When Valentine’s Day comes around every year, couple start dreaming up romantic dinner plans and many friends put together fun Galentines Day parties. While I like a nice dinner and a night out with my friends as much as the next gal, I’m all about the chocolate on Valentine’s Day.
And can you blame me? The second February hits, every supermarket, drug store and shopping mall is packed to the gills with chocolate options—it’s so tempting! I certainly have no problem trying them all, but it’s important to me that all the husbands, wives, friends and the like know which brands are best for giving to their sweethearts this Valentine’s Day.
So this time around, I rounded up nine brands of Valentine’s Day chocolates—a few major names and a few lesser known—to test their candies in time for Valentine’s Day gift giving. Along with a crew of dedicated taste testers, here’s what we tried: Fannie May, Ghirardelli, Godiva, Hershey’s Pot of Gold, Kilwin’s, Lindt, Russell Stover, See’s and Whitman.
Find out who got our top honors!
Best Everyday Valentine’s Day Chocolate
“There’s such a satisfying snap to these.”
Since Valentine’s Day is a special occasion, I expect just a little something extra from my chocolate. In this regard Ghirardelli received low marks from my crew. Opening up the box, it was full of those traditional Ghirardelli squares in sea salt dark chocolate, sea salt milk chocolate and strawberry bark. The strawberry bark was new, but those familiar foil-wrapped squares were not. For that reason (and the limited variety) this brand didn’t quite take top honors.
However, just because Ghirardelli didn’t stray from their original formula didn’t mean that we didn’t like this chocolate. In fact, the whole team gave high mark for the chocolate’s smooth texture and gooey—but not overly sticky—caramel. Gaga for caramel? Try these irresistible desserts. As for that classic square shape? Well, we loved that too. Those large, flat pieces make you feel like you’re really indulging, plus who can resist snapping one in half?
The only downside to this Valentine’s Day assortment was that special flavor: strawberry bark. Sitting on top of a dark chocolate base was a layer of white chocolate and freeze dried strawberries. These weren’t bad, but we know they’d probably be the last to go in the box. Unlike these chocolate-strawberry desserts…
$8.99 for a 6.8-ounce box; available nationwide
“The chocolate is just so smooth.”
When it comes to Valentine’s Day chocolate, Russell Stover is a classic, and for good reason! When we dove into this box, we all found the chocolate to be exceptionally smooth. Many testers remarked on the depth and quality of the dark chocolates especially, so fans of rich dark chocolate, this box is for you!
Also worth noting is that this slim, seven-ounce box packed 11 different varieties. Of these, the coconut creams and coconut clusters were given the highest praise. Other highlights included the caramels and molasses chews. Unfortunately in this box, there were a few misses. The nougats and strawberry cream candies got low marks on taste.
Overall, though, if you’re looking for a solid box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day and don’t have a lot of dough to spare, Russell Stover is an excellent option that all chocolate lovers can appreciate.
$9.99 for a 7-ounce box; available nationwide
Most Impressive Assortment
“Oh gosh, this is really, really good!”
There’s something to be said about a show-stopping gift—you know, the kind that sort of takes your breath away? That’s how we felt opening the giant heart-shaped box from Kilwins. From the very start, you could tell that this box of candy was leaps and bounds above the others in terms of assortment. We gobbled quite a few pieces down immediately, but there were at least 20 different kinds of chocolates inside—perfect for people that want to try it all.
With that many options to choose from, we got to work tasting. We found the high quality (and price tag) of this chocolate to be obvious. The white chocolate was creamy and delicious—not just super sweet. The dark chocolate had an incredible depth of flavor and the milk chocolate was so, so smooth.
As for the fillings, we found them to be delicious, though there were a few misses. The peanut butter filled chocolates were luscious and creamy, without some of the grittiness you get in cheaper peanut butters. The caramel was perfectly gooey, the kind that gives you those long ribbons when you take a bite but never sticks to your teeth. That made the turtles and other nut-filled goodies just sing. The big misses here were the fruit-flavored candies—your raspberry cremes and cherry cordials. A few testers thought they were a bit artificial, but with such a huge selection, it’s easy to dive back into the box and try piece of toffee (amazing) or nut cluster (also exceptional).
Price varies by assortment (though our 17-oz. Valentine gift box was $45.99); available at Kilwins shops and online
Best in Show
“I love that these look homemade.”
Coming in at the very top of this taste test was California-based See’s Candies. While lesser known than Russell Stover and Ghirardelli, See’s turned out to be a formidable competitor in this taste test!
Looking at the selection of chocolates, we were immediately impressed by the variety. The box wasn’t just full of your standard caramels and turtles—this box of candy included molasses chips, chocolate-dipped walnut squares, chocolate truffles and much, much more. A few notable favorites included the scotchmallow, a pillowy, homemade marshmallow set atop a wedge of butterscotch and all cloaked in milk chocolate. Another tester remarked on the amazing quality of the marzipan, a candy you don’t typically find in most assortments. Personally, I couldn’t get enough of the mocha truffles covered in chocolate sprinkles—they gave the candy just that extra bit of crunch and texture to complement the creamy center.
This brand came in tops when it came to taste and variety, but what made us love See’s just a little bit more than it’s ultra-polished friends was that the candies looked homemade. One tester said, “I could imagine someone’s grandma dipping these chocolates in her kitchen.” It was that handcrafted feel that really put these over the top. Are they better than our homemade Valentine’s Day chocolate recipes? Well, you can be the judge.
$20.50 for a 16-ounce box; available at See’s shops and online
Variety is paramount
With the exception of everyday favorite Ghirardelli, our top Valentine’s Day chocolate picks all had terrific assortments—at least 10 different kinds of candies to satisfy your sweet tooth. With lots of options to choose from, it made tasting these brands much more exciting and it we had a lot of fun sharing our favorites with one another. Now picture that with your sweetie, and it just becomes all the better.
You don’t need to spend big bucks (but it doesn’t hurt to splurge!)
Two of our favorite Valentine’s Day chocolates—Ghirardelli and Russell Stover—cost under $10. We love that you don’t have to break the bank to get some good candy for the year’s sweetest holiday.
That being said, our two priciest brands—See’s and Kilwins—both claimed top spots, too, for superior taste and excellent variety. Since these are on the more expensive end, I wouldn’t buy them for a spur of the moment chocolate fix, but they both really stand out as being special occasion gifts. And what’s Valentine’s Day if not the ultimate chocolate occasion?
Of course, this test is just the tip of the chocolate iceberg! To get you started on your own chocolate quest, we asked our Field Editors to recommend their favorite local chocolatiers. If this doesn’t you inspire you to take a road trip, I don’t know what will!