When was the last time you had chocolate with your coconut? That’s correct, I’m talking about mylk chocolates, also known as dairy-free chocolates. My podcast Chocolate On The Road delves into the issue of dairy-free chocolate production, especially dairy-free milk chocolates, last spring.
Although plant-based milks have been available for decades, their popularity has soared in the past 5 years or so, affecting demand in other food sectors such as chocolate. As stated in the episode, this is due to a variety of factors, the most noteworthy of which are a greater knowledge of milk sensitivity and the growing popularity of veganism.
Coconut milk chocolate is now a typical option from any artisan chocolate manufacturer. Yet, the number of plant-based milks utilized in chocolate seems to be growing by the day. There is a choice for every nutritional necessity, from grains and fruits to legumes and nuts, all of which have a lower environmental effect than dairy.
Some of the greatest chocolate available online is already dairy-free, but this surge of milk replacements has had a significant impact on the chocolate business. In response to this demand, a few large-scale chocolate makers have even launched vegan chocolate brands. Nevertheless, the emergence of milk replacements has encountered some legal labeling challenges with the FDA and the dairy sector. So, what does the continuous development of this movement imply for the chocolate industry’s and the world’s future?
- 1 Best Dairy-Free Chocolate Alternatives
- 2 Why Choose Dairy-Free Chocolate?
- 3 Is it true that all dairy-free chocolates are vegan? (Also See Other FAQs)
Best Dairy-Free Chocolate Alternatives
In addition to growing in popularity, milk replacements have grown beyond the standard soy to include over a dozen plant-based mylks. Whether you are lactose intolerant or just want to avoid animal products in general, you now have a plethora of drinking alternatives. However, some of those alternatives do not transfer well into sectors such as chocolate. This is due to the function that dairy milk powder plays in the chocolate itself.
Mammal milk powder (cow, goat, etc.) has nearly little moisture and has a distinct fat structure that influences taste, tempering, and texture. All of these are elements that a chocolate manufacturer must consider while developing a new product. For example, milk powder softens the flavor of cacao, which can be harsh and astringent, so anything with a strong flavor would not work well.
Although pea milk, hemp milk, flax milk, cashew milk, macadamia milk, pistachio milk, peanut milk, and walnut milk are all somewhat prevalent dairy milk replacements, none of them are regularly employed in the chocolate business for a number of reasons. As a result, I’ll focus on the five most common dairy replacements in chocolate today: coconut, oat, rice, soy, and almond milk. There’s also an extra category: fruit powders.
Chocolate with Coconut Milk
Spray-drying raw, unsweetened coconut cream results in a sweet-smelling powder made from coconut milk. It’s one of the oldest dairy replacements on the market, along with soy milk, but it’s still far more often used in cooking and dairy-based delicacies like ice cream. Several stews and curries in South and Southeast Asia are made using coconut milk (and increasingly, for sweets).
Coconut milk has been used in vegan milk chocolates for well over a decade, and it was one of the first powdered milk replacements to become commercially accessible. Although its nutritional profile is fattier than whole milk powder (because to the inclusion of coconut oil), this simply means that less cacao butter is required. Otherwise, coconut milk is quite similar and provides for a larger proportion of cocoa solids. Personally, I believe that the greatest dairy-free chocolate is still made with coconut milk.
But, it can give a sweet coconut taste to the chocolate, which may make it seem more greasy on the mouth if used in excess. Pure coconut milk chocolates are dairy-free, nut-free, and grain-free, but always double-check the ingredient list to be sure.
Charm School 49% Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Trees 55% Coconut, and Marou Coconut Milk Ben Tre 55% are my recommendations for coconut milk chocolate.
Chocolate with Oat Milk
Oat milk has swiftly become the second-most popular alternative for manufacturers wishing to enter the dairy-free chocolate market. The powder imparts a slightly toasted cereal taste and has a greater snap than regular milk chocolate. Oat milk powder is created by spray-drying previously produced oat milk (which you can easily manufacture at home), which has a nutritional profile comparable to dairy milk.
To compensate for the oat milk solids, oat milk chocolates must use a fattier cacao bean or more cocoa butter. Pure oat milk chocolate is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free, but always double-check the ingredient list.
Raaka 58% Oat Milk Chocolate (incl. coconut), Potomacs Oat Milk Chocolate, and Mike & Beckys 72% Andean Oat Mylk are my Oat Milk Chocolate recommendations.
Chocolate with Rice Milk
Rice milk, one of the industry’s newest entrants, has captured a modest piece of the dairy replacement market in chocolate. The rice powder often used in chocolate production is a combination of dried rice starch, rice syrup, and rice flour, the latter of which is just a byproduct of polishing rice grains. Since rice powder absorbs so much fat, more fat in the recipe is required to compensate, hence rice milk chocolates are often produced with a greater proportion of cacao and less sugar.
One maker I know has used toasted rice powder as a flavoring ingredient in one of her bars, but even at 10%, rice powder is drying and provides a punch of morning cereal taste to an otherwise dark chocolate bar. Pure rice milk chocolate is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free, but always double-check the ingredient list.
Vintage Plantations 48% Vegan Milk and Montezumas Like No Udder are two of my rice milk chocolate recommendations.
Chocolate with Soy Milk
Soy milk is manufactured from the bean of the same name and is considered the first non-dairy milk by many. Soy milk powder is more recent in its popularity, and with so many alternative possibilities, most chocolate producers are avoiding soy. Not only does it provide a more nutty umami taste than oats, but it has recently received a lot of negative attention, which has confused customers.
