Homemade Hot Chocolate

Homemade Hot Chocolate that is decadently rich and creamy, easy to make from scratch and tastes 1000X better than powdered mixes!

This Homemade Hot Chocolate recipe is mega creamy, intensely chocolaty, perfectly sweet and delightfully addicting.  It’s also super simple to make with only six pantry friendly ingredients AND ready in minutes!  This hot chocolate recipe uses both cocoa powder and chocolate chips for dreamy chocolaty depth and both milk and heavy cream to create the creamiest mug of hot chocolate you ever tasted AKA the best hot chocolate ever!  I’ve also included how to customize your homemade hot chocolate with many different flavor options – because when you make homemade hot chocolate – the possibilities are endless!

top view of a mug of homemade hot chocolate with marshmallows

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Hot Chocolate Recipe

Homemade hot chocolate is a quintessential, curl up with a big cozy blanket must-have recipe.  It’s perfect for sipping by the flickering fireplace, while reading a book by a sparkling Christmas tree, or spending time with friends and family baking, listening to holiday music, playing games or watching your favorite movies.  In other words, it makes memories better; and taste better too.

To bring you this homemade hot chocolate recipe, I wanted to create a recipe worthy of your time and taste buds.  A hot chocolate recipe that was decadent, heavy on the chocolate but not sickeningly sweet.  A hot chocolate recipe that was easy, yet gourmet tasting.

To arrive at such a recipe, I tested the most popular methods to make hot chocolate, played with ingredients and proportions and finally arrived at this winning, fool proof, DELCIOUS homemade hot chocolate recipe.  Here’s the breakdown:

EASY.   If you have never made homemade hot chocolate before, throw those powdered packets away because you will be blow away at how easy it is to make from scratch!  No melting chocolate separately in the microwave, no shaving chocolate or processing it in the food processor; simply add some ingredients to a pot, bring to a simmer, ladle into mugs, pile on the marshmallows or whipped cream and prepare to warmed from the inside out as you indulge in the best hot chocolate recipe of your life.   

PANTRY FRIENDLY.  To make homemade hot chocolate, all you need is sugar, cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate chips, milk, heavy cream and vanilla.  All pantry staples except perhaps the heavy cream, but that is negotiable. These simple ingredients become exponentially more delicious when combined together in perfect proportions. 

CREAMY. This homemade hot chocolate recipe uses milk instead of water which instantly ups the creamy factor.  It then spikes the milk with heavy cream to create the creamiest, most luxurious, intoxicating hot chocolate around.  Of course, if you want less creamy hot chocolate, then you can omit the heavy cream and use all milk.

CHOCOLATY.  This hot chocolate recipe is made with a combination of cocoa powder and chocolate chips.  The cocoa powder delivers intense chocolate flavor the chocolate chips round out the chocolate flavor with their rich, sweet creaminess and add luxurious body to the hot chocolate.  

What’s the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate?

The terms hot chocolate and hot cocoa are often used interchangeably, so is there a difference?  Yes!  Hot chocolate is made with actual chocolate – either chocolate chips or chopped chocolate which means it contains cocoa butter and is naturally richer and more decadent.  Hot cocoa, on the other hand, is made with from cocoa powder which means it does not contain any cocoa butter so it is literally is pressed free of its richness.   Hot cocoa by itself is a far less rich chocolate drink.

This hot chocolate recipe combines the best of both worlds.  It uses a majority of cocoa powder for its intense rich flavor and because it is far less expensive than using all chocolate AND then we get the richness from ½ cup chocolate chips and heavy cream.  So, call this mug of bliss hot chocolate, or call it hot cocoa – and you will be right!

What is hot chocolate made of?

You will love that this homemade hot chocolate recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients so you can make it any time a cozy chocolate craving strikes.  The only ingredient you might not keep stocked is heavy cream – but it’s worth keeping stocked during the chilly months just so you can make hot chocolate – and it keeps a long time, so you’ll easily use it up.

