As a food and travel writer, I have been fortunate enough to eat my way through dozens of countries and tried, well, practically anything I could get my hands on. The one thing I can attest is that there is no dessert more universally beloved than chocolate. Whether it’s folded into a croissant in France, melted and paired with churros in Mexico, or used to encase creams and nuts in Belgium, most humans are essentially Augustus Gloop from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." And they’re absolutely falling in the chocolate river.
But let’s be honest: A lot of our mainstream American options are crap. Sure, they may taste delicious, but by standards of ingredient purity and ratios (i.e. more sugar than milk and chocolate), they pale in comparison to offerings around the world.
So in the interest of science, I purchased eight of the most popular milk chocolate bars I could find in the U.S. to a) remind myself what’s even available and b) determine which reign supreme when it comes to overall taste (especially if it’s going to be chopped up or melted down for a recipe).
Check out the final ranking below. And you’re welcome for taking on this super grueling task.
8. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
I don’t have a problem with Hershey’s chocolate. The company’s famous recipe is, after all, the foundation of candy classics like Reese’s and Kit Kat, which makes the brand nothing short of iconic. The problem with its standalone bar is that it was overwhelmingly sweet. Like, I felt as if my teeth were going to rot out of my gums and disintegrate levels of sweet. This was a-OK as a kid, but as an adult … well, it was borderline offensive. That said, there is no other chocolate I’ll buy for s’mores. The nostalgia factor alone makes any cavity worth the splurge.
7. Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar
It is essential to mention that eating U.K. Cadbury bars and U.S. Cadbury bars are two entirely different chocolate experiences. The first would rank higher (and probably top three), while the latter — owned by Hershey — is an unsurprisingly way-too-sweet concoction that is only slightly more palatable than a standard Hershey’s bar. In fact, its first ingredient is sugar, as opposed to the U.K version, which is milk. So Cadbury gets a big whomp, whomp on this list, no matter how adorable that Easter bunny is in the holiday commercials. If it doesn’t have a British accent, I’m not interested.
6. 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Milk Chocolate Bar
If you need any more proof that chocolate is amazing, I genuinely thought this bar was going to rank in the top three. But when I laid out all the options after my taste test, others had a slight edge and this shockingly ended up in sixth place. They’re a bit on the thin side and the chocolate itself was hard at first bite, but once in the mouth … damn: creamy, rich, luxurious, everything you could want in a chocolate bar sans the waxiness you find in other mainstream options.
5. Lindt Classic Recipe Milk Chocolate Bar
What separated Lindt from the pack was its ability to maintain a lightness that allows you to eat it in excess without feeling sick. The brand’s secret blend of cocoa beans from across the world may have something to do with the pleasant mouthfeel, but it was interesting how something so sinfully yummy didn’t leave me with a tummy ache. In a surprise turn of events, I now almost prefer the Lindt chocolate bars over its line of famous truffles. (I know, it’s almost chocolate blasphemy.)
4. Godiva Milk Chocolate Bar
I am, admittedly, a bit biased when it comes to Godiva chocolate after working for the company in high school. There is something about its distinct richness that I enjoy. It tastes expensive without entirely breaking the bank (though it is still pricey) and there is a depth of flavor, an almost smokiness that serves as a finishing note (which makes it distinct from the competition). I’ll never turn down a Godiva chocolate, so it wasn’t a shocker when I housed the bar in mere seconds and was reminded of the good times when I’d hover over the counter and sneak a truffle or 10 throughout the day.
3. Tony’s Chocolonely Milk Chocolate Bar
Tony’s Chocolonely not only puts out great chocolate, but it represents everything a company should stand for (ethically) by using only fair-trade cocoa beans. While I certainly prefer the flavors that are chock-full of fun ingredients (like its honey almond variety), its standard milk was a very chunky, fun-to-eat bar that, while quite overwhelming in size, made up for in fun design. These also make fantastic gifts, so keep that in mind during the holiday season!
2. Dove Milk Chocolate Bar
Frankly, I wrote off Dove as being a one-trick pony with its Dove singles, but its bars — wow. Creamy, silky smooth and something I immediately chopped up and folded into cookies on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t believe that I had been sleeping on such a popular brand for so many years and I appreciated the fact that they were portioned appropriately so I didn’t eat the entire bar in one sitting. Two very enthusiastic and melted chocolate-covered thumbs up.
1. Scharffen Berger Extra Rich Milk Chocolate Bar
It only made sense that a milk chocolate bar with “extra rich” in its name was going to smoke its competition. And boy, did this one deliver. It was like ordering a cheese pizza, only to find that the cheese had just been flown in from Parma and the sauce had been simmering all day in a nonna’s kitchen. Think of it as the most gourmet bar you can find but without the hefty price tag of an exotic export. This was so smooth, so decadent, so chocolaty (which is a low bar, I know) and something that will be difficult to give up when the new year arrives and I attempt to eat less chocolate (BRB, crying).