Advent calendars are an excellent way to mark off the days until Christmas. For those of us who are vegan and love chocolate (hi!) a good dairy-free advent calendar is certainly something to get excited about. Especially now that we don’t have to go to specialty chocolate shops to find ones we can actually eat and enjoy.
Lucky for you (and me), I’ve sampled some of the vegan advent calendars available in the UK this year to help you choose the right one. But whichever one you choose, the most important thing is that it doesn’t contain any dairy from cows.
Why vegans don’t eat chocolate made with dairy
Vegans don’t consume or use products made using ingredients derived from animals. Chocolate made with dairy from cows – including the chocolate in advent calendars – depends on the exploitation of cows. Too often, these cows are also subjected to violence and neglect.
One recent investigation by Viva! uncovered “horrific” conditions on a Red Tractor-approved UK dairy farm in Wales. Investigators documented “extreme” rough handling of and violence towards lame cows, dead animals left outside, and newborn calves left alone in cold pens.
The farm supplied First Milk, a farmers’ co-operative providing dairy for companies such as Nestle. Nestle brands include KitKat, Milky Bar, and Quality Street, all of which have advent calendars for sale now.
Similar abuse and neglect has been uncovered at many other British dairy farms. Last year, another Welsh farm featured on BBC’s Panorama programme after activists gathered footage showing serious abuse of the cows. In 2017, an expose showed a Dorset dairy farm and M&S supplier confining calves up to six months old in solitary pens in breach of welfare regulations.
The dairy industry
It’s not just the illegal abuse of animals on dairy farms that is a problem. Many standard, legal practices cause distress and discomfort to dairy cows and their babies.
Calves are normally taken from their mothers just a few hours after birth, causing distress to both. Dairy cows are forced to stand on hard ground for long periods for milking – the main cause of lameness that affects an estimated 30 percent of the UK’s herd.
Increasing numbers of British dairy cows never get the chance to stand on grass. Around 20 percent of farms are thought to have adopted intensive “zero grazing” systems. Cows on these farms are kept inside all their lives in barren sheds.
None of this suffering is worth some chocolate. Luckily, there is loads of incredible vegan chocolate on the market these days. This Christmas, do the cows a favor and pick a vegan advent calendar.
The best vegan advent calendars in the UK
Advent calendars used to be something mainly marketed at kids. The chocolate inside them would be shaped like Christmas objects and made of pretty cheap chocolate. These days, many have become a lot fancier, appealing to adults as well as children.
As vegan chocolate has become more in demand, the choice of cruelty-free advent calendars has also grown. They range from the classic and simple to the outright decadent. Here is the Plant Based News round-up of the best vegan advent calendars to buy this year, in descending order from my least to most favorite.
5. Plant Based OMV! Advent Calendar by Asda
Asda’s plant-based OMV! (short for Oh My Vegan!) range is already pretty extensive. This year it has released an advent calendar under the brand with rice powder-based chocolates.
The chocolates, which are the same each day, come in festive shapes like stockings and stars. The box is designed with the classic green and red Christmas colours, featuring what looks like a break-dancing Santa.
I didn’t love this one. The taste reminds me of the cheap chocolate calendars of my childhood before I went vegan. But at only £4, it’s the cheapest of the bunch I’ve sampled. It’s probably best as a gift for children who will look forward to opening the final extra-large chocolate on Christmas Day.
Available online and in store from Asda.
4. H!P Oat Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar
Vegan chocolate brand H!P makes all its chocolates using oat milk. Its advent calendar is brightly colored and totally plastic free.
Inside the doors are four flavors of individually-wrapped chocolate squares: Salted Caramel, Orange, Creamy Original, and Gingerbread. The flavors aren’t particularly strong, but the chocolate is pretty nice, with the oats giving it a nice smooth texture.
Inside some of the doors are Christmas jokes and trivia. Sample joke: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite. Ho ho.
One con of this calendar is that the chocolates all seemed to slide out of their squares. I opened some doors to find nothing behind them, only to discover the chocolate had migrated to a neighboring door. Though I am a fan of H!P’s products generally, at £10 the calendar feels a little expensive for what you get.
Available online from hipchocolate.com; online or in store at Anthropologie, Fenwick, John Lewis, Ocado, Selfridges, Scribbler, Soho House, Waterstones and Whole Foods.
3. Chococo Christmas Countdown
Chococo’s advent calendars are geared more towards adults, with stylish compact selection-style boxes all handmade in Dorset. Its vegan offering is no different. Each generously-sized chocolate is beautifully decorated with flashes of colour and metallics.
