A mug of hot cocoa is the perfect winter treat. Here’s how to make hot chocolate better than any jar or pot you can get at the grocery store – and for a fraction of the price.
Making hot chocolate from scratch is one of the easiest ways to make this festive drink. A simple and easy homemade hot chocolate is the best way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. And there are so many ways to customize it so you’ve always got your perfect cup. With my hot cocoa recipe, you can easily adapt the ingredients to fit your needs, and it makes a great addition to any DIY hot chocolate bar.
I know everyone likes their hot chocolate a different way (myself included). So I’ve added lots of variations to my recipe. Serve at the end of a dinner party or during a get-together, add it to any potluck or buffet table during the holidays, or just enjoy a cup of creamy hot chocolate all to yourself. There’s no wrong way to enjoy the best hot chocolate recipe out there.
Hot Chocolate Recipe Ingredients
There are just a few simple ingredients in hot chocolate:
- Whole milk (full-fat milk): This makes your drink extra creamy. However, you can substitute it with any milk you prefer, including plant-based alternatives.
- Cacao powder: You can use traditional powder for this hot cocoa recipe.
- Chocolate bar: You can use a half-size bar or chocolate chips, chunks, or shavings.
- Sugar: White sugar is best (it dissolves quicker), though you can use brown or coconut if you prefer. Use if favorite sweetener if desired.
- Vanilla extract or powder: Use good vanilla – it’s optional, but I highly recommend it.
- Toppings:(Optional) Use your favorite topping(s) – I like whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
What Is the Best Cocoa Powder for Hot Chocolate
For any hot chocolate recipe with cocoa powder, you’ll want high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona, Callebaut, Ghirardelli, Scharffen Berger, Guittard, and). The darker the cocoa content, the richer and deep the taste will be. I recommend semi-sweet or even bittersweet chocolate options.
Can I Use Hot Cocoa Mix Instead of Cocoa Powder
Yes – technically. Cocoa powder and chocolate hot cocoa mix are quite similar. Largely, it comes down to taste and quality. The chocolate powder mix will likely have less chocolate and more sugar than pure cocoa powder.
Hot chocolate made with the cocoa mix will taste different. But it’s a good substitute if you don’t have pure cocoa powder to hand.
Does Hot Chocolate Have Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that naturally occurs in cacao beans. However, compared to coffee and tea, this hot coco recipe has a very small amount of caffeine in it. Homemade hot chocolate mix has usually around 5mg of caffeine per 6 oz cup.
How to Make Hot Chocolate
Add all the ingredients to a saucepan. Heat over medium heat/medium to low heat and whisk together until the chocolate and sugar have dissolved and the drink is warm. Taste test and adjust any of the ingredients if waned – adding more warmed milk, sugar, cocoa, or dark chocolate.
Serve immediately. Add your favorite toppings if wanted.
How to Make It Mexican Hot Chocolate
Often made with “chocolate de mesa” – table chocolate – this surprisingly refreshing Mexican hot chocolate is made by adding cayenne powder, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg to the chocolate.
How to Make It French Hot Chocolate
Made famous on Instagram and in many Parisian bistro menus, to create authentic French hot chocolate, add espresso powder instead of cocoa powder for an intense, rich chocolate flavor. Coffee is a great way of making chocolate stand out in hot cocoa.
How to Make It Extra Creamy
Replace ¼ of the whole milk with heavy cream as part of the ingredients to make your hot cocoa even creamier.
How to Make Frozen Hot Chocolate
Use the same ingredients as the homemade hot chocolate recipe to make frozen hot chocolate. But don’t add them to a saucepan. Instead, pour them into a blender, add some ice, and whisk together. Pour into glasses and then top with your favorite toppings.
Can You Make Ahead Hot Chocolate and Refrigerate
You can make hot cocoa ahead and keep it in your fridge. Store it in an airtight container, jar, or bottle.
How to Reheat Hot Chocolate
Pour this leftover drink into a small saucepan and reheat slowly until warmed through.
Hot Chocolate Toppings
How do you make the best hot chocolate even better? One word. Toppings!
Mix and match any of these to upgrade your homemade hot chocolate:
- Whipped Cream or vegan coconut whipped cream,
- Powdered peanut butter,
- Mini marshmallows,
- Chocolate shavings/chips – dark, white, or milk chocolate – dairy-free if needed,
- Candy canes or crushed peppermint sticks,
- Coconut – shredded coconut or coconut flakes/chips,
- Nuts – candied or chopped nuts,
- Cookies – Oreos, gingerbread, Biscoff, biscotti, Kitkats, pirouette/wafer sticks, or even salty snacks like pretzels,
- Syrup/sauce – drizzle some chocolate syrup, caramel, Nutella, Biscoff, or dulce de leche (thinned down). You could also drizzle nut butter over the cocoa too.
