Very Dark Chocolate – MadisonPaleo Taste and Tell

Mmmm... chocolate.

Mmmm... chocolate.

One of the most common “cheats” people sneak into the paleo diet is dark chocolate. When very pure (85% cacao, and ideally no dairy or soy) it’s arguably pretty harmless and may offer antioxidant and other benefits.  But with so many choices out there, which is best? Never fear; I’ve accepted the burden of doing some of the sifting and winnowing for you. Thank me later.

I think the ideal chocolate bar is 90-95% cacao, with a little sugar, cocoa butter, and maybe a touch of vanilla. No milk solids, soy lecithin, or anything else. Whether you invite nuts to the party is up to you. You might choose to award bonus points for organic, fair trade, domestic, or whatever satisfies your personal proclivities. For this comparison, I’ll be primarily looking at taste and purity.

Lindt Excellence 90% chocolate bar

Of the ten bars I tested for this article, my overall favorite is Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark. I agree with its “Deliciously intense, Surprisingly balanced” tag line, and I’m quite impressed by the smooth texture and lack of burnt or bitter notes present in even 85% blends from most other brands. Though there is a warning that it may contain traces of peanuts, soy, tree nuts or milk, listed ingredients are only: chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa powder processed with alkali, sugar, and bourbon vanilla beans. A 40 gram serving has 240 calories, 22 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrate of which 3 grams are sugars.

Blackout, Lindt 85%, Green and Black's

Some notable runners up, fine choices all, include Alter Eco Dark Blackout, Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark, and Green & Black’s Dark 85%. Lindt again wins the taste profile in my opinion, as I found the Alter Eco slightly burnt tasting and the G&B a tad sour. Note that all of these taste elements are both subjective- and subject to change with different batches.  Also note that the bitterness of less-processed cocoa often indicates greater presence of beneficial compounds.  Unlike Lindt, the Alter Eco and Green & Black’s (actually a Kraft Foods brand) both claim organic and fair trade status. The Blackout bar lists cocoa liquor as its first ingredient, rather than chocolate. I wonder if this explains its unusually high iron content of 39% per 40 gram serving, vs. 25% for Lindt and only 6% for G&B. Other macronutrient numbers are about as you’d expect from an 85% chocolate bar. (See table.)

The next tier includes Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao, Endangered Species 88% Dark Chocolate, and Equal Exchange 80% Extra Dark Panama Chocolate. I would consider these decent “second choices” but not worth seeking out on their own. The first because it contains milk fat and soy lecithin, the second soy lecithin only, and the third because it’s only 80% cacao. The Endangered Species is, however, specifically labeled gluten free (though I suspect most chocolate actually is anyway) and the Equal Exchange is organic. The Panama bar is also made with chocolate liquor and interestingly has a higher (35% in 37 grams) iron content. I’m not sure if it was this ingredient choice or simply slightly higher sugar content that made it the least bitter tasting of the three.

The bottom tier (for now– expect this article to be expanded and revised in the future as I force myself to continue taste testing) didn’t quite meet my standards for one reason or another but may be just right for some. Ghirardelli’s Semi-Sweet Premium Baking Bar (as far as I’m concerned any chocolate is “eating” chocolate– ask my wife) is delicious enough, but contains milk fat and soy. I don’t see a cacao percentage listed, but I’m pretty sure it’s south of my 85% target. Similarly, in addition to unnecessary soy the Delish Mid Knight bar from Walgreen’s is a bit too sweet to make the cut at just 70%. I’d like to see them add a soy-free 90% bar to their price-friendly line, to compete with the Lindt offering. Finally, I really wanted to like Lily’s Dark Chocolate bar, proudly non-GMO and sweetened with stevia instead of sugar. The taste and texture were remarkable, and I’m sure the lack of sugar is a dream come true for certain people. However, I can’t consider it even “paleo-ish” when it includes not only milk fat and soy lecithin, but also inulin (a FODMAP that makes my tummy unhappy), dextrin, erythritol, and unspecified “natural flavors.” If they could work their magic without most of this they might shoot to the top of my list.

As I said, everyone’s needs and priorities differ. My opinions are offered only as a guideline. Below is a table that may help you compare other details from the bars I described. Please be aware that manufacturers often make changes, and I make no assurances that this data will be current when you read it. Do your own delicious homework to verify, and please let me know if you discover something special that I missed!


Lindt Excellence 90%Cocoa Supreme Dark

0-37466-04269-5   (USA)

Chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa powder processed with alkali, sugar, bourbon vanilla beans

“May contain traces of peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soybean”


Serving Size 40g
Calories 240
Fat Calories 190
Total Fat 22g 34%
Saturated Fat 13g 65%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 5g 20%
Sugars 3g
Iron 15%


Alter Eco Dark Blackout  (85%)

8-17670-01006-8   (Switzerland)

Organically Grown, Fairly Trade Certified, No Soy or Gluten Ingredients, No Emulsifiers, No Artificial Flavors, GMO-Free

Organic cocoa liquor, organic cocoa butter, organic raw cane sugar, organic vanilla

“Made on equipment shared with milk, hazelnuts, almonds and soy”


