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. Several of the above chocolates are available in my small southwestern Texas town but so far Lindt’s is the only one without soy lecithin. I know Guru Sisson doesn’t get excited about the stuff but in my moderately cynical view of life, if something is popular, it must be bad, hence my avoidance of all things soy, as well as grains and sugar.

    jamesf3i wrote on August 14th, 2010
  2. Taza is the best! After a friend sent me a sampler basket a couple years ago, my husband and I don’t eat anything else. I don’t eat most of the other kinds listed, mostly because they contain soy.
    Taza’s texture is amazing, since it’s all stone ground. I love their Chocolate Mexicano especially – they add a touch of cinnamon, guajillo chili, vanilla bean, or salted almond. Truly delicous!

    Sarah wrote on August 15th, 2010
  3. Taza is the best! After a friend sent me a sampler basket a couple years ago, my husband and I don’t eat anything else. I don’t eat most of the other kinds listed, mostly because they contain soy.
    Taza’s texture is amazing, since it’s all stone ground. I love their Chocolate Mexicano flavors especially – they add a touch of cinnamon, guajillo chili, vanilla bean, or salted almond. Truly delicous!

    Sarah wrote on August 15th, 2010
  4. i used to sample green and blacks – always used to find it on the chalky side. i preferred the maya gold which had orange oil in it. but less cocoa/

    anyway, i was looking in the supermarket (well..Marks and Spencer, not really supermarket!) and they had two 72%ers. One was 44g carbs per 100g and the other was 30g! I couldn’t work out why such a big difference…the only ingredient difference was the higher card one had ground vanilla pod in it. weird huh?

    sarah

    Sarah wrote on August 24th, 2010
  5. Yay I think we have green and blacks here in NZ……

    PrimalToopz wrote on August 24th, 2010
  6. My #1 bar is Coco Camino but I’m in Canada, so maybe you yanks can’t get it. It is head and shoulders above anything on this list.

    There’s also a brand I get called Ciocolady or something like that. It’s from Italy. Also very good.

    MarkeeF wrote on August 25th, 2010
  7. someone mentioned claudio corallo. YES! i’ve tried many many dark chocolates, and this is by far my favorite. they carry 73% with nibs, 75%, 80%… the ONLY ingredients are cocoa, sugar, and cocoa butter. this chocolate is amazing and expensive. they also carry a 100% bar.

    chelsea wrote on September 1st, 2010
  8. Cocoa Camino makes some excellent organic chocolate bars, including a new unsweetened chocolate for baking which means that the cocoa content is sky high.

    Take a bite of the unsweetened bar and a bit of a berry or other healthy sweet food and it can be quite tasty!

    Lillea wrote on September 11th, 2010
  9. I can’t believe you don’t have the Chapon Cuba 75% – its sensational. Also no Chuao or Porcelana bars.

    Very strange.

    Lee wrote on September 21st, 2010
  10. By the gods I’m salivating reading this article. My current favorite is the G&B 85% but I’m anxious to try many of these suggestions.

    Don wrote on December 8th, 2010
  11. I have been trying many of the high cacao bars, and just don’t enjoy anything over 72%. I’ve also tried several organic raw varieties, and find them too sharp. For me, chocolate needs to be very smooth, and the flavor and fat must be carefully balanced.

    As a huge dark chocolate lover, I used to live on Vivani 72% (tried their 85%, but gave them away to hardier friends!) My current favorite – far outweighing any other – is Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries, and the plain Divine 70% Dark Chocolate. Not Organic, but Fair Trade Certified, and the quality is amazing, I am guessing they are not sprayed, as I am very sensitive to chemical contamination.

    I don’t like that they have soy lecithin, but at least it is not genetically modified. Wonderful comments! Thanks everyone!

    Darshana wrote on December 8th, 2010
  12. Cocoa content is the sum of cocoa butter(the fat that is pressed from the beans) and the cocoa powder(the rest of the beans dried and ground). Cocoa butter is more expensive and, cheap brands will use other fats and just powder, as the powder has a more intense choc flavour it is possible to create a biter choc with a fairly low cocoa content, beware.
    What content is the best is personal, it´s like coffee, doesn´t always get better if it gets stronger, just personal taste, the chocs that win acclaim by choc freaks(like me) is often around 65%, but yes it has more sugar, personally I don´t let things like that get in my way when I savour one of the true joys of life. Try a glass of a good sauternes together with Amedeis Chuao(really expensive)and that day will be a day to remember.