- Berries – a few raspberries or berries are a delicious addition,
- Spices – sea salt, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne or chili powder for a bit of heat, ginger powder, turmeric powder, black pepper, cloves, chai mix, saffron, pumpkin spice, gingerbread spice, etc.
Yes. Hot cocoa is usually thinner and sweeter, whereas hot chocolate is thicker and has a denser flavor.
For homemade hot chocolate, use whole milk. You can use dairy-free milk, but whole milk will give the hot cocoa a creamier texture.
Nut milk like almond, cashew, hazelnut, and coconut milk are great compliments to hot cocoa. You can also use soy milk.
Yes, though it may decrease the creaminess of the hot drink.
Other Hot Drink Recipes
- Easy 5-Minute Golden Milk
- British Tea
- Matcha Green Tea Latte
- Cinnamon Tea
- Bulletproof Coffee
- Homemade Chocolate Milk
If you try this hot chocolate with cocoa recipe, then let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d also really appreciate a recipe rating and would love to see your recreations – just tag @AlphaFoodie.
Creamy Homemade Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups whole milk (full-fat) or your favorite dairy or dairy-free milk
- 1.6 oz chocolate bar 1/3 cup chopped; or use chocolate chips, chunks, or shavings (measured by weight)
- 0.4 oz cacao powder 2 Tbsp
- 0.9 oz sugar 2 tablespoon or more, to taste; white, brown or coconut, or your favorite sweetener
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla powder
- Add all the ingredients to a saucepan. Heat over medium/medium-low heat and whisk together until the chocolate and sugar have dissolved and the drink is warm. Taste test and adjust any of the ingredients if waned – adding more milk, sugar, cocoa, or dark chocolate.
- Serve immediately. Add your favorite topping for hot chocolate if wanted.
- Any leftover hot chocolate can be cooled to room temperature and then chilled for up to 3 days.
- Extracts or food-grade essential oils like peppermint essential oil, lavender essential oil (can also use food-grade dried lavender), almond extract, raisin essence, rose water, etc. Use just a few drops per serving.
- Orange – either the zest or peel, heated with the milk. It would be best to use an extract/syrup for individually flavored drinks.
- Nut/Seed Butters and Spreads – add a spoonful of any per portion for extra flavor and creaminess – Nutella/Vegan Nutella, Biscoff, Candy bar spreads (like Mars, Malteser, Bounty), Nut or seed butter, etc.
- Superfood powders – i.e., maca, carob, etc. Besides flavor, these bring in lots of extra nutrients.
- Alcohol – there are tons of options for spiked hot cocoa, including Baileys, Kahlua, bourbon, brandy, cognac, rum, Amaretto, Eggnog, peppermint schnapps, and other spirits or liqueurs (peppermint, coffee, orange, cherry, chocolate, gingerbread, etc.)
- To thicken homemade hot chocolate, use starch such as cornflour (or kudzu, potato, etc.). You’ll need to add this as you heat the hot chocolate and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it thickens. This method only works for hot chocolate served immediately.
- Heavy cream/condensed milk makes for a creamier, richer – and sweeter if using condensed – result.
- Coconut oil will create a smoother texture and richer mouthfeel. You can also use cocoa butter.
- Banana can be blended in the drink for a thicker consistency.
- To keep the hot chocolate warm: You can use slow cookers/crockpots, thermos flasks, or large insulated coffee dispensers. If you use a thermos, fill it with boiling water beforehand for a few minutes. This will help to keep the cocoa warmer for longer as the hot water “preheats” the thermos.
- Cups/mugs – Pick the cups of your choice. For large gatherings, you can use paper cups. As a waste-free option, use your own mugs or even get your guests to bring their own!
- Spoons/stirrers – Use your own spoons or recyclable/compostable wooden spoons. Alternatively, encourage people to use candy sticks (like peppermint) or other food items as make-shift stirrers. You could even make chocolate spoons – stir the drink quickly, as they won’t last long!
- Containers and serving spoons/scoops for the toppings and add-ins – You could use small jars, bowls, or even platters for some of the ingredients.
- Jar labels – To label each ingredient and their dietary info. You can also use chalkboard labels/signs.