Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

Little bowls of creamy, indulgent, dark chocolate & espresso panna cotta… Because… CHOCOLATE, of course. I still can’t resist.

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 @forkknifeswoonDark 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 still can’t resist.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta | Fork Knife Swoon @forkknifeswoon

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

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Dark Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta

  • Author: Fork Knife Swoon
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x


  • 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. Pour 1/4 cup of 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. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large, spouted measuring cup or pitcher, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, add the remaining 1/4 cup milk, cream, sugar and salt to a large sauce pan, and whisk to dissolve the sugar. 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.
  3. 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. Carefully pour the mixture through the strainer to separate any lumpy bits, then divide among 4 ramekins or small serving dishes.
  4. 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. Can be made up to two days in advance.



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  1. 12.24.19
    Dianne McNeal said:

    I can’t find coffee extract. Is there any substitute?

    • 12.24.19
      Laura said:

      Hi Dianne! You can use vanilla extract. And/or add another 1/2 tsp of espresso powder. Enjoy!!

  2. 12.14.17

    I am obsessed with desserts! Definitely dark chocolate espresso panna cotta will be yummy! It would be perfect dessert! I found your post from Pinterest! I’m also gonna pin this post on my Pinterest board my followers will love it. Thanks for sharing Laura!

  3. 3.20.16
    Lucinda said:

    Tried this recipe out last night for a dinner party! Wow was it a hit! I used dark roast instant coffee for the espresso powder and increased it by 50%. A real show stopper with little effort! Will definitely make again.

  4. 11.9.14
    Kelly said:

    We only got a handful of kids this year too! I have no idea why.
    I’ve never made panna cotta, let alone dark chocolate panna cotta. I’ll try your recipe soon! Pinning now!

    • 11.10.14
      Laura said:

      Thanks, Kelly! Hope you like this one 🙂

  5. 11.6.14

    I love panna cotta but I have never make the chocolate expresso version … I need to try this soon! Pinned.

  6. 11.6.14
    Laura said:

    I did, I did! 🙂 Thanks, Rachel!!

  7. 11.6.14

    Haha – I feel like that’s how it goes with trick or treaters right? You’re SO prepared and then…crickets. Or, like me, you’re under prepared and the greedy little REPEAT trick or treaters keep grabbing HANDFULS of candy. At least they were cute.

    These photos are so moody! I am in love with them. And also this panna cotta.

    • 11.6.14
      Laura said:

      Oooooh we had your trick-or-treaters last year! Repeats are definitely against the rules… 🙂

  8. 11.6.14

    I’m glad we aren’t the only ones, this seems to be the case all around, where have all the trick-or-treators gone? It’s such a mystery! I’m with you, when we were kids, we couldn’t wait to go from door-to-door to find, each house was a pleasant surprise.

    Dark chocolate is my sweet of choice, and I absolutely love the pairing with coffee. Lovely recipe.

    • 11.6.14
      Laura said:

      Seriously!! I think the harvest festivals and retail store trick-or-treating things are winning… But there’s always still chocolate 🙂

  9. 11.6.14

    I’m totally like you… I was super worried not to have enough candy this year b/c we moved into a new neighborhood and we didn’t want to be “those people” that didn’t have candy…. so I stocked up BIG time. Uhm… it rained. Hahahahahaha.

    This panna cotta is literally stunning. Like, super beautiful photos and great recipe… can’t wait to try!

    • 11.6.14
      Laura said:

      Haha in my day we had to walk uphill both ways to go trick-or-treating! Glad I’m not the only one paranoid about having enough candy!

  10. 11.6.14

    The family lawyer took one of our sons trick or treating in his ritzy neighborhood. One house ran out of candy- so handed our son a $5. bill. Which is how my son got invited to go with them to Las Vegas- for good luck.

    Can’t wait to try this recipe.

    • 11.6.14
      Laura said:

      Oh, Lydia, I would have FREAKED OUT with excitement as a kid to get a $5 bill! So funny. Hope you love this one!

  11. 11.6.14

    This looks so delicious!!!! I am definitely making some this weekend 😀

    • 11.6.14
      Laura said:

      Thanks, Tina!! Hope you enjoy!

  12. 11.5.14

    Holy smokes. I need to make this immediately. Looks awesome!

Hi! I'm Laura, the food-obsessed cook, writer, and photographer behind Fork Knife Swoon, where you'll find mostly sweet, seasonal recipes and stories from my Northern Virginia kitchen.

All photography and content copyright Laura Bolton ©2021, and may not be used without permission.