    shapewear wrote on December 14th, 2010
    • You are so right. It is not about the % of cocoa, but how it is processed. Xocai is the the only chocolate that is cold processed, all the wonderful nutrients in the bean are retained. This is so important as the cocoa bean is the highest antioxidant food on the plant and it will lose up to 80% of the nutrients and antioxidants in the heat or Dutching way of processing the bean. Xocai also used the cocoa butter in the finished product instead of processing it out -selling it- adding back in ‘crappy’ fats, plus fillers, waxes, even caffeine to bring back the flavor because they have processed the rich flavor out of the bean, and who knows what else. Xocai does not have any of that and they use a low glycemic sugar that is, of course, Diabetic friendly. You don’t have to sacrifice good delicious chocolate for health. It is loaded with antioxidants which could help improve your health. Imagine eating chocolate, getting healthy, and even losing weight?!

      Bonnie wrote on December 14th, 2010
  13. I don’t really see the problem with milk chocolate (provided we are talking about QUALITY milk chocolate). Milk chocolate scores better than many fruits in terms of antioxidant levels. The drawback is that it doesn’t offer the benefits of reduced blood pressure as dark chocolate does, but that doesn’t mean it increases your blood pressure either. It has a lot of sugar, but as long as you are active (walking is OKAY too) and don’t eat too much in one sitting you’re blood sugar won’t spike. The fact that it has a lot of fat helps to lower the glycemic index of the treat too.

    Admittedly, I’ve been eating about 500 calories of a mix of milk chocolate and dark chocolate everyday for the past four years and have a BMI of exactly 20. I’m 21 years old but often times people confuse my for being under 18. At the train station and airport, more than once did workers approach me asking if I had an elderly companion. It must be the chocolate — milk chocolate! I love dark chocolate, but I can’t give up on milk chocolate. It seems okay to eat massive amounts of chocolate if you don’t get massive amounts of calories/fat from other sources. I don’t see why that should be a problem though — if you find good quality chocolate, you won’t crave anything else.

    Matthew wrote on January 28th, 2011
  14. Just noticed that Lindt now has a 99% bar. A significant difference from their 90%. Strong but very good.

    Rich D. wrote on February 12th, 2011
  15. Green & Black is available at my neighborhood Walmart. Definitely a favorite.

    Double D wrote on March 10th, 2011
  16. Note Black & Green is owned by Kraft,
    owners of Cadbury since takeover.
    Cadbury owned Black & Green.
    Cadbury branded chocolate made for North America by Hershey….

    Tony Dl wrote on March 10th, 2011
  17. I just tried the Dagoba and XOXOX bars tonight– really awesome! Great suggestions!

    Leigh wrote on March 17th, 2011
  18. I am totally rofl at the comments saying this is like a walk down the candy aisle at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Haha! So true! The universe of chocolate is so much bigger than the grocery store offerings.

    Mike wrote on April 10th, 2011
  19. Hi Mark! I saw this post on chocolate and was surprised to see that Taza Chocolate didnt make the cut. Oh well, in any case you’re in for a treat!

    http://www.tazachocolate.com/

    Alex wrote on April 30th, 2011
  20. oh wow I’m surprised these aren’t on the list:
    Lindt 90% (my go-to bar)- very vanilla-y
    99% world market bar (mentioned in some comments)
    michael cluizel 99% bar (omg, I love this stuff. so hard to find though, and I think I’m the only person that buys it at the only store I’ve seen it in. Now it’s gone :()
    E. Guittard Nocturne 91% bar I believe. also quite good. Liking it more than the Lindt now.

    Xue wrote on May 2nd, 2011
  21. oh, the michael cluizel 99% noir infini bar has the best stats, imo. It is small though, like half a Lindt bar

    Serving Size: 1 piece (about 40g), 1 1/3 in entire bar
    Amount per Serving
    Calories 213
    Calories from Fat 189.0
    % Daily Value *
    Total Fat 21g
    32%
    Saturated Fat 13g
    65%
    Cholesterol 0.58mg
    0%
    Sodium 4mg
    0%
    Total Carbohydrate 5g
    1%
    Dietary Fiber 4.4g
    17%
    Sugars 0.6g

    Protein 8.8g

    like, super low in carbs :)
    (note – not associated with them or anything, I just really like this chocolate)

    Xue wrote on May 2nd, 2011
  22. I love chocolate – and I choose to make my own. From raw coco powder, raw coco butter 2 to 1, add a pinch sea salt and your sweetener of choice (for me that’s stevia) to taste. Then stir in nuts,fruit, seeds or nibs and tada! Yum!

