Every year I think it might be different, but it never is. I'll be wandering the aisles of my local CVS after Christmas and notice Valentine's Day candy popping up on the shelves. Late December is way too soon to be planning for a February holiday, so I'll stride on by.
And then the next thing I know it's February 13. Oops!
Now if I wasn't choosy about the chocolates I grabbed for my family it would be one thing, but I'm both particular and a procrastinator, which is a less-than-ideal combination. One of the reasons I'm a food editor is, well, I love food, so not just any old Valentine's chocolates will do.
The good news? Over the years, I've found that even on the day before Valentine's Day you can find some chocolates worth buying. Is the selection what it was in December? No, but maybe that's a good thing. (I'm also an eternal optimist.) The limited options help me focus and over the years I've discovered some good tricks for finding hidden gems outside of the red-and-pink seasonal aisles.
To help you do the same, I ventured to my CVS to see what my options were this year. Everyone has their own personal taste, but these are the 11 best drugstore Valentine's chocolates, in my humble opinion.
11 Best Drugstore Valentine's Chocolates
Before I get started, I will let you know that I'm not a fan of any of the big-name red heart-shaped box assortments (Russell Stover, Whitman's, etc.). Generally speaking, I find the chocolate coating too hard and waxy and most people only really like half of the options in the assortment, if you're lucky, which leaves you fighting over that lone dark chocolate orange cream. For Valentine's Day, you're buying chocolate for the ones you love, so you should know what they like. I prefer to lean into those preferences instead of diluting things with an assortment.
1. Ferrero Rocher
This might not be a surprising pick, but I stand by it. The combination of chocolate and hazelnut is a winner, plus I find the ratio of the chocolate hazelnut shell to the creamy chocolate center to be just right. I still remember the first time I saw these candies years ago and thinking that they were the height of sophistication. In recent years, they've come out with new varieties, which I have tried, but for me, nothing compares to the original. The heart-shaped box makes it perfect for gifting or you can always go with the classic gold box if that's more your style.
2. Reese's Minis
Although I think an original, full-sized Reese's peanut butter cup has the correct ratio of filling to chocolate, I also like tiny things and my kid likes basketball (and Reese's), so this was a go for me. I think the empty tin will be the perfect spot for him to stash the extremely precious, top-tier Pokemon cards that keep ending up on the floor of his room, or at least I hope so.
3. Reese's Hearts
Again, for my money, it's full-size Reese's cups, but my husband likes any and all things chocolate and peanut butter, so it's hearts for him this time of year. I find that the Reese's shapes (trees, hearts) have way too much peanut butter filling, but these disappear quickly in my house, so everyone's happy.
4. Mini Kit Kats
I'm nothing if not consistent, so I will tell you that I prefer a full-size KitKat to a mini, but who could resist this cute box? I typically prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, but I do enjoy the chocolate and wafer combo of a KitKat. I'm also one of those monsters who nibbles away the outside chocolate and then eats the wafer layers separately, but I only do that in the privacy of my own home so as not to alarm others. It's the little things, people!
5. Lindt Lindor Strawberries & Cream
While I'm big on the classics, I do like to try at least one new thing every Valentine's Day. Sometimes it's a hit; other times it's a miss. This year, I'm trying Lindt's Limited Edition Strawberries & Cream truffles. I took a chance on their mint cookie truffles over the holidays and they blew me away. I'm not always a white chocolate fan, but my kiddo is, so I have high hopes that he will like these. When I'm trying something new like this, I try to get just a few in case they're not my favorites. I picked up a big bag of these and then saw the mini bags with four truffles, which is just perfect.
6. Ghiradelli Mint Squares
For me, mint + chocolate is a year-round flavor. Thin Mints are my favorite Girl Scout cookie and I'm the person who buys a box of Junior Mints at the movies. And these Ghiradelli squares give me Junior Mints vibes. The filling is smooth and minty and the chocolate is just dark enough. They're the perfect after-dinner treat or afternoon pick-me-up.
7. Andes Mints
Another thing I like to do when I'm shopping for Valentine's candy is go outside the Valentine's section. Did I find these with the rest of the candy with a paper holiday-themed sleeve? I sure did. But if you slide the sleeve off, it's just a classic box of Andes mints. These are a favorite of mine for a handful of reasons: chocolate + mint, miniature, and my dad's name is Andy and this is one of his favorite candies. My husband will periodically come home with a box for me, which is really the sweetest thing. My point? Not everything has to be Valentine's themed to be a loving gesture. If you know your sweetie likes something specific, grab it.
8. Tony's Caramel Sea Salt (or really any flavor)
This Netherlands-based chocolate company used to be available only in a few stores in the U.S. but in the recent past they're popping up all over—Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and, yes, the drugstore. I found this bar in a separate section of chocolate over by the vitamins in my CVS, which is a reminder that exploring outside the Valentine's aisle can pay off. At my store, they had the milk chocolate bar and the chocolate caramel sea salt. You can't go wrong with any of their flavors. Another thing to keep an eye out for is their adorable mini egg carton with chocolate eggs, which should also be in stores now.
I love the quality of the chocolate, the delicious mix-ins they use and the cute design. What's even better? The company is committed to producing exploitation-free chocolate.
9. Ritter Sport Hazelnut
This German-based company is also getting much wider distribution these days. This is one of my favorite flavors they made because of the whole hazelnuts in the dark chocolate bar. The red wrapper also makes it great for Valentine's Day. I found this near the Tony's bar, so I've made a mental note of that secret chocolate stash for future CVS runs.
Related: The Most Delicious Nutella Recipes
10. Cadbury Dairy Milk
I spied this gem when I was in the candy aisle grabbing the Andes Mints. Cadbury is a British company, though the bars that are sold in the U.S. are made here (unless you buy them at an import shop). The chocolate isn't as rich and creamy as the UK version, but it's still a solid choice. The almonds and raisins are a tasty addition. I know raisins can be polarizing, but I'm a Raisinette gall, so chocolate and raisins are ok in my book. This is also one of my husband's favorite chocolate bars, so this definitely went in my cart.
11. Nerds Gummy Clusters
Ok, ok, I know this isn't chocolate, but hear me out. I'm not really a Nerds fan and I like gummy candies fine but they're not my favorite. But these? They're really good. If you're shopping for folks who are open to non-chocolate treats, I would strongly suggest giving these a try. Each gummy nugget is covered with Nerds, which gives just enough chew and just enough crunch. I tried some of these around Halloween when my son had a mini bag and was shocked by how much I liked them.