Spiced Chocolate Sorbet with Espresso

By Sally Cameron on September 13, 2011

Dairy Free, dessert, the daniel plan,


When a cookbook automatically opens to a certain page, you know that recipe is often made and well loved. Such is page 120 in my copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz .

I adapted David’s recipe for chocolate sorbet by adding espresso powder and Chinese Five Spice for a fantastic, frozen, chocolately treat. Iv’e also listed options for reducing sugar using stevia, which is how I now make it.

Simple Ingredient List

I’ve made this recipe at least ten times in the last few months, always to rave reviews and cleanly–licked bowls. It’s my go-to chocolate “ice cream” recipe now.

With a simple ingredient list and good quality chocolate in the pantry (always), this sorbet can be made when the craving strikes. It’s easy to make because there is no tricky custard base to prepare. Just bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, organic cane sugar (or reduce the sugar with liquid stevia), water, vanilla and my extras of espresso powder and spices.

Sorbet vs. Ice Cream

Technically a sorbet is made without dairy, so no milk or cream as with ice cream or gelato.  As bittersweet chocolate is dairy free, this is a real treat for people with dairy sensitivities. In fact I made it for a friend who is dairy allergic and he was thrilled.

Discovering Chocolate Sorbet

I first encountered chocolate sorbet while apprenticing in a restaurant kitchen. The pastry station made a rich tasting chocolate “ice cream” I was surprised to find was really a sorbet.

Although I love making homemade ice cream, I never tried to recreate it at home…until I discovered this recipe. We were totally surprised at the deep, pure bittersweet chocolate flavor and smooth texture.

The base takes just a minute to come together, followed by a chill down in an ice bath and chilling in the refrigerator until cold. Finally, process in your ice cream maker and allow it to firm up in the freezer.

Tips on Making the Base

When cooking the base, be sure to use a large pan, at least 5 quarts for a single batch. When you combine the water, cocoa and sugar (or stevia) you bring it to a boil for 45 seconds.

When it boils, the chocolate base bubbles fiercely and rises quickly in the pan. Keep whisking. You do not want it to boil over. If it starts to get away from you, remove the pan from the heat briefly, keep whisking, and it will calm down. With a large enough pan you should not have a problem.

Choosing Chocolate

This is a recipe that calls for high quality bittersweet chocolate (70%). My favorites are Theo, Valhrona, Scharffen Berger, or Guittard.

While you can buy these brands at many stores, I often stock up and buy a few pounds as chocolate stored in a cool pantry, well wrapped, lasts a long time. To order in quantity, or if good chocolate is not available where you live, shop online at Chocosphere. It’s a wonderful resource for chocolate. 

Because you are blending the cocoa powder with a liquid (water), Dutch process cocoa powder (versus natural) is best. It’s processed to make it blend more easily with liquids. For cocoa powder, I use Penzeys high butterfat Dutch process cocoa powder. Other high quality Dutch cocoa powders are available on Chocosphere from Valrhona and Guittard.

Spice Options

In terms of my flavor additions, Chinese Five Spice is a blend of cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and clove. Experimenting with it years ago I found it has a great affinity for chocolate. You can use just cinnamon as well. When making anything chocolate, I often add a little five spice. Adding espresso powder accents the rich flavor of chocolate with no coffee flavor. It’s available in most grocery stores and online.

Another marvelous spice resource is Savory Spice Shop. There are stores in many cities and of course, online.

Reduce (or eliminate) Sugar

If you want to reduce sugar in your diet, try using stevia. You can use all sugar, half sugar and half stevia or all stevia. I use liquid stevia made by Sweet LeafTry either the chocolate or the vanilla creme flavors. One little bottle lasts a long time because stevia is much sweeter than sugar. Start with 10-12 drops and taste.

You can also use a granular stevia. Get a good quality brand that does not add a lot of fillers. You will use about half of the amount of sugar. I buy a brand called Wholesome Sweeteners.

