We believe chocolate goods can be assessed by a succinct set of criteria: the amount of ingredients they employ, which state of cacao they use as their basis, and the inventiveness of the accoutrements. While chocolate purveyors adhering to fair trade certifications and committing only to all-natural ingredients and no additives, used to be few and far between, those that impress with quality and conscience are now in abundance. From Hawaiian chocolates that employ local ingredients to fairly-priced ones that use Dragonfruit and Black Lava salt, here are a few of those that we’ve tried, enjoyed, and remained impressed by after surveying their ingredient lists.
Fossa Chocolate’s Sake Kasu
An ultra-limited release, Singapore-based Fossa Chocolate‘s Sake Kasu bar ($12) employs leftover lees from the process of making KuroKura sake as finishing touches. The bits, which are a bit chewy and certainly intense, impart an umami flavor with an undertone of dried fruit. The denseness is contrasted by the 75% dark chocolate’s lush flavor and smooth texture. It’s an altogether surprising offering that will please Japan-lovers and treat-eaters alike. The bar is available now, but limited to 250.
Only Child Chocolate’s Best Fronds Forever Milk Chocolate Fennel Bar
Atypical ingredients like dried coconut pieces, fennel seed, and cayenne pepper perfectly complement the milk chocolate and peanut base here. Only Child Chocolate’s Best Fronds Forever bar aims to surprise, and does so with surprising simplicity, courtesy of the subtle emergence of the ingredients listed and not an all-out barrage on your palate. Plus, the ingredients present quite beautifully atop the chocolate. This bar ($8) is available now on the brand’s website.
Puna Chocolate Co’s Strawberries and Peanut Butter in 50% Dark Milk Chocolate
Produced on the Big Island, Puna Chocolate Co‘s complex, three-act chocolate bar comprises 50% dark chocolate; flavorful, freeze-dried strawberries; and a combination of peanut butter and rich Midwest cream. Final touches include orange liqueur (which adds a spiced layer) and Demerara sugar, rendering the finish not too much of any one ingredient. Though this particular edition is not available in their online site, we were able to find a bar at a few shops on the Big Island.
Areté Fine Chocolate Gianduia Bar
Areté‘s English Walnut chocolate bar might be the simplest texturally on this list, but its understated essence offers the flavors of its primary ingredients—English Walnut Flour, whole English Walnuts and cocoa beans—without fuss. If food texture often prohibits you, or those you know, from enjoying bars with crunch, bite or chew, Areté’s bar will please with its sheer simplicity. Though not available online now, the bar can be found in retailers like The Meadow.
Pono Chocolate’s Dragonfruit and Black Lava Sea Salt Bar
Paia-based Pono Chocolate employs 38% cacao in their Dragonfruit and Black Lava Sea Salt bar, Haleakalā ($12). The result is a harmonious combination of sweet, salty, exotic, and seemingly familiar, without being too much of any of the aforementioned. This balance comes courtesy of a broader philosophy called “Pono,” “a state of harmony where all things in the universe are in perfect alignment.” Each ingredient is responsibly-sourced and well-used in their respective instances.
Askinosie Chocolate’s Gingerbread Dark Chocolate
Though currently unavailable due to its seasonal availability, Askinosie Chocolate‘s Gingerbread Dark Chocolate bar embeds the warmth of winter spices into a single origin dark chocolate bar. Five spices and unrefined cane sugar contribute the flavors, rendering this treat a matrimony of dense richness and spicy bite. Ginger, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and clove round out the roster, and will likely return, in a similar iteration, next holiday season.
Hana Gold Maui’s Milk Chocolate with Bananas
Hawaii-based plantation Hana Gold produces a chocolate bar ($8) that features local bananas and plantation-grown cacao. The pair form a nice balance between fruitiness (from the chocolate) and light sweetness from the banana bits. A rarity on this list, the company adheres to a process categorized as “branch to bar,” meaning the owners oversee the growing of each tree and the molding of each bar. It’s intensive work that yields a delightful milk chocolate snack.
Eat Chic Chocolate’s Vanilla Tahini Cups
A riff on the ever-popular peanut butter cup, Eat Chic Chocolate’s Vanilla Tahini Cups ($8) use a familiar chocolate exterior but substitute the peanut butter filling for one composed from dry-roasted sesame seeds, unrefined coconut sugar, pink Himalayan sea salt and vanilla bean. The result is a bite that’s a bit grainier, albeit different entirely, in texture. There’s far more chew but there’s a complexity that is otherwise missing in a cup that relies on the traditional formula. The 79% dark chocolate offsets any savory notes, and lends the well-known richness cacao offers.
Morito Chocolates’ Salted Peanut Sticks
Morito Chocolates‘ salted peanut sticks ($8) marry a chocolate coating to a creamy peanut filling—and, a pink Himalayan salt dusting. Each stick is handmade in Brooklyn and packaged in sets of four, and prove to be vegan, organic, and gluten-free. Seemingly simple—just five ingredients make up each stick: organic cacao beans, organic cacao butter, organic sugar cane, organic roasted peanuts, and pink salt—yet incredibly enjoyably, these are a snack you can feel positive about buying, as they’re made with an emphasis on ingredients and small-batch production.
Dandelion Chocolate’s Two-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cups
From CH favorite Dandelion Chocolate comes another simple riff on a sweet classic. Their new Two-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cup ($5)—which could very well be the world’s first—is made of just 100% Ecuadorian Camino Verde cocoa beans and roasted Valencia peanuts. That’s it. There is no added sugar and, like all of their chocolate, you won’t find any soy lecithin, emulsifiers, cocoa butter or other additives. They partnered with Feve Chocolates, also in San Francisco, to create this peanut butter cup, which tastes subtle, natural and delectable. It’s an uncomplicated taste sensation that we’re (sadly) not very used to.
Hero image by Evan Malachosky