Hot Chocolate vs. Hot Cocoa

It’s the battle of the season: Hot Chocolate versus Hot Cocoa. Where do you stand?

Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate: Which is Best?

If you’re making hot chocolate the homemade way, not from a store-bought mix, you probably wonder what the best option is, cocoa or real chocolate. We made some of each (get the recipes for homemade hot cocoa and  hot chocolate made with real chocolate here) and did the taste test to find out.

cocoa versus chocolate chips in hot chocolate

We went with Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa and Special Dark Chocolate Chips so that we are looking at a similar flavor profile.

Both hot drinks were good, for sure. We preferred the cocoa version though. Looking at the picture at the top of this article, that’s the one on the left. It has a nice dark color (although the foam on the chocolate one is pretty nice too!). More importantly, it has a richer flavor and smoother thicker mouth feel.

The cocoa was more bitter and more chocolaty even though the recipe contains more sugar. The version made with chocolate chips was overly sweet even with very little sugar added.

Our choice is therefore definitely the cocoa. O.K., but what about if you add other ingredients to your mug. Does that make a difference in what we choose?

While preparing this Hot Chocolate Topic for this website, we’ve read many many hot chocolate and hot cocoa recipes. Interestingly, many of them call for vanilla and/or salt. Neither of our recipes included these ingredients, but we thought it would be cool to try adding them here and seeing if they affect the two different types differently.

They did!

The salt made a big difference in the chocolate chip version. Just a pinch of salt and some of the extreme sweetness went away. The difference was much less noticeable in the cocoa version.

As to the vanilla, it added a subtle but nice bit of round flavor to the mug of cocoa. But when added to the chocolate chip cup, it was overpowering. You could really taste vanilla, even with just 1/8 of a teaspoon.

There you have it, the perfect cup of hot chocolate for us is going to be one made with cocoa and containing a tiny bit of vanilla. Do you think this would be your favorite too or do you lean in a different direction?

This post originally appeared in December, 2015 and was revised and republished in December, 2019.

Christine Pittman

Christine is the Senior Editor and Owner of The Cookful, COOKtheSTORY and IsThisThatFood. Her sites reach over 1.5 million readers per month, which means that things can get a bit crazy. She's constantly writing, taking pictures, editing, managing contributors, and, oh yeah, cooking. To say that she wears many hats is an understatement - there are many hats, and also many shirts, shoes, pants, and even the odd cape!