Halloween: that spookiest of nights when it’s socially acceptable to lie. Why yes, I am a (sexy) bumblebee, a (sexy) farmer, a (sexy) reality TV star. Well, if the theme of the night is deception, then can we please talk about Halloween chocolate? Or rather, the stuff that’s masquerading as chocolate?
It’s true—most of what passes for trick or treat fodder doesn’t actually contain chocolate. According to FDA rules, chocolate cannot be doped with vegetable oil—if it does, then it’s chocolatey, not chocolate. That -y dangling off the end makes all the difference. Like that time in college I made an Oscar the Grouch costume from cardboard and spray paint that everyone assured me was “cute,” until we got to the bar and found a fully furred Oscar with replica garbage can.
And then there’s the matter of taste. There’s a certain thrill to eating teeny, individually wrapped chocolate bars, but that thrill tends to stop when my teeth start aching and my heart racing. In other words, I somehow got too old to eat bad candy, chocolatey or otherwise. But as this list of grown-up Halloween treats shows, I still have plenty of options.
I was obsessed with Nestlé Crunch in fourth grade. Was it the faux chocolate? The sound that the rice bubbles made when they shattered in my mouth? The primary-colored packaging of red bubble letters on white and blue, an illustrated crack hinting at the force of the crunch within? All I know is, San Francisco’s Charles Chocolates makes a damn good reproduction of the Nestlé Crunch bar. Caramelized rice bits add a bit of fancy, and if you really want some la-di-da, opt for dark chocolate over milk.
Seattle’s Chocolopolis is best known as a mecca for bean-to-bar, craft chocolates, and their mean drinking chocolate, but their in-house chocolatiers have some serious chops too, including several awards in the International Chocolate Awards. Their peanut butter tortoises are superior to that other peanut butter cup in so many ways, with high-quality chocolate and ingredients you can pronounce.
Nestled on the second floor of a labyrinth-like warehouse in Somerville, Massachusetts, EH Chocolatier quietly churns out some of the east coast’s best confections. You’d never guess that founders Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney had high-flying jobs (as physician and academic administrator, respectively) before their foray into chocolate. The peanut butter crunch bar brings to mind Butterfinger, but heavy on the peanut, light on the sweet, and enrobed in serious dark chocolate. The best part? It’s just one option in their line of haute chocolate bars.
No visit to Seattle is complete without a visit to Fran’s. Fran Bigelow built an empire on her sea salt caramels, and now her children are helping her run the company. Your inner child will love the Gold Bars (and miniature Gold Bites) that take a clear cue from nostalgic sweets, but your responsible grown-up side will appreciate the high-quality ingredients and toned down sweetness. I double dare you to taste the Coconut Gold Bar and not think about Almond Joy.
Sacramento’s Ginger Elizabeth makes the complex look simple. Even the packaging is deceptively simple: a spare white, glossy box with delicate script, which is a refreshing change in a world of ornate packaging. If you like Heath or Skor (and let’s not get into a battle over which one is better…because Skor is clearly better), you’ll love Ginger Elizabeth’s vanilla bean toffee almond bar. Shards of handmade toffee shrouded in milk chocolate? Yes please.
It’s impossible to talk about luxury candy bars without including Liddabit Sweets, who literally wrote the book on the topic. The cross-section of this gooey delight reveals pillowy chocolate nougat, sticky golden caramel and crunchy roasted peanuts. In case you hadn’t guessed from the name, it’s their version of a Snickers bar—except Snickers never tasted this good.
This would be a good time to confess that I’m Canadian, and in Canada we don’t have Peeps. This may account for my unnatural obsession with the marshmallow critters, and my delight that there’s a chocolate-covered pumpkin-shaped version. Keep that in mind when you try Norman Love’s Vanilla Marshmallow confection. It’s not pumpkin-shaped and it’s nowhere near the tooth-chattering sweetness of a Peep, but I suspect you can forgive these transgressions.
It’s hard to pin down just one Halloween-appropriate treat from the Recchiuti line. Is it the malted dark revolutions (dark chocolate covered malt balls), the peanut butter pearls (squishy peanut butter with a crisp center, covered in chocolate), or the peanut butter pucks (no explanation needed). In the end, I’ll have to go with the peppermint thins, dosed with peppermint from Oregon and coated in not-too-sweet dark chocolate. Think York Peppermint Patties, but way better.
Raleigh bar from Xocolatl de David
Portland’s Xocolatl de David is famous for his oddball combinations, like chocolate with olive oil, chocolate with sourdough crumbs, and of course, chocolate with bacon. The Raleigh bar may look petite, but it packs a serious punch—and the original, with layers of salted caramel and chocolate pecan nougat, coated in 72% dark chocolate is like Milky Way, all grown up. If your tastes lean even more adult, try the bourbon or bacon versions.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning price. Sure, these haute Halloween treats will cost more than your variety pack of grocery store candy, but it’s well worth the splurge. For starters, you can indulge in good quality ingredients and not have to worry about unpronounceables in your food. You can also feel better about buying from companies who are sourcing sustainable chocolate. Because if you think about it, the alternative—all those masked candy bars pretending to contain chocolate—is pretty scary.
Eagranie Yuh is a chocolate expert and the author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Eater, Best Food Writing 2012 and 2014, and more. Previously a chemist and chocolatier, she is the senior editor of Edible Vancouver & Wine Country and delinquent blogger at thewelltemperedchocolatier.com. She loves whiskey, random acts of dancing and dogs with short legs.