Luxurious ingredients, delicious fillings, refined textures and the guarantee that you are buying the best in the world. This is what comes to mind when we think of Belgian chocolate.
What is Belgian chocolate?
It might surprise you that Belgian chocolate doesn’t actually have specific quality requirements or manufacturing protocols that define it. Some food magazines like to guess that Belgian chocolate is finely ground, with a high cocoa content, made only with pure 100% cocoa butter, or crafted with natural ingredients. However, these characteristics can be associated to any kind of chocolate, and these claims find no confirmation in any official confectionery literature. The only authority that defines Belgian Chocolate is the Belgian Chocolate code:
“In order to be labeled Belgian chocolate, the product’s ingredients must be refined and molded in Belgium.”
Therefore, Belgian chocolate simply means that the last stages of the chocolate making are conducted in Belgium.
Many chocolate lovers also wonder what the difference between Belgian and Swiss chocolate is, and which one is the best. Without any specific criteria to define either of them, it’s rather impossible to make a deeper distinction beyond the country of production. There are no unique standards or mandatory requirements that differentiate Swiss chocolate from Belgian chocolate, or Belgian chocolate from any other chocolate in the world. But Belgium does have a strong reputation for chocolate that dates back to exactly 110 years ago.
How did Belgium become famous for chocolate?
In 1912, Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented the chocolate praline: a bonbon with a thin, hard chocolate exterior that with one bite would crack open and reveal a softer filling.
For the first time in history, chocolate could be filled with a variety of flavoured nougats or creams, such as coffee, hazelnut, fruit or even more chocolate. This invention had a domino effect, inspiring all the other chocolatiers in the country to recreate the praline and get creative with its filling. In that moment, Belgium officially became the capital of chocolate.
Home to chocolate festivals, museums and hundreds of chocolate shops, Belgium is a dream for any chocolate lover. However, the best chocolate that Belgium has to offer won’t be found inside the stores of big Belgian chocolate brands like Godiva Chocolatier, Côte D’Or, Leonidas or Neuhaus. With hundreds of chocolate shops all over the world, these companies started as passionate family-owned businesses that used the finest ingredients, but then developed into mass-produced products far from their original craftsmanship and commitment to quality. There are other, lesser-known Belgian chocolate brands that will surprise you for their selection of premium raw materials, use of artisanal methods, innovation of flavours and ethical business practices.
The following 13 Belgian chocolate brands definitely deserve your attention.
Belgian Craft Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers
These Belgian chocolate brands make chocolate from scratch starting from raw cocoa beans. Their focus is on the natural flavours of fine cacao from different origins. Paying a premium price to farmers, being transparent about their supply chain, and offering customers unique sensorial experiences are the main priorities of these professionals.
1) Millesime Chocolat
In the Liége province, chocolate maker Jean-Christophe Hubert and his team craft bean-to-bar chocolate using the finest cocoa beans from Guatemala, India, Tanzania, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama. Among their award-winning creations, sweet tooth can find flavoured chocolates like the Nougatine Pistaches, the Poivre Sauvage and the Madagascar Lacté Praliné bars. Vintage Chocolate – Fine Chocolaterie Bean to Bar (millesime-chocolat.be)
2) Mike & Becky
Stronghold of the Belgian craft bean-to-bar chocolate movement, owners Julia and Björn are committed to only quality and ethical ingredients. They avoid all “nonsense”, as they call them, like vanilla, palm oil, or soy lecithin, to let sustainable and flavourful cacao be the protagonist. Among their best-selling chocolate products there are the 70% India (Kerala) and the 70% Peru (Rio Marañón) chocolate tablet. Mike & Becky – Real. Honest. Chocolate. From the Bean. (mikeandbecky.be)
3) Zoto Cacao
With directly sourced cacao, Zoto Cacao takes their chocolate bars a step further compared to anybody else: founder and agronomist Zoi Papalexandratou travels to the countries of origin to help farmers improve their post-harvesting processes and produce higher quality cacao. With part of that cacao, Zoto crafts single-origin bars that highlight the natural flavours of each terroir and genetics. ZOTO
