Vegan Milk Chocolate (Dairy Free)
What to expect from this recipe
From spending the last four or five years developing recipes, I have attempted my fair share of dairy free chocolate recipes. I’ve made versions that were too oily, not sweet enough, too bitter, too fudgey and too soft. This one however, is by far the closest thing to that milky tasting dairy chocolate I’ve ever made.
In this post I’m going to take you through two different methods for making your own vegan milk chocolate at home. In one version we’ll go through how to make chocolate from cacao nibs, and the other will be using minimal equipment. I’ll share my favourite ingredients to use and what to look out for when making homemade vegan chocolate. If you’re a chocolate lover like me and are looking for more vegan chocolate recipes, you can also find an entire chocolate chapter in my cookbook No-Bake Vegan Desserts.
Chocolate is usually made with a wet grinding machine (melanger). But generally, grinders can cost a couple hundred euro and aren’t something you’d typically find in most kitchens. So I wanted to create a recipe that anyone could try at home, without having to dish out on expensive equipment that you might not necessarily get a lot of use out of. These dairy free chocolate bars also make a great gift, you can get creative by adding nuts and flavourings to them as well.
What makes this vegan chocolate so special?
- Delicious “milky” coconut flavour.
- Chocolate that “snaps” and isn’t soft or fudgey.
- This recipe uses a combination of cacao base ingredients to create a delicious chocolate bar.
- The recipe include both methods for cacao paste and cacao nibs depending on what you have available to you.
- This chocolate melts beautifully and can be used as the base of many vegan chocolate desserts.
- Naturally gluten-free
- Refined sugar-free option using coconut sugar.
- Cacao liquor: Also known as cacao paste, is pure cacao mass in solid form. It’s usually available in the form of buttons/discs. Although they may smell and look like chocolate buttons, I don’t recommend tasting them as is, they are super strong and bitter (tempting, I know). You can also use cacao nibs and make your own cacao paste by roasting them and grinding them down, although you will need a good quality blender for this method. i know it can sometimes be challenging to get your hands on cacao liquor, so in this case the cacao nibs method may be more accessible.
- Cacao butter: This is the fat that’s derived from the cacao bean. Again, it’s usually available in the form of buttons or in a solid block.
- Icing sugar or coconut sugar: Personally I find that icing sugar gives this vegan milk chocolate the smoothest texture. But if you want to keep this recipe refined sugar-free, you can use coconut sugar. If using coconut sugar, grind the sugar down into a powdery consistency for the smoothest consistency chocolate.
- Coconut milk powder: Be careful to choose a brand that’s 100% coconut milk powder, as some coconut milk powder brands have fillers and dairy snuck into them!
- Vanilla: I recommend using a real vanilla pod here, vanilla extract or bean paste will add unwanted moisture to your chocolate bars.
- Sea salt: This enhances the flavours and balances the sweetness of the chocolate.
How to make homemade dairy free chocolate
Method 1: Using cacao liquor (cacao paste)
Add the cacao liquor and cacao butter to a large heat resistant bowl and place on top of a saucepan with simmering water (known as a bain-marie or water bath). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl, but allow the steam to rise up and gently melt the ingredients. Be careful that absolutely no water splashes into the bowl as water will cause the chocolate to seize.
Remove the bowl from the water bath and add the icing sugar. Whisk well until the sugar has been incorporated into the chocolate mixture. Then add the coconut milk powder, salt and vanilla and whisk again until the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Place the bowl back on the water bath and place a thermostat into the bowl of chocolate to measure the temperature. Bring the temperature up to 50°C (122°F). Remove the bowl from the heat and pass the chocolate through a sieve into a clean bowl. Make sure you dry the bottom of the bowl so that no water/steam gets into the chocolate while transferring it to a new medium sized bowl.
Sit the bowl of chocolate on top of an ice water bath, making sure no water can splash into the chocolate. Gently stir the mixture with a spatula until the chocolate temperature reaches 28°C (82.4°F). Then, place the bowl back on the water bath and bring the temperature back up to 30°C (86°F).
Divide the chocolate into the silicone moulds and place in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes. This recipe will make 5 large bars.
Method 2: Using cacao nibs
In this method, the main difference is you’ll be using cacao nibs and making your own cacao paste. This extra step will involve roasting the cacao nibs until they’re toasted and smelling fragrant and then blending them into a paste. I find the best way to get them into a paste is to add the solid cacao butter to the blender with the nibs as they will melt down really fast once blended and help to keep the ingredients from sticking too much to the sides of the jug.
Expert tips for making the best vegan milk chocolate
1. Prepare all your equipment ahead of making this recipe
It kinda goes without saying, but for this recipe in particular it is important to have all your bits and bobs ready to go. The last thing you want is to be fumbling around trying to get a water bath ready mid chocolate making! So read the recipe, and read it again, and get all of your equipment and ingredients prepped in advance.
2. Avoid water and liquids
Water, and any other liquid that is. Traditional chocolate recipes are based on fats. If liquid is added to the mix this will cause the chocolate to seize. Basically your beautiful shiny chocolate will go dull and clump together. Although you make be able to recover the mixture by adding more liquid, at this point it will be a ganache or a fudge, and won’t set like regular chocolate. So remember, the most important thing when creating a chocolate recipe is to AVOID LIQUIDS at all costs.
3. Use powdered sugars
Avoiding adding water means that it’s also a good idea to avoid using liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup or agave. The key is to use sugar that has a very fine powder consistency such as icing sugar. Using granulated sugar will give your chocolate a gritty texture, as sugar crystals need water to dissolve (which we’re avoiding in this chocolate recipe). For a refined sugar free option, I recommend using coconut sugar that has been blended down into a powdery consistency. This step will take a little patience, but it will be totally worth it to give you the smoothest consistency possible for homemade chocolate.
