My previous quest for the ultimate bread in Vancouver was so much fun that I thought I would do it again for another one of my favourite treats. Almond croissants have long been my go-to at cafes and bakeries. Sure, they are not as pure as a classic croissant but the almond variant is my preference. This hyper-local list is no casual walkthrough of the prettiest photos on Instagram. I actually ate and ranked every almond croissant that appears. Nothing was prepared especially for me.
For this guide, I ranked 15 venues in search of the best almond croissant. This is a ranked list of my own tasting preferences. There will be a winner, two runner-ups, and many losers. To start off, my criteria for a good almond croissant:
- Must have a good rise
- Must have enough almond on top and within. I'm not here for a sprinkling of nuts
- Must have a good balance of sweetness, nuttiness, and buttery croissant-ness
- Must break into satisfying flakes on impact with my teeth
Ranked from best to worst, here are the best almond croissants in Vancouver that I have personally eaten myself:
- Giovane Cafe
- Beaucoup Bakery
- The Bench Bakehouse
- Elmo Baking Co.
- Temper Chocolate & Pastry
- Thomas Haas
- Cadeaux Bakery
- Small Victory
- JJ Bean
- Sweet Obsession
- Caffe Artigiano
Unranked – Angus T (more on this later)
Honourable Mention – Elmo Baking Co. Black Sesame Croissant
Honourable Mention – BjornBar Bakery Tiramisu Double Bake
Winner: Giovane Cafe ($4.25)
There are a few reasons Giovane Cafe's almond croissant tops my list. The rise is evident with many layers criss-crossing within, the presentation is pleasant with a thorough top layer of almond, and best of all, the thickness of almond paste within the croissant is unparalleled amongst all other entrants on this list. Flakiness wasn't the best but flakiness isn't the most important criteria for me. At $4.25, this is also on the cheaper end of pricing which makes it the easiest to recommend out of any of the top 3 croissants.
First Runner-Up: Beaucoup Bakery ($4.75)
Another easy recommendation comes from Beaucoup Bakery. Though this lacks the thorough layer of almonds on top, it does feature an intentional almond bake layer that's quite pleasant to look at versus the usual topping. Rise was also fantastic here. The criss-crossing of folds inside is the best out of all croissants and each bite has a satisfying flakiness (see the concentration of crispy croissant along the crust, particularly in the center). This is an easy recommendation especially if you're in the area.
Second Runner-Up: The Bench Bakehouse ($4.50)
Everyone talks about the double bake from Thomas Haas, but what if I told you there was a cheaper double bake option, and at least in a case-by-case comparison in my analysis, that came from a newer entrant in the Vancouver almond croissant scene?
While the almond paste was a little on the short side, it feels like the intention here was to showcase the mastery in flakiness and overall croissant mastery. The folds here were immaculate to say the least and the rise was off the charts relative to everything else on this list. I was given the second-last almond croissant at the time of ordering, suggesting that maybe the neighbourhood (Commercial Drive) already knows this the secret of the street. Another huge plus was the pleasant gradient from the exterior shell to the internals progressing from a dark chocolate to a light caramel. Following my criteria above (see focus on loving almond paste and toppings), this lands outside of the top 2, but this was one tasty croissant that should insert near the top of most lists for those who require less almond paste than me. This is an easy recommendation especially if you're in the area.
This was a hefty almond croissant. Looking inside, you can see there are actually two almond sections: one tube-like almond bar and a generous amount of almond paste buried under a number of layers and folds. Content-wise, this had the second highest almond proportion. Its shell didn't have the same flakiness as the two above but made up for it with a great rise. This is an easy recommendation especially if you're in the area.
Elmo Baking Co. ($5.30)
My first visit to Elmo didn't yield any almond croissants, but my most recent visit got me an Almond Vanilla Croissant. While the interior left a few air gaps here and there, the hearty amount of almond paste and profound flakiness propels this almond croissant to a pretty loft spot. It is a little expensive relative to the other croissants and I would have liked to see a little more baked almond paste on the top.
Temper Chocolate & Pastry ($5.50)
Those in the know will recall that the founder of Temper, Steve Hodge, worked alongside Thomas Haas so it's fitting their almond croissants end up in similar spots on this ranking. I was lucky and got this croissant fresh off the cooling rack. It was immediately purchased and stuffed into a paper bag which it proceeded to soak through. In actuality, this was a very buttery/oily almond croissant and you could taste it in every bite. The saving grace was that the exterior look was jaw-dropping. Who doesn't like to see so much almond paste stuffed into a croissant that it's spilling over the side?
Once we got inside though, it was apparent that the air gap between croissant layering and almond paste was quite wide. The sheer volume of almond paste convinced me to rank it higher than the double bake from Thomas Haas.
Thomas Haas ($5.50)
I think it's kind of shocking Thomas Haas ended up this low on this list after so many people recommended that I check out Thomas Haas. Maybe I was unlucky with my croissant but by the time I got it, the croissant was quite flat and that caused the layers to look less than exceptional when compared to the entrants above.