    Katrine wrote on May 26th, 2011
  23. has anyone tried kallari 85%? my new favorite. i’ve never tasted a smoother chocolate. it’s like eating silk! they also have 70% and 75%. it’s about five dollars a bar, but it goes a long way… takes me about a week to eat, just a square or two at a time. my six year old loves it too!

    chelsea wrote on May 26th, 2011
    • I ran into the Kallari booth at the Seattle Gift Show recently. Yes, it is an excellent Ecuadorian chocolate, very creamy-smooth, I agree. But my personal favorite is another chocolate line from Ecuador called Pacari Organic Chocolates. My favorites of what they make are the single origin 65% Manabi & the 72% Los Rios. They have an incredibly complex flavor profile, with some amazing fruity & floral notes, very satisfying! After tasting Pacari, most bars taste rather 1-dimensional, even Kallari. They may be a little hard to find (as they don’t work with UNFI or other national distributors), but well worth the effort!

      Craig G wrote on June 1st, 2011
  24. Try Willie’s Cacao from the UK. I get several different types of 100% cacao from beans sourced from different regions – Venezuela, Nicaragua, Madagascar, Indonesia. You can buy online.
    http://www.williescacao.com

    Prue wrote on August 7th, 2011
  25. You have not have chocolate if you haven’t tried this:

    http://mastbrothers.com/

    Tiffany wrote on August 15th, 2011
  26. Dark chocolate is fab just don’t over do it

    Genius4design wrote on August 20th, 2011
  27. Don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this, but Theo’s 91% is pretty good.

    Katie wrote on August 29th, 2011
  28. Unfortunately, most of these chocolates that are mentioned on here (except Divine) are all coming from cacao beans harvested on plantations that use child labor, chemicals, and did I mention forced child labor?

    I am an owner of Equal Exchange- our chocolate comes from small farmer cooperatives and contains no sot lecithin or fillers. As a Primal eater, our 80% Panama bar is my go to treat! Find it at food coops or Whole (Paycheck) Foods. As a Primal eater, it is important to me not only what I eat, but where it comes from as well.

    River wrote on August 30th, 2011
  29. Thanks! I learned a lot about chocolate brands in here, and it will help me in my future business!

    Andres wrote on September 6th, 2011
  30. Olive and Sinclair is a great artisan chocolate maker in Nashville, TN: http://www.oliveandsinclair.com

    I make my own dark chocolate with 3 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa, 2 tbsp of coconut oil and just enough truvia/stevia for however sweet you want it. You can add other things for flavor,i.e. sea salt,nuts,etc.

    Put it in the fridge to solidify on greased wax paper or a very glossy paper plate or you will destroy it trying to detach it from the plate.

    Its not super refined but it will do for a chocolate fix, there’s no sugar and its very economical.

    Zane wrote on September 13th, 2011
  31. you haven’t tasted the hole pallet of world chocolates until you have tried “Pure Icelandic Chocolate Noi Sirius 70%” just reminds me of happy child hood memory’s of when i was a kid and i was stealing a bit off from the kitchen, and there never seamed to be any chocolate a round when my mother wanted to bake ;)it melts so satisfyingly in your mouth….

    Gudbjorg Marta wrote on September 14th, 2011
  32. This is my chocolate: 90% cocoa from an artisan chocolate maker from Styria, Austria, Europe: http://www.zotter.at/en/chocolate-shop/basic/detail/v/basic-90-grenzbitter-1.html. They even make a 100% cocoa chocolate! Seems like you guys in the US of A can have some too: http://www.network54.com/Forum/131774/thread/1057252139/Zotter+Chocolates+in+USA-

    Jan wrote on September 19th, 2011
  33. all about the fair trade monkey chocolate 82 percent!

    Max@flavortogofast wrote on September 21st, 2011
  34. Might I recommend Endangered Species Chocolates 88% All-Natural Extreme Dark Chocolate

    http://chocolatebar.com/products.php?product=3oz.-All%252dNatural-Extreme-Dark-Chocolate

    Allison wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Best chocolate for the price/health/impact!

      Dave wrote on October 20th, 2011
      • I also like that the sugar used in Endangered is unprocessed and water-filtered.

        Dave wrote on October 20th, 2011
  35. Hi I found this by Googling ‘best chocolate’ (or whatever!) as someone recommended the following to me and I was trying to check them out@
    Val Rhona
    Amaday and Michel Cluizel
    But I see NONE of these are mentioned! (so FAR!). I normally do the Green and Blacks DARKEST!

    cat wrote on October 20th, 2011
  36. I love dark chocolates, I love the bitterness and sweetness it offers. Truly a unique satisfying taste. I hope one day I could taste these 5 best dark chocolate.

