12 best vegan advent calendars: From chocolates and skincare to boozy treats

·13 min read
We tested for quality, price and deliciousness, as well as how well the contents fit into an eco-friendly, ethical lifestyle (iStock/The Independent)
We tested for quality, price and deliciousness, as well as how well the contents fit into an eco-friendly, ethical lifestyle (iStock/The Independent)

Advent calendars are just for children? Poppycock, we say. We’re all working hard and have somehow made it through another difficult year, so undoubtedly, everyone deserves a treat as we approach Christmas Day. And that goes for vegans too.

Gone are the days when vegan chocolates were the bitterest and darkest sort. Now, those avoiding animal products can enjoy the smoothest, creamiest milk and even white chocolate in advent calendars. But why limit yourself to a calendar with only chocolate when there are so many alternatives available?

It used to be the case that we’d wait until Christmas morning to open gifts. But in recent years, some of us have been enjoying treats of all kinds hidden behind the numbered door of an advent calendar each morning, long before we’ve even finished our Christmas shopping. There are beauty and scent calendars, wellbeing alternatives, and those with all manner of sweet treats and drinks – including some that are definitely not for kids.

But you’ll have to snap them up sharpish, as these are some of the most sought-after advent calendars for vegans this year. Then you can start getting excited about the big day itself.

How we tested

We’ve made sure to include a wide range of different vegan advent calendars to give a comprehensive snapshot of what’s available. We’ve tracked down the best traditional chocolate ones, but also those that contain a host of other products.

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To test the calendars, we peeked behind every door – or opened every box in some cases – and tried the contents ourselves. It sounds exciting, but we could hear our mothers in our ears scolding us, saying that Santa might not visit because we broke the rules by opening them early.

To decide our rating for each, we looked at the quality, price and deliciousness if there was food involved, and usability if there was not. We also considered environmental responsibility, checking how well the products fit with an eco-friendly, ethical lifestyle.

The best vegan advent calendars for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Freedm Street Christmas express advent calendar: £185, Freedmstreet.co.uk

  • Best for fitness fanatics – Foodspring vegan fitness selection advent calendar: £54.99, Foodspring.co.uk

  • Best boozy advent calendar – Crafty Nectar ultimate craft cider advent calendar: £82.50, Craftynectar.com

  • Best handmade chocolate advent calendar – Nono vegan advent calendar: £28, Nono-cocoa.com

  • Best cruelty-free beauty advent calendar – Holland & Barrett 25 days of clean beauty advent calendar: £45, Hollandandbarrett.com

  • Best white chocolate advent calendar – Moo Free white chocolate advent calendar: £3.99, Moofreechocolates.com

  • Best flavoured chocolate advent calendar – H!P salted caramel advent calendar: £10, Hipchocolate.com

  • Best home fragrance advent calendar – Cosy Aromas wax melt advent calendar: £39.99, Cosyaromas.com

  • Best for people with allergies – Nomo vegan and free from advent calendar: £5, Nomochoc.com

  • Best sweet alternative advent calendar – Joe & Seph’s vegan popcorn advent calendar: £25.95, Harveynichols.com

  • Best nut milk advent calendar – Hotel Chocolat 45% nutmilk chocolate advent calendar: £12.50, Hotelchocolat.com

  • Best luxury vegan advent calendar – Lush advent calendar: £185, Lush.com

Freedm Street Christmas express advent calendar

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Doors: 24

Feel good and do good this Christmas with Freedm Street’s utterly spectacular vegan lifestyle advent calendar, which comes in make-up and no make-up options (we went for the latter). Crammed inside a charmingly festive presentation box are top-quality vegan and cruelty-free beauty, skincare, haircare, bath and body products, scrummy snacks and even good deeds, including helping a charity provide 6,000 plant-based meals to children and supporting another to rescue animals from a life of cruelty. There are bath bombs, a candle, shampoo and conditioner bars, scrubs, creams and even a bian stone for gua sha. We discovered several products in this advent calendar that we’d never heard of before but will be buying again, including the Bloomtown natural deodorant bar (£10, Freedmstreet.co.uk), and we loved the sweet treats, especially the generous box of pick and mix. Most of the products – 17, in fact – are full size and the contents are worth £350 when the products are bought separately.

Anyone lucky enough to get their hands on this calendar is also in with a chance of finding the golden ticket and winning a week-long trip to Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary in Spain – travelling via offset flights, of course. Five people, meanwhile, will receive a £100 voucher to spend on the Freedm Street website if they find one of the hidden golden choccies.

Everything about this calendar is marvellous, but the best thing for us is how it has been created with the planet in mind. The no-make-up option is entirely free from plastic, while the option with make-up is 95 per cent plastic-free. It supports small businesses and charities, comes in a reusable advent box, and one tree is planted for each one sold.

