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. thanks for the mention earlier about free trade. The use of slaves and children is widespread in the chocolate industry. = excellent !!! free trade, organic, supports the Huichol Indians in Mexico. they make a 80% dark.

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

    B wrote on August 5th, 2010
  3. I use 100% unsweetened bakers chocolate and groove on the bitterness..!

    rik wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • me too, my wife thinks I’m crazy

      Shawn wrote on August 6th, 2010
  4. I love the Lindt 99% bars.
    One or two squares after dinner, let them melt slowly in my mouth (no chewing!). It took a while to get used to it, but now the others taste too sweet.

    Boo wrote on August 5th, 2010
  5. Gotta admit, Vivani is the best I’ve ever had — smooth, creamy, dark, no soy! I’ve had the Lindt 99%, Green & Blacks, the darkest Godiva and Ghirardelli I can find, and my go-to bar for the longest time was Endangered Species, but none of those hold a candle to Vivani. IMHO.

    Deanna wrote on August 5th, 2010
  6. I love Lindt’s 85%. Just the perfect sweet to bitter ratio. I’m surprised at how many people like the 99%. That’s some dedication to such a bitter chocolate. I’ve tried, but just can’t do it :)

    Primal K@ wrote on August 5th, 2010
  7. WOW!!!! There are some serious chocolate lovers out there! Looks like I’m in good company. I stumbled across this one a few days ago. It’s pretty good but not my favorite….
    Righteously Raw 90% with Caramel
    Total fat% – 7g
    Sugars – 7g
    My all time favorite is Dark Chocolate with Caramel & Sea Salt from Nirvana. YUMMY! We refer to it as “crack” chocolate in our cave :)
    I hope everyone enjoys their search for the perfect chocolate!

    Allyson Neilson wrote on August 5th, 2010
  8. Chocolate bars, no matter how good, aren’t Paleo, nor are they Primal. They are just cavity creators.

    People need to go kill their food more. When the lights go out – only the hunters and farmers will know what to do.

    Lets get back to real Primal skills, not picking out the best bar in the chocolate aisle.

    George Mounce wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • are you serious dude? live a little

      emma wrote on August 5th, 2010
    • chocolate bars without any sugar are unlikely to cause cavities. If you know about aboriginal cultures and caries it proves that it is poor nutrition that causes cavities, not specifically what goes in the mouth.

      Well, I partially agree with you on who is going to survive our next societal collapse; the people who have maintained connection with the Earth, and for the most part, that is not the farmers… not in the developed part of the world anyway. Time to get to know your aboriginal neighbours.

      ArcticBear wrote on August 6th, 2010
  9. taza chocolate is where it is at. They stone grind it all, so it really tastes like a whole grain chocolate with all the texture of the cocao and not just a smooth mass of processed muck

    conrad wrote on August 5th, 2010
  10. Lindt’s 99% is what I like. But it’s twice as much as the 90%, so I generally stick with the 90%.

    On it’s own, in whipped cream, or in my coffee, it’s tasty.

    Haggus wrote on August 5th, 2010
  11. I’ve tried the Dagoba. This was after enjoying the dark chocolate pound plus bar from Trader Joes, which I think was 72%. I enjoyed that, but I think i moved to quickly to much darker. I’ll have to make it a little more gradual.

    Nate wrote on August 5th, 2010
  12. Here in Springfield, Missouri, is a single source maker of the best chocolate you will ever eat: Askinosie Chocolate. It isn’t cheap, but the quality is amazing. Everything is in house, all Fair Trade, and Shawn Askinosie travels to the actual farms in Ecuador and Mexico to source his chocolate. Incredible. Well worth it.

    As for more widely available brands, I have to give a big thumbs down to Green & Blacks and Dagoba because in the past year or so they been adding powdered milk to the chocolate. It is a tiny amount, and I’m sure it has a reason for being there, but it screws up the whole 85% cacao experience. None for me, thank you. I’d rather do Newman’s or some other brand that keeps the milk out. It is DARK chocolate, not milk chocolate!!

