Expensive chocolate is increasingly popular these days — like the craft beer and coffee movements that came before it, chocolate making has become an art form. Milky Ways and Hershey’s bars might still be around but these days, if you’re splurging on chocolate, it’s only the highest quality chocolate, sourced ethically and handmade. It may cost more, but the difference in taste alone is worth it — as a bonus, you’re supporting a chocolate movement outside the commercialized candy giants whose corporate morals are questionable, to say the least (Hershey’s was fined just this month for violating safety standards that put their workers at risk, according to The New York Times).
The best artisanal chocolate brings out the nuance in flavor of each different cacao bean, resulting in a complex flavor you won’t get in a typical chocolate bar. And if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous in your dessert, these chocolatiers have got you covered — each chocolate maker below experiments with unique flavors that are constantly being tweaked and altered to improve the taste or fit the season. From avocado chocolate to whisky chocolate, if you ask us, the price is right with these craft chocolatiers.
Bon Bon Bon
What is a bonbon, exactly? Technically, a bonbon is a chocolate-covered confection, often filled with ganache, caramel, or nougat (via Mae Fine Foods). But a Bon Bon Bon is much more; Alexandra Clark’s chocolate has been making waves from Detroit since it opened in 2014, and if you ask us, it’s one of the best uses of your money.
Though Bon Bon Bon boxes are a bit pricey at $35 – $112, these chocolates are worth the splurge. Clark launched her company in her twenties, after traveling the world to gain experience in chocolate and retail (via Bon Bon Bon), and if Bon Bon Bon’s success is any indication, the experience was well worth it.
With flavors as unique as "Olive Ewe" (olive-oil caramel, white-chocolate ganache, sea salt, and pink peppercorn hulls) (via Vanity Fair) and "Coney Spice" (Mexican-style chocolate and hot dog chile spices) (via Food & Wine), these are bonbons you don’t want to miss!
After Stanford grads Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring sold their first company, they decided to take their knowledge of startups in a new direction. Though the pair gave off a similar vibe as two friends testing out beer brewing in their garage, Masonis and Ring chose a different medium for their experiments: chocolate. As they began tinkering with the candy-making process, they became increasingly invested in the endeavor. "We were used to writing software, but building a machine that could do something physical was new and interesting," Masonis told Food & Wine.
Over ten years later, Dandelion Chocolate is recognized as a leader in the bean-to-bar movement, which prizes ethically sourced chocolate bars that highlight the intricate flavors of various kinds of cacao beans.
"What happened to microbrews and coffee and wine in a sense was actually happening to chocolate," Masonis said. "And we were right in the middle of it."
A single Dandelion chocolate bar can cost upwards of $20, but Masonis and Ring use their revenue wisely, taking care to choose quality ingredients and create individualized processes to best enhance every distinct cacao flavor.
Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Created by Chef Mark Aumont in a Michelin-starred New York City restaurant, Kreuther Chocolate makes, according to The Spruce Eats, some of the best specialty chocolate around. If you have $99 to spare, the 24-piece chocolate box will alter everything you know about chocolate — you’ll never be able to eat a Snicker’s bar again.
Each unique flavor of Kreuther chocolate has a corresponding story — Chef Aumont gets his inspiration from the bustling, diverse streets of New York City. The ingredients, however, are sourced from all over the world, and Kreuther maintains close relationships with their suppliers in order to ensure every element of their chocolates is carefully curated (via Kreuther Chocolate). The flavors change frequently, but in a 24-piece box, you might come across Tahitian vanilla, honey saffron, banana peanut, kumaru, and even French baguette chocolate (via The Spruce Eats). Whether you’re a New Yorker or just a chocolate connoisseur, Kreuther’s chocolates are a must-try.
Katrina Markoff has traveled to all seven continents in search of inspiration and ingredients for her handcrafted chocolates. Vosges prides itself in upholding high standards for fresh and ethical ingredients, and claims their chocolates, therefore, vibrate at a higher frequency than other foods, which improves the vibes of consumers far and wide (via Vosges).
Whether or not you’re interested in opening your heart chakra via the healing components of cacao, the chocolate is darn good. For $9 a bar, you can try exotic flavors like manchego and cherry, matcha green tea and spirulina, and bacon. And if it’s truffles your heart desires, Vosges will not let you down! From vegan to traditional Italian truffles, there’s something for every truffle-loving chocolate-heathen. The true hippies can find their personal chocolate haven in the Grateful Dead Truffle Collection — inspired by Markoff’s Deadhead memories, this box of 16 chocolates promises to take you on a "long strange chocolate trip."
Other truffle flavors are just as unique — from "Naga," a coconut, milk chocolate, and Indian curry concoction to "Black Pearl," which contains ginger, wasabi, dark chocolate, and Matcha green tea.
See’s Candies has been a high-ranking member of the chocolate elite since its inaugural shop opened up in Los Angeles 100 years ago in 1921. With over 200 stores across the country, it remains among consumers’ top choice when they’re craving something sweet (via Food & Wine).
Because of See’s overwhelming commercial success, their prices are a bit lower than many others on this list — so if you’re looking for specialty chocolate on a budget, See’s is a good option. One pound boxes, which contain approximately 27 chocolates, sell at $24.50.
Despite See’s growth, the company continues to use many of their original chocolate making processes today. For example, the chocolate-covered Easter eggs are decorated by hand using pipettes to create unique floral designs on each one. And each See’s bon bon gets hand-dipped — it’s all in the wrist! Some See’s employees even say they can tell who made the candy based on the style of the chocolate twist (via See’s).
