Genius Recipes

This One-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse Recipe Is Pure Magic

And vegan, to boot.

April 30, 2019

With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we're revisiting the column's Greatest Hits with brand-new videos—and hearing from a few special surprise guests. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)

This week, a completely forgiving, undemanding, and lovable chocolate mousse.

chocolate mousse

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It took a brilliant, adventurous chemist to discover the simplest way to make chocolate mousse at home.

"I invented it—but it was so easy, I'm embarrassed!" Hervé This told Wired magazine in 2007.

He also invented the study of (and the very phrase) molecular gastronomy. But his book of the same name doesn't read like a science manual and, as far as I know, nothing gets spherified.

The book instead is about simple, scientific surprises and improvements in home cooking. He explains everything from getting crisp skin on a roast chicken (don't baste with the juices) to whether gnocchi are truly done when they bob to the surface (not necessarily).

... And how to make a flawless, creamy chocolate mousse out of just chocolate and water. Oh yes he did.

water and chocolate

It's just like whipping cream: Heavy cream (itself an emulsion of milk fats and water) froths up readily when whisked in a chilled bowl, right? So all you have to do is aim for a ratio of water to fat (cocoa butter here) that mimics that of whipping cream. (And what of emulsifiers, you ask? The lethicin in chocolate does the trick.)

Melt the chocolate and water together, cool it over an ice bath, and whisk till you have mousse. Still baffled? Watch Heston Blumenthal pull it off in the video below, which was sent to me by two different, equally excited Food52ers, Cade and drbabs.

chocolate moussechocolate moussechocolate mousse

Like other emulsions (vinaigrette, aioli), it works as if by magic. As you whisk, microscopic bits of water get suspended in the fat, thickening it and making it seem creamier. Then still more air is whipped into it and the cooling chocolate crystallizes around the air bubbles to make a remarkably stable foam, aka mousse.

The best thing about it—aside from its dumb-founding magicalness—is that it tastes like pure, unobstructed chocolate. There's no cream or egg to confuse the issue, like in normal mousses. (It also happens to be vegan, if you use dark chocolate without any added milk.)

You can get all kinds of different textures, by stopping at different points as you whisk:

1) For a mod, flat-topped look, like sexy pot de creme: Pour it into ramekins while it's thickened, but still a bit warm.

2) When it gets to the texture of thick pudding, you can spoon it into a glass parfait-style, like little chocolate snowdrifts (as in our photos). At this stage, you could even use it to frost a cake.

3) Whip it just a bit further for something fluffy you can ball up in an ice cream scoop, if that's what you're going for. Beyond this, and it gets crumbly and dry (though still tasty).

chocolate moussechocolate moussechocolate mousse

This all happens fast as the mixture cools, so chances are you'll go too far on your first try. But if this happens, Mr. This is unfazed—just return it to the pan, melt it, and start over. (It's even easier than saving overwhipped cream, which he's also figured out.)

Once you have the rhythm down, you can flavor it as you wish with liqueurs or coffee or spices, sweeten it to your liking, or just keep it dark and intense. In all of these scenarios, a little whipped cream up top is never a bad idea.

Hervé This' Chocolate Mousse

Adapted from Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Columbia University Press, 2008)

Serves 4

8 ounces chocolate (we used 70% bittersweet—choose a high quality chocolate you love)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
ice cubes
freshly whipped cream for topping (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it here).

chocolate mousse

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mal Archibald
    mal Archibald
  • Lee Smith-Moir
    Lee Smith-Moir
  • ken
  • Dee
  • Ritarod1947
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


mal A. June 17, 2019
Can I tell you that this recipe has changed my life?!!
Lee S. June 7, 2019
Can this be done with white chocolate??
ken May 9, 2019
My daughter (Pasty Sous Chef) was amazed by this, as was I. Our texture was about same as video, and we ate some immediately with some whipped cream - delicious - but in refrigerator, it became very hard/dense. Still good, but not "moussey"
Dee May 1, 2019
this is amazing!!!!! I love it!!!!! yeah for science!
Ritarod1947 May 1, 2019
My apologies - I was replying to the Cabbage dish video and got in the wrong post below 😢
CookingforJoy May 1, 2019
Yum! My favorite-chocolate! I made this with the coffee/water mix and added a bit of red pepper. Adds another level of intensity. Great easy recipe
C M. May 1, 2019
Could I fold in whipped cream to lighten it? People have commented on the intensity
Ritarod1947 May 1, 2019
Thank you seeet Kristen for your awesome recipes🙏
My version of simple sweet n savoury cabbage :

