Make Ahead

Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Chocolate Bark

May 20, 2021
18 Ratings
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves about 3 gifts
Author Notes

This is a tasty treat to spice up your fiesta or light up a lucky recipients tired holiday palate. I often make this easy dessert when I have friends coming for dinner who love wine. I know that we will sit at the table well after the meal is over and continue talking and drinking for hours. I serve this on one plate and put it in the middle of the table. It is a casual dessert, so easy to make and great with a good cabernet. I first wrapped this up a few years ago while thinking of an edible present that would not be tossed aside amongst the mountains of Christmas sugar. With so many sweets out there this subtle spicy and salty chocolate makes a great gift. Use good chocolate when making this; it will make all of the difference. And of course feel free to substitute your favorite nuts and fruits. —wanderash

Test Kitchen Notes

Neither of us had ever made chocolate bark before we tried this recipe, and wanderash's version happens to be a great introduction. Waves of smooth dark chocolate are spiced with smoky ancho, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, and studded with dried cherries, cashews and pistachios. The finished product looks lovely, packs easily and takes a total of about 20 minutes to put together. We think it makes a great holiday gift. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Chocolate Bark
  • 1 large ancho chili
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup pistachio
  • 2/3 cup cashews, very lightly crushed
  • 12 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt, or sea salt
  1. To make the spice mix, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place first 5 ingredients on a baking sheet and place in oven. Toast until fragrant or about 10 min.
  2. Remove stems and majority of seeds from the anchos. Place all spices in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulverize. You may need to grind spices in batches.
  3. Toast the nuts by placing them on the baking sheet and put in the oven. Check after 10 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Place ¾ of the chocolate in a bowl and slowly melt the chocolate, either in the microwave checking and stirring it every 25 seconds or over a double boiler on the stovetop.
  5. When all of the chocolate is melted, take it off of the heat and add in the remaining chocolate, stir until it is completely melted.
  6. Add one to two teaspoons of the spice mix. Add one at a time and taste; add more if you want it to be spicier. I like a subtle spice flavor, it keeps those eating it wondering what the secret spice could be.
  7. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Spread out the nuts and cherries, reserving a few of the nuts to decorate the top.
  8. Sprinkle salt over the nuts and cherries.
  9. Pour the chocolate onto the pan, covering the nuts and cherries in an even layer. Add remaining nuts to the top of chocolate and press them into the chocolate.
  10. Put in fridge and allow to cool for 45 min. Break into pieces and keep in a sealed container in the fridge.
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  • Franca
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  • eatboutique
My love for all things delicious lead me to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and three years of working in restaurants and wineries in Napa Valley. My love of travel has propelled me all over the world. After living in Honduras and Mexico for the past 5 yrs., my two children, super-hero husband, and I have just moved to the Midwest....... A new chapter is unfolding....

