17 Best Chocolatiers In The US
Even though the Swiss consume the most chocolate of any country on Earth, Americans have a decent appetite for the sweet treat and many of the best chocolatiers around the world are located right here in the States. While most people are familiar with the big-name chocolate brands, the small chocolatiers put so much more passion and creativity into their bars and truffles. Many of these chocolatiers work with raw chocolate (of which not everyone is a fan) or "bean-to-bar," where the maker plays a part in the entire process of the chocolate from where the cocoa bean is grown to the final finished edible confection.
All that work is evident in the final product, and from the very first bite, the difference in quality and taste between truffles and bars made by small-time artisans and those made by big corporations is clear. We've rounded up the best chocolatiers in the country, and luckily, they all ship nationwide.
Valerie Gordon founded her namesake chocolate shop in 2004 with just a few flavors of chocolate-dipped toffee. Since then, the talented chocolatier has expanded her company to include truffles, bars, and more. Considered one of the best artisan confectioners in America, Valerie creates a wide range of treats from her famous coffee crunch cake to mezcal sticky toffee pudding to delicate champagne petit fours. The chocolate, however, is the main draw and is made the traditional way with the best possible ingredients. The specialty at this shop is inventive flavor combinations, and the chocolate caramel and toffee box includes flavors like black sesame, pumpkin, and liquid mezcal.
Valerie confections ships nationwide, and are also available at one of two storefronts in Los Angeles. The Echo Park location also houses a cafe with breakfast and lunch items (as well as dessert, of course). Stop in for a cup of high-quality tea and stay for a plate of luxurious chocolate truffles.
Forget about stuffy chocolate shops with glass cases full of humdrum confections. Compartés is the hippest place to buy chocolate bars, with packaging that looks more like art than something you can eat. Chocolatier Jonathan Graham reinvigorated the shop (which originally opened in the 1950s) and infused new life and creativity into the brand. Each chocolate bar is made from scratch by hand using top-quality ingredients.
Flavors are as inventive as the packaging is eye-catching, and notable choices include caramelized waffle cone, potato chip crisp, cereal bowl, and birthday cake with sprinkles. There is a solid range of options for bars made with every kind of chocolate, including vegan and organic bars (it is based in Los Angeles, after all). While the bars are what Compartés is known for, the shop also sells an impressive selection of other chocolate confections, like chocolate-dipped dried fruit, gorgeous truffles, and specialties like chocolate caramel turtles.
True bean-to-bar, single-origin chocolate can be hard to come by, but Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco is making some of the best in the country. The brand has a commitment to building relationships with cocoa farmers, and after shipping the cocoa beans to its factory in San Francisco, the master chocolatiers craft small, handmade batches with love and care in every bite. Dandelion's signature offering is chocolate bars which proudly state the specific farm where the beans were grown and which year they were harvested.
Each bar is sourced from a single place of origin, and the master chocolatiers spend weeks (or months) experimenting with the beans to discover the best roasting and processing for each type to ensure the natural flavor is drawn out. In addition to the bars, Dandelion also sells truffles, bonbons, and fleur de sel caramels. Get the full experience by signing up for one of the chocolate tastings or a tour of the factory.
Some of the most beautiful chocolate truffles being made in the United States today might possibly be from Norman Love. Norman Love Confections was started in 2001 in Florida where the eponymous Love lived while he worked as the executive pastry chef at The Ritz-Carlton. His dedication to his craft and commitment to quality quickly grew the Norman Love brand to include five chocolate salons and an artisanal gelato shop.
Each truffle is a singular work of art with signature flavors like sea salt caramel truffle, roasted almond, Sicilian pistachio, peanut butter and jelly, and dulce de leche, or fresh fruit flavors like key lime pie, Florida orange, passionfruit panna cotta, strawberry, and white chocolate raspberry. While the colorful truffles are Norman Love's specialty, the chocolatier has an expansive collection of quality bars, bark, cookies, and other goodies. Don't miss the dark sipping chocolate — a decadent blend of chocolate, cane sugar, and vanilla bean.
Another exciting chocolatier and patisserie in San Francisco is Craftsman and Wolves, the Instagram-worthy bake shop that is pushing the boundaries of creativity in the culinary world. Menu items are often innovative twists on familiar classics, like the signature pastry, "The Rebel Within," a savory muffin made with cheese, green onions, and sausage and stuffed with a soft boiled egg. While pastries make up the bulk of the menu at this bake shop, the chocolate work is just as divine.
Highlights include the chocolate shoyu caramel, an umami-laden sweet made with Valrhona 85% couverture chocolate, dark caramel, butter, and white soy sauce. The combination of the delicate, salty flavor of the shoyu brings out the rich notes of the chocolate and tempers the sweetness of the caramel. Another confection not to be missed is the smoked almond brittle, a crunchy, buttery toffee brittle made with smoked California almonds.