    Tom Stine wrote on August 5th, 2010
  13. I stand by Endangered Species Raspberry Almond, which is dark with hardly any raspberry or almond, just a tease of each, and a wee bit of sugar, and it’s perfect! It’s the kind where you can have just a small square and be truly satisfied, or you could eat more, but you’ll regret if you eat the whole thing and it’s gone tomorrow. It’s very pure tasting.

    Trader Joe’s has a couple of its own dark bars (not the cheapos) that are pretty darn good, I have to say. Newman’s Own was my first every chocolate love. One day I will try Askinosie. Don’t forget that Chicago based chocolatier too, Vosges, which is more for chocolate connoiseurs who like to spend a lot. It’s very good as well.

    Kristina wrote on August 5th, 2010
  14. if you are ready for it, as Mark sounds like he is… try Dagoba’s 100% bar… it’s true to its roots and for aficionados only

    Roman wrote on August 6th, 2010
  15. 122 comments on chocolate is pretty funny. Marks post on bacon got 196 comments. I guess thats a plus of being primal, being able to eat delicious food while getting in the best shape of your life. I forget the brand but my dad had a dark chocolate bar with bacon 85% I think. It was mouthwatering! Probably going to order a couple of cases when I find out what they were…lol.

    Aaron Curl wrote on August 6th, 2010
  16. Hells ya, for this long overdue CHOCOLATE POST!

    mmm chocholate… *Homer daze and drool*

    NSWM wrote on August 6th, 2010
  17. Conscious Chocolate in the UK are amazing, they make a range of raw chocolate bars that are free from pesticides, dairy, soya and gluten.

    “Conscious ingredients
    Raw cacao powder, cacao butter and agave nectar (natural sweetener) form the basis of all the Conscious Chocolate range. We use a blend of sundried fruits, nuts, super foods and therapeutic grade essential oils to create a variety of different flavours. It is imperative for us to know the country of origin of each ingredient to make sure it is fairly traded, transported and ethically sourced. We ensure the ingredients are organically certified and that pesticides and spays are never used”

    Beautiful stuff!

    Lisa wrote on August 6th, 2010
    • Agave nectar has been successfully passed off as a health food. Not so; highly processed and high glycemic index. Not much improvement from high fructose corn syrup. It’s ok, I got fooled into using it too, for awhile… before I went Primal.

      ArcticBear wrote on August 6th, 2010
  18. Ghiradelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% chocolate

    Dagoba Xocolatl 74% with hot chilis and cacao nibs — a lower chocolate % but it has lots of cacao nibs which sort of makes up for it. This stuff is AMAZING!

    Erica wrote on August 6th, 2010
  19. Beautiful dark chocolate write up. I love dark chocolate.

    And the reason primal eating resonates so well with me is because the healthier food has always been what I craved.

    Even As a little kid I always chose dark chocolate over your standard milk chocolate, and all of my friends would say it tasted gross. So I can’t comprehend people that don’t appreciate the complex and much more sophisticated palate of real dark chocolate. Love it.

    Mark wrote on August 6th, 2010
  20. The Scharffen Berger DOES taste like bacon and it wasn’t my thing- I’d rather eat real bacon for that flavor. 85% Green and Blacks and 90% Dark Lindt are two favs here :)

    Abi wrote on August 6th, 2010
  21. This post inspired me to take a stroll through the chocolate section of my market last night. I spent about $25 on different super dark bars… Lindt has always been my go-to brand, but I’m all set to try Endangered Species and Black and Green when I’m next in the mood!

    Victoria wrote on August 6th, 2010
  22. In Australia. Green and Blacks 85% is listed as having 15.6g Carbohydrate per 100g (sorry, 3.5oz I think). It is really listed as 14g of Carbs per 40g in America.

    A wrote on August 6th, 2010
  23. My husband really enjoys the “Alter Eco” brand, usually the 85% Dark Chocolate Blackout bar-only 3 ingredients: Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, and Cane Sugar. Organic and Fair Trade Certified.

