Hot chocolate is wonderful and can be different than just the same old. Here are some great hot chocolate recipes and new ideas.
We rounded up all the hot chocolate mixes at our local grocery store and did a taste test to see which one was best. They differed in a few ways.
In all cases we followed the instructions on the packet exactly as written. If they instructions called for water but mentioned milk as a richer alternative, we used milk. If milk was not mentioned, we didn’t use it.
Method: 2 Tbsp. Ovaltine to 1 cup hot milk.
Verdict: Weak chocolate flavor, not sweet. Thin. Good serving size. Easy to dissolve. Pretty blah over all.
Method: 1 cup milk in mug. Microwave 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir in 2 Tbsp. powder.
Verdict: Its light in color but it dissolves very easy. The milk chocolate flavor is a bit weak. A bit sweet. Not very thick. Good serving size.
As cliché as it sounds (and you know how we love clichés here at The Cookful), Hot Chocolate really does warm you up on a cold day. Maybe it does more than that too! According to Hungry History, the Olmec tribe located in Southern Mexico would grind together cacao nibs and water to make a chocolate drink named, “xocolātl” which was believed to give the drinker magical powers and energy. If you’ve always wanted to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, hot chocolate might be your ticket.*
*Warning: Attempting to jump off of, or over, buildings may increase your risk of going splat on concrete. And it may cause you to spill your hot chocolate. We don’t endorse any of these activities.
Once upon a time I was making hot chocolate but didn’t have any whipped cream. And no marshmallows either. What’s a princess like me to do? I mean, if I’m going to consume the gown-busting calories of a mug of hot chocolate, I’m going to do it in royal style and make it count, right?
I searched the cupboard and searched the fridge but didn’t find anything hot chocolate-worthy anywhere in the kingdom. Then I opened the freezer. Behold, my prince charming was a tub of chocolate ice cream.
Since then, hot chocolate floats and I have lived happily ever after.
For this recipe, you use some of the Candy Cane Hot Chocolate Mix that I shared with you the other day. Top with hot water or hot milk and then with a big scoop of chocolate ice cream. Don’t stir. Drink immediately. The idea is that the ice cream slowly melts into the hot chocolate as you drink, making it richer with every sip.
Earlier I told you about making spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Powder as a gift to take to a friend over the holidays. That got me thinking about other easy flavored hot cocoas that you could put into jars and then place into your friend’s hands.
Candy cane hot chocolate was my favorite idea in the end because I love how the bits of candy cane look through the glass of the jar. It’s really easy to make too. You mix together your usual hot chocolate powder suspects (or even scoop some store-bought hot chocolate mix! I promise not to tell anyone!) and then add some broken up candy canes. Done!
When you pour hot milk or hot water over the chocolate mix, the candy melts and adds peppermint flavor to the whole chocolatey drink. I dare you to make a batch for a friend and not sneak some out for yourself.
Yes, that’s right, I make cake in the microwave. Not all the time. Just those times when I’m serious craving it RIGHT NOW. This cake zaps that craving in the butt. I’m telling you, it’s ready in like 5 minutes. How can you beat that?
I call it hot cocoa cake because it’s rich and chocolatey and made in a mug. A squirt of whipped cream on top finishes the deal.
Do you want cake? Ready. Set. Go!
A hit of spice with chocolate has been all the rage for a few years ago, and with good reason. The sharp spike of heat makes the chocolate seem richer. When in hot chocolate, it also makes the drink seem hotter and more soothing. It’s a bit like spiking a hot drink with booze where you get that burn down your throat. So great, right?
Here’s how to do a nice spicy Mexican-style hot chocolate at home. You can make a batch for yourself or take it as a gift over the holidays. It’s really easy.
What you do is to mix together hot chocolate powder with some straight up cocoa. The hot chocolate powder makes the whole thing easier to dissolve in liquid and the cocoa gives extra richness.
When you want to make a cup, just spoon the mix into a mug and add hot milk or hot water.
Slurp! Mmmm gotta love that burn.
The warmth from hot chocolate and a little spike of spirits is just what you need when cuddling by the fire. But what to spike your hot chocolate with? You could simply pour in some vodka and call it a day, but you’re classier than that, aren’t you? You not only want that extra warmth in the cup, you want to enjoy a flavor explosion with every sip too.
That’s exactly why we’ve put together the ultimate boozy hot chocolate guide for you. These hot chocolate and liquor combinations are the best of the best. There’s no better way to warm up from the inside out!
Starting this countdown with the most classic combination of peppermint and chocolate seemed to make the most sense. It doesn’t matter if you’re diving into a cup of white, dark or milk hot chocolate, topping off with a little peppermint schnapps works with any flavor.
Want a bit of a mocha spin on your hot chocolate tonight? Go for the dark or milk hot chocolate, then add in some coffee liquor like Kahlua. It’s the best cup of boozy hot faux Joe you’ll ever taste.
With all those cinnamon candles burning in every store around the holidays, it’s impossible to resist the call of cinnamon. Grab some Fireball and spike that milk hot chocolate like it’s hot (see what I did there?).
If you’re a fan of Mounds or Almond Joy, then you need to be adding some coconut rum to you hot chocolate. No matter what type of hot chocolate you’re whipping up, the coconut will turn your mug of chocolate into a liquid candy bar.
Craving a peanut butter chocolate combination? Who isn’t??? Spike your hot chocolate with some vodka and stir in a tablespoon of peanut butter. You can pair this combination with any type of hot chocolate and you won’t even miss dessert.
Nutella is an addictive spread and I can’t help but figure out a way to get it into my hot chocolate. Use dark or milk hot chocolate and go in with some hazelnut liquor. If you really want to go over-the-top with it, add in a tablespoon of Nutella. Talk about WOW.
If you’re sensing a theme of turning candy into hot liquid love, you’re correct. As a chocolate covered caramel addict, I love to add a little spiced rum and caramel sauce to my milk hot chocolate.
Yes, you can add marshmallows to your hot chocolate, but wouldn’t it be better if your hot chocolate tasted like a chocolate-covered marshmallow? The answer is yes. Duh. Adding some whipped cream vodka to white hot chocolate makes the perfect marshmallow flavored cocktail.
Step aside Irish coffee, there’s a new Irish cocktail in town and it’s got chocolate. Spiking your hot chocolate with some Bailey’s makes a smooth and dreamy cocktail that will quickly outpace that Irish coffee that’s your normal post-dinner go-to.
Turn up the heat! Spicy cocktails seem to be all the rage right now, so bring the craft spicy cocktail home and into your hot chocolate mug. Top off your dark or milk chocolate with vodka and a pinch of cayenne powder. Or get yourself some Abolut Peppar and go bang with that.
OK, there’s my list. Now here’s what you need to do. Choose one. Make it. Grab a blanket. Snuggle.
You know you wanna 😉
Homemade marshmallows are admittedly a tad time-consuming. But they taste loads better than store-bought. It’s also a really cool process to make them. If you’re the kind of cook who likes trying new techniques and getting in there to see how something’s made, this project is all you.
(The printable instructions with ingredient amounts are at the bottom)
To a stand mixer, add unflavored gelatin powder.
Ice down some water.
Measure it, being sure not to include any ice cubes.
Pour it in!
Now hands off. Let the gelatin bloom while you work on your candy syrup.
Oh, but do get that whisk attachment all set up and ready. Just don’t turn it on yet.
OK, that candy syrup: To a small saucepan add granulated sugar.
Add in some light corn syrup. This is used to prevent the sugar from crystalizing and making a crunchy and hard marshmallow, yuck.
Cover and cook on medium-high for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl add cornstarch.
Mix in some confectioner’s sugar (a.k.a. powdered sugar or icing sugar). Set this aside. You’ll need it later on. (It’s going to be used for dusting the marshmallows to stop them from sticking to everything).
After the 5 minutes, uncover the saucepan.
Use a candy thermometer and watch the numbers closely.
240ºF is the magic number you are looking for. Once it reaches this, take it off the heat immediately.
Let’s go back to the gelatin. It’s all bloomed by now.
With the mixer running, slowly pour in the candy syrup down the side of the bowl. Don’t splash too much otherwise the candy will start to set up, leaving crunchy little bits.
Turn up the speed, full blast!
While the mixer is running, spray a parchment lined 13X9 pan with cooking spray.
Remember that cornstarch mixture from earlier? Sprinkle a little bit of that onto the pan.
Looks like the marshmallows are all mixed! It takes about 12-15 minutes. You want a nice thick sticky mixture that is still slightly warm.
Use an oiled spatula to transfer the mixture to a ziploc bag or a pastry bag. I use cooking spray to oil the spatula. And keep that spray it handy. You can spray the spatula more (even spray onto your marshmallow coated spatula, that’s fine!) if it starts sticking some more.
Squeeze all the marshmallow into the bottom of the bag.
Then snip off the end. You want it a bit bigger than 1/4-inch.
Pipe equal lines on the parchment-lined sheet pan.
Dust with cornstarch and powdered sugar mixutre. Let the marshmallows sit for 4 hours or overnight.