Regardless of your feelings, soy is probably the most chemically close to milk, which means the end result will have the texture of a classic dairy milk chocolate. Sadly for soy, wonderful texture can only get you so far unless you also like its pungent taste. It’s worth noting that pure soy milk chocolate is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free, but always double-check ingredient lists to be sure.
Solkikis Costa Esmeraldas 49% and Zotters 40% Soy Milk Chocolate are two of my favorites.
Chocolate with Almond Milk
Almond milk chocolate is yet establishing itself. Others say that adding any kind of nut to a chocolate recipe invariably results in chocolate-flavored nut butter. The difference lies in the sort of almond product used in the chocolate, as well as the much smaller quantity of almonds. Most almond mylk chocolates will also include a plant-based milk powder.
Chocolate bars made entirely of almonds might have a gritty, drying feel when melting and a harsher snap when broken. They’ve also lately come under fire for how much water is required to manufacture almond milk in comparison to other plant-based options (that increase remains true with almond milk powder). Pure almond milk chocolate is gluten-free and dairy-free, but always double-check the ingredient list.
Artisan Du Chocolat 40% Almond Milk and Tazas Almond Classic are two of my favorite Almond Milk Chocolates (honorable mention Karuna Black Currant White Chocolate).
Chocolate Fruit Powders
This is a bonus category since fruit powders are more often used as an alternative sweetness than a replacement milk. Valrhona Chocolate, situated in France, has lately launched its own line of fruit-based chocolates (mentioned above), which utilize freeze-dried fruit powders instead of milk and only use the fat of the cocoa bean rather than the entire bean.
These dairy-free fruit couvertures (as they’ve been nicknamed) are available in raspberry, strawberry, yuzu, and passion fruit flavors, as well as an almond variant that, although not a fruit, is nevertheless extremely relevant as an almond milk white chocolate. The finished chocolate is dairy-free, gluten-free (and, in the case of the fruit tastes, nut-free), and each is a sweet-tart rendition of the fresh fruit itself, with no additional vanilla to confuse the character.
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Why Choose Dairy-Free Chocolate?
Substantial cultural shifts have increased demand for nondairy chocolates. Not everyone will appreciate dairy-free chocolates, but for those with an open mind and a little more cash, the world is your oyster. There are so many possibilities now days that it is no longer considered a niche product. Yet, as a consumer, why should you choose vegan milk chocolate over standard milk chocolate?
The primary factors are threefold: 1) a desire to reduce reliance on animal products that have an environmental effect; 2) a surge in milk allergies and sensitivities; and 3) plain old curiosity about new and distinctive tastes. I won’t go into the specifics of how powdered milk is created or the atrocities of the dairy business; PETA does a decent enough job of that. Yet, suffice it to say, powdered milk is much more environmentally friendly than a glass of milk, and a plant-based choice will always reduce your carbon footprint.
Plant-based milks have allergy concerns, but not to the extent that milk has reached internationally. The reality is that substituting anything for powdered milk will affect the taste and texture of the finished product. Plant-based alternatives can only go so far, but even replacing half of the dairy used by the chocolate industry with plants would have a significant long-term effect. After all, chocolate is a plant-based food in and of itself (cacao fruit + cane grass).
Is it true that all dairy-free chocolates are vegan? (Also See Other FAQs)
Here is where I address all of your frequently asked questions regarding dairy-free chocolates, such as whether they are entirely vegan (or not). By the way, no, not all dairy-free chocolates are vegan friendly. I discussed this in my vegan chocolate piece, but to summarize, most of the non-organic cane sugar is treated with bone char. This implies that even if a milk chocolate is comprised only of cacao nibs or cocoa powder, coconut, and sugar, it may not be vegan (unless the sugar is certified organic or certified vegan). As a result, most vegan chocolate recipes call for vegan chocolate rather than just dark or dairy-free chocolate.
Why can’t you create chocolate using ordinary milk?
You can’t create chocolate using liquid milk because milk has a high water content, which causes the chocolate to seize, which means it thickens unevenly and loses its smooth smoothness. Powdered milk has been spray-dried to eliminate almost all moisture, allowing it to readily integrate into the hot unsweetened chocolate. This is also why powdered plant-based milks are preferred over liquid plant-based milks.
Why aren’t nondairy milk chocolates considered chocolate?
In both the EU and the US, the legal definition of milk chocolate contains a minimum proportion of dairy milk in order for a product to legally be called milk chocolate. Since plant-based milks are plainly dairy-free, milk chocolates created using milk substitutes must be referred to as anything other than milk chocolate (they could call it mylk chocolate, for example).
What are the finest dairy-free chocolates available in stores?
Apart from organic dark chocolate, you may also get plant-based milk chocolates from Pascha Organics and Raaka Chocolate at various stores, as well as Charm School Chocolate, which is only available in the northeastern United States. I like Alter Eco, Divine, and Equal Exchange for ethically produced plain dark chocolate.
Is vegan chocolate the same as dairy-free chocolate? Nope! Vegan is a broad phrase that denotes a product is devoid of all animal products, including dairy. Dairy-free, on the other hand, just indicates that a product does not include mammalian milk (from cows, sheep, goats, and so on), but it may still contain honey or white sugar treated with bone char.
These are several dairy components you may not be familiar with: Whey (protein), casein (protein), curd (cheese), paneer (cheese), and ghee are all examples of dairy products (butter). Always keep an eye out for allergy warning warnings on food packaging. Since the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect in 2006, manufacturers in the United States have been compelled to list the top eight allergens on their packaging.
Although this may not be relevant to all customers, bear in mind that US labeling regulations only oblige corporations to notify consumers if a product includes cows milk (not any other animal milk), so always check the ingredients list!
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