  • Sugar:  use granulated sugar to add sweetness and maintain the pure chocolate flavor.  Granulated sugar also adds volume and texture.  If you know you don’t like your hot chocolate very sweet, you can start with less sugar and stir in more to taste at the end of simmering.
  • Cocoa powder:  delivers an intense chocolate flavor. Take care to use unsweetened cocoa powder that is found in the baking aisle and NOT chocolate milk mix.  It might sound obvious but it does happen 😉.   If you love dark chocolate, then you might want to try the extra dark cocoa powder or a mixture of the two.
  • Chocolate chips:  adds a layer of luxurious chocolate depth. You may also substitute with 3 oz. finely chopped or grated semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate.  If you don’t have or want to add chocolate chips, you may add additional cocoa powder and sugar (I’ve included the substitutions below), but be aware your hot chocolate won’t be as rich.
  • Milk: this recipe calls for whole milk for the creamiest homemade hot chocolate BUT I often don’t have homemade whole milk on hand.  To make your own whole milk, replace some of the milk with heavy cream.
  • Heavy cream:  not only elevates this hot chocolate recipe to decadently gourmet but also helps stabilize the milk.  If you only use milk in your hot chocolate recipe, you have to be painstakingly take care not to boil the milk because it can easily curdle but heavy cream helps prevent this grievance.  Heavy cream will be called “heavy whipping cream” at your grocery store and is sold next to the coffee creamers, half and half and milk.
  • Vanilla:  a splash of vanilla extract rounds out all the chocolaty goodness.  Use quality vanilla extract for best flavor.
showing how to make hot chocolate recipe by adding hot chocolate to mug and adding marshmallows

What chocolate is best?

As you have probably tasted, not all chocolate is created equal. For the best tasting, silkiest hot chocolate, you want high quality chocolate chips with a higher percentage of cocoa butter.

Some brands of chocolate contain significantly more cocoa butter and others contain significantly less cocoa butter and more additives.  Cocoa butter is important because it comes from fermented, roasted dried cocoa beans and is where the cocoa flavor, aroma and texture comes from.  When selecting chocolate, check the label for cocoa butter; the higher the percentage of cocoa butter, the better the chocolate. This translates into the tangible qualities of richer flavor, aroma, and better melting ability.  

I recommend Guittard or Ghirardelli brand chocolate chips.  Many other chocolate brands contain less cocoa butter and will not melt as seamlessly and can leave you with stubborn chocolate pieces.

Can I replace the chocolate chips with cocoa powder?

While it is easier to just add chocolate chips, you can replace the chocolate chips with cocoa powder if you happen to be out and need hot chocolate NOW.  I get you. Semi-sweet chocolate chips are essentially cocoa, sugar and fat which we can replace with (in additional to the original measurements): 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Do I Have to Use Whole Milk?

For the creamiest hot chocolate, I recommend whole milk with the addition of heavy cream.  That being said, you certainly don’t have to use whole milk, you can use skim, 1% or 2% as well.  Just keep in mind, that the higher the fat content, the creamier the hot chocolate.  So, if you would like to make up for not using whole milk, then I recommend replacing some of your milk with heavy cream.

Can I Omit the Cream?

Absolutely!  Heavy cream is an indulgence I gladly splurge on when I want the BEST hot chocolate or I want to impress a crowd with my hot chocolate recipe. If you are looking to make this homemade hot chocolate lighter, however, then just replace the heavy cream with milk and be aware that it won’t be as rich. Also, take special care not to boil the hot chocolate – just barely bring to a boil – if using milk so it doesn’t curdle.

How can I make creamy hot chocolate without heavy cream?

Another option to use in hot chocolate instead of heavy cream is evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk is creamier than milk but is only 6% fat as opposed to heavy creams 36% fat.

You can also omit the heavy cream and whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch in with the sugar and cocoa powder.  I use this trick all the time in my sauces and soups instead of using heavy cream.  Cornstarch will slightly thicken the hot chocolate, giving it the extra body of heavy cream.

showing how to serve hot chocolate recipe by adding a cinnamon stick

Can I Make hot chocolate Dairy Free?

Yes!  You may substitute the milk and heavy cream with coconut milk, almond milk or cashew milk.  If using coconut milk, I suggest a combination of lite and full fat coconut milk. If using almond milk or cashew milk, I suggest adding 1 tablespoon cornstarch as described above to help thicken the hot chocolate.