You can also be creative and pipe out some fun designs. The key is to have oil on your hands as you squeeze out the marshmallow. Your oiled fingers can then move and place the stream more easily into fun shapes. If you’re doing a lot of shapes like this, put a small bowl with oil in it near where you’re working. That way you can keep dipping your fingers in as needed.
After the marshmallows are ready, use a pizza cutter to slice. Start with a single strip by itself. This will give you an idea of the size you want.
Then line up 4 or five strips.
Cut, cut, cut!
Separate the marshmallows.
Look at that! I made that!!!
Toss the marshmallows with more of the cornstarch mixture.
Make a mug of hot cocoa and plop them in!
Oh, wait, if you want BIG marshmallows in your hot chocolate there’s another method you can use. This is actually less time-consuming than the mini-marshmallows. First start off by spraying a 13X9 pan.
Dust with the cornstarch mixture.
Get it in all the nooks and crannies.
Like fresh snowfall.
Spread the marshmallow mixture in the pan. Again, you’ll want an oiled spatula for this.
And spray it some more to make spreading easier.
Spread it alllll even.
After letting the mixture set for 4 hours or overnight, flip the pan over.
Now that’s one giant marshmallow!
Cut strips with a pizza cutter. You decide the size.
Cut into squares.
Look at them all!
Toss with more of the cornstarch mixture to prevent sticking.
If you want a frozen hot chocolate with a rich deep chocolate flavor, you’re going to use cocoa. We learned that cocoa is best when doing our taste test comparison between hot cocoa and hot chocolate made with real chocolate. Cocoa needs to be dissolved in a warm liquid though. That’s not the easiest thing for making a cold drink. You need to heat it. And then you need to cool it down. You need it really cool before you add the ice for making it a slushie though, because otherwise that ice melts too and you just get watery chocolate milk. Ewwww.
So what do you do to get rich chocolatey flavor in your frozen hot chocolate without having to heat it all up and then cool your base? We figured it out!
You mix the cocoa with sugar and then with a small amount of milk, 2 tablespoons to start and then another half cup. You microwave that until good and hot and stir it. Add chocolate chips to it and stir. Those chips add extra flavor but they also bring the temperature of the cocoa down quite a bit.
Now you have a thick chocolate goop. Add that to a blender with another cup of cold cold milk. Now it’s barely warm at all. Throw in your ice cubes and blend until all mixed up and slushie.
By far my favorite part about serving hot chocolate is when I set up a ridiculous, over-the-top hot chocolate bar for a party. Putting together a hot chocolate bar is ideal for family get-togethers, cookie exchange parties, or any holiday merriment you have planned during the winter.
Hosting a DIY hot chocolate bar is surprisingly simple. You can decorate to make it a winter wonderland, or you can keep things chic and simple. It’s up to you how “all out” you want to go. Either way, our guide to the best ever DIY hot chocolate bar is going to be the biggest party hit you’ve ever seen.
What You’ll Need:
The options are endless when it comes to hot chocolate mugs. You can keep things simple with all matching mugs or try mixing it up with different styles of mugs for a more eclectic look. You can even go the whimsical route and break out the holiday-themed mugs to hammer home the holiday cheer that much more.
Hot Chocolate – Make or Mix?
We prefer our own hot chocolate mix, however, if you want a variety of hot chocolates, head to the store and grab a few different kinds of mixes. They come in fun flavors such as white, dark, and milk chocolate. All you need to do is have warm milk and/or water nearby for guests to make their own personal mug of hot chocolate.
Alternatively, make a big batch of this decadent slow cooker hot chocolate and then leave it in the slow cooker to stay warm. Put a ladle at the slow cooker and guests can help themselves to hot chocolate from the pot.
For a DIY hot chocolate bar, the rule is: the more toppings the better! Bringing out a wide variety of toppings allows everyone to get creative. Plus walking in and seeing such an impressive spread is sure to illicit some ooooo’s and ahhhh’s.
Here are just some of my favorite hot chocolate toppings:
Ditch the plain ol’ spoons and opt for something a little more fun. It is a party after all! Use silly straws, cinnamon sticks, candy canes, and long cookies (think Pirouettes) as the stirrers for all of your hot chocolate concoctions. Why miss out on an opportunity to add even more flavor to your cup?
If this is an adults-only DIY hot chocolate bar, break out the spirits! Have a little vodka, bourbon and whiskey handy to make your cups of joy even warmer. If straight-up spirits are not enough for you and your boozy friends, head to the flavored vodkas section in your local liquor store. There’s every flavor imaginable out there now, so have some fun with cherry, whipped cream and caramel flavored vodkas. And then there are all the liquors like Irish cream, amarula and frangelico to For even more boozy Hot Chocolates, stay tuned for our Boozy Hot Chocolate Guide. We’ve earned our right to boozy hot chocolate as adults, haven’t we?
