The Basics of Dairy-Free Chocolate Prospecting
Et, Tu Dairy-Free Chocolate Maker?
Some people like dark chocolate as a more adult, refined delight than milk chocolate. This article is not really for the refined connoisseur of chocolate, although you are welcome here. Rather, I am determined to unite the chocolate-loving dairy intolerant nation and afford all of us a veritable bounty of endless rivers and bricks of edible brown gold.
Unfortunately, finding such a dairy-free chocolate larder is not as easy as it might appear to even the most ardent disciple of chocolatology. I found out as much years ago, when my dairy intolerance completely prevented me from enjoying even the barest sliver of glorious cocoa heaven. For those of you in a similar situation and forced from your nation of chocolate gustation, there are many pitfalls on the way back home, but there is a way. I have with me a treasure map.
The first test for the new dairy-free chocolate lover is the dark chocolate section of your local chocolate emporium. When you first discover your intolerance, it is natural to go from the milk stuff to the dark, or to other candy treats. Let me assure you that I tried dozens and dozens of brands and varieties of dark chocolate, and I cannot begin to recount to number of times that I got sick or the pain that I felt-- both from being separated from a loved one, as well as from the dairy intolerance.
Recap: Dark Chocolate does not mean dairy-free chocolate. Not even if it says 100% dark chocolate.
The Tricks of the Trade: Avoiding Hidden Dairy
My advice is to simply avoid a bar if you cannot verify that it is safe. There are a number of labels and ingredients that tend to lead the most earnest amateur chocolateer astray.
- Non-dairy: this does not always mean dairy-free. In fact, is usually is not since the manufacturer is usually appealing to vegans and people with lactose intolerance. If they go this far with the label, you think that they would go the extra step if it were DF.
- Dark Chocolate: I still pick these up out of the old habit whenever I see a new brand. Trust me though, they are almost never completely DF. Many times milk powder is added for flavor, just in a lower quantity. Even if you don't see milk or cream in the ingredients, you are certainly not safe at home plate.
- Shared equipment: this is a big one. I have even seen a recall from a major organic brand that failed to include this warning. Most chocolate makers make milk and dark, as well as other products. The equipment is usually used for both and perhaps rinsed in between varieties. Not even close to safe. Consider this whole category to be manufacturing cross-contamination.
- May contain traces: this one sounds worse than shared equipment, but in fact, sometimes it isn't. A lot of times they are the same thing and companies will include the "may contain traces of..." warning at the end of the ingredients. The thing is, sometimes other companies will include this warning just for liability purposes (to cover there rear ends) just in case. Calling the company sometimes helps. Other times you will find reviews online with good info.
- Rice milk: this one would be fine except that the widely available bars (at least in North America) are marketed to specialty market not allergic and intolerant consumers. The bars I find contain milk or have a traces warning.
- Kosher Parve: sometimes this actually is safe to eat if you suffer from dairy intolerance. as well as readily available in many places. If I had to pick one bullet from this list for a snack, it would be this one. It depends upon the factory and the Rabbinnic background of the Rabbis that certify a facility kosher parve. They are trained to spot dairy cross-contamination. Some are super strict, and as a result the end products may be a surprising find in your local supermarket during Passover, for example. My recommendation is to call the number on the packaging and check it out if the ingredients look safe.
On the Right Track: Discovering Dairy-Free Chocolate
You may be wondering where I replenish my dairy-free chocolate pantry. There are a few reliable options, as well as a some good leads that sometimes pan out. Wouldn't it be funny if I just stopped here? No, I wouldn't do that, here are the goodies:
- Your local health food grocer: I expected big things the first time I walked into the worlds biggest health food supermarket chain store, but I was disappointed. The candy isle was barren and useless of safe and edible candy bars. I did find a few things, however, some of which are available in many supermarkets. If you are desperate for a fix and the other options are not readily available look for some of these items in chocolate form. Just screen the ingredients very carefully:
- Zen soy pudding
- pudding mix (rice milk won't work well, but soy milk will)
- Kinnikinnik donuts
- Enjoy life baking chip
- Several GFCF brownie mixes
- Soy Choc. milk
- check the DF ice cream section
- Vegan shops: I discovered that not only did my local vegan shop in Vancouver, Canada, have several brands and varieties of gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate, but they even made some caramel turtle type dessert. My clear favorite by a large margin is GOMAXGO. I would live in the factory if they let me. They sell out fast at my local shop in Vancouver. In fact, I have been jonesing for a couple of weeks now waiting for the next delivery, so I thought I would spread the joy while I waited.
- Ordering online. There are several wholesalers who will send you bulk truffles, for example, and others with a variety of selection. Many only ship to certain countries, so check in your area.
- Make it yourself. The info is free online. Just think of how cool that would be!
I have no doubt there are numerous other products that I have yet to discover. Continue to search like I will, and I will update this article with any deluxe dairy-free chocolate discoveries as they develop.