Big Little Recipes

This 2-Ingredient Chocolate–Peanut Butter Mousse Is Nothing Short of Magical

March 19, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making a two-ingredient mousse that just happens to be dairy-free.

If I say mousse, you probably imagine something fluffy and airy and, above all else, creamy. But this chocolate–peanut butter mousse, though fluffy and airy, doesn’t have any cream. In fact, it only has chocolate and peanut butter.

Oh, and water. That’s our Big Little secret.

I first learned this magical technique seven years ago from Kristen Miglore’s Genius Recipes: “Hervé This, the father of molecular gastronomy, discovered how to make a flawless, creamy chocolate mousse out of just chocolate and water.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I like an avocado chocolate mousse, if I must eat chocolate mousse. I love the unctuous nature the avocado lends. Adding whipped cream is not a bad idea.”
— Carol S.

It sounds like an impossible science experiment but, in reality, it’s as easy as melting chocolate and water on the stove, then whisking them over ice. Within a matter of minutes, the mixture goes from liquidy sauce to ethereal cloud.

Where's the cream? Oh wait, we don't need it. Photo by Julia Gartland

As Kristen mentions, a dollop of whipped cream on top “is never a bad idea.” Because, while the chocolate mousse looks and feels and tastes decadent, it’s also bittersweet. A little fatty goodness goes a long way to balance it out.

The catch? Without that optional (but encouraged!) whipped cream, this Herve This’ mousse is dairy-free—and, depending on your chocolate of choice, vegan. Which is no small feat when dessert mousses so often rely on whipped cream or egg whites.

So, how can we add the aforementioned fatty goodness without adding dairy or eggs?

Just turn to another pantry staple: peanut butter. I don’t need to tell you that chocolate and peanut butter are a power couple. (Was Reese’s your favorite candy as a kid, too?) They’re great on their own and even greater together and, just like chocolate, peanut butter can be mousse-ified with nothing more than water and determination.

From a distance, this makes no sense. Water is a liquid, so it should make things more liquidy, right? But when it comes to ingredients like nut and seed butters, it does just the opposite. That’s why my Big Little Chocolatey Tahini Cups have a water-thickened tahini filling. And that’s why this peanut butter mousse is fluffy as can be, but still only one ingredient. As Cooks Illustrated explains with respect to tahini: “This is similar to what happens when chocolate seizes. A small amount of added water acts like a glue, wetting particles just enough to get them to stick together.”

The final surprise is in the assembly. If you try to swirl one mousse into the other (as I did many, many times), you get a chocolatey peanut butter mousse or a peanut buttery chocolate mousse, homogenous in color and muddled in flavor. If you layer the two together in a separate bowl—chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate, peanut butter—then scoop from there, you get distinct layers, and distinct flavors.

You can pop the mousse in the fridge, where it will thicken up, for later. But I find I can never wait that long.

What’s your favorite way to make chocolate mousse? Tell us in the comments!
Order now

Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cookyourfeelings
  • DJ Curnutt
    DJ Curnutt
  • Carol Skeer Diamond
    Carol Skeer Diamond
  • Anne Yeoman
    Anne Yeoman
  • Maryann H
    Maryann H
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


cookyourfeelings June 28, 2019
Made this on a whim last night and am so glad I did. It's a pretty perfect dessert. A sprinkle of grey sea salt makes it sing.
Emma L. June 28, 2019
So glad you enjoyed!
DJ C. April 6, 2019
Am I understanding correctly that sweetened creamy peanut butter is any that isn't natural? Like JIF or Skippy? I always buy natural, but I'd buy whatever is needed in this recipe.
Emma L. April 6, 2019
Hey DJ! The terms on peanut butter labels are sort of complicated. Some call themselves "natural," but still have sugar. And the sugar is the biggest factor here. This recipe was developed with a sweetened peanut butter, so that will yield the best results. I used Jif's classic creamy. But any smooth, sweetened peanut butter will act more or less the same here. Hope this helps!
Carol S. April 5, 2019
I like an avocado chocolate mousse, if I must eat chocolate mousse. I love the unctuous nature the avocado lends. Adding whipped cream is not a bad idea.
Anne Y. April 5, 2019
??? The recipe calls for water. Is microwave an ingredient?
Maryann H. April 5, 2019
Sorry, this is a three-ingredient recipe.
BeyondBrynMawr May 28, 2019
"Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered."
Anne Y. April 5, 2019
Any reason not to melt chocolate and water in the microwave?
Emma L. April 5, 2019
Nope! That should work just the same.
Peter A. March 29, 2019
Looks really good and I want to try this one soon. I wonder, has anyone tried first dissolving a little sugar into the water before mixing it in to the chocolate for a slightly sweeter effect? Maybe it doesn't need it though.
Rhonda M. April 5, 2019
Maybe ultra fine sugar or powdered sugar, if your looking for sweetness. I would try honey and maple syrup, but may change the taste.
Kinetakate March 25, 2019
Is there a workaround for peanut allergies, like sunbutter or almond butter?
Emma L. March 26, 2019
Hi! You can use another nut/seed butter, but try to find a sweetened variety if you can (since this recipe was developed for a sweetened peanut butter).
cailin March 20, 2019
could you mix both of them together and have a chocolate peanut butter mousse?
Emma L. March 21, 2019
Yes! Just mix instead of layer them. The mousses won't be visually distinct anymore, but the flavor will still be great.
Tasha March 20, 2019
would this work with milk chocolate?
Emma L. March 21, 2019
Hi Tasha! Not sure about that one myself. As noted in the article, this recipe was based on Hervé This' chocolate mousse—and that recipe comment section has a lot of answers about substitutions. Link here: One commenter tried a mix of dark and milk chocolate and said it came out well!
carly March 19, 2019
If you only have natural (unsweetened) PB on hand, is there a way to use it here? Maybe add powdered sugar?
Emma L. March 20, 2019
Hi Carly! I haven't tried that myself, but it might work! If you give it a go, please report back.