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. The Meadow has a bunch of bars in the 80 or 90%+ range. Even some 100% bars that aren’t’ too bitter. I like the Domori and Pralus 100% the most.

    80-89% –

    90-100% –

    Mark wrote on June 1st, 2012
  2. Yes, my fav is Green and Blacks also Divine makes an 85% which is quite nice and I love their graphics. I am curious why chocolate is allowed in Primal/Paleo diets, I can not quite imagine those dudes and dudettes eating the sacred bean…though there were those Aztecs….

    Diana Moll wrote on June 18th, 2012
  3. Anyone try Theo 85%? Really good all organic fair trade. Made in Seattle.

    PD Smith wrote on June 24th, 2012
    • Just had a Theo 70% cherry almond tonight. Out of sight!

      Luke wrote on June 24th, 2012
  4. Found 85% cacao chocolate bar at Big Lots for only $1.80! No soy, but it does have “sunflower lecithin.” Great for the price, though. 19g fat (12g saturated), 6g of sugar, 6g fiber and 14g carbs. Excited to try Lindt 99%!

    Jackie wrote on June 27th, 2012
  5. Hey Mark – I came across your blog here while looking for chocolate ratings online.

    I’m working on a labor of love website and would love to have your reviews added to my site as an expert reviewer.

    Please let me know if you’d be interested in doing a reviews/link trade?

    – Jon

    Jon wrote on July 11th, 2012
  6. Anyone tried Raw chocolate? As my 85% habit is hijacking my all out healthy/primal lifestyle (100g per day at least, no problem downing the whole bar in seconds) I switched to mostly raw chocolate, still 85% but I think it may have more health benefits and no sugar. I find it to be crazy expensive in the USA. I recommend to anyone hooked on dark to try Raw. I much prefer it now.

    CadenceAlexia wrote on July 18th, 2012
  7. One downside of many of these commercial bars is the presence of soy lecithin, which is used to speed the blending process. There are brands that don’t use it. Alter Eco comes to mind.

    A wrote on July 24th, 2012
  8. Just tried Alter Eco Dark Blackout its 85% cocoa and organic and it was ah-mazing … the texture was divine and the bitterness was just right… and I’m generally an endangered species 88% gal … so I’d highly recommend this … I got it at my local whole foods

    Tania A wrote on August 1st, 2012
  9. Alter eco. It is a nice variety because of what it brings to the table. Vegan. Soy, dairy, gluten free. Organic. Free trade. Amazing choices. I only wish it was darker. Not just for health benefits, but because I could eat dark chocolate (even the 90% stuff) all day.

    However I have to admit that I have always loved dark chocolate even as a kid. My father ate it and 40 years ago if you were eating dark chocolate (especially as a kid)nobody wanted to share your chocolate (BONUS!)so my tolerance for the dark stuff is super high, but I don’t think that their dark is high and bitter enough (there is one variety that is 85%-that is their highest-weak)At the same time the lack of the other things make it worth it, as do the ingredients they add such as quinoa to make it crispy.

    Nancy wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  10. I have Mars Cocoa vie THREE times a day. Only 30 cals a serving. Pretty much the same concoction the Kuna Indians off the coast of Panama have by grinding the cocoa beans and adding bananas for the sweetness. Mars is the only patented manufacturing process that preserves the Flavonals. The Kuna Indians have bascically zero heart and cardiovascular disease and they consume around 21 cups of cocoa a week. Check it out

    Greg wrote on August 12th, 2012
  11. Greg wrote on August 12th, 2012
  12. For me the best dark chocolate, I have eaten is Ariba Noir.

    It is an energizer for me.

    Ramon wrote on August 14th, 2012

    Gary S wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  14. I’d rather spend my money on lots of full-fat dairy and meat so I get the Baker’s unsweetened 100% natural cacao or the Ghirardelli 100% cacao bars in the baking section at Kroger or Walmart, they are both 100% pure chocolate, no additives. Anything with even the slightest amount of sugar and I would not be able to eat only 1 oz. daily. Definitely an acquired taste but the higher the percentage of cacao, the better it is for you!

    Kelly wrote on September 22nd, 2012
  15. Hi, try StRita dark chocolate bars.

    They have 50% to 100% dark chocolate bars.

    Really good. Try to visit their website

    Tito D wrote on October 5th, 2012
  16. Does anybody have an opinion on the Ghirardelli line?

    Just tried Dagoba. I agree with your tasting notes. I also noticed hints of black pepper and something slightly crunchy.

    Next in line is Endangered Species 88%!

    Metroman wrote on October 15th, 2012
    • sorry for the double post below!

      Metroman wrote on October 15th, 2012
  17. Does anybody have an opinion on the Ghirardelli line?

    Just had the Dagoba. Your tasting notes were spot on. I also noticed hints of black pepper,as well as a slight crunch at times…..

    Metroman wrote on October 15th, 2012
  18. I was interested to read that you think “good dark chocolate is self-limiting. You won’t go crazy and pig out on it because it isn’t pleasant to do so.”

    I love good quality (at least 85%) chocolate, but a little too much – I almost always finish a 100g bar in a sitting, so it has to be a very occasional indulgence. Actually, I find this with many foods – I just don’t seem to have a natural “don’t want any more” point.

    Anyone else experience this and/or have tips on finding natural moderation?

    Michael wrote on October 17th, 2012
  19. I love Lulu’s! They’re sweetened with coconut secret coconut crystals. Very low in sugar & low glycemic. And they taste amazing! The smoked almond and sea salt is my favorite.

    Carly wrote on October 31st, 2012

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