Chocolate, Allergies, and Food Sensitivities: All You Need to Know about Our Chocolate
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free, and as Always, Nut-Free Chocolate
There’s a big wide world of allergies that affect individuals and families every moment of every day. The six biggest allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat (gluten), according to WebMD. Other high-frequency food items that cause allergies are fish, shellfish, and seeds, like sesame, poppy, and sunflower. Below, is a complete inventory of what you can expect from our chocolate in regards to each of these allergens. Spoiler alert: we don’t have any fish or shellfish in our chocolate, nor do we use any eggs, ever, so you can cross those allergens off your list of concerns right away.
Dean’s Sweets chocolate is nut-free. We never use any peanuts or tree nuts in our chocolate, nor have peanuts or tree nuts ever been in our kitchens. The nut-free aspect of our chocolate is exceedingly rare. While other chocolatiers make pralines and turtles, we stay clear of such recipes.
We understand the ripple effect a nut allergy can have on a family as well. If one child has a nut allergy, the whole family is vigilant in keeping ground nuts and tree nuts out of the house. It’s not like one child can take peanut butter and jelly to school for lunch while the other takes turkey on rye. No, everyone in the family avoids the allergen at all costs. There’s no messing around with what could be a life and death situation when it comes to what’s in the pantry.
If you’d like to know more about how we started as a nut-free chocolatier and why we’ve stuck with it, you can find an entire blog post about it here.
When asked if our chocolate is gluten-free, I always say there are three answers: the short answer, the longer answer, and the essential exceptions.
- The short answer is that yes, almost all of our chocolate is gluten-free. Chocolate in general, and the Belgian chocolate we start with, is itself gluten-free. However, there is one truffle we make that is not gluten-free, our stout truffle, which is made with Allagash stout beer. For most of our customers who have gluten sensitivities, we simply steer them away from this one truffle and they feel comfortable and confident that their concerns are addressed.
- The longer answer is that because of this one stout truffle, there is the possibility of micro levels of cross contamination to our other truffles, caramels, and buttercreams. For people with celiac disease, this piece of information is key. Even the slimmest chance of the smallest particles of gluten is enough to cause concern to someone with celiac. We always aim for the highest level of transparency when it comes to our ingredients.
- The essential exceptions even for people with celiac disease are that we have many products that are, in fact, 100% gluten free with no concern for cross contamination. These products are any of our “solid” chocolates, such as the snow people , pumpkins, solid hearts, conversation hearts, solid Easter bunnies and eggs, sheep, all of our bars and chocolate squares. Also gluten free our three varieties of hot chocolate, our hot fudge sauce, and our Good Foods award-winning caramel sauce. And don’t forget the nonpareils and espresso beans! All of these sweets are made in a separate location – our 54 Cove Street store kitchen – with no possibilities of cross contamination. That way we feel confident that these items are safe for all levels of sensitivities to gluten.
We try to be brief when answering questions to busy customers, but sometimes, depending on the customer, knowing all the information is helpful! That’s when clarity outweighs brevity.
Dairy-Free Chocolates (Vegan)
If you want to steer clear of dairy in your chocolate because of allergies, sensitivities, or a vegan diet, we have some mighty good options for you.
- 70% Dark Chocolate Anything that’s 70% (or higher) dark chocolate is dairy free. You can find that in many of our products, for example, our bandied orange peel bar, espresso beans, dark chocolate snow people and bunnies.
- Hot Chocolate Because our Double Dark and Aztec hot chocolate recipes give you the option of what to mix in, you can use any dairy alternative you enjoy – oat, soy, rice, pea, almond, etc. There’s no milk powder or dried milk as in most store brands, so you can make it any way you want to. Our White Mocha hot chocolate, however, contains white chocolate, which is not dairy free, but as the iconic musician Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.
- Non-Dairy Truffles Taking the dairy out of the ganache in a truffle takes some effort and chemistry know-how, but when done well, the results are incredible. Dean makes four amazing non-dairy truffles:
- Stout, using beer instead of cream
- Orange, using orange juice
- Coconut, using coconut cream concentrate
- Chai, also using coconut cream concentrate
Because there’s no dairy or other animal products in these truffles, they are also vegan.
One final note here: Because milk chocolate is so ubiquitous in our business, there are possibilities of cross-contamination with all of the above items except the Double Dark and Aztec hot chocolates. No dairy is used in that dedicated area of our kitchen.
Let’s start with the good news: our hot fudge and Maine sea salt caramel sauce are both soy and soy lecithin free. If you have a soy allergy, rejoice! These two items can be used liberally on ice cream, with fruit, mixed with pretzels, or scooped out of the jar and eaten directly off the spoon.
Otherwise, soy is a difficult ingredient to avoid in chocolate. That might surprise you, especially because we don’t use any artificial ingredients or preservatives in any of our chocolates. Soy lecithin, an emulsifier and stabilizer, is present in 99% of all chocolate produced in the world, and it’s present in the Belgian chocolate we’ve carefully chosen to make our truffles.
How do we avoid soy lecithin in the two items listed above? We use unsweetened Dutch cocoa in our hot fudge instead of our usual Belgian chocolate. And in the Maine sea salt caramel, there’s no chocolate at all, and we still love it anyway!
There are no eggs used in any of Dean’s Sweets products. Period. The end. No exceptions. Even though our luscious buttercream eggs at Easter look like eggs, there are no eggs harmed or used in our recipe.
Sesame and Poppy Seed-Free Chocolate
Seed allergies, though distinctive from nut allergies, are often co-present. For this reason, we’ve deliberately avoided using any kinds of seeds in Dean’s Sweets chocolate. There are so many wonderful ways to make chocolate, why complicate things for our friends with allergies?
Yes, we do use sunflower lecithin in our dark and milk chocolate enrobed Maine sea salt caramels (though notin the caramel sauce). We also use it in the buttercrunch and bacon buttercrunch. These chocolates are the only items in which sunflower lecithin is used. Because we have found sunflower lecithin to be a natural emulsifier and effective substitute for soy lecithin, we have in this case, opted for the sunflower.
Thankfully not many people are allergic to chocolate itself. We do hear about chocolate allergies from time to time, and we’re even more grateful when these customers buy chocolate as gifts for others, even though they can’t enjoy it themselves.
We are truly sorry they miss out on all the pleasure we know are in chocolate (but there’s the caramel sauce possibility again!), and we trust they are finding their way as best as possible in this big world of allergies.