We’re expecting more rain this week. What’s better than a mug of great hot chocolate on a rainy day? Do you go out and buy some pre-packed single serving hot cocoa mix that has excessive sugars + additives… OR, make your own hot cocoa with ingredients you likely already have around your house.
This hot chocolate recipe is made with wholesome ingredients, no added refined sugar and is absolutely delicious. 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.
Hot Chocolate Ingredients
Here’s all you’ll need to make a great cup of hot chocolate:
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.
Cocoa powder: This is the base of your chocolate flavor. Use a good one! I used Hershey’s but you can get fancier if you’d like… Dutch-processed cocoa powder will produce a smoother, less acidic result, but regular cocoa powder works as well.
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.
Chopped chocolate or chocolate chips: This doubles the chocolate flavor and makes the drink more creamy, thanks to the cocoa butter content. I use semi-sweet milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on the intensity desired.
You can also use chocolate chips, and I recommend using a quality brand for best results.
Vanilla extract: Vanilla adds greater depth of flavor. I prefer “Mexican Vanilla Extract” which seems to have a hint of cinnamon. I literally add this to all my baking as well!
How to Make Hot Chocolate
It’s easy! 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 (the Mexican Vanilla Extract also comes in handy for this as well)
- 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…
Favorite Hot Chocolate
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. 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.