Chocolate Sorbet That Makes Me Melt

chocolate sorbet

For a couple years, I’ve been trying to create the perfect chocolate sorbet: an intensely flavored mixture of low-fat cocoa and water that tastes as decadent as premium ice cream. I reverse-engineered my favorite sorbet from Ciao Bella, but it melted faster than you can say “Frosty the Snowman.” Since I didn’t have the patience to tinker it, I tried other recipes that were too icy, too grainy, and too caramely.

I was about to accept defeat until Alice Medrich, author of Pure Dessert, came to the rescue. Her recipe tasted like a melted chocolate bar, but it was practically fat free. Unlike most homemade ice creams, it stayed creamy for days. Move over, Ciao Bella.

The secret to this recipe was a new spin on kitchen wisdom. Oftentimes, hot water is combined with cocoa to coax out the flavors. I failed in my previous sorbet attempts because I boiled the mixture, thinking more heat equaled more flavor. According to Alice, too much heat destroys the flavor of cocoa. You want the mixture to be hot but not cooked to death.

This tip applies to other recipes, like hot cocoa. Whenever I made hot cocoa in the past, I’d microwave the whole thing–soy milk, cocoa, and sugar–in one mug. What’s with those instructions that say, “Pour boiling water over cocoa?” Why would I want to get another pot or cup dirty? For the best chocolate flavor, you really do need two containers. Heat your milk, all alone, in one vessel. Add just enough liquid to the cocoa mixture to make a paste, and then add the rest. Some of you might want to save a cup by dumping the cocoa on top of the milk, but don’t. It will clump.

Chocolate Sorbet
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

1 cup (3.25 oz) cocoa
Scant 1 cup sugar
2 tiny pinches salt
2 cups boiling water
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp rum or vodka (optional)

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt in saucepan and whisk in 1/2 cup boiling water to make a thick paste. Add the remaining water. Stir over medium heat just until tiny bubbles form at the edges of the pan. Don’t cook any longer, as the heat can damage the flavor of the cocoa.

Take the mixture off the heat and add the vanilla. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours. Add the rum or vodka, if using. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Harden the sorbet in the freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours.

Note: The flavor is so rich that you can substitute half of the water with milk.

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  1. jen of a2eatwrite said,

    Oh, I can see I’m going to be very, very grateful to you a second time! Mark Bittman has a good recipe in his “How to Cook Everything” but it wasn’t very creamy.

    We’ve been making the frozen yogurt recipe frequently. Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day a week early, and my dh wanted the frozen yogurt recipe with chopped candied ginger and chopped bittersweet chocolate mixed in. It was really good!

    June 9, 2008 at 8:51 am

  2. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Thanks Jen! You really should thank David Lebovitz for the froyo recipe. Your mix-ins sound delicious. For what it’s worth, Mark Bittman’s recipes haven’t worked for me either. He had a fast roast chicken recipe that was supposed to be done in half an hour. My chicken was still pink then!

    June 9, 2008 at 11:27 pm

  3. DessertObsessed said,

    your sorbet looks amazing! creamy but fat free?! i definitely have to try this recipe!

    June 10, 2008 at 1:36 pm

  4. Lisa (Homesick Texan) said,

    I’m going to make this for a lactose-intolerant friend. Can I use bourbon instead of rum or vodka?

    June 10, 2008 at 4:58 pm

  5. niko said,

    Have we talked about this before? Ciao Bella is the absolute best sorbet – their inky black cocoa flavor… I might have to get some this week after reading your post. I also really like their choc gelato too – both are really best in class…

    Anyway, I have always looked for the same holy grail of dark choc flavor but without all the sat fat… very cool and useful post! BTW, the warm vs boiling thing is definitely true. This weekend I got a frozen hot choc at Jacques Torres and they used some kind of cold sludge that was different than syrup and it had the most intense dark chco flavor… best $4.50 ever spent vs Starbucks or Jamba…

    June 11, 2008 at 1:02 pm

  6. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Lisa, sure you can use bourbon. Although rum probably gives it the Ciao Bella taste.

    Niko, I forgot whether we talked about Ciao Bella’s chocolate sorbet, but I agree that it’s the best! Inky is the perfect way to describe it. Ironically, I’m not a big fan of their gelato. It’s good as ice cream, but not as intense as Grom or Il Lab. Speaking of ice cream, my favorite is at Blue Marble, the new place in Brooklyn. They have the BEST strawberry ice cream. It tastes fresh and tart. Even better than the chocolate.

    Amber, glad it worked out for you. Although it takes a long time to harden, it just means that it stays scoopable when it’s been in the freezer for a couple days. A small price to pay.

    June 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

  7. Sharona May said,

    That looks wonderful. My husband has made ice cream a few times in our ice cream maker and man it is good.

    Sharona May

    June 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm

  8. Amber said,

    I made this over the weekend, and it was a huge hit! My husband is lactose intolerant, and really misses ice cream. I used 1/2 water, and 1/2 2% lactose-free milk. It worked great – was smooth, creamy and delicious! Only downside – it took longer than 4 hours to harden – wasn’t truly ready till it had been in the freezer overnight. Nevertheless – the guests were literally licking their bowls. This will go into permanent rotation!

