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Vegan chocolate is chocolate prepared without any animal products, making it safe for people who eat a vegan diet to consume. True vegans do not consume any sort of animal products, including milk, which is one of the major ingredients in many types of chocolate. In the case of vegan chocolate, soy, rice and/or nut milks, as well as other ingredients, may be used to substitute for the milk. In addition to being suitable for vegans, vegan chocolate may also be preferred by people with lactose intolerance or other dietary restrictions.
Traditionally, milk may be added to chocolate during processing to make the chocolate smoother and creamier and to act as a filler. In true milk chocolate, the chocolate is also lighter in texture and flavor. However, even dark chocolates may contain some milk or whey, which means dark chocolate is not necessarily vegan.
Companies that make vegan chocolate may use an entirely separate facility so as to avoid all contact with animal products. If the chocolate is made in a facility that also produces non-vegan chocolate, the wrapper must disclose that it “may” contain milk. Chocolate bars, truffles, baking chocolate, cocoa, chocolate coatings, and a wide variety of other chocolate products can be made vegan.
Another consideration with vegan chocolate is the sugar. Some sugar refineries use animal products when they process their sugars. True vegan chocolate will be made with vegan sugar, but not all manufacturers disclose their sugar sources. Consumers who are concerned about eating a strict vegan diet may want to contact the chocolate manufacturer to get information about where and how their sugar is processed.
In addition to being vegan, chocolate can also be designated organic if it has been inspected and certified by an agency that verifies organic production methods. It can also be fair trade, indicating that the cacao beans used in the chocolate were obtained in an ethical manner. Chocolate companies may further commit to avoiding ingredients like high fructose corn syrup in their manufacturing processes and their labels usually provide information about this.
When purchasing chocolate for vegans, it is advisable to select products that are specifically labeled as vegan. People should also consider issues like nut allergies that could complicate the products someone can safely consume. Nuts are commonly used in chocolate and many chocolates are made in facilities where nuts are processed. For people with severe nut allergies, chocolate made in a shared facility can be potentially dangerous.