HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)

One of my favourite ways to cook rabbit or hare is with chocolate; chicken can also be cooked in the same way but is less common. If it is chicken it will cook in a relatively short time, a rabbit will take longer and a hare will take much longer – I cooked hare and it took close to three hours to cook.

There are several Spanish and South American recipes where chocolate is used in savoury dishes so the chocolate does not need to be considered unfeasible – Spaniards ruled Sicily over long periods.

Those of you who have been to eastern Sicily may have noticed the Baroque architecture that is especially prevalent in this part of Sicily and you may have visited Modica, the centre for Sicilian chocolate; this is where the recipe is said to have its roots.

In this Sicilian recipe the rabbit (or hare) is cooked in the same way as alla stemperata (in all stemperata dishes the ingredients include celery, carrots, onions, vinegar, sugar, raisins or sultanas, pine nuts, green olives and capers) but fennel seeds and cloves replace the last two ingredients and finally dark chocolate is used to enrich and thicken the sauce. The flavours in the stemperata have been partly accredited to the Arabs and are characteristic of much of Sicilian cuisine.

Hare, like all game benefits from marinading in wine before cooking. I do this when I am cooking rabbit as well, but there is no need to marinate chicken. I always save some of the leftover cooked hare and sauce for a pasta dish – use ribbon pasta, e.g. tagliatelle or pappardelle.

Whenever I buy hare I remember butcher shops in Italy where each beast is often left with a part of its body to make it recognizable – the head or the foreleg complete with fur, hoof, claw or paw.


hare, rabbit or chicken 1.5- 2 k
dark chocolate, 200 g
onion, 1-2 sliced
red or white dry wine, 1 cup
wine vinegar, ½ cup
cloves, 6-8
celery, 4 stalks, sliced finely
carrots, 3 sliced finely
bay leaves, 4-6
fennel seeds,1 large tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
chilli flakes and salt to taste
pine nuts,1 cup
raisins or sultanas, ½ cup (naturally sun dried)
sugar, 1 tablespoon

Clean the hare or rabbit or chicken and cut it into manageable sections at the joints.

Marinate it in the wine and half of the quantity of the oil and bay leaves for at least 3 hours and turn it occasionally (if cooking chicken you could marinade it for 1 hour if you wish).
Remove the pieces of meat and drain well; keep the marinade for cooking.
Add the rest of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the pieces until golden. Remove them and set aside.
Add the onions, carrots and celery to the same pan and sauté until soft but not coloured.
Reduce the heat, and add the wine marinade, bay leaves, fennel seeds and cloves, the seasoning and vinegar. Cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – the time will vary as it depends on the meat. For example farmed rabbit will cook in a little time ( 40-60 minutes, the same as chicken, whereas a wild rabbit could take 2-3 hours).You may need to add some water periodically as it cooks so that it does not dry out (this has always been my experience).
Add the sultanas or raisins, pine nuts and chocolate about 30 minutes before it is cooked  Remove the lid and evaporate the juices if necessary.
More rabbit recipes:
CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)


11 thoughts on “HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)”

  1. Rusty Dab
    It is a main dish so never with pasta or rice….certainly the left over sauce could be used on both, but in Italy/ Sicily it would be a first course.
    Potato, yes if you feel that you need something floury to mop up the juices.

  2. Interesting recipe and I’m definitely going to try it – for Easter – but it is unclear as to when you add the rabbit, as well as how long it cooks. If I’m following correctly you, first, marinade the rabbit in wine and oil for 1 to 2 hours (but if you’re using chicken, you marinade for 3 hours).
    Second, you sauté the rabbit, and set the pieces aside.
    Next, you sauté the vegetables in the same pan; rabbit pieces are still sitting aside.
    Then you add the marinade, herbs and vinegar and simmer until “it” ( the vegetables or, I’m guessing, the rabbit which you’ve added in with the marinade) is “soft”. If it is the rabbit that you add at this point, about how long should it simmer to be soft?? The same amount of time you marinade it (1-2 hours) or….???
    Thanks to anyone who can confirm my guesses or correct them!

    1. Joe, Thank you for that comment…I have edited the recipe and have written it in greater detail. I cannot say how long the meat will take to cook – you just have to keep on poking it with a fork. Like when making a stew/ braise, the cooking time from a different animal will vary.

      1. Thanks so much!! Really excited to try this dish! As a full-blooded Sicilian (father was born there – and so were my mother’ parents) this will be especially fun to make for my kids. See that you suggest potatoes as a side. Any other side dishes you’d recommend? How about wines? Thanks again!!

        1. Oh, and, btw, my kids are on their 30’s, so they won’t be traumatized by having rabbit on Easter. (“Yeah, ah… caught him in the backyard carrying a basket of chocolates and hard-boiled eggs. Figured he’d make good eaten'”)

      1. Fennel shoots when they first pop up are fat and fuzzy, about as big around as a 1/2″ by 3″ to 4″ long having a much stronger test than the bulb itself, they will be more complex in taste than the seed, which seems to be a favorite of Eleonora’s.

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