Does Chocolate Have Dairy? The Ultimate Guide

What comes to mind when you first find out you’re lactose intolerant? For most people, it is an immediate panic that they can no longer eat their favorite food. If you have a sweet tooth, this is especially worrying – what will you do without chocolate?! So you frantically google “does chocolate have dairy?” Don’t worry – we have forged ahead into this scary territory for you and scaled down a list of tips and tricks so that you don’t have to miss out.

Is Dairy a Standard Ingredient in Chocolate?

So, does chocolate have dairy? Chocolate is typically made from cocoa or cacao powder, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin (an emulsifier used to bind), and vanilla. Did you notice that milk is missing from that list? That’s because it’s an optional ingredient! The good news is, many brands don’t even use dairy in their chocolate – unless, of course, it is a milk chocolate (duh!). You’re probably wondering – does cocoa butter have dairy? The name is deceiving, but it isn’t actually a butter and does not have dairy in it. It’s actually the fat that comes from processing cocoa beans, according to Healthline. In fact, cocoa butter and all of the other standard ingredients found in chocolate are naturally dairy free.

Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate (Dairy)

There are several types of this nectar of the gods that we call chocolate: white, milk, semi-sweet, and dark. So what is the likelihood of milk in each type?

  • White chocolate: Very likely. The basic recipe for white chocolate includes milk solids (aka dairy), so unless you hunt down a specially made dairy-free version, steer clear.
  • Milk chocolate: Very likely – just like the name implies, milk is a key ingredient here. This is the kind of chocolate we commonly see in chocolate candy, like Hershey’s bars, Kit-Kats, Twix… You get the picture.
  • Semi-Sweet chocolate: Somewhat likely – this type of chocolate is typically used for baked goods. Most of the common grocery store brands put milk in their semi-sweet offering. You’ll definitely want to scan the label before scarfing this one down.
  • Dark chocolate: Unlikely. Finally a win for the lactose intolerant folks! In fact, pretty much every dark chocolate that is 70% cocoa (or more) is lactose free. It is always best to play it safe and double check the ingredients list, but as a general rule – we can trust these chocolates no matter the brand. We recommend Ghirardelli, Lindt,  and Endangered Species. Pro tip: the dark chocolate chips from Ghirardelli are the bomb and can be found easily at most grocers – you can even find dairy free chocolate chips at Walmart.

Dairy Replacement Milk Chocolates

Not a fan of dark chocolate? Never fear – this is where our non-dairy milks come into play. For some people, dark chocolate just isn’t sweet or creamy enough. Lucky for you, we are living in the future. Sure, there aren’t flying cars yet, but we do have “milk chocolate” that doesn’t actually have milk in it! There are so many types of non-dairy milk to choose from (almond, cashew, oat, rice, hemp, hazelnut, soy… the list goes on), it was only a matter of time before they started using it in chocolate as well. These chocolates can be a bit harder to find, but online ordering makes things pretty easy these days. Here are a few we recommend:

  • Endangered Species has a great version made with oat milk and rice crispies in it – just like the classic Crunch bar of your childhood.
  • Trader Joe’s has gotten in on the action with their almond milk bar, as reported by Live Kindly. While you can’t shop TJ’s online, if you live even somewhat near one, it is worth the drive for all the other various dairy-free goodies that they carry.
  • Enjoy Life will help you kick your craving with their rice milk chocolate bar. They are actually free of 14 common food allergies, including lactose, so they’re a great brand to seek out for all your dairy-free needs. They offer dairy free chocolate chips, cookies, brownies, snack bars, baking mixes, and more.
  • Theo is an awesome brand that you kind find at a lot of common grocery stores. Their best sellers include chocolate with almonds, peanut butter and almond butter cups.

