Learn how to make the BEST Hot Chocolate from scratch! This easy recipe uses simple ingredients and is ready in minutes ... it's the ultimate cozy drink that you'll love treating yourself to all winter long!
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It has been absolutely freezing here lately. Winter is definitely in the air, and not surprisingly, trudging around in frigid temps has me craving a hot drink at all times!
While tea is nice, and coffee is the best morning pick-me-up, there really isn't a more comforting winter drink than a big mug of rich, creamy Hot Chocolate. I always keep the basic ingredients for my go-to recipe on hand so I can throw this tempting treat together whenever a craving strikes (which is often!).
You are going to LOVE my easy Hot Cocoa recipe! It's super rich and chocolatey, but it isn't overly sweet (although you can easily sweeten it to taste), and the ingredients are very basic. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best homemade Hot Chocolate, and once you master the basic recipe, you can try a fun variation, like salted caramel, peppermint, or mocha.
Serve this delightful drink plain, whipped cream, marshmallows, or other toppings (lots of ideas below). Either way, you are going to find yourself craving it 24/7!
This recipe uses basic ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard! Here's what you'll need:
- Milk - You can use any kind of milk for this recipe, but whole milk works best. To make the cocoa extra rich and creamy, use a combo of half-and-half (or heavy cream) and whole milk. To make the recipe vegan, simply use your favorite non-dairy milk. I recommend choosing one that's extra creamy, like oat, coconut, or soy milk (my fave because it's thick and has a neutral flavor).
- Cocoa Powder - This recipe's rich, chocolatey flavor comes from unsweetened cocoa powder (both natural and dutch process varieties work fine). Easy-to-find Hershey's works well, but for the best, most decadent results, choose a premium cocoa, such as Guittard, Scharffen Berger, or Valrhona.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar is a must for sweetening the drink, which is not overly sweet. If you prefer sweeter Cocoa, simply add more sugar to taste. You may also swap in other sweeteners, like brown sugar or sugar-free alternatives, however you will need to experiment with the quantity to find the perfect amount.
- Extras - This recipe tastes delicious as-is, however you can amp up the flavor (and richness) by adding some chopped chocolate (or chips), along with a little vanilla extract. You can also flavor the drink with caramel, peppermint, and more ... find lots of tips below.
- Toppings - And now for the fun part ... choosing the perfect toppings! Go classic with whipped cream or marshmallows (these vegan marshmallows are great if you follow a vegetarian / vegan diet) or get creative. You'll find lots of tasty ideas below!
This Hot Cocoa recipe is naturally vegetarian and gluten-free. As mentioned above, you can easily make it vegan by choosing a plant-based milk.
You'll Also Need
You will need a medium to large saucepan (depending on how many servings you are making, and one with a heavy bottom is best. Grab some measuring cups and a whisk to combine the ingredients, too. And of course, you'll need some mugs! I used these rustic white mugs (which come in multiple colors), and I love them. They look handmade, plus they're very generously sized (big enough to hold a large serving and tons of toppings).
How to Make Hot Chocolate
This simple Hot Chocolate recipe couldn't be easier to make! You'll find detailed instructions below, but here's an overview of the steps:
- Combine ingredients. Add the milk, cocoa powder, and sugar to a medium pot, then whisk well. Don't worry if the cocoa doesn't blend in perfect ... just keep whisking. As the drink cooks the chunks will slowly disappear.
- Heat until hot. Cook the drink over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it's hot.
- Serve. When the Cocoa is hot and smooth (no need to boil), stir in any optional extras (like chopped chocolate and vanilla extract) or flavorings (such as peppermint extract or caramel) that you'd like to use. Whisk until everything is completely combined, then serve with your favorite toppings.
And that's all there is to it ... you scrumptious, homemade Hot Chocolate is ready to drink! Wasn't that easy?
Tip: This recipe makes three small servings or two larger servings. If you're serving a crowd, simply double, triple or even quadruple the recipe, as needed.
This simple Hot Chocolate recipe couldn't be easier to customize! Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
- Extra Rich - Make this basic Cocoa extra rich by stirring in chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and a little vanilla extract. You can also substitute heavy cream for some of the milk. And choosing a high-quality cocoa powder, such as Guittard, Scharffen Berger, or Valrhona, will also make a huge difference.
- Peppermint - Add a touch of holiday magic, but stirring in ½ teaspoon peppermint extract (mint works too, if you can't find peppermint). Top with crushed candycanes.
- Mocha - Whisk in one tablespoon instant espresso powder (or instant coffee) for a wonderful mocha flavor no adult can resist!
- Salted Caramel - Serve your Hot Choc drizzled with caramel sauce and a pinch of flaky sea salt.
- Mexican Hot Chocolate - Give your fave a spicy twist by adding a little cinnamon, cayenne, and vanilla.
- Raspberry - Skip the sugar and sweeten your drink with raspberry syrup instead.
- Chai - Combine your two favorite drinks by stirring in two to three tablespoons of this homemade Chai Mix. It's already sweetened, so add any extra sugar to taste.
- Cinnamon - Love a cinnamon and chocolate combo? Throw in a cinnamon stick along with the other ingredients before heating.
- Vegan - To make this recipe vegan, simply swap in a creamy plant-based milk, such as oat, coconut, or soy. I like to make this recipe with my favorite soy milk, because it's thick and has a neutral flavor.
- Spiked Hot Chocolate - Turn this recipe into an adults only treat by adding a shot of your fave liquor.
Picking the perfect Hot Chocolate toppings is sometimes half the fun! Here are a few ideas to inspire you ... use one or choose a combo:
- Whipped Cream
- Marshmallows (Try toasting them for a different flavor!)
- Shaved Chocolate
- Candy Cane (Whole or Crushed)
- Caramel Sauce (Regular or Salted)
- Chocolate Sauce
- Chocolate Chips
- Toffee Bits
- Sea Salt
- Cookies (Whole or Crushed)
If you have any leftover Hot Cocoa, refrigerate it in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for two to three days. Gently rewarm before drinking in your microwave or in a saucepan, making sure to mix well as it heats.
Looking for more cozy drink ideas? You'll love these recipes, too:
- Sweet Cinnamon Milk Tea - This easy recipe has been a Hello Little Home reader's favorite for years!
- Easy Chai Tea Mix - Stir this tasty mix into a mug of tea or use it to make this amazing Dirty Chai Latte.
- Spicy Pumpkin Steamer - This cozy drink tastes like a decadent pumpkin hot cocoa ... so delish!
- Cinnamon Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup - Mike this flavored simple syrup into your coffee for the perfect morning treat! Not a cinnamon fan? Try this Brown Sugar Syrup or this plain Simple Syrup recipe instead.
- Irish Coffee - Give your coffee a little kick with this fun recipe!
- Spiked Apple Cider - This delightful drink is simple to make and such a wonderful fall treat!
- 3 cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or more to taste)
- ⅓ to ½ cup chopped chocolate
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pour milk into a medium saucepan. Whisk in cocoa powder and sugar until well combined and most lumps have disappeared.
- Heat over medium heat until hot, continuing to whisk. Do not boil.
- If using, add chopped chocolate and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
- Divide cocoa between 2 to 3 mugs. Serve plain or with your favorite toppings, such as whipped cream or marshmallows. Enjoy!