Tool Tips

A note on tools: if you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, I highly recommend you get one. It’s a tool I could not live without. Weighing your ingredients when weights are provided is always more accurate and often easier. For this recipe you need 6 ounces (170 grams) of chocolate. Rather than guess, weigh it.

You will need an ice cream maker. (update – see the  link below for how to make ice cream without a machine) They come at all price points. I bought the Lello 4080 Musso Mussino. It was an investment, yes, but I love it. My last model lasted for fifteen years and a friend still has it and uses it. For less expensive models, see the helpful review from The Kitchn. For research, check out models on Amazon and read the reviews.

Next time you get a craving for chocolate, try this deep, rich, spiced chocolate sorbet. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, here is your excuse to buy one! You won’t be disappointed.

No ice cream maker? No problem! Here are six ways you can make ice cream without a machine, from The Kitchn.

Spiced Chocolate Sorbet with Espresso

This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s marvelous ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop. I add espresso powder and Chinese Five Spice for a surprising twist and great flavor. To reduce sugar, try liquid flavored stevia (Sweet Leaf). The original recipe makes a quart. I often make a batch and a half because it goes too quickly. You’ll need an ice cream maker and a digital scale for tools.  Please see notes for using stevia in the post.


  • 2 ¼ cups water 555 ml, 1½ C/375 ml and ¾ C/180 ml, divided use
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar 200 g, or half sugar/half stevia, or all stevia
  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder 75 g
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate 170 g, I use 70%, chopped small
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice or cinnamon


  1. First prepare an ice bath, either in a large bowl or an extra sink. Fill a large bowl about half full of ice and cold water and set aside. Or, if you have a double sink, plug and fill it with ice and cold water as your ice bath. Measure out all ingredients, chop your chocolate and set aside. The cooking goes quickly.
  2. In a large saucepan (5 quarts), whisk together 1½ cups (375 ml) of water, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Be sure to use a large pan. This mixture boils up and expands rapidly while cooking. If it starts to get away from you, move the pan off the heat for a few seconds whisking quickly to get it under control, then return to the heat. If you use a large enough pan you should not have an issue. Boil and whisk for 45 seconds, then turn off the heat and move pan to a cool burner.
  3. Immediately stir in the chocolate, then the vanilla, espresso and five spice. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the balance of the water (3/4 cup). Pour into a stainless steel bowl and place in the ice water bath. Stir occasionally until completely cool, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour. The colder the better.
  4. Pour chocolate base into your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers directions. It will be soft when finished. Freeze for several hours to firm up, then serve.


Leave a Comment
susan | September 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

wow – that is such a great combo, Sally! I love the idea of adding Chinese Five Spice and would have never, never have thought of it. Sounds fantastic and I am sure everyone around you enjoyed it. When we get together, I would love to talk ALOT about coconut sugar! Let’s make our field trip plans!

Sally | September 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm

New Englanders are famous for eating ice cream all year long. I don’t put my machine away for the winter! and you can be sure I will be making this for my next party. Actually, I may just be making this for myself. The five-spice powder is a nice touch!

Laura @ GotChocolate | September 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Can I dive into that bowl of Chocolate sorbet??? Hmmm…

Karen | October 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Sally, can you hold the base until you want to make the ice cream, or should you just make it, then freeze? How long does it keep? Can you double instead of just 1 and 1/2 it?
Loved this last night!!! Can you suggest a little garnish for it, shopped nuts? a syrup? any sort of flourish?

    Sally | October 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Karen, yes you can make the base and refrigerate it for a few hours, even a day, then put it into the ice cream maker. The colder it is, the faster it freezes and turns into sorbet. This weekend I did a 2 1/2x batch which filled a 9.3 cup OXO container to the brim. For garnish, don’t even worry about it. Not needed! The intense chocolate flavor with the spice and espresso speaks for itself. Simplicity is good in this case. Any more questions email me! So glad you enjoyed it.

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