to that again. My wife just watches and laughs. She has seen it before and will see it again.

    Good thing I bought the Primal Blueprint to teach me how to burn fat the rest of the time!

    nathan wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • I am with you Nathan. I can eat chocolate until my ears ring. I have been fighting the beast for longer than I want to admit.

      I can not relate to the words…. ‘I can only eat one square.’

      My only hope is to not ever buy chocolate bars again. Probably not going to happen.

      Sharon wrote on August 7th, 2010
  36. I love CocoaLove Cups, they are amazing, and contain only cocoa and agave. I also love madecasse. Its delightful and won new york chocolate weeks best in show!

    Mar wrote on August 5th, 2010
  37. I believe 4 out of 5 of your choices all have soy lecithin in them…reason enough to steer clear…

    Loren wrote on August 5th, 2010
  38. Dark chocolate makes me break out in a rash.

    debbie_downer wrote on August 5th, 2010
  39. thanks for the mention earlier about free trade. The use of slaves and children is widespread in the chocolate industry.

    http://www.shamanchocolates.com = excellent !!! free trade, organic, supports the Huichol Indians in Mexico. they make a 80% dark.

    charity dasenbrock wrote on August 5th, 2010
  40. Equal exchange Mint chocolate 68%. Little sweet but amazing. Organic.

    B wrote on August 5th, 2010

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!