Valentine's Day

Taste Test: Chocolate Sampler Boxes for Valentine’s Day

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Yes, they’re a little cheesy, and certainly predictable. But by the same token, they’re also a classic, iconic nod to tradition. They’re also, let’s not forget, filled with chocolate. In other words, they’re always appreciated.

In an ideal world, we’d all have the time, money, and opportunity to buy exquisite artisan chocolates from a local chocolatier. In reality, though — our V-Day shopping probably looks more like a last-minute mad dash to Target. There, every mass-market chocolate company seems to have thrown their hat into the heart-shaped ring.

To help you sort through the clutter and pick the perfect one for your sweetie, we sampled all the heart-shaped boxes of assorted filled chocolates we could find at Target and ranked them.

(Image credit: Danielle Centoni)

This was the skimpiest of the lot, with only nine chocolates in the box. However, these were also the most interesting chocolates, with flavors like Crème Brûlée Bliss (caramel and white chocolate ganache with crunchy toffee) and Raspberry Vanilla Sundae (raspberry ganache over white chocolate vanilla mousse). The caramel was rich and smooth, and the ganache fillings were intense. And when sampled side by side with the other brands, the chocolate itself stood out for offering more complex flavor notes, which is a good thing considering three of the nine chocolates were simply foil-wrapped solid hearts.

(Image credit: Danielle Centoni)

Both Ghirardelli and Lindt offered very sweet and very creamy chocolates. However, Ghirardelli’s chocolate was a little more tannic and complex, and the heart-shaped chocolates looked more special and offered more interesting flavors. All 12 chocolates were filled — three each of four flavors, like hazelnut toffee and chocolate almond cream. That means, thankfully, no solid (read: boring) chocolate hearts.

(Image credit: Danielle Centoni)

Lindt’s chocolate is so creamy and buttery it’s almost like eating buttercream frosting (not that there’s anything wrong with that). If you’re familiar with Lindt’s round, cellophane wrapped “Lindor” chocolates, you’re familiar with the selection of 13 chocolates in this box, with the addition of a turtle-like caramel-nut patty and a caramel chew. Lindt’s super-creamy chocolate may lack complexity, but it’s still a crowd-pleaser, making this a great choice for chocolate-lovers of all ages.

(Image credit: Danielle Centoni)

4. Hershey’s Pot of Gold, $8 for 8.9 ounces

If you want to wow your loved ones with quantity, Hershey’s is your best bet. You get a whopping 25 chocolates in seven varieties (although they all taste pretty similar). The flavor is unmistakably Hershey’s in that uniquely acidic way – think Kisses and those bars you buy for s’mores. As a result, they don’t really seem special, and they don’t really look special, but they are pleasantly familiar.

(Image credit: Danielle Centoni)

At first glance, these 12 Russell Stover candies looked so identical to the Whitman’s I assumed they were made by the same producer and just given a different label. They tasted almost identical, too. And neither one provides a “map” to the chocolates, so you don’t know which is which. It seems it doesn’t matter because they all taste pretty much the same. One had the slightest hint of maple. Another had a vaguely fruity and very chewy nutty nougat. Another was crispy like a poor man’s Butterfinger. But they’re mostly just incredibly sweet. This brand also has an “Elegant Collection” and a “Red Velvet” option for $13 (eight ounces) but based on the quality of their mainstream collection, you’d likely be better off spending that money on Ghirardelli or Lindt.

(Image credit: Danielle Centoni)

6. Whitman’s Sampler, $5 at 6.25 ounces

They’re just as painfully sweet and monotonous in flavor as the Russell Stover selection — even more so, actually. Like that box, there’s a crispy Butterfinger-like thing in this one as well, but it’s more like burnt toffee. There’s a fruity nougat situation too, but it has even less flavor and no nuts. Mostly this is just more of the same bland caramels and creams. Plus, you get 11 chocolates instead of 12, and one of them is just a solid plain piece.

Do you have a go-to chocolate box you give your significant other every year? Or do you just buy whatever you see first? Discuss in the comments below!