Valentine’s Day Chocolate Mousse

In each issue of Paleo Magazine, I share the history of a traditional recipe and adapt it to fit into a healthier paleo lifestyle. Now that we’re in the depths of winter and Valentine’s Day is on its way, I thought something a little sweet was in order.


Chocolate Mousse—also known as the vastly more romantic name mousseline au chocolat—is what would happen if clouds were made of chocolate and could be coaxed down from the sky to float on the dinner table. Chocolate mousse somehow manages to be light and substantial, creamy and luxurious, all at once.

Although chocolate mousse is probably one of the most beloved desserts to be found sur la table, its exact origins remain a sweet mystery. French chefs have been cooking with chocolate since the early 17th century, and they used a kitchen gadget called a moulinet to whip chocolate for drinking. At some point, a clever chef added eggs to his hot chocolate to increase the amount of foam. Word got around, as delicious ideas will, and soon, people preferred the foamy “mousse” to the plain chocolate.

In 1470, Menon (author of the French cookbook La Cuisinière Bourgeoise) described a chocolate mousse recipe like this:


Chocolate mousse [foam]. It is made in the same way by melting six tablets of chocolate on hot coals with a little cream and mixing them well after with as many egg yolks, cream and sugar.


We need to fast forward a few hundred years and a few thousand miles to find the first written record of chocolate mousse in the United States. A food exposition was held in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1892 and five years later, the Boston Daily Globe published a “Housekeeper’s Column” with a recipe for chocolate mousse. It was more like a pudding than the airy confection from France, but it was chocolate, so I suspect no one complained.

After hundreds of years of tinkering, a traditional chocolate mousse recipe has become somewhat standardized: semi-sweet chocolate, butter, sugar, and cream. Julia Child’s classic recipe includes a touch of coffee, orange liqueur, and egg whites for fluffiness. Bon Appétit magazine, in contrast, adds egg yolks for silkiness.


All of which is irrelevant to us.

Because we’re making chocolate mousse with water and dark chocolate. C’est tout.


Thanks to the culinary brilliance of Hervé This, king of molecular gastronomy, we are kitchen alchemists, turning water and chocolate into mousse. Creamy, rich, lick-the-bowl-clean mousse, which also happens to be dairy free and relatively low in sugar.

This mousse is elegant enough for a special dinner and easy enough to sweeten a random Wednesday. You can fancy it up with a dollop of coconut milk whipped cream or make it exotic with a pinch of chipotle pepper or cinnamon. You might also want to replace some of the water with a little espresso. Or be a purist and go straight-up chocolate. Choose your chocolate carefully—70% cacao works best—and indulge in the rich, deep, dark, complex flavor. Bon appétit!


Dark Chocolate Mousse From Hervé This

The original recipe says it serves 4, but they would be massive servings. I cut the recipe in half and still think it serves 4. If you want to top it with coconut milk whipped cream, put the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before you want to eat it. I also recommend putting your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least an hour before whipping. For what it’s worth, Dave liked it more without the whipped cream, so you might want to skip the extra work.

  • 4 ounces 71% cacao dark chocolate

  • 3 ounces water

  • pinch salt

  • 1-2 ice cube trays worth of ice

Whipped Cream:
  • 1/2 can coconut milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

  • coarse sea salt


Place a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Break the chocolate into large chunks and place in the pan with the water and a pinch of salt. Stir with a whisk to melt the chocolate into the water. It should look like old fashioned chocolate syrup: smooth, slightly shiny, and liquidy. Turn off the heat.


Dump the ice cubes into a large bowl and add about 1 cup of cold water. Place a slightly smaller bowl inside the large bowl and scrape the hot chocolate sauce into the top bowl. Grab a wire whisk and whisk that stuff like your life depends on it. The ice bath underneath cools the cbocolate, and the whisking action incorporates air that create the fluffy, mousse-like texture. It took me about 3-4 minutes to get to the desired consistency. At first, it seemed like it would never happen. My arm may have gotten very tired. But I kept going — and you will, too!  If your mousse suddenly cools and thickens too quickly, you can re-melt it and start over. So forgiving! (See the original recipe for troubleshooting, but I had no problems.) Spoon the mousse into serving dishes and refrigerate if you’re not going to eat it immediately.


If you’re making whipped cream, remove your bowl and beater from the freezer. Spoon half the thickened, chilled coconut milk into the mixing bowl and save the rest for  a curry. Add the extract to the bowl, then beat the coconut milk for 5 or so minutes until it takes on the texture of whipped cream. Dollop on top of the mousse, then sprinkle the top of the dessert with a pinch of coarse sea salt. Serve and relish the compliments.


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  • Katarina says:

    O.M.G.!!! You just made me the happiest girl on the planet! Chocolate mousse is my all-time favorite dessert EVER!!! I’m in the middle of my first Whole30 so I won’t indulge right now, but you better believe I’ll be making this when I can. I also just happen to have some organic, fair-trade Spicy Chili chocolate in my cupboard that one of my friends at Theo Chocolate gave me! Wooooohoooo!!!

  • My husband’s taking me for a horse-back riding lesson– so excited!

  • Mimi says:

    I saw the original recipe a long time ago on Pinterest and meant to try it but forgot. I’m glad to hear it actually does work.

  • ~nancy says:

    “My arm may have gotten very tired. But I kept going — and you will, too!”

    You’re hilarious! Thanks for the recipe…can’t wait to try it!

  • Kate says:

    gosh this looks incredible! I’m a newish reader and I adore your recipes Mel. I can’t wait to turn some coconut into whipped cream, I’ve never heard of that before.

  • Melissa M says:

    I’m almost more excited about the coconut whipped cream than I am about the chocolate. I don’t have a mixer/beater though… can I still do this by hand?

    • Mel says:

      Oooo… hmmm… I really don’t think it will work by hand. Sorry! You can try it, but I don’t think you can whip the coco milk fast enough and hard enough by hand to make it aerate.

      • Jamie says:

        If you chill the can and only use the thick part of the cream, you can whip by hand – it’s a little flatter, but it works! 🙂

        • abbey says:

          I like the idea of the aerated whipped coconut cream, but I’m really completely content with a dollop of the thickened part of the cream straight from the can. I tried the chocolate mousse recipe today with Lindt 90% cacao (and a pinch of cinnamon and cayenne) and just the solidified coconut from the can. I was in danger of eating an entirely un-paleo sized portion it was so yummy. ;o)

  • ohhh how simple! Who knew so few ingredients created something so decadent.

  • Karen says:

    Wow, I had no idea you could turn chocolate and water into something creamy and fluffy! Just out of curiosity-where do you get your pork rinds? I can’t seem to find any quality versions.

    • Mel says:

      Sadly, I buy crappy pork rinds at the grocery store… but I only have them, maybe, 2-3 times per year so I try not to sweat it too much. As long as the only ingredients are pork rinds and salt, you’re in OK shape. If you can get cracklins from a farm that raises pigs right, all the better.

      • Renee says:

        I got pork rinds from pastured pigs from 4505 Meats in San Francisco (after attending the Nom Nom Paleo book release party, and meeting my hero, Mel) How good a day was that???

  • Justin Ross says:

    What should the consistency be like on these? I tried putting a bowl of ice water under my kitchenaid mixing bowl (cuz whisking something like this by hand for 3-4 minutes suuuuuucks). It seemed like it was going pretty well, but after a certain point, it was light and fluffy… ish, but like, completely firm, rather than a mousse-y texture.

    Did I just let it get too cold? Would it have been better if I let it warm back up a bit?

    I re-melted it and tried doing it by hand (the kitchenaid whisk doesn’t get all the way to the edges of the bowl, so there was a lot of unwhisked chocolate), and it turned out about the same.

    • Mel says:

      The original recipe has lots of details about texture and how to fix it if it doesn’t work. Mine wasn’t doing anything then suddenly… BAM! It was thick. It had the texture of mousse: not pudding-ish… definitely had some heft to it, but smooth.

      But I did the whole thing by hand. I don’t think a standing mixer is the way to go — either hand mixer or whisk by hand.

  • Kerry Anne says:

    I will be trying this recipe for sure. I am new to the Paleo-way and your whole website has gotten me really excited. Thank you for your beautiful inspiration, Melissa!

  • Angie says:

    I have been meaning to try coconut whipped cream and i was curious if it would work in on of those arrisol whip cream makers they have at coffee shops. I have one but I don’t want to waste all the product and gas if it’ll just be flat and watery.

    • Mel says:

      I have no idea. I’ve never tried! But now I’m super curious.

      • Anita B says:

        Before I was told any better I took a can of cold, full fat coconut milk and tossed the whole contents in my blender to reintegrate the fat with the liquid, then dumped it into my home aerosol whipped cream maker. Added the gas and voila! Beautiful whipped cream that remained light and stable in the canister for days. Texture was exactly like real whipped cream. Only thing: always shake the cream down to the nozzle end before dispensing. It likes to stay near the bottom after refrigeration.

  • KaiaMaeve says:

    Yes. You just made my valentines day that much better. Thanks! I love Austin Texas.

