The Daily Mail did the type of hard-hitting journalism this week that we appreciate most: asked Ruth Hinks, a professional chocolatier and UK World Chocolate Master, to determine if she could tell the difference between traditional milk chocolate candies and their vegan counterparts.
There’s a good reason for this experiment: More candy companies are announcing dairy-free versions of their flagship products to cater to people who don’t consume animal products, whether for environmental, health, or other reasons. So it’s worth having experts weigh in on the flavors as a way to gauge whether the substitutions will be successful.
Maltesers, much like Whoppers here in the United States, are malted milk balls covered in chocolate. It turns out that the vegan version does a great job at approximating the original taste, and Hinks says, “Nothing in the taste tells me they are vegan.” Color me surprised. Between the original version and the dairy one, she actually preferred the vegan version overall.
The sea salt chocolate taste test had similar results, with Hinks preferring the vegan version, though it did have its drawbacks: “This is seriously good,” Hinks said. “It’s creamy with a nice salty tang. But, there’s a hint of vegetable oil and the texture is slightly gritty. I reckon that’s because they’ve substituted rice powder, which doesn’t break down as well as milk. But, it’s lovely and I was almost fooled.”
The chocolate bar with nuts was a particularly difficult challenge for Hinks, because the nuts got in the way of the chocolate flavor, making it hard to discern the differences between the vegan and milk chocolate—so this one ended in a tie. (That’s a win-win for everyone involved, right?) The white chocolate, however, was a dead giveaway, and the vegan version was nowhere near as good as the non-vegan one. “It’s a bit like chewing a candle,” said Hinks. “I’ve got a nasty waxy taste in my mouth. That comes from all the coconut oil they’ve used instead of milk. To be fair, making vegan white chocolate is like making a brick wall with no bricks.”
Overall, vegan versions were the slight winner, with Hicks preferring five of them over four dairy winners (then there was that one tie). So it looks like vegan chocolate does stand a chance against the stuff we’re all used to. After testimony like this, I won’t think twice about grabbing a vegan chocolate bar next time I see one.