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It's good to know there are options for those with dietary restrictions. 

Kat Kinsman
February 20, 2018

Primitive folks were not lounging against animal pelts popping bon bons or selling candy bars door-to-door to buy uniforms for their kids' raptor racing teams—and yet, paleo chocolate exists (thank goodness!)

There are many reasons a person would willingly undertake this rigid, caveman-esque diet— which eliminates most dairy, cereal grains, legumes, soy, refined sugars, processed oils, potatoes, and a host of other foods—and they're mostly health- or allergy-based. (There's also an unspoken assumption that cavepeople were hella ripped, but they didn't Instagram much, so we have no actual proof.) Folks—or at least me—are not in it for the extreme flavor wows.

RELATED: 26 Easy Paleo Dinner Ideas

Perhaps I'm approaching this a shade cynically, but I've been following a paleo diet for almost a year now in order to wrangle a gut condition, and I tend to reside at the intersection of "Well, my stomach doesn't feel quite as awful as it used to." and "Boy, this would taste so much better with cheese sauce and bread crumbs on it."

The thing that keeps me from melting into a sludge of complete self-pity is the chocolate. Paleo chocolate—some but not all of it—leaps the gulf between, "I guess if real chocolate died and came back and haunted this food, that's what it would taste like," and full-on, fist-pumping, I'd-eat-this-even-if-I-weren't-trapped-in-gut-jail joy. But you have to do your homework to get the good stuff.

Everyone interprets the paleo diet differently because, again, all the Snapchats from back them have disappeared. But unless you're on a particularly strict regime or have an allergy, dark chocolate—the darker the better—is generally on the “approved” list in moderation.

Chocolate is made by fermenting cocoa beans, placing them under intense heat to separate them into solids (which is ground into powder) and butter (the fat), and then recombining the two in various ratios. The variations start from there, when ingredients like milk, sweeteners, and sometimes emulsifiers like soy lecithin—a paleo no-no—are added. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will have, making it more paleo-friendly, but also much more bitter.

Things are tough out there for a caveman, but there is occasionally a reprieve. Recipes abound online for making paleo chocolate at home, mixing unsweetened cocoa powder with ingredients like honey, vanilla, and coconut oil, and that's marvelous. But I'm lazy and cranky (mostly about not having cheese), and I just want to buy a chocolate bar like a citizen of the 21st century.

Most dark chocolate bars, especially above 85 percent, are pretty safe (after a quick label scan for soy or other rogue ingredients), but sometimes lack that luscious texture afforded by a dairy-and-sugar bolstered bar. Some paleo-labeled brands achieve that in their lighter bars with the addition of things like stevia, MCT oil, honey, and coconut oil—which is grand if you like those things, but they make me want to sever my own tongue. I unwittingly bit into one containing the former two and spat it out into a nearby trash can, then chugged Listerine from the bottle.

After a lot of trial, some quite decent finds (in particular Theo Pure 85%), and some super-disgusting error (one tasted like rotten cheese, which is quite a feat for something that contains no dairy), salvation came in the form of Hu Kitchen's soft, hefty, salty, dark chocolate bars made with organic cacao, unrefined organic coconut sugar, organic cocoa butter, and sea salt.

Coconut sugar, which comes from the sap of the coconut palm, skirts the sweetener guidelines because according to the referees, it's been around since paleo times, and I'm not about to argue with them. Until my health situation evolves, I'm just gonna sink into everything-free chocolate bliss where I can find it.