75 Reviews

rob January 5, 2014
Wow Crazy Good!! I followed the recipe exactly, and that included a huge dried Ancho Chili. I used about 20 to 30 of the seeds from the chili, and for the chocolate found some very high Coca content, Belgium Bitter sweet chocolate at Bulk Barn. I used in total 4 teaspoons of the spice mixture and it is getting RAVE reviews from all that have tried it!!
Franca December 2, 2013
I made these as part of my dessert platter for a dinner party I hosted this weekend. The only modification I made for to add a pinch of piment d'espelette for some heat. Big heat all around.
Franca December 2, 2013
Sorry what I meant to say was big hit all around.
adele93 May 27, 2013
would dried apricot work instead of cherries? i think ill give that a try or perhaps dried cranberries, as already suggested. Cant wait to try them after exams are over and i can finally do some real baking! :)
eatboutique May 27, 2013
I made it with dried apricots and it was delicious.
ScrubbedFace October 31, 2012
I'm serving these as Halloween treats. I used a dried cascabel chili and candied ginger instead of dried cherries. I think I added a little too much ground spice about a teaspoon and a half (chili seeds were included) because they came out a little too spicy. Oh well they're sophisticated so will be for adults only!
Komal May 9, 2012
Hi I'm not sure where to find ancho chilli here in england, can you recommend a substitute?
Theresa M. December 8, 2016
i used used crushed red pepper flakes. It was great
The Y. March 6, 2012
I think that if you can't find dried cherries that dried cranberries are a perfect substitute
sherylann February 14, 2012
i made this and the pumpkin seeded caramels to send our daughter in college. they were both out of this world good. thanks. look forward to making more of the recipies.
Ellen M. February 3, 2012
How fine do the spices need to be ground? Using my coffer grinder, there are still some shreds. The recipe sounds wonderful, and my hands are very aromatic right now.
Le P. December 29, 2011
Yum! I couldn't find dried anchos, so I used a mix of pasilla and mulato after reading on Cook's Thesaurus that anchos could sometimes be mislabeled as pasillas. My pistachios toasted much faster than the cashews so, for my second batch, I kept the two separate and monitored the oven more closely to prevent burning. I used 70% cocoa pastilles with 24% fat: not too bitter, not too sweet…. Several people asked me for the recipe (I sent them here). I can imagine all sorts of ways to adapt the bark to different tastes and recipients, so it's a winner in my book. Thank you!
breakbread December 21, 2011
Cannot wait to get started making these today. I bought chocolate yesterday for truffle cookies (fave standby from an early 1990ish Gourmet magazine and Best of Cookbook) but I may need to make a detour to bark! Using dried ancho to save another trip to the store. Does anyone have any updates on dried spice usage? Below posting for proportions looks great.
nutcakes December 21, 2011
Ancho's are dried chiles so you are all set.
jonahgail December 19, 2011
loved this ! I also made a lovely version replacing the spice mixture with 2 tsp orange zest and using macadamias and candied ginger .... yummmm. I used the big Trader Joe's 70% Belgian bars and was quite happy with the result, especially for the price. Thanks !
impeesa December 17, 2011
I made this a few times last year fro family and work and its uniqueness was a huge hit, but because we have nut allergies in our family I replaced the nuts with dried apricots, they added flavor texture and color contrast
impeesa December 17, 2011
I made this a few times last year fro family and work and its uniqueness was a huge hit, but because we have nut allergies in our family I replaced the nuts with dried apricots, they added flavor texture and color contrast
Kimblay December 12, 2011
I tried the version of this recipe with the dried spices below (I did do 1 tsp cinnamon), and it was delicious. Although I only ended up adding 3/4 of the spice mix to the chocolate as I thought this was the perfect amount of spiciness. I also substituted almonds for cashews and used Lindt chocolate bars with sea salt so I did not add any extra salt.
StormMaoomba July 10, 2011
I made this last night for a dinner party - all of us thought it was great. That mix of salty, spicy, savory, and rich flavors was awesome!
neshama369 May 23, 2011
Made it last week for a ladies' brunch and they devoured it in moments. I used pistachio, cashew, goji berries & candied ginger. Thanks so much!
wanderash October 2, 2011
yum! That sounds like a good combo!
merrybaker April 11, 2011
I made it healthy. I used 50% cacao sugarless choc. Used sliced toasted raw almonds and put kosher salt on top as well as mixed in. It is yummy and my diabetic friends are going to love it!
wanderash October 2, 2011
Thanks for keeping us virtuous, merrybaker!
TomG February 16, 2011
I used all dried spices because I am lazy. It worked well and tastes great. I used:
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (could have used a teaspoon, probably)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves - I had regular cloves, but figured hey, why not just go all out and be really lazy.

I mixed all these spices together and toasted them in a pan on the stovetop at medium heat, stirring them occasionally until the smelled really good.

I made another modification - since I wasn't sure how much the chocolate would spread out, I had the nuts and cherries on a medium-sized pan - it was too big. So, I just mixed everything together and then spread it out on the pan. That worked well, but you have to move fast while the chocolate is still hot. I didn't, so I put the pan (wax paper and all) into the oven at VERY low heat (180). That warmed the chocolate and spread it out a bit.

So, if anything, I learned that in cooking, it helps to be flexible. This was a great Valentine's day treat. The chocolate had a nice bite to it and tasted great. I would make it again.
Hark May 5, 2011
Thanks so much for posting this. I about panicked when I couldn't find whole dried ancho chilis!
Kitchen B. June 26, 2011
Tahnks Tom G - your learning and sharing will help me loads, as I used a too large pan and then mixed it all ont he sheet. Thanks for the ground spice proportions too
adele93 May 27, 2013
would chili flakes as a substitute be too lazy? does ancho offer a completely different flavor? also should i add some ground pepper (from a grinder) if using the above ground spice quantities?
TomG December 11, 2014
Ancho is more of a smoked flavor than chili flakes and more subtle. I have been making this yearly ever since I first saw it and posted my dried spice modifications to it. I am sure it is great as written but the dried spices are really easy.
TomG December 11, 2014
And you could use ground pepper but I don't think it needs it.
brownh0rnet February 13, 2011
If you're cheap and don't want to buy a spice grinder, could you just mix pre-ground spices? If so, I don't suppose you'd know the ground equivalents of the whole spices?
wanderash February 13, 2011
Sorry, I have no idea what the ground spice measurement would be. I use a braun coffee grinder to grind my spices, it will set you back about $12.
sweet_tooth_fairy February 13, 2011
I wouldn't think pre-ground would be a good way to go here since the spice element is such a focal point, also too tricky to figure out measurements. Spice grinders are pretty cheap, or maybe you could borrow one from a friend?
sweet_tooth_fairy February 2, 2011
Amazing! Blew everyone away with its yumminess and surprising spicy kick. Thank you soooooo much Wanderash for coming up with this one and to food52 for posting it. I am currently making my second batch for Valentine's Day goodies (among other things); I figured this would be a good place to start due to its wonderful shelf life. Happy, happy, joy, joy!
wanderash February 13, 2011
So glad it was a hit! I just made it again-- man, is it good!