There is nothing better than a decadent homemade hot chocolate to keep you cozy and warm this winter. This simple guide will make sure you make the best drink every time.
There is nothing I love more than keeping warm with hot cocoa. When I was living in London, there was a chocolate bar... it was a cafe that focused on all things chocolate, not just a bar of chocolate. And I would go there with my friends to enjoy their chocolate martinis and on colder days, hot cocoa.
It was so good, it was basically like drinking straight melted chocolate with some cream. Now that I think back on it, that's probably exactly what it was. I spent a lot of time trying to emulate that drink by making something just as thick and chocolaty.
I used the base to make a lot of my hot cocoa recipes on this site such as this bourbon hot chocolate, this Black Forest hot chocolate, and this spicy hot chocolate. Now, I wanted to give you a guide to making the perfect hot chocolate tailored to what your personal preferences are. Too thick? Skip the cornstarch. Prefer something sweeter and not as chocolaty? Use milk chocolate and maybe up the sugar.
The Cocoa Powder
There are two main types of cocoa powder I recommend using for your homemade hot chocolate: natural, and Dutch-processed.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder has a smoother, more mellow, deep chocolate flavor, whereas the natural cocoa powder gives a lighter, almost sharper taste.
I prefer a deeper chocolate flavor, so I will often go for Dutch-processed. If you are someone who typically goes toward milk chocolate and smaller percentages of cocoa in your chocolate bars, the natural cocoa powder would be a better choice!
The type of chocolate you use is entirely dependent on what your preference is. If you like milk chocolate, then go for it! Just remember that milk chocolate is sweeter than darker chocolate, so you will need less sugar.
If you like dark chocolate, you can use the amount of sugar I use in my recipe, but if you prefer something less sweet, adjust that to your taste. Personally, I prefer to use a mix of both milk and dark chocolate.
You can also use semi-sweet chocolate. If you don't have chocolate bars, chocolate chips you might have leftover from making chocolate chip cookies work well!
Some recommended brands of chocolate I recommend for the best drink ever:
- Green & Black
You can use granulated or light/dark brown sugar in your homemade hot chocolate, but please don't feel limited to just that!
Coconut sugar, stevia. simple syrup (unflavored or flavored), are all good sweetener options. If you use an alternative to granulated and brown sugar, you will need to adjust the amount you put in your cocoa to adjust for how sweet each alternative is.
I like granulated sugar because it imparts a neutral sweetness to the chocolate drink. Brown sugar is another favorite because it adds warmth and a light molasses flavor.
There are two ingredients that you can add to your homemade hot chocolate. I like to think they are necessary, but you may disagree.
- Cornstarch is great because it makes your drink thick and velvety. If you aren't into that, you are free to omit it entirely and it won't affect the end taste of your beverage.
- Salt is basically an essential ingredient because it helps make all the flavors in your drink pop. It makes the chocolate taste more like chocolate and rounds out the sweetness. All you need is a small pinch to make a big impact.
This is all going to depend on your dietary and taste preferences.
When talking about dairy, the higher the fat, the more creamy and velvety the drink will be. It will give the drink its signature decadence.
Sometimes I recommend replacing a bit of the milk with a splash of cream if you want to have a truly decadent drink.
If you drink milk alternatives like almond, cashew, oat, etc. I recommend opting for the unsweetened versions. If you don't have that available, cut back on the amount of sugar you add. Remember, you can add more sweetness, but you can't take it away.
Now is where you can get super creative and turn your drink into just about anything.
Add in other flavors and spices to mix things up. I love taking out the sugar and replacing it with a flavored syrup or adding coffee. Chai spices are also really great to add to your drink.
Top your homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream (don't forget you can flavor your whipped cream too!) or add in all the marshmallows you heart desires. Personally, I love adding something cool like strawberry marshmallows.
Here are some quick and easy ideas:
- Whipped cream
- Flavored syrups (in place of some of the sugar)
- Chocolate syrups (drizzled on top)
- Whipped coffee aka Dalgona
Here is my preferred way to make the absolute best mug of hot cocoa.
- Whisk together your dry ingredients, namely the cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, and sugar.
- Add in just a splash of your milk and whisk until the mixture comes together into a loose paste-like texture, turn on your heat.
- Add half the remaining milk and the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts, then add the remaining milk.
- Heat until hot and simmering at a near bubble.
- Add in any other add-ins, then pour into a mug, and add your favorite toppings.
This gives you the richest, thick, and creamy drink you will ever try.
It is important to mix the dry ingredients with a splash of cold milk first so they can fully dissolve better. If you added all your milk or used hot milk, the cocoa powder and cornstarch wouldn't mix in correctly and you would end up with pockets of unmixed ingredients.
Adding a little more milk loosens the mixture a bit before adding the chocolate which will melt better when added to the pre-heated ingredients.
Don't let your drink come to a boil when making it as it can leave you with a grainy texture.
What's the Difference Between Hot Cocoa and Hot Chocolate?
In the simplest terms, they are practically the same and people, including myself, usually use the terms interchangeably.
They are both hot drinks with chocolate. The differences between them are subtle in that hot cocoa is usually made with cocoa powder, milk, and sweetener whereas hot chocolate uses melted chocolate.
This recipe happens to use both for a deliciously decadent chocolate flavor.
Unsweetened cocoa powder naturally contains a small amount caffeine, so your drink will have a small amount of caffeine which will give you a small boost (but some of that may also be the sugar!). One serving contains about 12 mg caffeine. For reference, a cup of black coffee has 95 mg caffeine and black tea can have 25-50mg caffeine.
Yes, absolutely! My recipe only calls for a small amount of cocoa powder, but you can omit it entirely. I do recommend increasing the amount of actual chocolate in the recipe though. Just another tablespoon or two is perfect.
If you are going for a version that isn't very rich, you may try using water instead. Just remember that it will not be creamy and the flavors will not be as pronounced. You may experience some issues mixing the melted chocolate with the water, I recommend introducing the two ingredients together slowly.
Yes! Let it come to room temperature, then store in an airtight container. Leave it in the refrigerator for up to three days. Heat in the microwave or on the stove, just be sure not to let it boil.
Craving more cozy drinks? Try my hot chocolate mug cake, my gingerbread hot chocolate, and my tiramisu hot chocolate! You will also love my Nutella hot chocolate and my Black Forest hot chocolate. Everyone is loving my Hot Chocolate Bombs and bourbon spiked hot chocolate. You can check out all my hot chocolate recipes here. You should also try this cardamom rose hot chocolate.
Homemade Hot Chocolate
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 ounces chocolate chopped
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- In your saucepan, off the heat, mix together the cornstarch, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt.
- Stir in just a couple of tablespoons of the milk and mix until the mixture forms a thick paste and there are no clumps.
- Turn on the heat to medium and stir in half of the remaining milk and stir to combine.
- Add the chopped chocolate.
- Continue stirring until the mixture is hot and steaming, but not bubbling.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Top with whipped cream or other preferred toppings.
- You can substitute the brown sugar with granulated sugar or half the amount of sugar substitute such as stevia. You can also replace it with honey or maple syrup, but it will impart a flavor to the drink.
- You can use any type of unsweetened milk you prefer.
- You can use any type of chocolate chip or plain chocolate bar you like for the drink. If you use milk chocolate, you may need to reduce the amount of sugar you add.