Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate

Last Update: June 20, 2024

We’re not shy about our love of chocolate. We love to infuse it into recipes both sweet and savory. We find ways to incorporate it into our wellness routines. We even take time out to celebrate it year after year. So it probably goes without saying that we’re open to trying all types of chocolate. Still, getting a better understanding of the differences between two of the most popular types of chocolate, dark and milk, is probably worth it. Whether you’re a dark chocolate devotee or think milk chocolate is the must-have, here’s what goes into these marvelous morsels, plus a closer look at one brand transforming this treat into global activism. Read more for our thoughts on the differences between dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate.

Meet Endangered Species

Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC) was founded on dual passions: chocolate and conservation. As a non-GMO and ethical chocolate brand, ESC not only engages in fair trade practices in West Africa, but a portion of sales is redirected to organizations that support habitat conservation and sustainable farming. Before you bite in, don’t miss the innovative packaging that furthers the Endangered Species mission. “We intentionally select the species featured on our wrappers to raise awareness to a wide array of conservation partners,” shares Whitney Bembenick, Director of Marketing and Innovation.

Take the gorilla. This primate was chosen as a result of the brand’s work with its partner, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. “Our wrappers aren’t just beautiful on the outside, but they’re informative on the inside with insight into the species as well as how consumers can get involved with organizations working to protect that particular animal,” Bembenick says. Ten percent of the net profit from chocolate sold helps contribute to Endangered Species’ goal of giving one million dollars annually to other conservation partners by 2027.

What Is Dark Chocolate?

In the most simplistic of terms, dark chocolate is chocolate that either doesn’t have milk solids added to it or contains very few (for chocolate to be classified as dark in the U.S., it must contain no more than 12 percent milk solids) [1]. That means the basic ingredients of dark chocolate include cacao beans, sugar, an emulsifier like soy lecithin for proper texture, and flavoring like vanilla. The “darkness” of dark chocolate can vary depending on the percentage of cocoa solids. For example, a bar with 30 percent cocoa is considered “sweet dark,” while very dark chocolate is typically upwards of 70, 75, and even more than 80 percent cocoa [2]. The richness of dark chocolate contributes to its bold, sometimes slightly bitter taste; this is why some dark chocolate is described as “bittersweet.”

Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Didn’t know dark chocolate is actually considered healthy? Well, you’re in for good news, because this addictive indulgence has a long list of health benefits:

  • 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate contains nutrients like fiber, iron, magnesium, and zinc [3]
  • It’s a source of antioxidants [4]
  • It may help support healthy blood pressure
  • It may help support healthy blood flow to the brain
  • Because of the high concentration of cocoa, it helps to nix chocolate cravings fast; you don’t have to eat a ton to feel satisfied

But is dark chocolate healthier than milk chocolate? That is still up for debate.

Dark Chocolate Q&A

Don’t be in the dark when it comes to dark chocolate. Here’s what you need to know.

Is dark chocolate keto-friendly?

It can be included in a keto diet if dark chocolate adheres to the strict carb limits the diet requires. Choose chocolate with a 70 percent or higher cocoa content and little to no added sugars.

Is dark chocolate Paleo?

Technically, no—seeing as cavemen didn’t snack on dark chocolate. But it can be enjoyed (in moderation) on a paleo diet if it has a high cocoa content and no added sugars or soy lecithin (the latter aren’t considered paleo-friendly). You can shop paleo-approved chocolate here.

Is dark chocolate vegan?

Yes, but there’s a catch. Cocoa on its own is a plant-based ingredient, but not all chocolate qualifies as vegan. Some dark chocolate products contain dairy, including whey and casein, so read labels carefully to find vegan dark chocolate.

Does dark chocolate have caffeine?

Yes. All chocolate has some caffeine [5], and dark chocolate bars can contain as much as 31 milligrams per bar (about the same as a can of Coke). One difference between dark chocolate vs milk chocolate is that the latter has much more caffeine, so if you’re feeling a little more zippy after that nibble of chocolate, now you know why.

Is dark chocolate better than milk chocolate?

If you’re following a dairy-free diet, dark chocolate may be a better choice since it’s dairy-free most of the time. Dark chocolate also has a higher fiber content and a higher concentration of cocoa than milk chocolate, which studies have shown may have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. While lower in its cocoa content, milk chocolate does contain more calcium and vitamin D than dark chocolate. Milk chocolate also tends to taste sweeter and contain more added sugar than dark chocolate, but it depends on the chocolate you pick.

A 2014 study suggested that cocoa powder may worsen acne, so dark chocolate may not be better than milk chocolate if you struggle with breakouts [6].

Dark Chocolate Nutrition Facts

Here’s a rundown of the nutritional benefits of dark chocolate, based on what you’ll find in an Endangered Species 88% Fair Trade Dark Chocolate bar:

  • Serving size: 1 ounce
  • Calories per serving: 180
  • Total fat: 13 grams
  • Saturated fat: 8 grams
  • Trans fat: 0 grams
  • Total carbs: 11 grams
  • Sugars: 3 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 4 grams
  • Potassium: 260 mg

Is Dark Chocolate Dairy-Free?

So does dark chocolate contain milk? Short answer: it depends. On its own, dark chocolate is definitely dairy-free, but some chocolate brands add dairy to their recipes (like cream, butter, milk fat, milk powder, and whey).

Oat milk is the secret ingredient in the new Endangered Species bars that have all the rich chocolate flavor you love with the creamy addition of plant-based oat milk, keeping every bite deliciously dairy-free. The brand says choosing oat milk was a simple decision based on consumer demand. Bembenick credits Instagram for providing inspiration early on. “The influencers I follow were raving about their oat milk coffee drinks, and every fifth post or so was about plant-based foods,” she shares. Add to that the low-sugar trend, and Bembenick knew there was a real opportunity to create something special.

