Little bowls of creamy, indulgent, dark chocolate & espresso panna cotta. These no bake Italian puddings are as rich and flavorful as they are easy to whip up. Gluten free.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

Dark chocolate espresso panna cotta

Are you all candy’d out after Halloween? How about chocolate?

Last year, I was home solo on Halloween – the Honey gone for a conference – and was bombarded by dozens, no hundreds, (thousands!) of kids. We were cleaned out in under an hour, tops, the little monsters (and princesses, vampires and superheroes) swiftly depleting what I naively thought was a plentiful supply of candy.

Just after six o-clock, I sadly turned off our porch lights, and felt like a Scrooge for the rest of the night, binging on rom-coms and homemade cheesy popcorn, with not a single piece of candy left to hand out to the trick-or-treaters still running happily from door-to-door outside.

This year, we stocked up, Costco-style, and braced ourselves for the onslaught of miniature Elsa’s, Minions and zombies. I readied the front hall with pumpkins and a giant basket of candy, determined not to disappoint any kids who came knocking. The Honey put on old episodes of Treehouse of Horror, but I was sure we’d be too busy answering the door to watch. Annnd, we handed out candy to… maybe five groups. Like, maybe a dozen kids TOTAL.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

What is haaaappening, Washington?? Where were the throngs of children in adorable and/or awkward costumes?

When we were kids – way back in the early 90’s – Halloween was all about trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. We’d beg my mom to have dinner early, already dressed in costume, of course, so we could join our other friends skittering about on the hunt for candy. There were stops for homemade gingersnaps and hot cocoa. And the jackpot houses that gave out FULL SIZE candy bars. At the end of the night, the sweet contents of our heaving pillowcases were dumped out on the living room floor to be surveyed and traded. My parents were into “healthy eating,” which was the worst, and meant that candy horde had to last the entire year. We usually made it until around Thanksgiving.

After our lackluster showing this year, an absurd amount of Halloween candy remained. My mouth full of chocolate, I begged the Honey to take it to work on Monday morning, an effort to prevent us from snacking on any more fun-sized candy bars than we would surely consume over the weekend.

…And then, today I went and made these little bowls of creamy, indulgent, dark chocolate espresso panna cotta.

Because… chocolate, of course. I never can resist.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

Why you’ll love this chocolate-y espresso panna cotta

Panna cotta, translated from Italian to “cooked cream,” (we’re doing that a lot lately!) is a thick, creamy mousse, made of sweetened, simmered, heavy cream mixed with gelatin, and chilled until set. It comes together so easily, with ingredients almost always in the pantry, and makes for an elegant, individual dessert.

I knew I wanted to add dark chocolate – almost always a good idea – and also decided to experiment with some recently purchased coffee extract. You know I love adding a bit of espresso powder to chocolate (here, here…), as it adds such depth and complexity to the natural flavor and richness of cocoa, and in this recipe there is no exception.

This espresso panna cotta doesn’t come off as overtly coffee-flavored, but rather a truly decadent, richly-chocolate mousse, and chocolate-lover’s dream. Happy baking!!

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

More simple chocolate dessert recipes to try next:

If you make this espresso chocolate panna cotta be sure to tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #forkknifeswoon and leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked it! ★★★★★ Star ratings are especially helpful because they help others find my recipes too. xo, Laura

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Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Laura Bolton
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert, No Bake
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American, Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


  • 1/2 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1 package (1-1/4 tsp) unflavored gelatin
  • 13/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder (or instant espresso)
  • 1 tsp pure coffee extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 4 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao), finely-chopped


  1. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large, spouted measuring cup or pitcher. Set aside.
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of the milk into a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin on top. When the gelatin softens, after about 10 minutes, stir the two together until combined.
  3. Meanwhile, add the remaining 1/4 cup milk, cream, sugar and salt to a large sauce pan, and whisk to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to low, and add the espresso powder, stirring constantly until combined.
  5. With the cream gently simmering, whisk in the coffee extract and chopped chocolate, until completely melted and velvety-smooth. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the softened gelatin, stirring until completely dissolved.
  6. Carefully pour the mixture through the strainer to separate any lumpy bits, then divide among 4 ramekins or small serving dishes.
  7. Lightly cover and let cool to room-temperature, then refrigerate until fully set, about 3 hours. Serve chilled with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Enjoy!!


The panna cotta cups can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve.