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Learn how to make hot chocolate from scratch. Skip mixes with high-fructose corn syrup and other additives and whip up your own, thick delicious custom blend. You probably have the ingredients on hand already.
Ingredients & substitutions
- Milk or cream: Cow or plant-based. It is your choice, oatmilk, soy, coconut milk will all work.
- Sugar: White sugar lets the chocolate flavor shine through, but for caramel notes or complexity try brown sugar, turbinado, or even honey, which pairs well with dark chocolate.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder: From old standby Hershey’s to high end Valrhona, pick your favorite! Just make sure it is unsweetened.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla rounds out the flavor of the chocolate, and is so ubiquitously present in chocolate products that the flavors are associated. Of course, you can sub in vanilla paste (stir well!) the scrapings of a vanilla bean, or leave out. If you prefer a different flavor – try almond or peppermint extract.
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: This is where you can go wild. Sub in dark chocolate chips or white chocolate. Chop up a similar amount of your favorite chocolate bar instead of using chips.
- Mini Marshmallows: Optional but scrumptious. Store-bought, homemade, flavored, whatever you want. Larger ones work, too, and can be cut into smaller pieces. Also, a tiny spoonful of Marshmallow Fluff is fun.
- Chocolate shavings: shave a chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler, use chopped up chocolate chips, M&Ms or another favorite candy, or buy chocolate sprinkles.
How to make hot chocolate
- Pour the water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar.
- Turn the heat down and whisk in the milk. Cook until the milk is heated but not boiling.
- Mix in the chocolate chips and continue to whisk until the chocolate chips melt and the mixture smoothes out.
- Take off the burner and stir in vanilla extract.
Tips for making hot chocolate
- Stir vigorously in the beginning to dissolve the sugar. This allows the cocoa powder to get incorporated well before adding in the milk. Work until there is a smooth, even paste. It is hard to get the lumps out once milk is added.
- Watch the pot! Truly! This is a superfast recipe but burning does spoil it. Cocoa really tastes best if the milk is not scorched or boiled.
- Use chocolate chips or a chocolate bar cut into small chunks. This helps to speed up the process, so the chocolate dissolves faster.
- Use full fat milk for best flavor. Any milk will work but the fuller fat versions make the most luscious, dessert quality cocoas.
Frequently asked questions
If you have leftovers or want to make extra for later, store in an airtight jar with a lid in the fridge. You can reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Dutch-process cocoa powder, as opposed to “natural” cocoa powder is processed to lessen chocolate’s acidity. This matters in recipes using baking soda, but will not affect hot cocoa, except for the fact that the Dutch-processed type is usually richer and darker.
Hot cocoa mix already contains sweeteners and dried milk. If you start with it, you will effectively be zushing up the mix – like adding more garlic and spices to jarred tomato sauce – which is fine. Work with what you have but there is no need to add sugar.
Gritty hot chocolate is the result of not fully dissolving the cocoa-sugar mix. Whisk, whisk, whisk in the beginning to make sure the cocoa powder is fully incorporated and the sugar is dissolved in the hot water, and keep whisking after adding the milk.
Hot chocolate is the perfect winter beverage whether you are having a festive start to a cold morning, warming up after ice skating or snowman building, decorating the tree, or cuddling up with a holiday movie.
More warm drinks to try:
- Vegan Hot Chocolate
- Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
- Ginger Turmeric Tea
- Golden Milk Turmeric Latte
- Coconut Oil Coffee
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How to Make Hot Chocolate
Fill a small pot with the water and bring to a boil. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar.
Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat until the milk is heated but not boiling, about 3 minutes
Add chocolate chips and continue to whisk until the chocolate chips melt and the mixture becomes smooth, about 2 more minutes.
Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla extract.
Serve with mini marshmallows, if desired.
Tips: You can make this hot chocolate with any kind of milk. Use a plant based milk like almond or oat for a vegan hot drink, or half and half for a creamier and more indulgent sip.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.
Photo Credit: Erin Jensen