Godiva is perhaps the most mainstream chocolate on this list, and due to its popularity, it’s also the cheapest option. You can find a Godiva bar at any grocery store for about $5, and according to The Penny Hoarder, it’s one of the best supermarket chocolates available.
Godiva has been around since 1926 when Pierre Draps Sr. began making chocolates with his two sons, who would eventually take over the family business. The name was inspired by Lady Godiva, an 11th century noblewoman known for her boldness and generosity, values Godiva still stands by today. In 1968, Godiva became an official chocolatier to the Royal Court of Belgium, which was a high honor for the once-small, family-owned company (via Godiva).
Godiva only grew from there — they now operate over 800 stores across 105 countries (via AP News) and sell everything from chocolate bars to chocolate-dipped strawberries. If you’re looking for something special on a budget, Godiva truffles come in affordable boxes that start at $12.95 — the best part is, they don’t taste like it.
Compartés became an overnight sensation when they dropped a chocolate flavor no good millennial could resist: avocado. Featuring chocolate, avocado, and Siete’s chips, this chocolate bar tastes like avocado toast on the sweeter side; the creaminess of the chocolate is surprisingly complemented by fatty avocado, and the chips add texture to the chocolate bar.
But if avocado toast chocolate is a little too wild for you, Compartés has many other options. One of the most imaginative chocolatiers around, this place has something for everyone, from vegan dark chocolate granola to scones and jam in milk chocolate (via Compartés).
The company started in Los Angeles in 1950 by a couple who wanted to bring European-style chocolate to the United States. Jonathan Grahm took over Compartés 50 years later and quickly became one of the most successful chocolatiers in the country, launching Compartés to international fame and landing himself on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. "Compartés is me. It’s my world, likes, loves, passions and ideas spread out onto chocolate," Grahm said (via Compartés).
In 1987, fresh from chocolatier training in Bern, Switzerland, Larry Burdick returned to Los Angeles with a mission: to bring the craftsmanship of chocolatiering to the United States. To this day, L.A. Burdick handmakes each and every chocolate sold in their stores — the chocolate mice the company is known for are created using a 12-step process that lasts three days. Each chocolate masterpiece from this company is born from a combination of "Swiss know-how, French gastronomic thoughtfulness, and American imagination" — a motto the company has lived by for over 33 years (via L.A. Burdick).
Although a one pound box of truffles costs $78, you can be certain you’re getting your money’s worth. The flavors range from more traditional caramels to unique bon bons with inventive fillings such as rosemary and thyme, grapefruit, and champagne. And if those don’t sound enticing, just wait until next season — the flavors change frequently.
And animal lovers — rejoice! Not only does L.A. Burdick offer artisanal vegan options, they also sell hand-sculpted chocolate animals like mice, penguins, and oxen.
You’ve probably come across Chuao chocolates at a grocery store — you might recall them by their unique flavors like potato chip and bacon. Like many artisanal chocolatiers, Chuao takes their ingredients seriously — they use only fair trade chocolate with no artificial preservatives, additives, fat substitutes, colorings, and flavorings. According to Chuao’s website, the company is working on improving their sustainable manufacturing processes to ensure that their chocolate brings joy to all who helped produce it.
At $6, a Chuao chocolate bar is an affordable brand that tastes more expensive than it is. But the best part of Chuao chocolates is all the unique flavors they offer — potato chip and bacon are only the beginning. Also on the list is a chocolate bar with cinnamon and chile spices and one with breadcrumbs. Between Rocky Road, Tangy Mango, and Sprinkle Dreams which contains an entire sundae in a chocolate bar, we wish you the best of luck narrowing it down.
Shawn Askinosie started making chocolate after spending years as a criminal defense lawyer in Springfield, Missouri. He brought the same work ethic to chocolate as he used to find success as a lawyer, which made his business grow from a tiny experiment in his kitchen to a renowned artisanal chocolate company (via Askinosie).
Askinosie imports their cacao beans directly from farmers across the world, forming close relationships with purveyors and treating them with the respect they deserve. Each chocolate bar’s label features information about the origins of the ingredients, which come from countries all across the world, from Tanzania to Ecuador. The result is delicious, handmade chocolate you can feel good about eating.
In addition to chocolate bars and candies, Askinosie also sells hot chocolate powder, cocoa nibs, and different kinds of baking chocolate to add extra flavor to your next batch of brownies. The company has partnered with other popular brands like Jeni’s ice cream and Intelligenista coffee to create new varieties of chocolate for consumers.
Lagusta’s Luscious is a small vegan chocolate maker dedicated to social and environmental justice based in New Paltz, New York. This woman-owned and operated business was founded by Lagusta Yearwood in 2003, and ever since, they’ve been making delicious and inventive chocolates with a conscience (via Lagusta’s Luscious).
Yearwood works closely with her suppliers to ensure each ingredient is sustainably produced. "I’m obsessed with this idea that for everything you buy, there’s a whole chain of decisions behind it," she told Upstater. "With food, I try to be mindful of that, especially with food that I buy and serve to other people."
The chocolates at Lagusta’s Luscious aren’t cheap, but you can be certain you’re contributing to a company that cares about what they do. $35 will get you a box of 15 bonbons featuring eight different flavors. These flavors change seasonally, so there’s no guaranteeing what you’ll get, but some of Lagusta’s Luscious recent inventions include a thyme preserved lemon caramel, a yuzu cashew cream bonbon, and a smoky corn on the cob bonbon (via Lagusta’s Luscious).