Mario Vandeneede is the energetic Belgian chocolate maker behind Chocolatoa. With a minimalistic approach, his chocolate includes only two ingredients: cane sugar and traceable fine-flavour cacao from the most reputable producers from around the world. He is also a well-known chocolate personality in Europe, organizer of workshops, tastings, and corporate team-building activities through chocolate. https://chocolatoa.com
5) Coup de Chocolat
Chocolate makers Tom and Isabelle are taking on the Belgian chocolate revolution. In their tiny chocolate factory in the port city of Antwerp, they turn directly traded Colombian cacao into flavourful chocolate bars to be savoured. Since 2019, they have been transporting their cocoa beans CO2-free from Colombia to Belgium. From Tumaco to Sierra Nevada, they offer a journey of flavours across different Colombian cocoa terroirs. Home – Coup de chocolat
6) Sigoji Chocolaterie
Selecting the most flavourful and ethical fine cacao from Africa, Sigoji is committed to a chocolate that respects local communities and natural surroundings. Tasters can discover African cacao varieties reassured by the ethical commitment of the company. The same cocoa flavours can be enjoyed in their mouth-watering pralines, spreads and ganaches. Chocolaterie artisanale à Ciney et Rochefort|Sigoji
Belgian Finest Chocolatiers
It is estimated that Belgium is home to around 2000 chocolatiers. The most successful ones have a long history of culinary studies, professional training and internships in famous chocolate maisons. They own their own chocolate ateliers and are known for the delicacy of their bonbons, their innovative flavours and the high quality of their ingredients. A new trend among Belgian chocolatiers is now making chocolate starting from cocoa beans.
7) Darcis Chocolat
“Intensely Dark”, “Fruits and Flowers” and “Tenderly Milk” are just some of the luxurious gift boxes of decadent chocolates offered by chocolatier Jean-Philippe Darcis since 1996. Exquisite ingredients, unique textures and signature flavours have made this Belgian chocolate brand famous and appreciated all the way to Japan. Recently turned chocolate maker, the Darcis assortment now also includes bean-to-bar tablets at different cocoa percentages and from exotic origins. Jean-Philippe Darcis – Artisan pâtissier & chocolatier belge
8) Benoit Nihant
Belgian chocolatier Benoit Nihant brings the same passion and expertise in both his bonbons and bean-to-bar creations. If you are in Liège, you can visit his shop Le Bar à Cacao to sip on a luxurious cup of hot chocolate accompanied by a rich chocolate eclair. Or you can simply get your premium chocolate fix from the online shop with a 73% Honduras Mayan Red dark chocolate bar or a 50% Madagascar milk chocolate with fleur de sal. Benoît Nihant Chocolatier – Cacaofèvier (benoitnihant.be)
9) Pierre Marcolini
A Belgian chocolatier that combines fame with excellence, Pierre Marcolini can’t be missed in your Belgian chocolate shopping. Unmistakable are his sophisticated pralines and truffles that also include bean-to-bar, single-origin bonbons. With stores in Belgium, France, China and Japan, Pierre has delighted the palates of international chocolate lovers for over 20 years. Pierre Marcolini, luxury chocolate online shop
10) Van Dender
Lesser known by the general public, Herman Van Dender gained fame and prestige as a pastry chef and chocolatier by winning several international competitions. After getting recognized for the delicacy of his creations, in 2014 he started to dedicate himself to the art of chocolate making. The Van Dender assortment includes a wide selection of single-origin chocolate made with fine cacao from Vietnam, Grenada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia. Home – Van Dender
Located in the heart of Brussels, these Belgian chocolate stores have a long history of proven craftsmanship. Despite shipping nationally and internationally, their creations maintain the savoir faire of a cozy chocolate cafe.
11) Planete Chocolat
Pralines, truffles, fondues, bars, spread and more! This Belgian artisan chocolatier is a hidden gem that also offers tastings, workshops and tours. Belgian chocolate and gifts, buy pralines online with fast delivery by DHL. – Planète Chocolat (planetechocolat.com)
Since 1919, Mary Delluc’s shop in Brussels blends tradition and modernity. The wide variety of praline boxes is outstanding: ballotines, boites, regrettes and bonbonnieres include some of the brand’s finest chocolates. Chocolaterie Mary – Home
13) Passion Chocolat
Over 80 varieties of fresh pralines are handmade in the Passion Chocolat’s chocolate factory. Grand Marnier, passion fruit, lemon verbena, chestnut and many more flavours are available every day to delight the most demanding taste bud. Passion Chocolat | Belgian chocolatier in Brussels