4. Use cacao paste/liquor or cacao nibs instead of cacao powder
With this recipe, I opted to use cacao nibs, roasting them from scratch instead of using cacao powder as I did in all my previous recipes. The cacao nibs contain both the cacao solids and cacao butter. Dry cocoa solids are the components of cocoa beans remaining after extracting the cocoa butter, the fat component. When roasted and blended the cacao nibs convert into a liquid state or cacao paste, otherwise known as cacao liquor.
Personally, I have found that the chocolate made using cacao nibs blended into a paste sets much better than when using a combination of cacao powder and cacao butter. There is also something very therapeutic about smelling freshly toasted cacao nibs, similar to roasted coffee beans, the scent will fill up your house so beautifully that you may mistake your kitchen for Willy Wonka’s factory!
5. Temper the chocolate
Have you ever wondered why some chocolate is shiny and snaps when you break off a piece? The shine in chocolate is traditionally created by “tempering” which is the process of melting and cooling chocolate in order to form beta crystals in the cacao butter. Some cheaper brands of chocolate skip this method and coat chocolate with shellac, which is a resin secreted by the female lac insect! If you’ve ever considered tempering chocolate before, chances are this may be something that you have avoided thinking it was a task only cut out only for master chocolatiers.
I am 100% guilty of this, and although I’m not going to sit here and lecture on the correct way to temper chocolate, as it is very much an art and I still have a lot to learn, in the below recipe I will share with you how I was able to get a nice shine and snap from the chocolate without too much effort by a using a method referred to as “the seeding method”. This article on how to temper chocolate by BBC Food goes into more detail.
Ways in which to use this homemade chocolate
- Use it to coat vegan chocolate bar recipes such as snickers bars, mars bars or bounty bars.
- For chocolate ganache or tart fillings such as vegan mint chocolate tart.
- Melt it over vegan ice cream sundaes (this would be so good poured over vegan chocolate ice cream).
Variations and additions
- Soya milk powder: To make this vegan milk chocolate without coconut you can try soya milk powder. I personally haven’t be able to test this one yet as it’s pretty difficult to find here in Ireland but I’d love to know how it went if you give it a go.
- Nuts: You can get as creative as you’d like with these chocolate bars. Why not try adding nuts such as roasted hazelnuts, chopped almonds or go for a fruit and nut bar by adding cranberries and/or raisins.
- Coconut: Add some shredded toasted coconut to the chocolate before setting for a delicious coconut milk chocolate bar.
- Flavourings: Add a couple drops of oil based flavouring such as mint, orange, lemon or rose.
Remove the bars from the moulds and wrap them in baking paper and place in an airtight container. I recommend storing them in the fridge as they can get a little soft if left out at room temperature for periods of time. They will stay fresh in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.
More vegan chocolate recipes
*This recipe was originally published on January 21st, 2019. The recipe has since been improved and last updated on October 1st, 2021 to minimise the ingredients used and to simplify the instructions.
Vegan Milk Chocolate (Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free Option)
- Silicone chocolate moulds 5 x (Mold Size: 8.35 x 4.1 x 0.4 inch. Cavity Size: 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.4 inch. Volume: 3 oz)
- 6.3 oz cacao liquor (cacao paste) or 1 ½ cups cacao nibs (see method 2 in the recipe instructions)
- 8 oz cacao butter
- 1 cup dairy-free coconut milk powder can be found in most Asian speciality shops
- 1 cup icing sugar or coconut sugar finely ground *see recipe notes
- 1 vanilla pod
- ½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
Method 1: Using cacao liquor/paste
- Lay the silicone moulds out on trays that you will easily be able to transfer to the fridge later. Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife, set the seeds aside for later. Discard the pod or use to flavour other recipes.
- Add the cacao liquor and cacao butter to a large heat resistant bowl and place on top of a saucepan with simmering water (known as a bain-marie or water bath). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl, but allow the steam to rise up and gently melt the ingredients. Be careful that absolutely no water splashes into the bowl as water will cause the chocolate to seize.
- Remove the bowl from the water bath and add the icing sugar. Whisk well until the sugar has been incorporated into the chocolate mixture. Then add the coconut milk powder, salt and vanilla and whisk again until the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Place the bowl back on the water bath and place a thermostat into the bowl of chocolate to measure the temperature. Bring the temperature up to 50°C (122°F). Remove the bowl from the heat and pass the chocolate through a sieve into a clean bowl. Make sure you dry the bottom of the bowl so that no water/steam gets into the chocolate while transferring it to a new medium sized bowl.
- Sit the bowl of chocolate on top of an ice water bath, making sure no water can splash into the chocolate. Gently stir the mixture with a spatula until the chocolate temperature reaches 28°C (82.4°F). Then, place the bowl back on the water bath and bring the temperature back up to 30°C (86°F).
- Divide the chocolate into the silicone moulds and place in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes. Once set, remove the bars from the moulds and wrap them in baking paper and place in an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Method 2: Using cacao nibs
- Preheat your oven to 120℃ (248°F). Line a baking tray with a silicone sheet or parchment paper and spread the cacao nibs out on top of it. Roast the cacao nibs in the oven for 10-12 minutes until they start to brown.
- Once ready, remove the cacao nibs from the oven and place them in your high speed blender along with the cacao butter (you can add the solid buttons, or finely chopped if using block cacao butter). Blend, blend, blend! You want the cacao nibs to turn into cacao paste/cacao liquor. This should take approximately 5 minutes or so., depending on the quality of your blender. Once runny, pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to make sure there is no remaining grit.
- Repeat all of the steps shown in method 1 at the beginning of the recipe instructions.