Sauté one thinly sliced medium red onion in 2Tbsp canola oil/2Tbspn of butter till cooked light brown, add a green Serrano pepper cut finely, stir and add a small green cabbage thinly sliced (discard the tough parts) and sauté on medium high, stirring the cabbage to coat the oil/butter, add 1/2 tsp salt to taste and 1/2 tsp sugar, 2Tbsp lemon juice - Mix well and serve while cabbage has a slight crunch. Or mix in 1/2 cup coconut and serve
Beth100 February 13, 2017
How does the texture hold up at room temperature? I'd like to use it as a sandwich cookie filling, if possible.
Kristen M. February 13, 2017
Great idea! It will depend a bit on what state it's in when you stop whisking, but generally speaking, this is very stable at room temp. It firms up as it sits, so you might want to do a trial cookie before committing.
Beth100 February 13, 2017
That's great news! I will whisk it just a little bit firmer than the mousse texture we prefer, and stop having to worry about the cream in traditional ganache at room temperature. Thanks for the Valentine-quick response!
Alice June 28, 2013
Half water and half Bailey's Irish cream. The best mousse I've ever made.
maeveoh April 3, 2013
Not to whisk anything up, but this same recipe was featured on nytimes this year, curiously around V-day, as well.
Miguelxo February 15, 2013
Amazing this was last night but it made me think - essentially is this hydrogenated chocolate? In the negative sense as 'hydrogenated vegetable oil'? What would be the difference health-wise? There are millions of variations to try on this and I plan to experiment fully.
Kristen M. February 15, 2013
I'm not very well versed in the health implications, but I believe that hydrogenated fats are altered on a molecular level (by adding hydrogen) whereas this is a simple emulsification, like aioli or vinaigrette. More here:
jaseta October 14, 2012
just made this and i must say it was very yummy, also recipe was very easy to follow turned out great. cant wait to play around with different types of chocolates and flavours...
josephny April 29, 2012
I just made this with my daughter -- lots of fun and excitement.

We doubled the recipe and used 8 oz of semi-sweet and 8 oz of unsweetened chocolate.

It's been in the fridge for about 30 minutes and I see fat separating and congealing in the glasses.

What went wrong?

Kristen M. April 29, 2012
Sorry to hear that -- I'm not sure what might have happened. Luckily, the mixture is pretty forgiving, and can be remelted and whipped up again. You might want to try that, and stop whisking just a little bit earlier this time (since it will continue to set up as it finishes cooling). And you can eat it straight away too, if you like. Good luck -- let us know how it turns out!
Meatballs&Milkshakes March 23, 2012
I can't wait to try this, it looks so easy!
Janet I. February 16, 2012
I tried this for Valentine's Day, but my husband and I do not eat sugar. I got a bar of Organic 100% Cacao UNsweetened, and used that. After I beat it smooth, I added Stevia until it was sweet enough, and it was still smooth. I used this for Chocolate Dip for the strawberries (organic, of course) and it was Wonderful!!! I put the leftovers in the fridge, and it firmed up to the consistency of fudge....Now I am thinking of all kinds of ideas to try with flavorings.
buttertart February 14, 2012
I am in the middle of an epic fail with this recipe -- I used 7 oz 62% (French Nestlé baking choc) and 1 of TJ's Pound Plus 72% -- a tiny speck of salt and a dribble of vanilla...beat it over ice, ice with salt added, and ice with salt and water for 25 mins (!) total, part with a hand mixer. It's no thicker than barely-whipped heavy cream. What the hey? And it's to be V-day dessert...
Kristen M. February 14, 2012
Buttertart, so sorry you're having trouble. If you click through to the recipe, Herve This has some tips for fixing various issues in step 3. It sounds like you need to re-melt with more chocolate and start again. Good luck!
LLStone February 14, 2012
I failed 3 times w/ 70% chocolate. And, I didn't have any more to add as mine barely got thicker than heavy whipped cream.......Giving up for tonight.
cld February 14, 2012
Hubby and I just made this for our Valentines's dinner. It is magic. We added a tsp of vanilla and will probably make it again adding ammareto.
LorettaO February 14, 2012
I just looked in my pantry after reading this and found 4 oz of semi-sweet baking chocolate, so I jsut HAD to try this recipe now, but could only make a half recipe. I used 3 oz of strong coffee and it worked out beautifully. I heated the coffee in the micro so it was really hot, and added it to the pan with the 4 Bakers chocolate squares and started to whisk right way. The chocolate melted really fast that way. I had the smaller stainless steel bowl waiting in the ice filled bowl before I started, so I could pour the mixture in as soon as it was was melted. Be sure to have a rubber spatula sitting out to get all the chocolate mixture out of the pan quickly.
Loved it! Now I need to buy some good chocolate for next time!
Ana-Maria December 9, 2013
Adding hot coffee it's a great idea! Coffee enhances the taste of chocolate so I think your mousse was delicious!
kelp0op February 13, 2012
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