You’re never too old to enjoy the festive feeling of excitedly opening the first door on your new chocolate advent calendar – and in 2020, there’s no need to suffer from Fomo if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant.
There are thought to be more than a million vegans living in the UK today, with this figure expected to rise as the sustainability movement gathers pace.
In response, savvy food brands have been getting clever in the kitchen, creating convincingly creamy milk chocolate alternatives using plant-based ingredients like cocoa butter and rice powder.
Many of the advent calendars on our list are made by fully vegan brands. Others are filled with dark chocolate that we’ve checked is dairy-free.
We’ve tried and tested them all, looking for delicious chocolate, Christmassy packaging that travels well, and a touch of originality in an increasingly crowded market.
Thanks to veganism going mainstream, everybody can indulge their inner child come December.
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PLAYin Choc organic chocolate advent calendar
This charming plastic-free advent calendar is designed to enthral children, but we’ll bet you’ll want one too. It features 24 drawers, each containing an organic vegan “m*lk” chocolate, a 3D cardboard toy to assemble and an educational “fun facts” card. The allergen-free chocolate is chunky, creamy and delicious – our favourite milk chocolate alternative on test – and there are 18 adorable woodland animals and six jolly Christmas characters awaiting discovery. The beautifully illustrated sleeve opens up into a play mat and each drawer can be reversed to create a new picture over the course of December. This box of wholesome, healthy and delicious fun is well worth the price if you have a bit of cash to splash, especially as you could add your own chocolates and reuse it every year.
Hotel Chocolat the advent calendar, dark
Hotel Chocolat earns a gold star for sculpting its 24 generously-sized advent chocolates into the detailed festive shapes of angels, reindeer, snowmen and more. There are two vegan-friendly calendars available – 70 per cent dark, listed here, and 100 per cent dark for hardcore chocaholic puritans. We tried both but preferred the former, finding the chocolate velvety smooth, richly flavoursome and just the right level of sweet. Opt for the latter if you like savoury, smoky chocolate with no added sugar. The boxes open up like a book to reveal a classy white and silver snowscape. Ours arrived in tip-top condition and we enjoyed the chocolate-themed jokes and trivia behind each door.
NOMO vegan advent calendar
Dairy-free chocolate doesn’t have to be boring, as vegan and free-from brand NOMO (standing for no missing out) has proved with this allergy-friendly advent calendar. Behind its 24 doors, you’ll find 12 salted caramel and 12 “milk” choc drops, neither of which contain any dairy, egg, nuts or gluten. Both tasted scrummy and impressively creamy, with a smooth texture that melted in our mouth. The tasteful winter wonderland design was our favourite on test and will appeal to children and adults alike. The chocolates stayed securely in place during transit and the fully recyclable packaging arrived with only minimal creasing.
Launching from 5 October
Divine Fairtrade dark chocolate advent calendar
This 70 per cent dark chocolate advent calendar is certified by the Vegan Society. Divine’s chocolate – including its milk chocolate – is Fairtrade, palm oil free and natural too, so the brand scores a lot of eco-friendly brownie points. Divine’s Ghanian cocoa farmers receive a share of the company’s profits, allowing them to invest in their families, farms and communities. The heart-shaped chocolates are cute, if not particularly festive, and the chocolate is smooth, earthy and indulgent. We like the ethical/Fairtrade facts behind each door and the elegant red and gold packaging kept the chocolates in place during delivery.
Chococo vegan advent selection box
We may be cheating slightly by featuring a couple of chocolate boxes here, but there’s been a vague attempt to make this one into an advent calendar – namely by numbering a frosted sheet that lies on top of the 25 chocolates (yes, there’s one for Christmas Day too). They’re all vegan-friendly and handmade in Dorset, with a daily menu describing each fresh chocolate. Expect to try “milc” chocolate made with cashews and enjoy an unusual range of hard and soft fillings, from agave nectar honeycomb and guava puree to almond marzipan and dates steeped in Cognac. The £25 price tag seems reasonable for the artisan quality, high interest factor and stylish presentation.
Livia’s advent calendar
Gluten and dairy-free brand Livia’s knows how to put a fresh twist on a classic. This unique 24-day advent calendar is packed with 10 different treats, including “nugglets” (chewy, cookie dough-style balls), “million squares” (a riff on millionaire’s slice, made with raw dark chocolate, date caramel and biscuit) and our favourite, “dunx” (oat bites with a nut butter dip). There’s a surprise festive recipe behind the last door that looks fun and simple to make with kids. The jolly packaging is recyclable (though the plastic wrappers aren’t widely collected), but the box is bulky and the narrow windows make it tricky to get the goodies out easily.
Launching from 5 October
Plamil so free salted caramel vegan advent calendar
This tasty new advent calendar is packed with sweet and salty caramel chocolates. Made solely from plant-based ingredients, it’s dairy, gluten and nut-free. Cocoa and rice combine for a smooth texture that rivals milk chocolate, with no cows involved. Our calendar arrived carefully packaged, with none of the chocolates slipping from their moulds. We liked the cheery design, with the grinning Santa, reindeer and elves. If salted caramel isn’t your jam, there are white and “milk” options available too.
Nono Cocoa vegan advent calendar
These colourful little works of choco-art are handmade in London by people with special needs. They’re free from the top 14 allergens, including dairy, eggs and nuts, as well as artificial colouring and preservatives. Opening this stylish numbered box is a treat for the eyes, unveiling 24 different chocolates in a range of mouthwateringly innovative flavours inspired by the founder’s autistic son and his need for sensory stimulation. Expect to sample raspberry and beetroot, mint mojito, cinnamon apple, chai latte and blood orange, all encased in raw, organic chocolate. They fared well in the post, with only minor damage to one chocolate.
Montezuma’s like no udder vegan advent calendar
Though not a fully vegan brand, Montezuma’s has an excellent vegan range that features its organic “like no udder” milk chocolate alternative. Made with rice milk, it has the smooth creaminess of dairy with a slightly fruity edge to the taste. The bold and bright advent calendar features 24 festive-shaped chocolates. Unfortunately, ours fell out of their moulds and jiggled about in transit, meaning we opened some doors to find nothing behind them. But we can’t fault the chocolate inside, once you find it.
The verdict: Vegan advent calendars
PLAYin Choc’s advent calendar is expensive at £55, but that price feels fair for its character, quality, reusability and best on test “milk” chocolate. For a more conventional buy, look to Hotel Chocolat’s wonderfully festive dark option or free-from brand Nomo’s wallet-friendly caramel and “milk” chocolate offering.
If your little elf is after a toy-filled calendar, read our review of the best 2020 has to offer, from Lego to Harry Potter
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