Can I make hot chocolate vegan?

Yes!  Use coconut milk, almond milk or cashew milk as described above.  Replace the chocolate chips with vegan chocolate chips.  I am not sure how well vegan chocolate chips melt, however, so you may want to experiment or replace them with additional cocoa powder and sugar instead.   

To replace the semi-sweet chocolate chips with cocoa powder, add 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar.  Normally, you would also add an additional 2 tablespoons melted butter, but you can omit or replace with coconut cream.

How to make Homemade Hot Chocolate

  • Combine dry ingredients.  Add sugar to a deep saucepan or pot then sift in cocoa powder.  Give them a stir to combine.  It is better to use a large pot than a small one and worry about sloshing all over.  It is important to sift the cocoa powder so it’s easy to whisk away the lumps.
showing how to make homemade hot chocolate recipe by sifting in cocoa powder
  • Add milk.  Stir in milk and heavy cream. Whisk vigorously for about one minute, until most of the lumps are gone.  It will seem very lumpy at first, but I promise your whisk will work magic. You want almost all of the lumps to be gone before you turn on the heat. And don’t confuse froth with lumps – the chocolate will get frothy with air bubbles from all that whisking.
showing how to make homemade hot chocolate recipe by adding milk and heavy cream
showing how to make homemade hot chocolate recipe by whisking in cocoa powder, sugar, milk and heavy cream
  • Bring to a boil. Continue to stir frequently as you bring to a light boil. As soon as it starts to gently boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer about 15 seconds stirring constantly.  You might want to set your timer so you don’t shortchange your 15 seconds. We want the milk and heavy cream hot enough so it will easily melt the chocolate chips.
showing how to make homemade hot chocolate recipe by stirring constantly while it comes to a boil
  • Add chocolate chips. Reduce heat to low and stir in chocolate chips.  Whisk until the chocolate chips melt completely, about one minute.  If your chocolate chips aren’t melting, stir on! Stir in vanilla.
showing how to make best hot chocolate recipe by adding chocolate chips
  • Serve.  Ladle hot chocolate into mugs and serve with optional marshmallows and whipped cream or any of my other topping ideas below.
showing how to make homemade hot chocolate recipe by stirring chocolate chips until melted

How to Customize Hot Chocolate

One of the best things about making homemade hot chocolate from scratch is that you can customize it to make it YOUR version of the best hot chocolate. 

  • Want sweeter hot chocolate?  Add additional granulated sugar to taste.
  • Want less sweet hot chocolate? Use less sugar or bittersweet chocolate chips. 
  • Want even creamier hot chocolate?  Replace some of the milk with heavy cream in additional to the heavy cream in the recipe.   
  • Want less chocolaty hot chocolate?  Reduce the cocoa powder and sugar in equal proportions.

What are good toppings for hot chocolate?

Hot chocolate is delicious in its simplicity or jazz it up with all sorts of toppings!  Here are just a few ideas:

  • marshmallows or flavored marshmallows
  • whipped cream
  • mascarpone
  • caramel
  • coconut caramel
  • sweetened shredded coconut
  • hot fudge
  • shaved or chopped chocolate
  • chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips
  • grated cinnamon, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks or cinnamon chips
  • crushed candy canes
  • sprinkles
  • almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine
  • crushed Oreos
  • crushed Butterfingers
  • Hot Tamales

Homemade whipped cream for hot chocolate

If you really want to splurge to create the BEST hot chocolate, go for homemade whipped cream.  Light, sweet homemade whipped cream floating on your hot chocolate is heaven and 1000X better than the canned processed stuff.  Homemade whipped cream is also easy to make with heavy cream and sugar you already have on hand for this hot chocolate recipe.

To make homemade whipped cream: 

  • Add 2 tablespoons sugar to a metal mixing bowl, followed by 1 cup heavy cream. 
  • Beat with electric beaters just until the cream reaches stiff peaks.
  • Dollop onto hot chocolate and dive in!

