Cocoa Nib and Spiced Lamb Sausage Pizza Recipe

On a recent radio interview that I did, the producer wrote immediately afterward that they were inundated with requests for my recipe for Cocoa Nib Sausage, which I use to top my Chocolate Pizza Dough from The Great Book of Chocolate.

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I get a lot of quizzical looks from people when they hear the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘pizza’ in the same breath, but adding sugar to chocolate is a relatively new idea in the grand history of the bar. (Most of us remember how our grandmothers only kept unsweetened chocolate in the house.) And there’s many cultures that use chocolate in savory dishes whose origins go back hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years, including Mole. And here in France, it’s not uncommon for many cooks to sneak a bit of grated a chocolate into their Coq au Vin.

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Roasted Cocoa Beans Before They’re Broken Into Nibs


Many years ago, I became good friends with Joanne Weir, when we were young cooks starting out and before we knew any better. Now she’s famous with a television career and many terrific books to her name, and we try to see each other when we passes through each other’s town.

My favorite recollection of her is when she came to my house in San Francisco to make pizza. Mostly I remember that there were a lot of empty bottles of Barolo the next day, and a copy of this recipe on my counter that was splattered with garlic oil and a few flecks of parsley. (And my oven was a mess too.) So when I was looking for the perfect topping for my chocolate pizza dough, I adapted her sausage recipe, adding crunchy and unsweetened cocoa nibs which gave it a nice savory crunch, as well as a bit of chocolate flavor.

Cocoa Nib and Spiced Lamb Sausage Pizza

Enough for two 9-inch pizzas, or 1 rectangular baking sheet pizza (approximately 11″ by 17″)

You can use this sausage to top any recipe for your favorite pizza dough if you’d like.

1 recipe for Chocolate Pizza Dough, rolled out onto baking sheets

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • ½ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste or harissa
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • large pinch (each) cinnamon, allspice and cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoons red pepper or chili flakes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup roasted cocoa nibs
  • 4 ounces fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated

1. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil and the minced garlic. Set aside.

2. Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions until soft and translucent. Add the lamb, tomatoes, tomato paste (or harissa), parsley, pine nuts, spices, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook slowly for 10 minutes (uncovered).

3. Remove from heat and add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice and let cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled, stir in the cocoa nibs.

To make the pizzas: Brush top of pizza dough with garlic-infused olive oil. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the dough then spread the sausage over the cheeses. Finally top with the remaining cheese and bake the pizza in a very hot oven until the cheese is bubbling and deep-golden brown.

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13 comments

  • Yes, but mother only kept unsweetened Baker’s in the house *so we wouldn’t eat it*! :D
    This recipe is outrageously amazing.

  • Ah heck we’ll have to wait to actually hear you ar KCRW. It’s so amazing to me that those hard dark beans turn into luscious chocolate. They were passing them out at the NYC Chocolate show & some are still floating in my purse, but they seem more like pebbles than something I would kill for…

  • The Good Food interview should be available on their website shortly (which I’ve linked to) available as a download or podcast. KCRW also has a program called ‘Chocolate City’…which I wanted to be a guest on as well, until I found out that it has nothing to do with chocolate…it’s about jazz!

  • David,

    I have your book and (slap my hand) have yet to try that recipe. I bought some cocoa nibs in San Francisco this past summer … perhaps this is the sign that I should remedy my over-indulgence during the holidays with healthy cocoa nibs now.

    Why doesn’t that sound right???

  • What a mouthwatering recipe! I get a kick out of how you manage to put chocolate in absolutely everything. I missed your radio show…hopefully it will appear in their archives.

  • I love white NY pizza with Nutella on top. :-)

  • Jessica: You’ve been hanging out with Adam, I can tell!

  • David, you list two online sources for cocoa nibs, and I’ve also found a place called Nature’s First Law, which sells tons of organic and raw foods in bulk.

    Is there a nib retailer that you think is THE BEST? I value your advice on the place to buy vanilla, so would love to hear the same for cocoa. Thanks!

  • Hi Andrea:
    Here in France, the only nibs that are available are those from, gulp, Valhrona. As readers of Mort Rosenblum’s book know, I’ve had quite an encounter with the reps from that company, but am ‘almost’ over it.

    Well, almost…

    You can order Valhrona nibs from Chocosphere (on my Links page); they sell them by the kilo (2.2#). I do like the ScharffenBerger nibs but have not yet tried the Dagoba ones. Since I really like Dagoba chocolate, I assume their nibs are excellent as well.

  • I suppose you believe Adam’s story because I’m infamous for snatching freebies. :-( BTW, why are cocoa nibs more expensive than chocolate? It takes less work to “make” them, since there’s no added cocoa butter or conching.

  • I’ve always been too afraid to comment here as I am so in awe of you. I used to go to this brilliant little pizza place and one day the Colombian chef was trying out a new pizza. I happened to be sitting near the oven watching her and she asked me to try it. It was a banana and chocolate pizza she just created. After she saw my expression of total bliss, she added it to the menu. I loved that you included a chocolate pizza. Again, you prove you are my Chocolate god!

  • Holy, holy, holy. Between my twin loves for sausage and chocolate, this recipe is absolutely screaming for my kitchen. Thank you, David!

  • Hello, I can’t find your special cocoa nib and Lamb sausage recipe. I am trying to get some ideas on how to use these great cocoa nibs I got at this Fancy Food show. I was thinking more on the savory side; a special sauce for venison, maybe. Can you help?

    Thanks a lot…!