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5 Aug

The 5 Best Dark Chocolate Bars in the World

darkchocolateThe 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

lenoir extra 146x300

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

Picture4 3

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

Picture5 2

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

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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

Picture6 1

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 Lindt 90% is just meh to me..I just bought it at Target. Wonder how it would taste melted down, with a pinch of sea salt and maybe some almond, then cooled….

    Caryn wrote on December 11th, 2013
  2. No Toblerone dark chocolate?
    Yeah I know it’s cheap. But I’m one of the fan.

    Rich Amor wrote on February 6th, 2014
  3. how about trader joe’s belgian dark chocolate (70%)? would you recommend it?

    julie wrote on February 23rd, 2014
    • That’s the kind of chocolate used for Primal Truffles in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook.

      Mike wrote on February 25th, 2014
  4. I been researching and tasting Dark Chocolate looking for the BEST in my opinion chocolate bar. I’ve been been picking bars up here and there at the grocery store or other markets. These are the things I have been taking into consideration.

    1)taste, 2)Fairtrade, 3)ingredients, 4)affordability, 5)wholeness / healthiness.

    My #1 choice is the 85% Dark Chocolate Bar made by Divine.

    Can’t be beat- I am all about this chocolate bar! Easy to do when every aspect of it is good. Cacao is from fairtrade co-owned farms in Ghana. Chocolate is all from Cocoa mass and Cocoa butter. All ingredients except the emulsifier are Fairtrade ingredients (cocoa, sugar, vanilla). 6 grams of sugar, so low for a chocolate bar. Tastes delicious, melts in your mouth wonderfully. Two 3.5 oz bars for $7 at World Market, $3.99 for one at divinechocolateusa.com, $1.99 for a 1.5 oz bar.

    Madi wrote on April 18th, 2014
    • I completely agree! 85% Divine Dark Chocolate is the best for my taste as well – very smooth and creamy! And when I want something a tad sweeter, Divine’s 70% Dark is my first choice.

      Darshana Maya Greenfield wrote on April 18th, 2014
  5. For anyone in the uk aldi stock an 85%, i think its called moser roth. Its very similar in taste to g&b 85 but its about half price. Definitely worth a try.

    greg wrote on April 25th, 2014
    • Greg, I too have had this and it is delicious but as Sherry Lynn comments, it, like so many others has soy lecithin. I only eat it occasionally and only eat half of one of those small bars.

      Annie B Cornwall uk wrote on May 18th, 2014
  6. Best best best ever.. I just found. Low sugar , like 5g and tastes awesome! Bovetti dark choc with fleur de sel! And others like with lavender. French.. Really! Try this. I like it better than all the above and less sugar. Found, it at San Vicente foods. Los angeles

    Denise wrote on April 28th, 2014
  7. I’m surprised that after 7 pages of comments, no one has mentioned Lake Champlain chocolates. They have a large selection but the African Blend 80% (their darkest) is my go-to flavor. It’s got the perfect blend of ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet'; one does not overpower the other. Their bars are slightly thicker than the others which, when letting them melt in your mouth, makes them last a bit longer, or at least it seems so. I’ve found them at several places including Whole Foods, and you can order them online as well.

    Dan wrote on May 3rd, 2014
  8. I see the dark choclate has some sugar content. Maybe it’s so little that it won’t matter?

    It’s a bit hard to find, but I’ve found, here in Norway, dark choclat with Stevia sweetner instead of Sugar content. It’s good, but really expensive :)

    Jarmo wrote on May 4th, 2014
  9. You have to be so careful of the soy lecithin too.

    Sherry Lynn England wrote on May 17th, 2014
  10. How about carob? I find so many dark chocolate has soy lecithin.

    Sherry Lynn England wrote on May 17th, 2014
  11. Best 85% I’ve tasted so far is Michel Cluizel’s Grand Noir. Intense, powerful, not bitter, good complexity. And for anyone interested in trying some of the European chocolatiers and others at around 70%, Amedei and Domori produce some outstanding bars. None of them are easy to find but chocsphere.com has them.

    Carolyn wrote on June 18th, 2014
  12. I was first introduced to Green and Black’s chocolate when I lived in Colorado. My car died on the move over to Loveland, Co from sunny Florida. So, I had to get a mountain bike instead of using a People Mover to get around. What I found was that I needed a much different diet to account for all the energy requirements of my new life. No longer sedentary, I found myself eating anything and everything I could get my hands on. Then I found some Green & Black’s chocolate bars in my roommates cupboard and for the first time I actually realized what chocolate should taste like. This was pure ecstasy for me. I can no longer eat a Hershey’s bar, unless it’s the Special Dark and even then it’s not bitter enough for my taste. In fact, I just made some Dark Chocolate Sweet Potato Crisps today for the first time. Heavenly.

    PepperCulpepper wrote on June 28th, 2014
  13. So grateful for this post & comments. I’m new to paleo and had a couple of Lindt 90% & was underwhelmed. After searching & finding this post, I’ve tried the dagosta eclipse (love, love, love) and the endangered species 88%, also much tastier than the Lindt. I look forward to trying more of the recommendations. Thank you!

    Kristi wrote on July 30th, 2014
  14. I would definitely recommend you the 80% and 87% Stone Ground Chocolate from Tazo.
    They managed to combine the taste and the texture of their chocolates so perfectly that I couldn’t find anything like those. They are not silky and smooth but rather rough, which takes the the edge of the bitterness away and makes these chocolates very unique. They are not cheap (I bought them for $6/bar), but worth trying once!

    George079 wrote on August 11th, 2014

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