    Vikki wrote on August 6th, 2010
  24. mark, you did not include Trader Joe’s 85% dark chocolate that is SOOOO much better than the Green and Blacks. I really do not like the way it melts in my mouth.

    scubasam wrote on August 6th, 2010
  25. I have a small piece of Lindt excellence 90% everyday. Usually i chew it up with a small piece of ginger or habanero pepper and let the flavors develop over a few minutes. It’s SO good. Really complex flavors.

    Bjorn wrote on August 6th, 2010
  26. Man, do I love some Green and Black’s. Sadly the others probably aren’t available in the UK. Shame, that.

    TheExegesisFairy wrote on August 6th, 2010
  27. Just watched a document about cocoa. On non-organic farms, they use child labor and doesn’t care about land itself either. So always buy organic if possible.

    This is kinda fun way to eat chocolade and save the world :)

    Toni wrote on August 6th, 2010
  28. What if the sugar content is acesulfame potassium?

    Jason wrote on August 6th, 2010
    • Artificial sweetener. I wouldn’t eat it and it has serious safety concerns (like all artificial sweeteners) that you can read about online.

      ArcticBear wrote on August 6th, 2010
  29. Every day bar: Endangered Species Panther, Extreme Dark Chocolate 88%.

    I will occasionally buy other “specialty chocolates” when I find one that looks intriguing but the ES bar is my tried and true daily fix.

    Wendy wrote on August 6th, 2010
  30. lowest carb and best primal bar

    8 carbs (3 fiber) (5 sugar)

    lindt 85% or 90%

    John wrote on August 6th, 2010
  31. I own a specialty foods brokerage firm in the N.W. My favorite chocolates are from Pacari, an organic manufacturer in Ecuador. They do single-origin, fair trade bars, my favorite of these is their 65% Manabi. Much more complex flavor with fruity & floral notes than most bars from the big companies.
    They also do 70% and a 100% dark raw bars, for those who like higher flavinols & antioxidants.

    Craig G wrote on August 6th, 2010
  32. I simply buy some pure, raw cacao nibs and grind them up and add them to a mashed banana. You can also buy pure cacao powder but I find the nibs are more flavourful.

    Sometimes I’ll add a little coconut oil with the mix and – damn – it’s tasty!

    Rob wrote on August 6th, 2010
    • haha. it seems we’re the only 2 who likes cacao nibs. but i don’t even grind them up. (I prefer beans tho. less messy.)

      PHK wrote on August 6th, 2010
  33. I used to love extreme dark chocolate bars (Theo, Endangered Species, etc.) but decided that they weren’t primal. Has anybody here seen how much work goes into making a chocolate bar? I can understand hot cocoa as a drink but not chocolate bars. Maybe for my birthday.

    Christian wrote on August 6th, 2010
  34. Green and blacks 85% cocoa is my favourite. Every couple of days I’ll have a square or two in the evening.

    I haven’t been able to find any other bars in the UK that rival it for flavour, cocoa percentage or smoothness.

    Wilson The Writer wrote on August 7th, 2010
  35. mmmm… reading this whilst eating a snack of delicious dark choc spread with slightly salted butter and almonds…

    grokette wrote on August 7th, 2010
  36. I’m ending up eating about three squares in the mid-afternoon and three in the evening to curb my chocolate/carb cravings while I get off my high carb/sugar diet and into PB. I much prefer the “silky” kinds like G&B and Valrhona as opposed to the more “dusky” flavor of the Endangered Species.

    Lori B. wrote on August 8th, 2010
  37. I am a Personal Trainer in Brighton and I definatly eat chocolate. Try this one for size, chocolate and blue cheese.

    Roland Chandler wrote on August 9th, 2010
  38. Definitely try Theo chocolate, it’s made in Seattle and has a 91% bar from Costa Rican organic cacao beans.

    Tara wrote on August 10th, 2010

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