Serving Size 40g
Calories 240
Fat Calories 190
Total Fat 21g 33%
Saturated Fat 13g 55%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Sugars 6g
Iron 39%


Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark  85%

0-37466-01645-0   (USA)

Chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, demerara sugar, bourbon vanilla beans

“May contain traces of peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soybean”


Serving Size 40g
Calories 230
Fat Calories 170
Total Fat 18g 28%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 6g 24%
Sugars 5g
Iron 25%


Green & Black’s Dark 85%

7-08656-10041-8   (Poland)

Fair Trade, Certified Organic

Organic chocolate, organic cocoa butter, organic raw cane sugar, organic vanilla extract

“Manufactured on equipment that processes milk, soy, tree nuts”


Serving Size 40g
Calories 250
Fat Calories 180
Total Fat 20g 30%
Saturated Fat 12g 60%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 8g
Iron 6%


Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao Intense Dark

7-47599-60725-7   (USA)

Bittersweet chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, sugar, milk fat, soy lecithin – an emulsifier), vanilla, natural flavor

“May contain tree nuts and milk”


Serving Size 45g
Calories 250
Fat Calories 220
Total Fat 25 38
Saturated Fat 15 74
Total Carbohydrate 15 5
Dietary Fiber 5 20
Sugars 5
Iron 25


7-45998-90308-6   (Switzerland)

Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified

Organic chocolate liquor, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic ground vanilla beans

“May contain traces of milk, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios & pecans”


Serving Size 37g
Calories 220
Fat Calories 160
Total Fat 18g 27%
Saturated Fat 11g 54%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Sugars 7g
Iron 35%


Endangered Species 88% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

0-37014-24247-8   (USA)

Certified Gluten-Free

Bittersweet chocolate (chocolate liquor, unbleached water-filtered beet sugar, soy lecithin, vanilla

 “Produced on equipment that also processes product containing milk, peanuts and tree nuts.”


Serving Size 43g
Calories 210
Fat Calories 180
Total Fat 20g 31%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 5g
Iron 15%


7-47599-60098-2   (USA)

Semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin – an emulsifier, vanilla.)

“May contain tree nuts and milk”


Serving Size 42g
Calories 210
Fat Calories 120
Total Fat 14g 21%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 9%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 20g
Iron 15%


DeLISH 70% Cacao Mid Knight Premium German Dark

0-49022-65287-3   (Germany)

Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier: Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract

“May contain milk solids as well as traces of hazelnuts, almonds and gluten”


Serving Size 40g
Calories 230
Fat Calories 160
Total Fat 18g 28%
Saturated Fat 11g 56%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 13g
Iron 15%


Original Lily’s Dark Chocolate (55%)

8-56481-00300-5   (USA)

No Sugar Added, Non GMO, Sweetened With Stevia, Fair Trade Certified

Unsweetened Chocolate, Inulin, Dextrin (from Non-GMO Corn), Erythritol, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Stevia Extract, Natural Vanilla

“Made on equipment shared with products containing milk, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and soy.”


Serving Size 40g
Calories 160
Fat Calories 120
Total Fat 14g 22%
Saturated Fat 9g 46%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 7%
Dietary Fiber 12g 50%
Sugars less than 1g
Erythritol 6g
Iron 30%



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Author: Paleo Joe

I've been paleo since approximately December 2011.

6 thoughts on “Very Dark Chocolate – MadisonPaleo Taste and Tell”

  1. Dante 98% Organic Cocoa Bar with Stevia
    is as pure as it gets
    Ingredients: Organic Cocoa, Stevia, and Pure Vanilla..

  2. Some people apply lecithin to the skin as a moisturizer. You will often see lecithin as a food additive. It is used to keep certain ingredients from separating out. You may also see lecithin as an ingredient in some eye medicines. It is used to help keep the medicine in contact with the eye’s cornea.’.:*

    Up to date piece of writing on our own blog site

    1. Clarification: I’m pointing out the lecithin mainly because it is soy derived, not because lecithin in general causes problems. I feel it’s not necessary for chocolate making and would prefer to avoid it. That said, I sometimes settle for products containing small amounts.

  3. Wow. I have been doing my own taste testing and my top 3 in the same order are same as yours. In fact I came across this link searching for alter eco dark blackout vs. Lindt dark supreme. 🙂
    The lindt is about a $1 or $2 cheaper so very impressed with their dark chocolate lineup.

  4. Update: Just had the chance to try Righteously Raw Pure Dark 83% Dark Cacao. Label says vegan, gluten-free, no refined sugar, non-gmo verified, organic.

    Ingredients: organic cacao butter, organic cacao powder, organic agave, organic coconut oil, organic vanilla.

    Three 19g servings per bar. Per serving: 120 calories (100 from fat), 11g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 15mg sodium, 5g total carbs, 3g total fiber, 2g sugars, 1g protein, 2% calcium, 8% iron.

    Made by Earthsource Organics, San Diego, CA.

    My review: good taste and texture, clean ingredients overall, but I’m not excited about using agave for sweetener, and in fact felt a major energy crash after eating it. Might be a good choice if you do well with agave.

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