Chef Jacques Torres (aka Mr. Chocolate) is one of the premier chocolatiers in New York City, and many know him for the indelible mark he left in the culinary world with his famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. The chef got his start in France before moving to New York to open his own chocolate shop. Word quickly spread about the chef's top-tier chocolates, which were some of the first to be made in the city that were truly "bean to bar."
The artfully crafted chocolates are what put Jacques Torres on the map, and the commitment to excellence and quality is apparent in every bite. There are standard flavors like 80% dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut milk chocolate, as well as unique creations like Pineapple Pastis, with pineapple pate de fruit and Pastis licorice liquor, and Love Bug, a white chocolate ganache infused with key lime. Aside from the signature truffles and bonbons, a wide selection of bars, barks, brittles, and sipping chocolate can be purchased on Chef Torres' online store.
The owner of Dallmann Confections, Isabella Knack, has chocolate in her blood. Her grandfather founded Dallman's in Austria in 1954 and eventually Knack opened her own shop in San Diego after working in the family shop as a child. Her retail shop features family recipes that have been updated with modern techniques while still following the family tradition of using only the finest possible ingredients.
The online shop sells over 40 flavors of truffles which you can choose from to fill your own custom box. The website even offers "X-Ray" views of each to see a cross-section of the interior. Most of the flavors are simple but distinctive, like ginger, mocha, pinenut, and lavender. There are a few unique options, like coconut curry, bananas foster, or strawberry balsamic. Vegans are often excluded from many chocolate shop offerings, but not at Dallman. The vegan truffles get the same attention to detail as any of the other confections and flavors including PB&J, coconut and cocoa powder, or cardamom and rosewater ganache.
For some chocolatiers, working with sugar is practically their birthright. For Ginger Elizabeth Hahn and her eponymous chocolate shop Ginger Elizabeth, that couldn't be more true. She grew up in a family of bakers and pastry artisans and working with pastries is something she's done all her life, so naturally, Hahn continued to follow her heart as she began her career.
Hahn's upbringing in California led to a particular fondness for the exquisite produce and artisanal provisions of the state, and that is reflected in her work. Bonbons at Ginger Elizabeth are made with such ingredients, like the Raspberry Rose, which features raspberries from Saturn Farms, or Wildflower Honey Yogurt, which is filled with Sola Bee Farm Wildflower and Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. organic yogurt. Other delicacies besides bonbons include delicate macarons, jams, barks, cookies, brownies, and bars of chocolate made with high-quality couverture that has that satisfying "snap" when you bite in.
Sometimes home hobbies ignite a passion that leads to award-winning success and renown. That's what happened to Maureen and Jim Elitzak, the owners of Zak's Chocolate. What started as Maureen's casual interest eventually led to a critically-acclaimed chocolate company that was once featured on the cover of Chocolate Connoisseur Magazine. Their chocolate is made with 100% ethically-sourced single-origin cocoa beans, most of which are certified organic. Each of the chocolate bars is made with beans from a particular place and the flavor reflects the climate and environment of the area.
The factory is located in Scottsdale, Arizona and all the chocolate is available there for pick up or can be shipped nationwide. Other than the signature bars, there is a rotating assortment of chocolate confections, like caramel turtles, peanut butter cups, and other bonbons. Can't decide what to get? The Chocolate Lover's Zak Pak has a little bit of everything, including a tin of drinking chocolate, chocolate creamed honey, cocoa grilling rub, and the iconic cocktail salted cocoa nibs mixer.
One of the only places in America where you can eat chocolate made from locally-sourced beans is Lonohana Estate Chocolate in Oahu, Hawaii. Cacao trees thrive in humid, warm climates close to the equator and when the owners of Lonohana started growing the pods they were one of the first farms in Hawaii to do so. Using self-propagated seedlings and a method that relied mostly on trial and error, Lonohana now grows cacao on 14 acres of prime North Shore, Hawaii real estate. After the cacao fruit is harvested, it's fermented, dried, and ground into chocolate.
Lonohana does ship nationwide, though operating a chocolate shop in a tropical climate comes with a host of logistical barriers. Even so, the company is able to offer shipping at a reasonable rate so you can taste the beautiful Hawaiian chocolate flavors no matter where you live. The pure chocolate bars are exquisite, and the flavored bars are equally delicious, with local flavors like passion orange guava and salted macadamia nut.
One of the oldest candy stores in New York City, Economy Candy is the place to go for all things sweet and sugary. While the shelves stacked ceiling-high with candy from all over the world are what brings most people to this spot, the house chocolates are not to be missed. Hand-dipped and handmade chocolates are sold by the pound, and Economy offers a little bit of everything from milk chocolate balls to chocolate-covered caramel marshmallows.
Considering the store sells chocolate from every known candy manufacturer imaginable, the house-made chocolates have to be top-tier to compete. It's not exactly bean-to-bar quality chocolate like some of the other retailers on this list, but love and care go into every single confection. Is a trip to New York not exactly in the cards? Economy offers in-store pick up as well as nationwide shipping, with chocolate shipped in cold packaging to deter melting.
