What’s better than a mug of hot chocolate on a snow day? I’ve been working on my own hot chocolate recipe for a while, and it’s finally time to share it.
This hot chocolate recipe is made with simple, wholesome ingredients and tastes more grown-up than the packets of hot chocolate I loved as a kid. It’s rich and complex, but not so decadent that I can’t finish the cup.
Whether you’re warming up on the couch or hosting a hot chocolate bar for your friends (check out the variations offered below), I think you’re going to love it. As a bonus, this creamy hot chocolate recipe is easy to make dairy-free or vegan, if desired.
My favorite hot chocolate is a hybrid between “hot cocoa” (made with cocoa powder, which yields a lighter result since the rich cocoa butter has been removed from the cacao beans) and “hot chocolate” (which is richer since it’s made with chocolate bars, containing cocoa, sugar and rich cocoa butter).
The combination of the two produces a seriously delicious hot chocolate with deep chocolate flavor. You can control the intensity of the chocolate flavor by your choice of cocoa powder and, more importantly, your choice of chocolate. I love dark chocolate so that’s what I used.
Hot Chocolate Ingredients
You’ll only need five simple ingredients to make a great cup of hot chocolate:
1) Milk of choice
You can use traditional cows’ milk (whole milk) or plant-based milk (cashew milk, etc.). This will come as no surprise but thicker, creamier milks produce thicker, creamier hot chocolate. You’ll find more notes on milk options under the recipe.
2) Cocoa powder
This is the base of your chocolate flavor. Use a good one! I used Trader Joe’s but you can get fancier if you’d like (I love Lake Champlain). Dutch-processed cocoa powder will produce a smoother, less acidic result, but regular cocoa powder works as well.
3) Maple syrup
I like to sweeten my hot chocolate with real maple syrup instead of sugar. Since it’s in liquid form already, it whisks right in. It adds a very subtle layer of extra flavor, too. While there is regular sugar in chocolate bars or chips (more or less depending on your chocolate strength), I like using a natural sweetener to make up the difference.
4) Chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
This doubles the chocolate flavor and makes the drink more creamy, thanks to the cocoa butter content. Choose milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on the intensity desired.
I love dark chocolate so I used Theo’s 70% dark chocolate baking bar (bought at Whole Foods). You can also use chocolate chips; I recommend using a quality brand for best results (Ghirardelli is better than Nestle, for example).
5) Vanilla extract
Vanilla adds greater depth of flavor. A small amount goes a long way.
Enjoy your hot chocolate on its own, or make it even more decadent by adding a dollop of real whipped cream or a couple of marshmallows.
Hot to Make Hot Chocolate
It’s easy! You’ll find the recipe below, but here’s the gist:
- In a saucepan, you’ll stir together the maple syrup and cocoa powder until combined.
- Add the milk and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Don’t let it come to a full boil, or you could scald the milk.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) and vanilla extract.
Hot Chocolate Variations
Enjoy a cup of classic hot chocolate with whipped cream or a marshmallow, or try any of these fun variations:
- Peanut butter hot chocolate: Swirl in 1 tablespoon peanut butter per cup. (Almond butter works, too, but I didn’t love it.)
- Mexican hot chocolate: Stir a pinch of ground cinnamon into your cup. Cinnamon stick garnish optional.
- Peppermint hot chocolate: Add a drop (really, just one drop) of peppermint flavor (affiliate link) into your cup.
- Spike it: A splash of bourbon or spiced rum would be quite nice.
- Or top it with a scoop of ice cream: For extra creaminess and flavor, try adding a small scoop of peppermint ice cream, cappuccino chocolate chip, hazelnut, vanilla…
Craving more warm drinks?
Warm up with one of these:
Please let me know how you like this hot chocolate in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Favorite Hot Chocolate
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Warm up with this delicious hot chocolate recipe! It’s made with cocoa powder, real chocolate, your milk of choice and a drizzle of maple syrup. Recipe yields 2 cups; divide or multiply as desired.