    Irene wrote on October 27th, 2011
  37. Though it is only 70%, my sheer favorite is Rapunzel for two reasons: one is that they put their product through a conching process done by hand and the ingredients of nature that consumes three days, not just a few hours via chemicals. The difference is notable in the flavor, so much so I’m convinced if they did an 85% it would thrill the palate distinctively more than the other 85ers.
    The second reason is the quality of sugar they use, which I believe is the least processed in the field and carries a roundness of sweetness with molasses characteristics to make a far more interesting chocolate. They used to use a sugar that was not processed at all, their own product called Rapadura, but the inside-the-box brittleness of consumer tastes made them retreat from that supreme summit.
    I hope some other company has the balls to return this to the gusty fields of human flavor highs.
    Their Rapadura can still be purchased separately. It changes desserts for which it is appropriate (NOT lemon pie, a disaster) like apple crisp to their fulfillment of potential.
    While writing this I consumed nearly an entire 3.4 oz. Green & Black 85er. So I had good company!

    Ron
    Note: I don’t know if I’ll be able to find you again online, for my computer is crazy tonight. But if you email me any replies at ronald@foxinternet.net I’ll be likely to get them.

    Ronald Jorgensen wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • Yes! I used to eat the Rapunzel chocolate he speaks of years ago made with the Rapadura sugar and it truly was amazing! So much more like what I had always imagined a great brown sugar should taste like, and it gave the chocolate a distinctive less sweet, but more flavored, delicious quality! It was different from other bars, but I thought much better!

      I also used to buy Rapadura sugar to make my famous organic whole wheat/oatmeal/coconut double-the chocolate-chips cookies (my secret ingredient was plain organic yogurt), but I don’t make them much anymore, being allergic to wheat and dairy!

      My current go-to chocolate is (Fair Trade) Divine 85% Dark (“Heavenly Chocolate with a heart.”) Their 70% Dark is also wonderful, but I can finally do the less sweet after a couple of years of eating more primal! Thanks to Mark & you guys!

      Darshana wrote on November 7th, 2011
  38. I’ve been a chocolate lover all my life, and have eaten exclusively dark chocolate for about a decade. Of all the dark chocolates I’ve had–and there have been many–the Dagoba 87% (Eclipse) bar is by far my favorite.

    It is the richest, “deepest,” most complex, and most satisfying dark chocolate I have ever had. I like others to varying degrees, but many have a generic dark chocolate taste; as the reviewer states, this chocolate really does stand alone.

    I disagree with the reviewer about the texture: if you order the chocolate directly from the company, you will get–at least I have–very fresh bars that are quite smooth and silky. The reviewer does not mention the fact that an Eclipse bar has eight grams of fiber and seven grams of protein.

    I found the Eclipse extremely hard to find (Fairway on NYC’s Upper West Side has it only occasionally), so I now order it by the box directly from the company (www.dagobachocolate.com).

    Mark wrote on November 25th, 2011
  39. My absolute favorite is Valrhona Noir Extra Amer. I eat a tiny bit at a time to satisfy my sweet tooth.

    Candy Lady wrote on December 10th, 2011
  40. This is a good list of great chocolate. And if you want to take it up a notch, here’s more info.

    For a list of Artisan Chocolatiers (those Mark listed, plus many more):
    http://chocomap.com/chocolatiers.php

    Try the different tabs at chocomap.com, such as “Up to Your Elbows in Chocolate” for info on Understanding Cocoa Percentage or How Chocolate is Made. The tab “Hot Chocolate” has news on chocolate and at bottom, a list of chocolate resources (sites, blogs, online bulk chocolate suppliers). The tab “Bonbons & Bars” gets you to a selection of great chocolate bars with descriptions.

    The tab “The Map” lists chocolatiers by city, throughout the world or you can search on the name of a shop. If your favorite local Chocolatier isn’t listed, have the shop go to the link “Put Your Shop on the Map” and fill out the form to get listed!

    And to find a Chocolatier wherever you are in the world, download the free “Find Chocolate” app for iPhone & Android:
    http://chocomap.com/chocomap_mobile.php

    Enjoy!
    EcoleChocolatGirl
    (Program Coordinator at Ecole Chocolat, the online chocolate school that teaches the art of fine chocolate making)

    EcoleChocolatGirl wrote on December 12th, 2011

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