Maribel Lieberman is one of New York City's top chocolatiers, and her love of chocolate began as a love for fashion and design during her schooling at Parsons School of Design. After running a gourmet catering company for five years, Maribel opened her eponymous storefront in SoHo, and the rest was history. The chocolate at this shop is made from the fine and rare Criollo cacao bean. All the truffles are finished with fun, creative designs on top that reflect the spirit of the flavor. The flavors themselves are nothing revolutionary, but ingredients are sourced from the best possible places, like Tahitian vanilla, Florida citrus, and English lavender.
Maribel produces a selection of truffles, bars, and bites, as well as fruit-infused chocolate and chocolate-dipped fruit. All of the chocolate can be shipped nationwide, or you can stop by the store in SoHo. Stay for a cup of tea at the Cacao Bar, the house cafe that serves pastries, tea, and hot chocolate.
Maine is known for its salt-of-the-Earth inhabitants that produce some of the best hand-crafted foods in the country. Ragged Coast Chocolates is no different, and owners Kate and Steve Shaffer create quality chocolates using fair-trade chocolate from Latin America. The brand has partnered with Friends of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge (FOMCI) to give back to the local environment and conserve the nesting sites of its mascot, the puffin.
Classically-made truffles are made with familiar ingredients popping up in unexpected places, like Ancho chile, golden raisins, orange zest, and lavender. The flagship chocolate caramels are not to be missed, made with Maine sea salt, local honey, and direct-trade 55% Ecuadorian dark chocolate. All the packaging is made of recyclable paperboard and wherever possible, chocolates and confections are made with ingredients made by local producers. Ragged Coast has come a long way from the early days of harvesting backyard blueberries and cranberries to make its desserts, but the passion for quality never changed.
The two sons of a chocolatier grew up with an intense passion and interest in chocolate, which in turn led to the formation of their own chocolate brand, andSons. Based in Beverly Hills, California, andSons use old-school European processes to make the chocolate the old way, with new-school innovation and creativity infused along the way. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Sandy Tran, an alum of The French Laundry in Napa Valley.
Wherever possible, andSons uses specialty produce that speaks to the city in which the chocolates are created. For example, one truffle flavor is Black Tea Caramel, which features citrus and jasmine black tea from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. AndSons sells a solid selection of bonbons and truffles, plus one unique offering: gourmet candy bars. Chocolate bar flavors include hazelnut-caramel-cherry and almond-coconut-lime, made with milk chocolate, almond praline, toasted coconut, and lime ganache.
Most cacao is grown in subtropical regions by farmers who are often too poor to have ever even tasted the finished product of what they grow. They're then shipped to Northern countries for final processing into chocolate. This process requires an illogically complicated (and sometimes exploitative) supply chain. Tcho Chocolate sought to change all that and got involved with both farmers and scientists to make investments in the infrastructure that goes into cacao growing and processing, leading to a huge increase in the quality of the beans they could make chocolate from. Tcho founded the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in 2016 in order to bridge the gap between cacao growers and researchers.
Besides producing excellent-quality base chocolate, Tcho's chocolatiers go one step further to turn that chocolate into tasty bars with flavors that range from Toffee Time to Aww Nuts!, the almond butter and sea salt-filled dark chocolate bar.
For chocolates and truffles imbued with a little bit of magical whimsy, look to the chocolatiers at Vosges. Chocolatier Katrina believes in the natural cycles of our environment and the connection farming has to the cosmological and environmental patterns and cycles in a given place. As such, chocolate from different places can possess both metaphysical and tangible properties that contribute to health and wellness. Vosges even makes a line of "wellness chocolate bars" with healing ingredients like turmeric, matcha green tea, and raw honey.
The clubs, kits, and "tasting experiences" sold at the online store are one of the things that makes Vosges unique, and they also happen to make great gifts. Big spenders can spring for the 13 Moon Chocolate Lunar Club, a monthly chocolate club that includes a card with the significance of each lunar cycle, an "intention-setting ritual," and paired chocolates specifically tailored to each moon phase.
Started in a hip Brooklyn loft, Fine & Raw was founded by Daniel Sklaar who sought to make small-batch chocolate for friends. The incredible flavor and quality led to so much hype that he grew the company to eventually be able to sell and ship nationwide. With a focus on a super-transparent supply chain, Fine & Raw believes in fair trade wages and ethical growing practices, both for the farmers and for the land.
The quality here goes beyond ethics, though. When it comes to the actual chocolate Fine & Raw makes, the flavor really can't be beaten. The Signature Collection includes premium chocolate made with just three ingredients: organic cacao, organic coconut sugar, and organic cacao butter. Other offers range from delectable truffles to spreads (think chocolate hazelnut and "caramel gooeyness"). Some bars are infused with so-called "functional vices," like ashwaganda and holy basil or cordyceps and chaga.