There are 16 flavors in this plastic-free box, including Tangerine Dream, Roasted Almond Cluster, and Tawny Port & Fig. They come encased in either dark or oat milk chocolate. Personally, I’m not wild about flavored chocolates, but some of these are really delicious. My favorite was the Chai Spice, made with a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove.
For those who do enjoy varied and innovative flavors in their chocolate, this box will be a delight. More on the expensive side, it would also make a luxurious gift.
Available online from Chococo.co.uk.
2. Montezuma Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar
Dark chocolate is my favorite kind of chocolate, so I was rather excited to get to sample Montezuma’s advent calendar.
The square blue and green box (which does contain a plastic tray) contains 25 thick rounds of 74 percent dark chocolate. They are the same as Montezuma’s usual vegan dark chocolate, which I already like. The chocolate is smooth and rich, and made with all organic ingredients. A discerning nine-year-old I know described them as “yum yum.”
Some might prefer variety in their advent calendars over consistency. As Montezuma makes quite a variety of vegan dark chocolates, including Almond Praline Truffles and Peanut Butter Truffle Bites, a calendar featuring a selection of their products would be welcome. But for dark chocolate fans this is a delicious option.
(Currently discounted online from Montezuma.co.uk; availability in stores may vary)
1. Monty Bojangles Curiously Moreish Vegan Truffle Advent
Founded by Andrew Newlands who started out working in design, Monty Bojangles pays as much attention to its aesthetic as it does to its chocolates. The box is beautiful, with whimsical illustrations including a flamingo wearing a hat and a trumpet with flowers bursting out of it. The company is named for Newlands’ cat.
The calendar contains luscious cocoa-dusted truffles in three flavors: Cocoa Nib Nights, Cocoberry Blush, and Caramel Haze. These rich, sizeable truffles melt in your mouth. It makes me wonder why Monty Bojangles bothers making non-vegan chocolates when its plant-based ones are this good.
If I have a gripe, though, it’s the packaging. Not only does the box contain a plastic tray, but each truffle is individually wrapped in plastic. Monty Bojangles says these can be recycled at large supermarkets with other Soft Plastics. But a better solution would be for the company to ditch the plastic altogether.
Available Online from Ocado and Amazon
More (untested) vegan advent calendars
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sample every available vegan advent calendar. Tragic, I know. But there are quite a few more on the market to choose from than the ones I reviewed above.
Happi triple flavour plastic-free advent calendar
Happi’s chocolates are made with oats and single-origin Colombian cocoa. There are three flavors to discover: Plain M!lk, Orange, and Salted Caramel.
Available online from Happichoc.com
Melt London’s 12 days of Christmas dark chocolate vegan advent calendar
The price tag may be hefty, but the box alone frankly looks like a work of art. Each of the 12 days contains a small chocolate bar so you can share it with your loved ones (if you feel generous). Flavors include Sea Salt, Chili, and Coffee.
Available online from Meltchocolates.com.
Pip & Nut The Nut Butter Cup Advent Calendar, Limited Edition
Confession time: I am obsessed with Pip & Nut. I have a kilo tub of its Crunchy Peanut Butter in my kitchen at all times, and they don’t last long. I’m not typically a fan of the nut butter-chocolate combination, but I’d give this brand the benefit of the doubt that this will be a very tasty advent calendar.
Behind each door is an individually-wrapped dark chocolate peanut or almond butter cup. For every advent calendar sold, Pip & Nut will also donate two jars of peanut butter to its local Hackney Foodbank.
Available online from Pipandnut.com.
Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar
This attractive dark calendar contains 24 “festive sculptures” made with 70 percent dark chocolate. Already being a fan of Hotel Choclat’s vegan offerings, this would be good option for other dark chocolate lovers like me.
Available online from Hotelchocolat.com and in stores.
Moo Free White Advent Calendar
For the white chocolate fans out there, with a cutesy elf design on the box. I have never actually tried vegan white chocolate before, but a reviewer on the company’s website says “Moo Free create without a doubt, the best vegan and free-from white chocolate in the world.”
Available online from Moofreechocolates.com or Ocado.
Nomo Classic Advent Calendar,
Vegan chocolate brand Nomo bringing another simple, affordable option to the festive table. The calendar contains 24 rice-based chocolate drops.
Available online from Nomochoc.com and Waitrose.