Buy now £185.00, Freedmstreet.co.uk

Foodspring vegan fitness selection advent calendar

Best: For fitness fanatics

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Doors: 24

Think of advent calendars and one naturally thinks of indulgence. But think again if you grab this 24-box calendar, which is packed with healthy plant-based treats and surprises for a merry “fitmas”. Inside recyclable cardboard boxes, you’ll find tasty protein bars, balls and cookies, shakes, pre- and post-workout pasta and rice meals and, incredibly, a full-size jar each of peanut butter, hazelnut protein cream and a cashew, coconut and date spread (which we’ll be buying more of when the pot is empty, because it’s delicious). There’s also a skipping rope, which will be the remedy to our Christmas belly come New Year, and a warm beanie to open and wear on Christmas Eve. Overall, the contents are worth more than double what they would cost if bought separately, making this terrific value for money too.

Buy now £54.99, Foodspring.co.uk

Crafty Nectar ultimate craft cider advent calendar

Best: Boozy advent calendar

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Doors: 24

For those who’d rather drink their treats in the run-up to Christmas, this advent calendar will take you on a voyage of discovery with some of the finest craft ciders around. Inside the festive box you’ll find 24 award-winning bevs from traditional makers, all of which are made from 100 per cent fresh-pressed juice and are vegan and free from gluten. Our tester enjoyed trying this excellent selection of ciders that aren’t widely available, such as the Southdown Cider dabinett single variety cider and the Worleys Somerset keeved special edition craft cider. And they found the tasting guide useful for making the most out of all the scrummy drinks. The packaging and the glass bottles are all fully recyclable, and a tree is planted for every calendar sold.

Buy now £82.50, Craftynectar.com

Nono vegan advent calendar

Best: Handmade chocolate advent calendar

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Doors: 24

When we opened door number one of this adorable house-shaped calendar to reveal a pink polka dot chocolate teacup, we knew we were in for a real treat. Each chocolate is handmade in London to the highest standard and with impeccable attention to detail for colourful morsels that intrigue as much as they delight. The flavours are out of this world and actually from around the world, including sublime rose and di-mannose from Bulgaria, baobab and poppy seeds from Ghana and – our favourite – saffron, turmeric and orange from Iran. The reason for this global flavour trek is a symbolic nod to the fact that the world is our home and we’re all responsible for caring for it. Besides being delectable, the chocolates are all vegan and free from refined sugar, gluten, nuts, yeast, artificial colouring and GMOs.

Buy now £28.00, Nono-cocoa.com

Holland & Barrett 25 days of clean beauty advent calendar

Best: Cruelty-free beauty advent calendar

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Doors: 25

We’ve rated this as the best cruelty-free beauty advent calendar, but it could equally top the ranking of the best value-for-money calendars too, because its contents are worth an astonishing three times more than the RRP. Beyond the fantastic price, this recyclable advent calendar features 25 superb vegan and cruelty-free products from premium brands and Holland & Barrett own-label favourites. We absolutely love the Evolve bio-retinol gold face mask, the handy mini detangler hairbrush and the Psychic Sisters opalite mini facial roller. This calendar will help you arrive at Christmas Day feeling tiptop and well looked after.

Buy now £45.00, Hollandandbarrett.com

Moo Free white chocolate advent calendar

Best: White chocolate advent calendar

Rating: 8/10

  • Doors: 24

White chocolate for vegans that really tastes the same as dairy white chocolate gets us extremely excited. This is a more traditional, straight-up chocolate advent calendar, with a cardboard box and numbered doors. Behind each flap are cute – albeit small – shapes of dairy-, gluten- and soya-free white Rainforest Alliance chocolate, which means both the cocoa farmers and the environment are protected. The flavour took us back to eating Milkybars as children before we adopted a vegan diet; it’s creamy, sweet and smooth. At £3.99 you can buy one for all the family, and once you’ve eaten all the choccies, pop all the empty packaging in the recycling bin.

Buy now £3.99, Moofreechocolates.com

H!p salted caramel advent calendar

Best: Flavoured chocolate advent calendar

Rating: 9/10

  • Doors: 24

Behind each door of this plastic-free advent calendar you’ll find little squares of individually wrapped oat milk chocolate that are magnificently smooth, rich and balanced with a salty hit – this is among the best vegan chocolate we’ve tasted. And we wouldn’t expect anything less from a brand founded by someone with a name synonymous with good chocolate: James Cadbury (the great-great-great-grandson of the original Mr Cadbury). H!p’s sustainably sourced single-origin Colombian chocolate squares are the perfect size for enjoying any time of day and can be munched while honing your Christmas knowledge with the trivia on the reverse of each door. Did you know that “Jingle Bells” was the first song played in space?

