14 best vegan and dairy-free Valentine's Day chocolate
Does your belle or beau love the cocoa, but milk is a no-no? Then treat them – or yourself – to one of these delicious selections
Veganuary may be coming to an end but for vegan and lactose-intolerant chocolate lovers, the struggle to find a sweet treat to celebrate Valentine's Day can be very real.
While vegan and dairy-free chocolate is becoming more widely available at Christmas and Easter, the options are still a little sparse around 14 February.
It can be hard to tell which chocolate is free from animal products – but anything with the Vegan Society sunflower logo will guarantee this.
For example, Booja-Booja and Plamil factories are completely dairy-free, and their products carry the logo.
Other chocolate may be labelled as vegan-friendly, which means it does not contain animal products but may have traces of non-vegan ingredients because it is produced in a factory that deals with other products.
We have picked six of the best options on the market this year, ranging from heart-shaped solid chocolate to boozy truffles and luxuriant chocolate slabs, all of which can make a perfect gift for someone you're looking to treat.
Haute chocolatier Pierre Marcolini has made dairy-free versions of his popular tablets. Beans are sourced from across the world – from Vietnam to Venezuela – and the result is distinct bars packed with flavour. We particularly like the creamy, fruity Sambirano Madagascar and the Los Rios Equador, which has jasmine and orange notes.
If that doesn't take your fancy, there are plenty more to choose from.
Bianca Marton chocolate heart with truffles, 150g: £29.95, Yumbles
This stunning red ribbon-tied chocolate heart contains 10 hand-decorated truffles in purples, reds and golds, with no artificial sugars or preservatives. Because the company has so many award-winning flavours (think mint and maple, plum schnapps, rose, coconut, orange, sea salted caramel, among others), your truffle flavours will be a surprise (unless you choose a no-alcohol selection or even tell them exactly what you want). Ours came very well wrapped – a good job as it’s fragile – and a reminder to eat them within two weeks, although that wasn’t hard. Having originally gone down the dairy-free route because her brother and his kids are allergic to dairy, chocolatier Bianca Marton has since come to the conclusion that milk actually masks the flavours in chocolate.
Cocoa Loco dark chocolate love hearts, 100g: £3.99, Cocoa Loco
These organic, fair trade dark chocolate love hearts come in a perfectly sized pack, considering how rich they are. The solid hearts are made with single-origin beans from the Dominican Republic and have a smooth, slightly sweet taste. Each heart has a different message printed on it, from “I love you” to “kiss me” and “sweet heart”. If you're looking for another option, Coco Loco also makes vegan-friendly dark chocolate pralines.
Booja-Booja The Artist’s Collection in hazelnut or fine de champagne, 185g: £21, Ocado
For readers who have already discovered the world of Booja-Booja – a company started in 1999 by Colin Mace in his home kitchen in Norfolk – these truffles need no introduction. But for the uninitiated, these dairy-free, organic (gluten and soya free) champagne truffles have won awards for good reason. They are soft, melt-in-the-mouth, boozy treats of rich dark chocolate-covered ganache, and are hard not to devour in one sitting. The special edition artist collection box of truffles contains 16 chocolates and comes in a striking box, making an excellent present for a loved one.
Plamil organic Fairtrade dairy-free chocolate hearts, 125g: £4.99, Plamil
Plamil makes truly vegan chocolate in a factory that does not use dairy, gluten or nuts, making it ideal for those who want a total guarantee. Many dairy-free chocolate options are limited to dark chocolate, but this milk chocolate alternative is made with cocoa solids, sugar and rice powder to create a product as close to the real deal as possible. It is creamy too, though it does have a hint of a rice milk flavour. The hearts in the pack are solid and the portion isn't stingy, making the pack good value.
Hotel Chocolat vegan dark chocolate hamper collection, 370g: £27.50, Hotel Chocolat
Such is the “real-deal” taste of the dark chocolate in this deluxe box that you could remove the word vegan (which you can actually do very easily by just taking off the attached label) and non-vegans would be none the wiser. Seriously impressive and fantastically varied, the delicious dark offerings include ginger puddles (fiery and warming), hazelnut buche log (soft and rich), dark chocolate selection box (pralines to ginger crunches, and more) and a slab each of 70 per cent dark chocolate, 80 per cent fruit and nut chocolate and dark chocolate and cocoa nibs – all beautifully presented in wow-factor packaging.
Kennard’s assorted Valentine’s hearts, 90g: £10, Kennard’s
Head chocolatier Andrew Kennard is a second-generation event caterer who started cooking in the family business at the age of 14, some 40 years ago. He launched his artisan chocolate business in 2016 with the sole aim of making the best tasting chocolate, whatever the ingredients might be, and the result just happened to be vegan. They’ve since won major chocolate award after major chocolate award for their innovative fillings and fusions. Tellingly, some of the judges didn’t even guess they were dairy free, let alone vegan. For Valentine’s, Kennard’s have come up with these delectable dark chocolate hearts, filled with four different flavours – strawberry fondant, caramel, mixed nut praline and peanut butter truffle.