- 2 cups milk of choice*
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder**
- 1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
- 2 ounces quality chocolate, chopped (or ¼ cup chocolate chips)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Topping of choice (optional): Whipped cream, marshmallows, shaved chocolate, or any of the options provided within post
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon maple syrup until the cocoa powder is mostly incorporated. Whisk in the milk.
- Warm the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a gentle simmer, about 4 to 7 minutes (don’t let it come to a rolling boil).
- Remove the hot chocolate from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract until well blended. Taste (careful, it’s hot), and add more maple syrup if you’d like a sweeter cup. Pour the hot chocolate into two mugs, top with any desired garnishes, and serve while hot.
*Milk suggestions: Thicker, richer milks produce better hot chocolate (think whole milk). Good plant-based options include homemade cashew milk or store-bought cashew milk (I like Forager brand). Three Trees and Malk make creamy almond milks. Light coconut milk would be nice. Homemade oat milk thickens too much when heated, so I don’t recommend it.
Cocoa powder notes: Regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder will work well. Dutch-processed offers less acidic chocolate flavor, so if you have them both to choose from, I’d pick Dutch.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Use plant-based milk (see suggestions above) and choose dairy-free/vegan-friendly toppings.
In the “Hot Chocolate Ingredients” section you say that Dutch processed cocoa will make the drink smoother but in your ingredients list in the recipe you say not to use Dutch processed. I just wanted to note that discrepancy because this looks yummy. :) Do you think this could be made in a slow cooker for a crowd? I really like Guittard’s (the other San Francisco chocolate company) dark chocolate chips. Their drinking chocolate is really good too. :P
Oops! Thank you for pointing that out, Giselle. I’ve edited the post. I initially suggested regular only because that’s what I used, but after further investigation Dutch might even be a better choice. I bet Guittard would be awesome. I want to say this would work in a slow cooker, but I haven’t tried to be sure—I’m not sure if prolonged heat would effect the chocolate or not. Please report back if you try it!
I agree with Giselle — Guittard has excellent products — Fair Trade too! Trader Joe’s cacao powder is Fair Trade as well — would that work in this recipe?
I had *no* idea there was a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate! Mind blown! This recipe looks great (your photos are lovely!)… can’t wait to try it out!
Right! Let me know what you think!
Brittany Audra @ Audra's Appetite
I love the idea of adding melted chocolate and peanut butter too!! :)
Wow! I will Be making this today. . All I have on hand is unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Do you think that would work? Loving your recipes. Stay warm today. Thanks.
Yes, that will work! It won’t be as thick as it could be (not a deal breaker) and you might not want to add the remaining tablespoon of maple syrup since it’s already sweetened.
You might want to adjust your vanilla since it already has it in it. Let me know what you think, Traci!
My wife, Ofelia, is from Philippines. She makes a hot chocolate from beans grown in that country. It is so rich and yummy …. but this looks, delish. and shall show Ofelia later to compare.
Let me know what you think!
I just made this hot chocolate in a mason jar. I put the mason jar in the pot of water. It acts as a double broiler. I put all the ingredients in the mason jar and stir until it reach 155 degree F. Once it is done, I transferred the hot chocolate in a mug. It was very delicious.
Great to hear, Celina! I’m glad you loved it.
Sounds delicious but I would up the anti with a healthier option of real cacoa powder or paste.
Thanks for sharing!
Delicious! Would use less maple syrup next time!
Thanks for sharing, Jamie!
I love homemade hot chocolate! Looks delicious and comforting ♥
Let me know what you think, Natalie!
I’ve never thought of adding maple syrup to hot chocolate before; it sounds delicious!
It really is!
What are the proportions of the ingredients per one serving? Did o miss this?
The ingredient list equals two cups. :)
Never mind! I see the proportions now when I clicked on the actual recipe. Sorry, new to your blog!
No worries! Welcome, Carol. :)
I made this vegan with almond milk and some chocolate I already had, I can imagine it is even more delicious with milk. I opted for the extra maple syrup since I’m used to nestle hot chocolate sweetness. Will definitely make again and maybe try with milk and better chocolate!
Lovely, Stacey! Thanks for sharing.