    June 18, 2008 at 6:55 pm

  9. AppetiteforChina said,

    Your photo shows off the texture of the ice cream really well!

    June 19, 2008 at 10:09 am

  10. Nick said,

    Wow, I’ve been eating fudgsicles all week and I could have been eating this? I’m gonna go make this and freeze them in little icepop trays! Homemade fudgsicles!

    June 28, 2008 at 8:41 am

  11. keith said,

    Very good dessert! I substituted the rum or vodka with bourbon. Came out very nicley.

    July 27, 2008 at 7:01 pm

  12. jen rau said,

    i like my desserts full of fat but if this really tastes like a melted chocolate bar i’ll try it!

    July 28, 2008 at 10:17 am

  13. rachel said,

    hi, this sounds incredible! no milk or cream or eggs! do you think it would work if i used equal/splenda/sweet n low or some other kind of artificial sweetener instead of the sugar?
    if so i can see myself making this daily!

    July 31, 2008 at 9:33 am

  14. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Rachel, I don’t think it would work with an artificial sweetener, since it could mess with the texture. I don’t think it would taste as good either.

    July 31, 2008 at 9:35 pm

  15. Jacqueline said,

    I found your recipe while doing a search. I too cannot have sugar, so I used 1/2 Cup Blue Agave. Perfect. My boyfriend and I ate almost the whole batch it was that good! Blue Agave is very forgiving in frozen desserts, especially, and it has such a low glycemic index rating that it does not hurt those on low sugar diets–a 15 vs. the 100 of sugar.

    I am curious about the “low fat cocoa powder.” I used plain ol Ghiardelli’s, but it is higher in fat–especially given we ate it up! What suggestions are there for low fat?

    March 29, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  16. Memoria said,

    This looks so rich and good! I will have to try this very soon!

    May 31, 2009 at 11:02 pm

  17. Miss M said,

    I made it with Splenda, and, for a richer texture, I added 12 tbsp of egg replacer (equivalent to 4 egg yolks). I also changed the 2 tbsp of rhum to 2 1/4tsp of rhum and 2 1/4 tsp of brandy (equivalent to 1 1/2 tbsp of alcohol). I let it chill for 1.5 hs before putting it in the gelato maker, as it didn’t need four hours. It came out fantastic. You should try it.

    I was trying to imitate the cioccolato extra noir sorbetto of Grom, which is fantastic but uses real chocolate and sugar, which I cannot have. I adapted your recipe and the chocolate sorbet recipe in the link below, which is almost the same as yours but uses real chocolate instead of cacao (I did it with cacao – can’t have chocolate), it adds egg yolks (which I added but in the form of egg replacer), and it has slightly less alcohol (1 1/2 tbsp of brandy rather than 2 tbsp of rhum).

    For that who wanted to do it with Splenda, the addition of the 12 tbsp of egg replacer really smoothed it out.

    October 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm

  18. Jennifer B. said,

    I tried this recipe today with an ice cream maker i picked up secondhand.After a good LONG wash, I made some chocolate sorbet that was great! I didn’t have any rum or vodka so i used some japanese sake we had and it was delicious!! Who knew? 🙂 Thanks again!

    April 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm

  19. Traci said,

    I found this recipe on your blog recently after Googling ‘chocolate sorbet.’ Having invited some friends for dinner, I found myself challenged about what to make for dessert since the wife has both celiac disease, as well as dairy issues… Voila! That’s where your wonderful recipe for chocolate sorbet came in. It was a phenomenal success and all of us LOVED it! It was hard to believe that a frozen dessert that tasted so good and creamy could be dairy-free!

    The wife asked for the recipe and I told her that although it calls for rum – which I didn’t have on hand – I simply used rum extract. It seemed to “intensify” the flavor and was perfect. However, we both agreed that if a person likes coconut, that might be a nice extract to substitute in there as well. Lastly, I would suggest freezing it for at least a day; then allowing it to sit for a few minutes on the counter to thaw – just enough to be able to scoop it easier. Thanks Jessica for giving us this great recipe! I will make it many times!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  20. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Traci, so glad the recipe satisfied everyone’s sweet tooth. Excellent suggestion about coconut extract too!

    May 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm

  21. snenny said,

    Wow – this looks incredible! I was introduced to the world of chocolate sorbet over the weekend, after indulging in some at Laduree as a special posh treat, and naturally have leapt to the interwebs to see if I can make some at a fraction of the price (and one where the first ingredient isn’t, like Laduree’s, butter). This looks too terrific for words. Can I make it without an icecream maker? For example, if I returned to the freezer every hour or so to mash at it with a fork? Thanks for your help!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

  22. Melissa said,

    This was incredible! We had some high end cocoa powder I didn’t know how t use up and no chocolate pieces (which most sorbet recipes seemed to call for). Since you mentioned that you could use half milk and I had some half and half in my fridge that was dated TODAY, I used half water, half half and half and it is creamy but still overwhelmingly (in a good way) chocolatey. Thank you so much! It isn’t often I find a recipe where I have all of the ingredients in my house and it makes me THIS happy! 🙂

    July 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm

2 Links to this post

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