Divine 70% dark chocolate hearts, 100g: £4, Divine
There is a good amount of chocolate hearts packed into this box. While the chocolate is 70 per cent, it's not too rich or strong. It has a smooth, creamy texture with a light bitter aftertaste. It’s one of the milder options on this list, making it ideal for someone who usually finds dark chocolate a bit strong for them.
Montezuma’s vegan and organic truffle collection, 200g: £12.99, Montezuma’s
You get 16 organic truffles in this flamboyant box, all made from dark, dairy-free chocolate. Flavours include almond praline, orange, coffee and plain. These punchy (but never overbearing) tastes and tangs and melt-in-the-mouth texture make for seriously good treats. Montezuma’s has been going for nearly 20 years now, following a trip by lawyers Helen and Simon Pattison to South America when they stumbled upon San Carlos de Bariloche, an entire town dedicated to chocolate. All their dark chocolate bars are naturally suitable for vegans, so creating vegan truffles felt a natural progression. If 16 isn’t enough, there’s a larger box of 25 for £18.99.
Chocolate and Love napolitains tin, 165g: £11.99, Chocolate and Love
Not all Chocolate and Love’s rich, flavoursome, organic and ethically made chocolates are vegan, but three of their bars are – Panama, rich dark, and Madagascar – all of which are included in bite-size napolitains in this attractive, tropical themed tin with a hand-painted design. The Panama is our favourite and the richest at 80 per cent, then there’s rich dark at 71 per cent and finally Madagascar at 70 per cent. Started up by husband and wife Richard O’Connor and Birgitte Hovmand eight years ago, the company now has its chocolate stocked across 40 countries, and they’ve scooped 29 Great Taste awards.
Chococo personalised love heart, 200g: £15, Chococo
If ever you’ve been into one of Chococo’s four shops in Swanage, Winchester, Exeter or Horsham – started up by husband and wife team Andy and Claire Burnet - you’ll know how groundbreaking their handmade chocolates are. And there’s no reason for vegans to miss out, thanks to their growing dairy-free offerings, including this chunky, rich 67 per cent Madagascan dark chocolate love heart that you can personalise with your loved one’s name. Measuring 18.5cm across, it’s a decent size, nice and chunky and extremely moreish.
Doisy & Dam Valentine’s collection, 300g (weight of chocolate only): £35, Doisy & Dam
Another award-winning chocolatier, this one is best known for incorporating superfood into its quality London-made chocolate. This set is, however, far from virtuous with 3cl bottles of whisky and rum to match four innovative dark chocolate bars. The flavours are maple toasted rice and pink salt, goji and orange, maca vanilla and cacao nibs and finally, coconut and lucuma. We love the variation in textures, the presentation – and the fact that you get three bars of each flavour. But do remember to select the vegan version as there’s a dairy edition too.
Melt vegan chocolate hamper, 1.2kg: £69.99, Selfridges
If you know your luxury chocolate, then you’ll know Melt. Founded in 2006, their boutiques in Notting Hill and Holland Park are a dream come true for chocolate connoisseurs. And their vegan offerings aren’t lacking in the aromas, flavours, textures and freshness of their dairy-based offerings. This hamper – which arrives in a large deluxe, ribbon-tied brown box – is a true feast for the senses, including sea-salted praline cups, chocolate-covered orange peel and a selection of unbelievably delicious bars – dark chocolate, 85 per cent single origin dark chocolate, sea salt and orange. At seventy quid, it doesn’t come cheap but this is first-rate chocolate that is next level.
Fortnum & Mason Valentine’s raspberry and vodka chocolate thins, 190g: £17.95, Fortnum & Mason
Handmade in Wales using top-notch dark chocolate from Belgium, these are great for those who like a boozy kick to their sweet treats. In each mouthful you get velvety rich ganache with a warming hint of Fortnum’s English barley vodka and the tang of freeze-dried raspberries – a winning combo, if ever we tasted one. The box is small but decadent, just as you’d expect from this posh Piccadilly department store that is a treasure chest of goodies for keen foodies.
Nono Cocoa hearts and roses raw superfood chocolate box, 160g: £14.50, Yumbles
These small-batch vegan chocolates have been decorated by people with autism, so you get to do your bit for the community as well as enjoy these tasty luxuries. Alessandra Bester was inspired by her mum, who has high cholesterol and high blood pressure, to create a box of chocolates that would not only do her no harm (there are no unnecessary ingredients) but could possibly help. The flavours include white and dark chocolate variations of raspberry and beetroot (which contain antioxidants and vitamins C and E) and rose (with D-mannose to support bladder function, while rose can also combat stress).
The Verdict: Vegan and dairy-free chocolates
The Bianca Marton chocolate heart with truffles are ultra-fresh, with stunning packaging and a delicious taste. For boozy vegan truffles, we don’t think it gets better than Booja-Booja. If you’re after more variation and something bigger, we think the Hotel Chocolat all dark vegan dark chocolate hamper collection is hard to beat.
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