Hot Chocolate Recipe Variations

This classic homemade hot chocolate recipe is a springboard for all sorts of mix-ins!  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Mexican hot chocolate: while there are more authentic recipes out there using chocolate de mesa, you can get the essence of Mexican hot chocolate by adding 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of chili powder or more to taste.
  • Hungarian hot chocolate:  stir in 1 teaspoon finely-ground Hungarian hot paprika,
    ½ teaspoon finely-ground white pepper and ½ teaspoon ground cloves.
  • Peppermint hot chocolate:  add 3 drops food grade peppermint oil or stir in ½ – 1 tsp peppermint extract to taste.
  • Orange hot chocolate: stir in 1 tablespoon orange zest, 1 teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg and ½ teaspoon ground cloves.
  • Brown sugar hot chocolate:  replace the granulates sugar with brown sugar for a butterscotch flavor.
  • Maple hot chocolate:  replace half of the granulated sugar with pure maple syrup.
  • Cinnamon hot chocolate:  add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, more or less to taste. You may also want to add a pinch of nutmeg and cloves.
  • Pumpkin spice hot chocolate: add to taste. 
  • Nutella:  reduce the sugar and cocoa powder to 2 tablespoons, omit the chocolate chips and heavy cream and add 3 tablespoons Nutella (or more to taste) with the milk.
  • Peanut butter hot chocolate:  add 1/4-⅓ cup creamy peanut butter to the hot chocolate after the chocolate chips. Blend with a hand-held immersion blender or whisk until completely smooth.
showing how to make hot chocolate by scooping into a ladle to serve

How can I make frothy hot chocolate?

Frothy hot chocolate is exploding with delightful texture of foamy sweet bubbles and is super easy to make! The goals is to incorporate air into the hot chocolate – the more air, the frothier the hot chocolate. 

You have two options to make frothy hot chocolate:  The first option is to vigorously whisk your hot chocolate with a wire whisk.  This requires quite a bit of elbow grease but can get the job done.   The easier and more effective method is to use an immersion blender.     

Can I Reheat this Hot Chocolate Recipe?

Absolutely!  This hot chocolate reheats beautifully whether you would like a single serving or a pot full.  Reheated hot chocolate will be thicker, so in each instance below, you may need to stir in additional milk to thin:

  • Microwave:  warm in a microwave-safe mug for 60 seconds then at 30 second intervals.
  • Stove:  transfer to a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until steaming but not boiling.
homemade hot chocolate with chocolate chips and cocoa in a mug

How long can you store hot chocolate?

Hot chocolate should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Theoretically, it is good for as long as the expiration date on your milk or heavy cream – whichever comes soonest.  If you’re not sure, then store hot chocolate for 3-5 days.

Hot Chocolate Tips:

I hope you enjoyed learning all about hot chocolate!  Here is a summary of important tips and tricks:

  • Use quality chocolate chips with a higher percentage of cocoa powder for superior melting ability and maximum flavor.
  • Use semi-sweet chocolate and not milk chocolate or your hot chocolate will be far too sweet.
  • Please do not use water.  Your hot chocolate will not be watery (surprise) and not creamy.
  • I have had the most success with a blend of milk and cream for flavor and consistency.  Cream will also help stabilize your milk so it doesn’t curdle.
  • Don’ skip sifting the cocoa powder!  Sifting makes it much easier to whisk the lumps away.  As the cocoa powder gets to the bottom of the sieve and only hard bits remain, you can push them through the sieve with a back of a measuring cup.
  • Adjust your hot chocolate to taste – more sugar, less sugar, more cream, less cream, etc.
  • Use real, homemade whipped cream.  It takes minutes to make and it’s thick, rich and boasts superior flavor to its artificial counterparts.  
two hands holding creamy hot chocolate recipe