Buy now £10.00, Hipchocolate.com

Cosy Aromas wax melt advent calendar

Best: Home fragrance advent calendar

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Doors: 24

We’d never heard of a wax melt advent calendar before, but it really is a brilliant idea, allowing you to try out a new home fragrance every day in the lead up to Christmas. The vegan, cruelty-free, toxin-free and pet-friendly scents in this 24-door calendar are inspired by the season and will delicately fill your home with festive aromas. Among them you’ll find cranberry fizz, mulled wine, mince pie and brandy and, our tester’s favourite, evening snow. You also get a square of individually wrapped chocolate each day, and there’s a daily question to answer online to be in with a chance of winning prizes, including a lodge holiday, Amazon vouchers, an Apple iPad and a £500 voucher for The Ritz London.

Buy now £39.99, Cosyaromas.com

Nomo vegan and free from advent calendar

Best: For people with allergies

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Doors: 24

We’ve yet to meet a vegan who doesn’t love Nomo chocolate; the brand’s delicious treats have long been among our go-tos when we’re in need of something sweet. So we were thrilled to try the brand’s advent calendar for 2021, and even happier to discover it contains two types of chocolate. The 24-door product includes 12 each of the classic milk chocolate alternative drops and the caramel and sea salt flavour chocolate drops. The classic vegan choc is creamy and sweet, while the caramel variety is rich and velvety with buttery salted caramel notes – the texture of both is meltingly smooth and one of the closest to dairy chocolates available. Apart from the flavour, we loved how thick each morsel in this calendar is and that Nomo’s products are suitable for everyone, including people with a host of allergies, because they are free from dairy, gluten, egg and nuts.

Buy now £5.00, Nomochoc.com

Joe & Seph’s vegan popcorn advent calendar

Best: Sweet alternative advent calendar

Rating: 8/10

  • Doors: 24

Find yourself a bumper Christmas movie playlist because you’re going to have 24 snack bags of gourmet popcorn to munch your way through with this advent calendar. Hidden within little compartments in this beautifully designed calendar are mini packs of Vegan Society-approved popcorn in eight scrummy flavours, including classic salted caramel, orange chocolate, toffee apple and cinnamon, and coconut and cacao. All are satisfyingly crunchy, flavourful and sweet – apart from the wildcard savoury option which is olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. As well as being vegan, this is also a gluten-free advent calendar.

Buy now £25.95, Harveynichols.com

Hotel Chocolat 45% nutmilk chocolate advent calendar

Best: Nut milk advent calendar

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Doors: 24

When a piece of vegan chocolate convinces a dairy devotee, you know it’s excellent. Our tester gave one of the adorable shaped chocs from this advent calendar to an unwitting non-vegan and asked their opinion. The reply was overwhelmingly positive, and they were stunned to find it was plant-based chocolate. With 45 per cent cocoa solids and hazelnut flour, the chocolate behind the 24 doors of this calendar is unmistakably nutty, smooth and remarkably creamy, so it’s almost no wonder that non-vegans and vegans alike love it.

Buy now £12.50, Hotelchocolat.com

Lush advent calendar

Best: Luxury vegan advent calendar

Rating: 9/10

  • Doors: 25

We simply couldn’t put together a vegan advent calendar round-up without including Lush’s famous offering. Approach this calendar, close your eyes, and you’re instantly transported to one of the brand’s stores, the air thick with glorious fragrances that lift the spirits and refresh the mind. Within two layers, there are doors revealing 25 handmade products, with many of them full size. We love that there are exclusive retro items, such as the Christmas penguin bubble bar, and other products only available in the calendar, including the utterly divine sleepy bath bomb (bathe in it before slathering yourself with sleepy body lotion for the best night’s kip of your life) and the shimmer-tastic Merry Christmas shower gel.

The sturdy box itself, styled like a trunk with a majestic, floral pattern, is something we’ll use forever to store our favourite goodies in. Plus, it’s made from 100 per cent recycled board and paper, while the ribbon is made from recycled drinks bottles. This is not the cheapest advent calendar out there, but we think it is well worth the price.

The Lush advent calendar is only currently available to buy in-store, but it will soon be available online too.

Buy now £185.00, Lush.com

The verdict: Vegan advent calendars

The Freedm Street Christmas express advent calendar ticked every box for us and went way beyond what we expected. The products within are exceptional, the range is stellar, and there are sweet treats as well as lifestyle and wellbeing items. We especially love the eco-credentials and that it includes treats both for you and for others by supporting charities. It’s a clear winner in our eyes.

If you’re simply after a chocolate advent calendar, we suggest going for Nono’s vegan advent calendar because the crafted choccies are some of the finest we’ve seen and, most importantly, taste exquisite.

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For a more sustainable Christmas countdown, try our best wooden advent calendars that can be used for years to come

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