Chocolate Milks (Dairy)

Is there anything more wholesome that a big ol’ glass of chocolate milk? Whether you’re used to mixing chocolate syrup with milk or buying a premade version, chocolate milk is another way to satisfy the chocolate craving. You don’t even need to feel bad about drinking it, as it is widely recommended as a great post-workout snack. Since it has a mix of carbohydrates and proteins, it’s perfect for helping you recover, according to the Huff Post. Additionally, it’s loaded with calcium and vitamin D, among many other nutrients (yes, even the dairy free versions!) The Mercury News has a detailed list comparing all the non-dairy chocolate milks out there. It’s an exhaustive list, so we’ve got you covered with our top recommendations that are both tasty and easy to find at any grocery store:

  • Our number one pick is Silk’s soy chocolate milk – even folks who aren’t lactose intolerant and don’t necessarily care about being dairy free love it.
  • If you’re looking for a protein boost, Silk also offers a chocolate milk with 10 grams of protein per serving – what’s not to love?
  • Of course, we can’t forget about the classic do-it-yourself version. Pick your favorite milk alternative – whether that is Lactaid (you might be wondering, is Lactaid real milk? The answer is yes!) or a dairy-free option. Next, mix in enough Hershey’s chocolate syrup til the color looks right. This is typically 4-5 tablespoons of syrup per cup (8oz) of milk. Yes, Hershey’s syrup is conveniently dairy free and delicious!

Hot Chocolate

Especially in the winter months, there’s nothing better than curling up with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Depending on how decadent you want it, hot chocolate is really just cocoa powder, sugar, and milk or water. Here are a few recipes we recommend:

  • Ghiradelli’s hot chocolate recipe: Most of their hot chocolate mixes are already dairy free, but we recommend the double chocolate. Simply mix with milk and a couple tablespoons of Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. Yum!
  • Homemade: Minimalist Baker has a super simple recipe for when you don’t have hot chocolate mix on hand. The best part? It takes just 4 minutes to make.
  • Don’t forget the toppings: Reddi-wip has an almond milk whipped cream that tastes just like the real thing and can be found at Target. Add marshmallows or mini-chocolate chips if you’re feeling fancy!

Ice Cream

Ice cream is a very personal matter – are you a plain Jane? Do you like old-fashioned butter pecan? Or do you go all out with the toppings? Luckily, there are a ton of non-dairy ice creams on the market, including chocolate flavored. These are the best (in our humble opinion) chocolate ice cream options:

  • Haagen Daz Non-Dairy Chocolate Salted Fudge Truffle (Find it here.)
  • Magnum Non-Dairy Icecream Bars (Get them at Target!)
  • So Delicious Chocolate Cookies and Cream Among a million other awesome flavors, So Delicious has cashew, coconut, soy and almond based ice creams to please even the pickiest eater.

Candy

Whether you’re looking for toppings on your non-dairy ice cream or just to snack on, there are so many dairy free chocolate-y candy options.

  • Oreos: An accidentally dairy-free classic. You can’t go wrong with these.
  • UnReal offers dairy free options to replace MnMs, Snickers, and more.
  • Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups are a great replacement for Reese’s.
  • As mentioned, Hershey’s chocolate syrup happens to be dairy-free. Put this in your chocolate milk, on top of ice cream, and homemade mocha frappuccinos.

Homemade Chocolate

Since chocolate is actually made of relatively simple ingredients, making your own is a great option.

  • Minimalist Baker’s simple three ingredient recipe using cocoa butter has tons of positive reviews backing it.
  • All Recipes has an easy chocolate sauce recipe.
  • Nora Cooks offers an easy to follow recipe on homemade peanut butter cups.
  • Bakerita shows you how to make dairy-free Snickers – and they’re no bake!
  • Want to browse? Here is an extensive list of 30 awesome dairy-free candy and chocolate bar recipes.

Hopefully, we’ve quelled your concerns that you’ll never eat chocolate again. Most of the products mentioned in this article are readily available at grocery stores, big box stores, and even some gas stations. If you’re the parent of a lactose intolerant child, they won’t even notice these swaps. Choose wisely, and kids and adults alike can enjoy all of the versions of chocolate – without the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

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