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!
“I originally received Seattle Chocolates as a special gift. While I’m not normally a huge chocolate fan, these candies are the exception. My favorite flavor is their San Juan Sea Salt. Creamy milk chocolate with little bits of sea salt. It melts on your tongue. Now I love sharing these with someone who’s never had them before—it’s instant love.” —Elizabeth Bramkamp
Check out Seattle Chocolates’ variety.
Fowler’s Fine Chocolates
Buffalo, New York
“Fowler’s has been around Buffalo for over 100 years. Famous for sponge candy (which is to-die for!), they’re truly a Buffalo icon. Once a year they sell tickets for a factory tour and a portion of the proceeds is donated to the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, making them a great neighbor to Buffalo as well.” —Sue Stetzel
Give Fowler’s sponge candy (and much, much more) a taste.
Dolce Mare Sweets
Marco Island, Florida
“The sea salt dark chocolate caramels from Dolce Mare will give you an ‘I’m having a moment’ reaction when you bite into them. They hit all your taste buds once: the bitterness of the chocolate, the rich caramel and then the surprising note of sea salt.” —Cyndy Gerken
Shop chocolates (and more!) from Dolce Mare.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Albuquerque has more than its share of artisan chocolatiers, but for the best, you’ve got to go with the original: Buffett’s Candies (aka ‘The Place With The Giant Candy Cane’). They’ve been doing it right for 60 years, pioneering the delicious combo of chocolate and piñon (pine nuts). Get the piñon horny toads!” —R.D. Stendel-Freels
Get Buffett’s Candies delivered to your door.
Riverside Chocolate Factory
“It’s hard to pick my favorite chocolate from this quirky candy store—everything’s luscious, but the toffee and sponge candy are my go-to’s. We had their chocolate-covered strawberries and truffles at our wedding, and the guests went nuts. Full disclosure: The Chocolate Factory was started by my husband’s aunt and uncle.” —Ellie Martin Cliffe
Taste what all the fuss is about.
“The huckleberry and lavender honey truffles from Arrowhead Chocolates are excellent!” —Glenna Pierce Tooman
Try unique Arrowhead chocolates for yourself!
Holl’s Handcrafted Swiss Chocolates
Charleston, West Virginia
“The owner of Holl’s was born in Switzerland and trained in his families chocolate business. The chocolates are so good it’s hard to pick a favorite but I’d have to say mine is the melt-in-your-mouth triple sec truffle. They are so decadent that you can eat just one piece and feel like you are indulging in something luxurious!” —Becky Cline Carver
Learn more about Holl’s creamy truffles.
“Here in Texas, a favorite candy is Lammes (pronounced lammie). They’ve been around since 1885 and they still use the same quality ingredients today. They’re most famous for their Chewie Pecan Pralines, but they have much more to offer—all delicious.” —Joan Hallford
Visit Lammes website to learn more.
DeBrand Fine Chocolates
Fort Wayne, Indiana
“DeBrand is the best. Gourmet, beautiful chocolates that look like what they are—the chocolate-covered raspberries are shaped just like a raspberry! So creamy and to die for!” —Gina Mussallem Fensler
Confections by Joel
“Confections by Joel is a favorite! What makes this place even more special—besides the amazing creamy chocolate—is that the chocolatier is actually blind. He makes some very delicious chocolates and candies.” —Heather Karow
Give this small-town favorite a try!
Betty Jane Candies
“Here in northeast Iowa, my favorite is Betty Jane’s candies. They were named People‘s top culinary gift in Iowa. Their specialty is the ‘Gremlin’—chocolate, caramel and pecans. They are just wonderful!” —Carol Kaiser
Check out Betty Jane’s website and get some Gremilins to share.