Is It Possible to Be Allergic to Chocolate?

Chocolate candies

Verywell / Zorica Lakonic

Allergies to cacao (the bean that is the main ingredient in chocolate) are possible, but they're incredibly rare — so rare that they don't even show up in recent medical literature. Therefore, if you've experienced food allergy symptoms after eating chocolate, you can safely assume that another ingredient in the chocolate is causing your symptoms unless testing shows otherwise.

If you do experience allergy symptoms, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss testing. Symptoms of anaphylaxis represent an emergency; take epinephrine immediately, if available, and call for an ambulance.

Why You Might Have Allergy Symptoms After Eating Chocolate

One reason so many people experience allergy and food intolerance symptoms after eating chocolate is that chocolates often contain foods that are problematic for people.

Here are some common allergens you can find in chocolate:

  • Milk: Dairy allergies are very common, especially in children, and almost all chocolate contains at least some milk. If you're lactose intolerant and can tolerate small amounts of dairy products, try bittersweet, semisweet, or dark chocolate: Those chocolates are required by law to contain a higher percentage of chocolate liquor and, therefore, will have less milk and sugar. Dairy-free chocolates are on the market from brands like Tropical Source, Amanda's Own, Premium Chocolatiers, and Chocolate Decadence.
  • Peanuts and tree nuts: Obviously, some chocolates are filled with peanut butter or with whole nuts. But even chocolates that don't include peanuts or tree nuts as ingredients can be problematic for people with peanut allergies or tree nut allergies because manufacturers that make chocolate assortments containing nuts often make all of their chocolates on the same manufacturing line. Labeling rules do not require manufacturers to mention this on food labels, so always call manufacturers before eating high-risk foods like chocolates. You can also buy chocolate from nut-free manufacturers like Vermont Nut-Free, or look for label indications like "manufactured in a dedicated nut-free facility."
  • Wheat and gluten: The same issues that apply to peanuts and tree nuts also affect people with wheat allergies and celiac disease. Filled chocolates often use flour or wheat starch as a binder, and crisped rice can be problematic for celiacs because it often includes barley malt. Gluten-free chocolatiers include Endangered Species Chocolate and Equal Exchange.
  • Soy: Technically, chocolate is an emulsion (a mixture of two liquids that would otherwise separate), and just like mayonnaise and shelf-stable salad dressings, it usually includes an emulsifier to keep it solid at room temperature. Among the most common is soy lecithin, which is problematic for many people with soy allergies. This should be listed clearly on food labels.
  • Corn: Corn is incredibly difficult to avoid in the industrial food supply, and chocolate is no exception. In addition to high-fructose corn syrup in some chocolate brands, some manufacturers may use corn on production lines. Be especially alert for the presence of corn in white chocolate.
  • Berries: Berries are among the more common allergenic fruits. Be careful of assortments; no matter how carefully you read the legend indicating which type of chocolate is located where in the box, it's too easy for pieces to get mixed up.

Always double-check labels on anything you buy, since manufacturing practices can change without warning.

Other Potential Problems

There are two other potential issues with chocolate:

  • Caffeine: Contrary to popular belief, chocolate is extremely low in caffeine: one ounce of milk chocolate contains only six milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 34 milligrams, and a 2-ounce double espresso can range from 45 to 100 milligrams. However, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, chocolate may exacerbate your symptoms, and you may find that you're better off avoiding it. Dark chocolate has far more caffeine than milk chocolate.
  • Drug Interactions: Rarely, chocolate may cause symptoms that resemble allergy symptoms (like skin itchiness) in people taking the common medication Prozac (fluoxetine). It's possible that the sensitivity to the biological chemical serotonin that seems to cause this uncommon reaction can occur due to Prozac, or other similar drugs. Be sure your allergist is aware of any medications you're taking before you undergo allergy testing. This could be especially useful information if your tests are negative.

White Chocolate May Be a Better Alternative

If you're allergic to chocolate, you likely can still eat white chocolate.

Despite its name, white chocolate doesn't contain any real chocolate. True gourmet white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, with sugar, vanilla extract, and usually, some milk powder thrown in (most manufacturers use powdered milk, rather than regular liquid milk, to make chocolate, since the powdered milk works better).

Therefore, if your allergy or sensitivity involves some protein or another compound found in cocoa powder but not in cocoa butter, you should be able to handle pure white chocolate just fine.

However, most commercially made white chocolate isn't perfectly pure, and this can cause a problem for people with other allergies or sensitivities.

First off, any white chocolate you purchase almost certainly has been produced on lines shared with regular chocolate. So if your allergy or sensitivity to chocolate is severe, but you still truly crave white chocolate, you may have to resort to making your own white chocolate.

Next, white chocolate generally includes sugar (or another sweetener) and usually includes milk ingredients. Commercially produced white chocolate often contains soy lecithin, as well. If you have allergies or sensitivities to any of these ingredients, you may need to steer clear.

Many commercially produced candies are made on shared lines with other major allergens. Those with peanut allergies, tree nut allergies, wheat allergies, corn allergies, or celiac disease should be sure to check for cross-contamination on manufacturing lines before eating high-risk foods like chocolates.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Cederberg J, Knight S, Svenson S, Melhus H. Itch and skin rash from chocolate during fluoxetine and sertraline treatment: case reportBMC Psychiatry. 2004;4:36. Published 2004 Nov 2. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-4-36

  5. Rodríguez-lagunas MJ, Vicente F, Pereira P, Castell M, Pérez-cano FJ. Relationship between cocoa intake and healthy status: A pilot study in university studentsMolecules. 2019;24(4). doi:10.3390/molecules24040812

  6. Rossini K, Noreña CP, Brandelli A. Changes in the color of white chocolate during storage: potential roles of lipid oxidation and non-enzymatic browning reactionsJ Food Sci Technol. 2011;48(3):305-11. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0207-x

  7. Nemours. Food allergies: how to cope

Additional Reading
  • Cederberg, Jonas, et al. "Itch and Skin Rash from Chocolate During Fluoxetine and Sertraline Treatment: Case Report." BMC Psychiatry.

By Victoria Groce
Victoria Groce is a medical writer living with celiac disease who specializes in writing about dietary management of food allergies.