The Best Extra-Dark Supermarket Chocolate Bars for Baking

assortment of extra dark chocolate

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Virtually all of my recipes for chocolaty desserts call for chocolate bars in the 70% range. In part, it's because 70% chocolates are great for both snacking and baking.

But I also gravitate to that percentage because supermarket snack-food aisles typically offer a huge range of chocolates in the 70% range, most of which represent a major step up from the low-end options that are typically quarantined in the baking aisle.

Plus, the variety itself is a major boon: Mixing and matching different chocolate percentages, origins, and styles can produce a greater depth of flavor in dessert compared to those made with only one type. (Which isn't to say one can't focus on the profile of a single chocolate within a recipe! But, generally speaking, this works best when the chocolate in question is exceptional.)

I've written about my favorite supermarket chocolates in the 70% range, but it's worth noting that all of those points hold true for chocolates in the 80% range as well. (You can read about my favorite milk chocolates for baking right here.)

chopping dark chocolate

It used to be difficult to find high-quality chocolates this dark without placing a special order, but whether I'm at home in Kentucky or visiting the Serious Eats test kitchen in New York, I've noticed my options have improved considerably over the past few years.

The selection will differ from store to store, but broadly speaking, these brands are relatively easy to find in major supermarkets (again: look in the snack, not the baking, aisle!), while ordering in bulk online will often bring their price down considerably. Don't think of this as a comprehensive guide, but a jumping-off point for exploring chocolates in a darker style.

To learn more about baking with chocolate, visit our complete guide ┬╗

Mad├ęcasse 80%

While the cocoa beans themselves come from Madagascar, this bar is produced in Italy. It has a bright and fruity profile that's distinctively tart, with enough sugar to keep the chocolate's bitter, tannic qualities at bay.

It's a pretty smooth experience overall; this chocolate would work well in any recipe with a citrusy profile or else as a sauce or accompaniment to contrast mellow desserts centered around flavors like almond, banana, or vanilla.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly. It's easy to find at Whole Foods, but it can otherwise be ordered in bulk from Amazon or straight from the manufacturer online.

Theo 85%

Theo sources most of its cocoa from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo but manufactures its chocolate in Seattle. The bar has a texture that's more tender than snappy, one that's quick to melt on the tongue.

It has a woodsy sort of earthiness, with a finish that's unexpectedly citrusy and bright. It would be right at home as part of a chocolate chip cookie blend or in recipes with plenty of sugar to balance its darker profile, like devil's food cake.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly, and it's fairly easy to find in major supermarkets or in bulk online.

Divine 85%

Divine is manufactured in Germany with cocoa beans from Ghana. While on the drier end of the chocolates we tried, it's still creamy and smooth, with a subtle sweetness on the finish. It has a classic chocolate flavor that's somewhat mellow, neither excessively bitter nor bracing.

This would be a good option for folks venturing into the eighties for the first time; it's a solid, multipurpose chocolate that would suit almost any sort of project calling for a cocoa percentage this high. It's creaminess would be ideal in a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies or smeared across the back of a homemade digestive biscuit.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly.

Lily's 85%

Without any sugar at all, this stevia-sweetened chocolate is bracing and dry, with an intense chocolate flavor backed by a curiously floral vanilla note. I found Lily's 85% to be a welcome departure from the typically low-end chocolates resigned to a sugar-free fate, and it would be great in any of my low-sugar baking projects that call for chocolate.

This chocolate is certified kosher and vegan-friendly, but it does contain soy.

Endangered Species 88%

When it comes to supermarket chocolate, Endangered Species is my top pick in almost every category, and its Extra Strong 88% bar is no exception.

Made with beans sourced from West Africa, this chocolate has a sweet and mellow vibe that's a little nutty with a big vanilla aroma that stands out up front. While not as high in cocoa butter as some other bars, it melts smoothly and manages to feel more velvety than most, keeping its bitterness in check.

This is a great all-around chocolate for baking, especially in recipes where it can temper sweetness while taking centerstage, like my homemade brownie mix or chocolate chip skillet cookie.

Equal Exchange 88%

By working directly with famers in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru, Equal Exchange is producing some exceptionally well-rounded chocolate bars.

Its 88% is astringent and dry, yet rich and creamy as it melts. It has a chocolate-nibby character with some mushroomy depth that gives way to a strong vanilla aroma. It would work well in creamy, dairy-forward desserts, like hot chocolate, while its funky depth would be a treat when flecked through a scoop of homemade stracciatella.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly.

Chocolove 88%

Texturally, this chocolate feels more smooth and rich than many others, almost buttery (some might say waxy) in a way that may not be great for snacking but can impart a welcome smoothness in dessert. Chocolove 88% has a leathery aroma and a surprisingly sweet finish.

Thanks to its creamy texture, this would be a great option for the snappy chocolate shell of a homemade Klondike bar, where its intensity would shift the focus from the ice cream to the chocolate.

This list is by no means comprehensive; most supermarkets carry some unique regional gems, and local demand may make the selection in some shops better than others. Meanwhile, there's a whole world of luxury and small-batch chocolate to explore. But when it comes to a simple batch of cookies, brownies, or a quick bite for a midnight snack, these supermarket finds won't let you down.