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.