“We had three ‘must-haves’ in order to move forward: vegan oat milk, less sugar than other comparable products—without using sugar alcohols—and most importantly, a delicious taste that rivals our original ESC chocolate line.” As the brand discovered during its year-long development process, oat milk is an ideal pairing for chocolate. “It lends the perfect balance of creamy and sweet flavor that the bitterness of cocoa asks for,” Bembenick says.

A Look at Endangered Species Oat Milk Bars

ESC’s new oat milk bars are made with 75 percent cocoa and real ingredients—no chemical compounds here. They’re also Certified Vegan and Certified Gluten-Free. Plus, the baking chips are ideal for your favorite sweet confections.

Oat Milk Chocolate Baking Chips

Dairy-free baking just got upgraded. Add a scoop of these oat milk baking chips to your next batch of cookie dough or brownie batter for smooth flavor and decadent crunch.

Oat Milk Dark Chocolate, Coconut & Almond

Oat milk keeps this bar dairy-free, but doesn’t compromise on flavor. The combination of tropical coconut and crunchy almonds alongside rich dark chocolate is pretty irresistible.

Other Must-Try Dark Chocolate Products

Get your chocolate fix with these delightfully dark must-haves from Endangered Species.

Bold + Silky Dark Chocolate

With 72 percent cocoa, there’s no mistaking the intense chocolate flavor in this premium bar. Thrive Market member Christine from Michigan says it’s her favorite with a “perfect balance of bitter chocolate taste and a slight sweetness.”

Strong + Velvety Dark Chocolate

Unfold the packaging to learn more about jaguars—the endangered species proceeds from this bar helps support. Using 88 percent cocoa, this preservative-free and vegan treat is the ultimate addition to your chocolate stash.

Forest Mint + Dark Chocolate

Bittersweet chocolate and refreshing mint flavor combine for what Thrive Market member Meg from Utah calls “just the right breakable piece size for a treat.” This is one bar that hits all the right notes.

Recipes with Dark Chocolate

Join the dark side with these rich and luscious dishes.

Vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Give cheesecake a dairy-free spin with cashew cheese, plus maple syrup, peanut butter, and an unexpected crust of dark chocolate protein bars.

Chicken With Chocolate Mole

Chocolate can add layers of flavor to savory dishes, too, like this mole recipe that calls for dark chocolate, tomato paste, bone broth, almond butter, and a blend of warming spices.

Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

There’s no shortage of sweetness when it comes to this super addictive, totally gluten-free shortbread made with butter, sugar, and loads of chocolate chips.

What Is Milk Chocolate?

In the journey to understand dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, we move on to learning more about the latter. As the name suggests, milk chocolate is chocolate that includes the addition of milk solids. It was first produced by a Swiss manufacturer named Daniel Peters in 1879, who incorporated powdered milk with chocolate liquor to create the recipe. In the U.S. today, milk chocolate must contain at least 10 percent chocolate liquor and 12 percent milk solids.

How Is Milk Chocolate Made?

=Milk chocolate is typically made from chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, flavorings, and either powdered whole milk or sweetened condensed milk depending on the recipe. First, the sugar and milk are blended and mixed with chocolate liquor and flavorings. This mixture is dried into something called “milk chocolate crumb” and later blended with cocoa butter to be processed into milk chocolate.

Milk Chocolate Q&A

Sometimes looked down upon as a lesser version of dark chocolate (from a chocolate purist’s point of view, anyway), milk chocolate actually brings quite a bit to the table.

Is milk chocolate good for you?

Yes—in moderation. All chocolate has been linked to a lower risk of developing certain diseases [7]. One meta-analysis found that participants who ate 100 grams of chocolate a day had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke compared to those who didn’t eat chocolate [8]. However, because 100 grams of chocolate can also contain more than your recommended sugar intake, it’s probably best to stick to about half this amount daily.

Can you make vegan milk chocolate?

Yep! Vegan milk chocolate swaps out dairy-based milk for a non-dairy alternative like coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk, or almond milk.

Is milk chocolate keto-friendly?

Rarely. Finding milk chocolate that adheres to the carb constraints detailed by the keto diet can be tricky (dark chocolate tends to be lower in carbs). That said, there are some recipes available for making your own keto-friendly milk chocolate that keeps carbs in check.

Milk Chocolate Nutrition Facts

Here are nutritional facts on milk chocolate, based on what you’ll find in bar of Endangered Species Smooth + Creamy Milk Chocolate:

  • Serving size: ⅓ of bar
  • Calories per serving: 170
  • Total fat: 11 grams
  • Saturated fat: 7 grams
  • Trans fat: 0 grams
  • Total carbs: 13 grams
  • Sugars: 10 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 2 grams

Recipes with Milk Chocolate

Step up your dessert game with these milk chocolate-infused favorites.

Salted Chocolate S’Mores Tart

This fluffy confection features a cookie crust filled with chocolate ganache and whipped marshmallow topping for an elevated take on the campfire favorite.

S'Mores Tart

Chocolate Almond Braid

Give your dessert a gluten-free twist with buttery, flaky pastry surrounding warm, melted chocolate, crunchy slivered almonds, and cacao nibs.

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

What’s better than a warm chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven? A supersized version that’s baked in a skillet and served in slices like a cake.

Sprouted flour chocolate chip skillet cookie

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Jillian Gordon

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