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. Just picked up a Lindt 85% and a Lindt 90%, 2/$5.00 at the local grocery chain. Put them in the freezer as I love chocolate cold, cold, cold! As Mark shared, a little goes a long way and there is something satisfying about the bitter quality. It’s as if the chocolate comes through so much more intensely when it’s not masked by all the sugar.

    amyz wrote on November 21st, 2012
  2. I love eating Lindt nibs with macadamia and almond nuts. I go crazy over them.

    Vedette wrote on December 4th, 2012
  3. Hi,

    I have over 320 mostly dark chocolate reviews on

    Feel free to check it out.

    Also, if anyone is going through a hard time, in my day job as a holistic psychotherapist, I offer free support and resources at:

    Despite the name, it is for all life’s issues, not just the cosmic hazing of divorce.

    Nicole Urdang wrote on December 20th, 2012
  4. Theo 84% and Theo 91%!!!

    Only Valhrona 85% and Scharfenberger 82% are in the same league.

    Wish Trader Joe’s carried Theo!!!

    Mike P. wrote on December 29th, 2012
  5. I am familiar with every one of these five choices. I have to say that, compared to Kallari 75% and 85%, they are as nothing. That’s a strong statement and the experience of flavor is subjective. But the Kallari 85%, first encountered at a national high-end market chain tasting, knocked my socks off. It’s when I realized that I could live with one-piece-at-a-time. To have more than that is to downgrade the experience. It’s made by an Ecuadoran co-op committed to protecting the rain forest. I met one of the makers at the tasting. He spoke no English, and didn’t have to. Kallari spoke for itself.

    India wrote on February 13th, 2013
  6. Does anybody know where I can purchase Swiss thins, by Lindt? Their thins were the best chocolates for my palate that I have ever come across. It has been 5 years since I last had Swiss thins and I am so longing to get that chocolate thin in my mouth again!

    leepers wrote on February 16th, 2013
    • Swiss thins? If you’re a Western Canadian, try London Drugs.

      Catherine H wrote on March 26th, 2013
  7. Any chocolate less than 100% is for pussies.

    realman wrote on February 23rd, 2013
  8. The best I’ve heard of is Lindt’s 99% dark, however that seem too bitter. I get a 85% which is cheap, but has great nutritional value:

    Whole bar (100 grams):
    599 calories, 52 grams fat (32,7 saturated), 16.8 grams of carbs (13 g fiber, 11 g sugar).
    It also tastes really good in my opinion. First time you eat chocolate like that, it’s extremely bitter, but then you eventually get used to it and like it.

    Chris H wrote on February 25th, 2013
  9. Not sure whether these have been mentioned yet, but imho kallari is very the best: organic, fair trade and, most importantly, NO SOY LECITHIN – just used to replace valuable cacao butter, which is then sold to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry. THe red leaf one is especially exquisite: fruity and vanillic, very mellow and buttery texture. Michel Cluizel is also superb, and of course also NO soy lecithin.

    lou wrote on February 25th, 2013
  10. Would taking any of these with a protein shake have the same effect or would I have to take separately like he said after a meal?

    Alex wrote on February 26th, 2013
  11. I recently read that chocolate should not be refrigerated as it changes the composition negatively. I certainly feel that chocolate tastes better at room temperature. Comments?

    Mary wrote on March 3rd, 2013
  12. Zazubean ‘Flirt’, it is worth trying. It can be found at health food stores.

    Nick wrote on March 14th, 2013
  13. Far and away cleanest dark bar on the market

    81% Raw Cacao
    Coconut Nectar Sugar

    Sean Jewell wrote on March 26th, 2013
    • Checked the website out and that does sound good. Thanks for the recommendation.

      greg wrote on March 26th, 2013
  14. Equal Exchange Brand
    Organic & Fair Trade – Panama Extra Dark Chocolate (80% Cacao)

    Erin wrote on March 26th, 2013
    • Equal Exchange 80% is amazing and melts in your mouth!

      Angelena wrote on August 3rd, 2013
  15. I am wondering if dark chocolates will make harm?

    Steven Mark wrote on April 9th, 2013
  16. OK so if you are willing to hunt for the really GOOD stuff on line then look for Hoja Verde 100% Chocolate Negro…….there is NO SUGAT AT ALL and it’s organic & fair trade from Ecuador, grown from the Fino Arriba variety, known as the finest cacao in the world……I am addicted to it!!!! Also, try & find Mindo Chocolate, also a small cooperative in Mindo Ecuador, they make some extremely fine chocolate with Ginger, Chile & other flavors all super high in cacao content…..

    dan wrote on April 24th, 2013
  17. I love Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bar. 85% Cacao…on the cover it mentions of being from Tumaco region of Colombia.

    A packet has 2 bars worth $3 and suggested serving is 2/3rd of a bar.

    Calories: 250 Fat Calories: 180

    Carbohydrate: 13g
    Deitary Fiber: 5g
    Sugar 6g

    Protein 4g

    Iron 6% and Calcium 6% of 2000 calorie diet

    Ingredients: Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, natural Vanilla flavor

    It is bitter and smooth…have been trying it for 6 months and I like it!!

    Vikram wrote on April 25th, 2013
  18. Update the list to include “Giddy Yoyo’s” raw organic chocolate. It’s pushed Green and Black’s out of my top spot for organic chocolate and further it doesn’t have any soy licithin! 😉

    Peter wrote on April 25th, 2013
  19. Update the list to include “Giddy Yoyo’s” raw organic chocolate. It’s pushed Green and Black’s out of my top spot for organic chocolate and further it doesn’t have any soy licithin! 😉

    Peter wrote on April 25th, 2013
  20. I use Ghirardelli 86% Cacao and sprinkle about a gram of erythritol on each square.

    Don wrote on May 5th, 2013
  21. You all should seriously try small batch, more than fair trade (profit sharing), bean-to-bar chocolate maker Shawn Askinosie. I have been a fan for years and his dark with cocoa nibs (ORAC rating well over 50,000) from Ecuador or Tanaznia are my favorites. 3 ingredients (cocoa powder, cocoa butter, organic sugar… and the nibs). Also – check out his work with ‘chocolate university’. Thank you Shawn for making the chocolate world a better tasting and socially conscious place! (Great post Mark… good dark chocolate is saving my feeble attempts at not ruining clean eating.)

    tschmitt wrote on May 7th, 2013
  22. I always try to buy fair trade. Can’t tell if these you listed are all fair trade or not. I like the Endangered Species chocolate bars. I look for them on sale. they are so good!

    do they belong on this list? I want to make sure I’m eating something healthy and fair trade.

    Christine Moellering wrote on May 21st, 2013

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