In the battle between milk and dark chocolate, I’d choose the former every time. And yet, here I am, knee-deep in dark chocolate bars trying to name the best dark chocolate of them all. Let me be clear: it’s not that I don’t like dark chocolate, I’m just often not as fond of some bars’ bitterness or overly fruit-forward flavors. When a craving strikes, I prefer smooth, milky chocolate. But as I’ve discovered, all it took was a simple taste test of the best dark chocolate brands to change my tune.
My brother is more known in our family for his defining characteristic of snacking on cacao nibs and cocoa. (Yes, really.) He thrives on dark chocolate. My dad lands somewhere between the two of us, and my mom, well, she could take it or leave it.
After a heated debate on the merit of dark chocolate, my brother and I decided it was time for a taste-off. Much like my previous bake-off competitions (these ginger molasses cookies are still a favorite and don’t let anyone tell you pumpkin bread is only for the fall), we approached this competition among the top-tier dark chocolate brands with some guidelines to crown the best tasting dark chocolate.
All chocolates were tasted at room temperature and served with palate cleansers in between. We stuck to only the 70% (ish) chocolate bars that were available in the HEB candy aisle. (Sadly, while I’m told the Valhrona Dark Chocolate Bar is well worth the hype, it was unfortunately not readily available.)
Because my brother is a dark chocolate connoisseur I asked him what he looked for in ranking these bars. Here’s what he said.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting any of our selected stack of chocolate bars to taste differently from each other. But through the process, I was pleasantly surprised to discover distinct differences in flavor. For the purposes of our taste test, we were looking for a bar that provided its own unique flavor without leaning too sweet or fruity. We wanted a balance of flavors with the cocoa. The true test: which is the bar that we go back to for another square? (Let’s be clear, none of us are professional chocolate tasters, so we just wanted chocolate that tasted good.)
We all agreed that our favorite chocolates are smooth on our tongue and not chalky or chunky. A properly tempered chocolate should have a nice snap to it.
I only added this one to the ranking list because my brother said it was important, but I feel like it’s self-explanatory.
At the end of our tasting, I actually found myself with a few new additions to my rotation, a few that I will reserve for chopping into chocolate chip cookies, and a few that I will stick to buying the milk chocolate counterparts. So without further ado, here are the results of our quest to name the best dark chocolate of them all.
Taste-Off: The Best Dark Chocolate
6. Green and Black’s Organic 70% Dark Chocolate
I am a Green and Black’s Milk Chocolate STAN. I live for it and stock up when they go on sale at Whole Foods, so I was hoping for this one to rank higher than it did between the three of us.
The flavor was only OK, leaning toward slightly smoky and astringent, according to my brother. The texture was also just fine, and we were hoping for a bit more smoothness as we were eating it. Overall, this one fell into last place because it was exactly that—fine. I will continue hyping up the milk chocolate variety though and save this bar for some imminent chocolate chip cookie baking.
5. Ghirardelli 72% Twilight Delight
I live for the Ghirardelli milk and caramel-filled varieties. Sign me up all day every day. But this bar sadly missed the mark. My brother noted that the flavor actually leans smoky and has an almost licorice note to it. My dad said it was slightly bitter with a fruity aftertaste. My brother did call out that he did not enjoy this bar’s aroma, reminding him of over-roasted coffee. (Feel free to DM him to discuss the importance of aroma in chocolate.) Again, this bar is nothing to write home about but will find a nice home in some cookie dough.
4. Chocolove 70% Strong Dark Chocolate
Flavor-wise, this chocolate bar was alright. All three of us agreed that the fruitiness of this bar was just mild enough to be pleasant. However, texture-wise, we had some qualms. The chocolate didn’t melt smoothly over our tongues as we ate it. I wouldn’t call it quite chalky, but overall we just wanted more textural enjoyment. I have not tried the milk chocolate counterpart here but will be adding it to the list to compare since I liked the flavor of this one.
3. Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate
We are Lindt chocolate truffle fans in my house, so I was excited to try this bar. The flavor definitely leans toward the milder and sweeter side. As a milk chocolate lover I personally didn’t mind it, but my brother called it slightly weaker in flavor than some of the other bars. The texture though was smooth with a nice snap to the bar. We enjoyed this bar overall and came back once or twice for an extra square.
2. Tony’s Chocolonely 70% Dark Chocolate
I actually hadn’t tried any of Tony’s chocolate before this, though I have spotted it in the aisles of Trader Joe’s. This chocolate had the boldest and fruitiest flavor of all the bars we tried. It was bright in flavor, which my brother really enjoyed. Personally, as a milk chocolate person, I would have liked it to be a bit milder. But overall, I thought the flavor was good for dark chocolate and enjoyed the smooth texture. We do wish the bar was slightly thinner, as the large chunks do make it hard to break off a piece. And of course, this bar was a clear winner when it came to aesthetics.
1. Perugina 70% Bittersweet Chocolate
Honestly, this bar was the underdog of our group, so all three of us were shocked that we enjoyed it the most. It was the only bar we ate in its entirety during our tasting. What set it apart was the flavor. It has nutty, coconut-infused tasting notes while the texture is super rich and creamy. This bar wasn’t bitter at all, mild enough to convert any dark chocolate hater, and the perfect bar to reach for when the chocolate craving strikes. I was shocked to find a dark chocolate bar that I would actually buy again and that my brother liked it as well. Lesson learned, never count out the underdog.
Overall, when it comes to finding the best dark chocolate, there’s something out there for everyone. And I’ll even give my brother his I-told-you-so moment. Now that I’ve tried a few different kinds of dark chocolate, I’m able to point to things I liked and disliked about each one that keeps me open to trying new ones to have on hand.
While these are just the selection from the grocery store, I do have some more gourmand and smaller bean-to-bar choices that I love:
Fossa Chocolate Salted Egg Cereal
Marou Tien Gian
Madhu Chocolate Dark Rose
Qantu Goat Milk
And if you’re looking for that perfect bar with the prettiest wrapping, consult our list of the best “status chocolate bars.” Because when the folks you love are craving something sweet, why not give them the best—and most aesthetic—option?
This post was originally published on February 20, 2021, and has since been updated.