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Homemade Hot Chocolate

This Homemade Hot Chocolate recipe is mega creamy, intensely chocolaty, perfectly sweet and delightfully addicting. It’s also super simple to make with only six pantry friendly ingredients AND ready in minutes! This hot chocolate recipe uses both cocoa powder and chocolate chips for dreamy chocolaty depth and both milk and heavy cream to create the creamiest mug of hot chocolate you ever tasted AKA the best hot chocolate ever! I’ve also included how to customize your homemade hot chocolate with many different flavor options – because when you make homemade hot chocolate – the possibilities are endless!
Servings: 4 -5 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 cups whole milk see DIY notes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup QUALITY semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • In a deep saucepan or pot, add sugar then sift in cocoa powder; stir to combine.
  • Stir in milk and heavy cream. Whisk vigorously for about one minute, until most of the lumps are gone.
  • Continue to stir frequently as you bring to a light boil over medium heat. As soon as it starts to gently boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 15 seconds stirring constantly.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate chips melt completely, about one minute. Stir in vanilla.
  • Ladle into mugs and serve with option marshmallows and whipped cream.

Notes

DIY Whole Milk

For the creamiest hot chocolate, I recommend whole milk with the addition of heavy cream.  That being said, you certainly don’t have to use whole milk, you can use skim, 1% or 2% as well.  Just keep in mind, that the higher the fat content, the creamier the hot chocolate.  So, if you would like to make up for not using whole milk, then I recommend replacing some of your milk with heavy cream.

Toppings ideas

Hot chocolate is delicious in its simplicity or jazz it up with all sorts of toppings!  Here are just a few ideas:
  • marshmallows or flavored marshmallows
  • whipped cream
  • mascarpone
  • caramel
  • coconut caramel
  • sweetened shredded coconut
  • hot fudge
  • shaved or chopped chocolate
  • chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips
  • grated cinnamon, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks or cinnamon chips
  • crushed candy canes
  • sprinkles
  • almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine
  • crushed Oreos
  • crushed Butterfingers
  • Hot Tamales

Hot Chocolate Tips:

I hope you enjoyed learning all about hot chocolate!  Here is a summary of important tips and tricks:
  • It is better to use a large pot than a small one and worry about sloshing all over.  It is important to sift the cocoa powder so it's easy to whisk away the lumps.
  • Use quality chocolate chips with a higher percentage of cocoa powder for superior melting ability and maximum flavor such as Guittard or Ghirardelli.  You may also substitute with 3 oz. shaved or finely chopped semi-sweet Bakers chocolate.
  • Use semi-sweet chocolate and not milk chocolate or your hot chocolate will be far too sweet.
  • Don’ skip sifting the cocoa powder!  Sifting makes it much easier to whisk the lumps away.  As the cocoa powder gets to the bottom of the sieve and only hard bits remain, you can push them through the sieve with a back of a measuring cup.
  • Please do not use water.  Your hot chocolate will not be watery (surprise) and not creamy.
  • I have had the most success with a blend of milk and cream for flavor and consistency.  Cream will also help stabilize your milk so it doesn’t curdle.  If you don't want to use heavy cream, that is fine! Just be aware your hot chocolate will be less creamy.
  • Adjust your hot chocolate to taste – more sugar, less sugar, more cream, less cream, etc.
  • Use real, homemade whipped cream (see post).  It takes minutes to make and it's thick, rich and boasts superior flavor to its artificial counterparts.  

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6 Comments

  1. MaryAnn Coy says

    I can’t have cow dairy, allergic! I was thinking Coconut beverage and canned full fat coconut milk (for heavy cream) with dark chocolate powder and nondairy dark chocolate chips. A spoon of coconut oil can add more richness if need be. Topped with whipped coconut cream. Also, did you know a pinch of salt enhances chocolate?

    • Jen says

      Hi MaryAnn, you read my mind! Your solution is exactly what I suggested in the post for nondairy needs. Enjoy!

  2. F says

    I have tried other hot chocolate recipes before but this was so so so good! Will be making this again because the cravings are real

    • Jen says

      I totally get you – give me all the chocolate! I’m so happy you loved this hot chocolate recipe, thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. Ashley says

    Hi!! I love all your recipes, they are all so great! For serving this at a party, do you think it would be okay in a crockpot on low AFTER its been made as you suggest above?

    • Jen says

      Thanks Ashley! Yes, you can absolutely keep it on low for up to 2 hours in the crockpot. Enjoy!