sweet basil and dark chocolate sorbet

I couldn’t wait any longer.

I’ve been dying (DYING, I SAY!) to pull out my ice cream maker for weeks now. It’s been so warm and sunny and breezy and perfectly spring-y, but I knew if I pulled it out too early, I’d get some seriously strange looks. After all, who makes ice cream in April?

This girl does.

Well, technically, this girl makes sorbet. Weird, intriguing and addictive sorbet.

Last summer, I hit up Hartzell’s ice cream, which is about a hop, skip and a jump away from my office building after having lunch with my favorite Babyface. Hartzell’s has a reputation for having interesting, off-the-wall flavors and I always get something new and different every time I’m in there. That particular visit, they were spotlighting a basil and chocolate ice cream that was calling my name.

While the flavor combo sounded intriguing, the actual ice cream left a little to be desired. I’m a huge chocolate fan and in this particular version, the basil over-powered my beloved chocolate. Basically, to me, it tasted like basil ice cream that happened to be brown. But it was an incredible start of an idea that I’ve been saving in my brain bank all winter long.

When I saw giant bunches of organic basil on sale at my local grocery store, I knew it was time to try my hand at this combo. Not only did I want to adjust the flavor profile—up the chocolate-ness and reduce the basil, I also wanted to downgrade the fat and calories and turn this into a guilt-free treat (not that you should ever feel guilty about eating anything, yo). So I turned it into a sorbet, using lowfat milk and plain ole water as a base.

The end result is quite possible my favorite thing ever. EVER. It’s richly chocolate, like eating a high-percentage chocolate bar, with just an interesting twinge of basil. It’s an intriguing flavor that I find incredibly addictive. Which is okay, because it clocks in only at around 200 calories and 2 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Even better? It is so chocolately, that 1/2 cup is all you need.

This one is an excellent one to use to officially welcome you to ice cream maker season. Go get your sorbet on.

Sweet Basil and Dark Chocolate Sorbet

by Cassie Johnston

Prep Time: 6 hours

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Inspired by: Hartzell’s and Ina Garten

Makes: About 1 quart



  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, bruised
  • 1-1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur (Kahlua)


  1. In a small saucepan, combine water, milk and basil leaves. Steep over low heat for 10-15 minutes or until mixture just begins to bubble. Remove from heat, strain out basil leaves and discard.
  2. Return pot to low heat, add in honey, cocoa, and salt. Whisk over heat until well combined, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add in vanilla extract and coffee liqueur.
  3. Transfer mixture into a container with lid and chill until completely cold. Pour into ice cream maker and churn as directed by the manufacturer. Sorbet will be soft. Spoon into a freezer-safe container with a lid and freeze for 4-6 hours or until scoopable.
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What’s your favorite odd food combination?


  1. Melissa says

    What do you think would happen if I replaced the Kahlua with Bailey’s or just used milk in it’s place?

    • Cassie says

      The Bailey’s would probably work. The coffee helps to bring out the chocolate flavor and the alcohol helps the sorbet from getting too icy in the freezer (since alcohol doesn’t freeze). :)

  2. shannon says

    nifty flavor combo, bet it would be great with thai basil, too. I think my favorite wonky ice cream flavor is a classic vanilla studded with chocolate chips and roasted garlic.

  3. Meghan says

    I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy this recipe. I’ve made this awesome sorbet twice now, both times tweaking the recipe a little. My first go I substituted coconut milk for milk (lactose intolerant guests), and I found the kahlua flavour overpowered the basil. Side note, the coconut milk congealed into little frozen lumps that actually gave the sorbet a nice texture!

    The second time, I used lavender instead of basil, and regular milk, and it was amazing. The chocolate, lavender, and kahlua worked together really well.

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