I can’t speak for smoothness of Dutch (processed w alkali) cocoa, but I would always choose raw cacao for all the health benefits that it offers. Big difference btw cocoa vs. cacao :)
Thanks for sharing!
Mhmmm, hot chocolate is the best this time of year (even though there’s no snow in Cali)!
Oh sunny California!
Great recipe! Here in Germany my favorite alternative to doing it all myself is the Swiss classic Caotina, made of cocoa and real Swiss chocolate. It’s like your recipe, but pre-mixed ;-)
Thanks for sharing!
Can’t wait to try this. I recently bought all the ingredients to make “French-style” hot chocolate but it was sooo rich that I couldn’t finish it. I also love that you added milk options, as I’m lactose intolerant. Unfortunately, I only have oat milk at home right now, or I’d try this recipe right away. :)
You’re welcome! Let me know what you think, Luana!
Simple but fabulous! It makes my day :) Hot chocolate is perfect drink for this cold weather.
The perfect for cold weather! Thanks for your review, Ethel.
This was sooo good, Kate! I think the chopped baking chocolate really “makes it”.
The thick, creamy texture is wonderful. (I used whole milk).
My 3 kids are enjoying a cup now after playing outside in the snow. This is the second batch I’ve made in 2 days, so I’d say it’s a hit. :)
I would say it’s a hit! Snow and hot chocolate. I love it, Amy!
This was delicious and so lovely on this cold wintry day, finally got the hot chocolate I craved from my favorite restaurant at home! and this tasted better. I followed the instructions as written. Thank you!
How fun! I’m glad it was even better than your favorite restaurant quality. Thanks so much for you review!
Can this be made and then reheated later?
This is really best served immediately.
I love homemade hot chocolate, and I’m surprised how many people are surprised when I tell them how to make it: chocolate + milk + heat. I suggest an addition of a tiny pinch of salt. My favorite flavoring is a dash of cinnamon and the tiniest shaving of whole nutmeg.
I really appreciate the way you added Choco-chips in finishing step. The way you contribute the hot chocolate its appreciated.
Thanks a lot for sharing it with us..
What an amazing recipe…my child will gonna love it..
This hot chocolate was so yummy! I used
the forager project cashew milk, my favorite store cashew milk! My family was spectacle about the it, so they bought a back up at the store. They were so surprised how awesome it was! I knew all along that it was going to be the best, because all your recipes are.
I’m happy they all ended up loving it, Olivia!
Have you tried adding ginger?
I haven’t, but sounds interesting!
This was really good. I’ve been dairy-free for almost 3 years now and I’ve disliked all the vegan hot chocolate brands I tried, so I decided I needed to make my own. I used cashew milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips, and just 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. It was really, really good. I would heat it a bit longer next time so it’s hotter or use a bigger saucepan because it wasn’t super hot but that was my own fault (I was trying carefully to not burn it or have it overflow).
Thanks, Kate. I’ve never been disappointed by you :)
I’m glad you loved it, Hayley! Thanks for taking the time to review.
This is the perfect hot chocolate. I’ve made it multiple times, so easy, so good. I like adding a pinch of sea salt to it too :)
Made it and spiked It with bourbon per your rec! So easy and delicious!
It’s a rare snow day in the PNW- perfect for trying this recipe- and it did not disappoint! SO yummy with your homemade cashew milk! Thank you so much for sharing naturally sweetened recipes with the world!
This recipe is EVERYTHING. It has been my go-to for warm chocolatey food cravings during periods cramps for a while now. Thank you!
You’re welcome! I’m glad it’s just what you needed.
I was looking for this recipe for a long time! I was feeling a little adventurous so I doubled the recipe and tried adding peppermint to one cup, rum to another, and rum and orange extract to mine. They were all fantastic.
I made this with almond milk and Guittard chocolate. It was so rich and thick, that my son called it chocolate mousse. Highly recommend!
Who knew homemade hot chocolate was so so good!!!!
I’m glad you loved it, Melissa!
This is wonderful!!! Since I was only making one cup of it I did it in the microwave, taking it out every 30-60 seconds to stir. Maybe not as creamy as doing it on the stove, but no pot to wash. Thank you for this!