  • Amanda A. says:

    So glad you made this recipe and, of course, had great success. I saw this on Food52, but was still intimidated to try it – sure there was some kind of magic that only very experienced cooks could conjure up. Thanks for reminding me to stop being silly and try it already!

    • Mel says:

      It’s definitely an experiment. I ALMOST whipped mine too much. If you’re going to try it, I recommend reading the original recipe, too, for all the tips on what to do if you run into trouble.

      But honestly, it was easy and even if it gets “messed up,”it’s not really messed up because it’s still yummy chocolate.

  • Walker F says:

    For a coconut milk whipped cream cheat – I buy Thai Kitchen brand and just store in fridge overnight. When you remove the lid it will have separated and you will have coconut milk “icing” on top (about the consistency of cream cheese) on top. You can use as is or whip it up (perfect to dollop in coffee, or dip berries in btw)

  • Charmain says:

    Hi Mel,

    Love your stuff!! Can you please confirm if this would be Whole30 compliant? I am still not confident of what is and what isn’t allowed.


    • Mel says:

      Hey, Charmain. This is definitely NOT Whole30 compliant. Chocolate is a no-no during the 30 days of a Whole30… you can use unsweetened cocoa for savory dishes, like chili or in a steak rub, but chocolate bars are out for the month.

      This is definitely a treat — but post Whole30, it’s a good choice for treat because it’s lower in sugar, contains no garbage ingredients, and is dairy free.

      • Charmain says:

        Thanks Mel. I thought so & was surprised when one of the girls on our gym nutrition blog posted that she had eaten this for a Valentines Day treat. I was almost positive there was no way I could have this!!

        Day 3 down and ready for the next 27!!!

  • Olivia says:

    Wow, Mel. Amazing!

    Can’t wait to try this one once my Whole30 is finished!

  • katiekwal says:

    I don’t understand the chemistry behind this, and I don’t care. Looks absolutely delicious! Wish I’d have seen this yesterday!

  • Allison says:

    Oh my goodness I’m literally drooling. Looks fabulous.

  • Melissa says:

    Hey Mel,
    I actually have a question about the coconut whipped cream…. I tried to make it the other day and it was a disaster zone. I chilled the coconut milk overnight, put the mixing bowl, beater, and coconut milk in the freezer for 15min prior to mixing. Basically, I just ended up splashing coconut milk all over the house for 12 minutes then gave up. What’s the trick to consistency change? PS- I love your cookbook and your blog =)

    • Juniper says:

      I know it’s been a bit since you posted, but if you’re still wondering:
      First, you must use full fat coconut milk, none of that skim stuff. Also, it must be a can of coconut milk, a jug of that stuff that you use to sub for actual milk won’t work at all. Chill the can, open it, and scoop out with a spoon the part that is thick and creamy, as opposed to watery. You’ll definitely be able to tell what I’m talking about. Don’t be too anal about it, a bit of the watery stuff in there won’t hurt you. Then whip it in your chilled bowl on high speed for a few minutes, it will never be as crazy light and fluffy as say, whipped cream in a can, but it will still be super tasty and creamy and look right. Good luck!

  • Christa says:

    Another option is one bag if dark chocolate chips melted and thrown into the blender with one can of coconut milk. You divide into ramekins and chill -or- you can put into a greased tart dish. Top with fresh berries. It’s like darks chocolate mousse meets ganache with a nod to flourless chocolate cake, takes no effort, looks elegant, tastes divine.

  • oddjobbob says:

    This recipe won’t be acceptable in the Whole30.

    1. 71% dark chocolate will have some sugar.
    2. Even 90+% has some sugar.
    3. You can use like Baker’s Chocolate and it has no sugar, but you have paleo-itized chocolate ice cream which is contray to the spirit of the Whole 30 plan.

    And Baker’s Chocolate whipped with water… hmmm… sounds pretty yuck. Like eating a hand full of dark roasted coffee beans.

    But after the Whole30, if you find you can tolerate the sugar, then probably in great moderation it may work for a loose Whole9 menu.

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  • Nikki says:

    I tried making it with dark cocoa powder. It tastes horrible! HELP! Can I use dark cocoa powder?

    • Mel says:

      For this to work, you have to use dark CHOCOLATE, not cocoa powder.

      • Nikki says:

        Thanks Mel! I was desperate and didn’t have any chocolate (there is no way I can keep that in the house w/o eating it that very second!)…the powder I can ignore! Worth a shot, and I will be trying it with actual chocolate. 🙂

  • Paul says:

    Made it. Spectacular. I ate the whole thing. The whole bar of chocolate. This recipe is going to turn me into a fat kid.


  • Megan Phelan says:

    Omg thank you for this! It’s fantastic and the sea salt is unreal!