The low rise was mostly cancelled out with the good points. This was labelled as a double-bake and the top layer of almond actually included a second layer of baked almond paste that was unlike any other entrant. Despite the lack of rise, it still had a ton of flakiness to go with the thick shell. This almond croissant certainly has enough going on to justify the $5.50 price tag, but it just so happened that during my anonymous visit to the North Vancouver location that this almond croissant did not nail the rise or layering criteria as well as the bakeries above. I'd still recommend this one.
Cadeaux Bakery ($4.05)
Cadeaux Bakery lands at this spot on this list because of its interesting shape, a mildly satisfying crispiness, an above-average amount of criss-crossing layers and almond paste, a balanced sweetness, and a welcoming price tag. You could do a lot worse for $4.05 especially compared to some of the other almond croissants on this list. I'd recommend this one.
Small Victory ($5)
Flakiness is king at Small Victory. Every bite was basically an explosion of flakes crunching off the shell of the croissant. However, the almond paste felt quite thin and the inside of the croissant revealed a number of questionably gaping holes. For a $5 croissant and I'd say this one just makes the cut as far as being able to recommend.
JJ Bean ($4.25)
Small Victory being the last one I could recommend means unfortunately JJ Bean is the start of the bottom of my list for the best almond croissants. While I love a good amount of moist of butter in my croissant, this croissant went too hard on the butter. The dough was extra moist inside but as a result this croissant lacked rise, flakiness, and each bite was more of a buttery pull than a crispy chomp. The buttery finish also left a discernible layer of oil on my lips after consumption which is great if you're looking for calories and terrible if you want an enjoyable treat. The good parts were the amount of almond (this was caked in almond flavour) and the criss-crossing layers inside. Still can't recommend this one.
The cool part about Faubourg's almond croissant is the almond paste appears baked right in unlike most of the entrants which have the croissant sliced open to have the almond paste lathered on. The top layer in this almond croissant was sparse, and though the rise was great, the shell thinned out quickly leading to little flakiness. For $5, this looked pretty small and left a lot to be desired relative to other places on this list. Can't recommend this one.
Ganache Patisserie ($4.95)
Similar to my complaints about JJ Bean's croissant being too buttery, the almond croissant at Ganache was too sweet for me. The almond paste was extra moist and each bite felt more doughy than flaky. Almost no rise to speak of here, either, which is too many red flags for $5. Can't recommend this one.
Sweet Obsession ($3.90)
Venturing out to the west side of Vancouver, this almond croissant was the cheapest non-Starbucks variant, but it came at a price. Rise was probably the best point of this croissant with just a few gaps in layering. Look closely though, and notice the lack of almond paste either on top or within the croissant. If you want something closer to a regular croissant, this is the almond croissant for you. This was not the almond croissant for me. Can't recommend this one.
It wouldn't be a ranking unless I got an almond croissant from likely the most popular cafe company in Vancouver. This was the smallest bun to go with the cheapest price. Layering was also alright as was rise. Starbucks' croissant was also the cheapest croissant but this tasted more like a bun than an actual croissant. Is it the French way to reduce the butter on a croissant? I don't think so. Can't recommend this one.
Caffe Artigiano ($4.50)
Man this almond croissant was sad. Literally 4 slivers of almonds on the outside, an underbaked interior, and absolutely zero almond paste. It looks more like a bun than a croissant. Save your money for something better.
Unranked: Angus T ($5.95)
Okay so here's the story. At Angus T, this is labelled as an Almond Double Bake but obviously it has chocolate inside and all over the croissant. I felt that this was sort of cheating and didn't feel it should be ranked with almond croissants that actually only had almond inside. A few more notes though: this was not very croissant-shaped (similar to Caffe Artigiano), it was hella sweet with all the chocolate on top, and the almond bar inserted inside felt a little lazy versus actually lathering an almond paste within. It's the most expensive croissant on this list but it's not the most amazing.
Honourable Mention: Elmo Baking Co. (~$5)
Here's another croissant that doesn't actually have almond, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Elmo Baking Co. (as far as I know) only sell their goods out of Smokehouse Sandwich Co. in Richmond. Their Black Sesame Charcoal Croissant was both amazing to look at and to enjoy. The black sesame paste inside was deliciously nutty and naturally coloured black to increase excitement. If these folks ever introduce an almond croissant, they've got a good chance of landing pretty high on the list.
Honourable Mention: BjornBar Bakery ($5.75)
From the friendly neighbourhood of Edgemont Village in North Vancouver comes BjornBar Bakery. While almonds are present in many of their croissants, they didn't have a base almond croissant, and it felt wrong to rank their tiramisu double bake croissant against the traditional almond croissants in this list. However, take a look. Within this croissant, you'll find the core elements of a tiramisu inside the croissant and it's pretty stuffed to the gills. Cakey dough subs in for ladyfingers but there is some clear espresso and cocoa which provided a lot of assurance that there's something special being baked at BjornBar Bakery.
One-liner: All the almond croissants I've been documenting in Metro Vancouver, ranked
Highlight: Giovane Cafe's Almond Croissant
Price per croissant: $4-$6 (don't waste your time with the Starbucks cheapo version)
2019-03-24: Added in an entry for The Bench Bakehouse, slotting it in at #3
2019-06-29: Added in a real entry for Elmo Baking Co., slotting it in at #4
2019-11-17: Added in an honourable mention for BjornBar Bakery
2019-12-25: Added in an entry for Temper, slotting it in at #6