The Little Extras
It’s the little extras that pull a DIY hot chocolate bar together. Whether you’re using stickers, mini chalkboards or dry erase markers on empty dollar store frames (a quick and easy DIY!), give your hot chocolate bar a little extra something by labeling all the goodies you have out there. Don’t forget to include labels for people’s mugs so there are no mix-ups!
Now that you’ve got the keys to the DIY hot chocolate kingdom, all that’s left to do is plan your party!
Our favorite thing about making homemade hot chocolate is that you can flavor it a bajillion different ways just by throwing things you have around the kitchen into some warm milk. Whole spices, tea, coffee, fruit, shoe leather… you name it, you can make your hot chocolate taste like it.
Milk infusions are the key to super special hot chocolate, and it’s ridiculously easy to do. Plus it’ll only take you an extra 15-30 minutes of waiting while you steep your ingredients in the milk. Patience is a virtue, and it totally pays off. Promise.
We came up with five variations for you to try this winter, ranging from the simple but classic Star Anise & Cloves to the tropical (Passion Fruit & Ginger) and the ultra-trendy Hazelnut & Burnt Vanilla Bean for all you hipsters out there. If you don’t want to give up your tea or coffee for hot chocolate, why not marry the two with our Spicy Coffee or Lemon Earl Grey varieties? Chocolate and caffeine are a sure bet for a great morning. And yes, we definitely advocate for morning cocoa.
Star Anise & Cloves: 1 whole star anise pod + 6 whole cloves (steep 15 minutes)
Lemon Earl Grey Tea: 2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea + 1 large slice lemon rind (steep 15 minutes)
Spicy Coffee: 2 tablespoons espresso beans + ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (steep 20 minutes)
Ginger Passion Fruit: Pulp and seeds from ½ passion fruit + 1-inch slice of fresh ginger (steep 30 minutes)
Hazelnut & Burnt Vanilla Bean: ⅓ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts, skins removed + 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and torched in a flame (steep 30 minutes)
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.
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.
When you want to make a big batch of hot chocolate the last thing you want is to have to stand at the stove stirring for ages. Using the slow cooker takes all that stir-time out of it. And it makes a pretty darned good hot chocolate too. This recipe is particularly luxurious because it has both whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk in the mix. Thick, creamy, and delicious.
Here’s what you do: Measure whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, milk, and chocolate chips into the slow cooker. I used my Hamilton Beach 6 Quart Slow Cooker. A pinch of salt, some vanilla, and an optional cinnamon stick or two go in as well. Then you put it on low for at least 2 hours. Every 30 minutes or so give it a stir and then cover it back up again. Give it a good whisking and it’s ready to serve.
Sometimes a thin layer of chocolate doesn’t fully incorporate on the top. That’s fine. Don’t worry about. Just go ahead and serve it. It’s delicious for sure.
After the two hours on low, you can set the slow cooker to a warm setting, if your machine has one. It will keep it at a really warm drinking temperature for hours so you can go back for more. And more. And more.
Looking for a bit of variety? Try adding these to your hot chocolate to make it extra special:
Hot chocolate made with real chocolate can’t be beat! You can use whatever kind of chocolate chips you like. I prefer dark chocolate so I go with those. If you like a sweeter creamier hot chocolate, then try milk chocolate chips.
If you don’t have chocolate chips, use baking chocolate and finely chop it.
All you do to make this hot chocolate is to pour milk into a mug and then microwave it until very hot. Scoop in the chocolate chips and some sugar. Stir until it’s smooth. Drink!
It’s pretty common to think of hot chocolate as coming from a packet. That’s the easiest way to make hot chocolate, for sure. And we even have a packaged hot chocolate brand taste-test comparison for you if you’re thinking of going the packaged route. But, if you’re like me though, you often crave hot chocolate when you don’t have a handy box on hand.
If that’s you, here we are. How to make hot cocoa from scratch. It only requires 3 ingredients and is ready in moments.
Oh, if you don’t have cocoa but do have actual chocolate, never fear! Here are instructions for making hot chocolate using chocolate chips.
Grab your favorite mug from the cupboard. The bigger the better. Add some sugar to the bottom of the mug. Cocoa powder is quite bitter so you may need more sugar than you realize. I go with 2 tablespoons of sugar for 1 tablespoon of cocoa.
Then add some unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon. Try using a dark chocolate variety for an intense cup.
A little splash of milk just to incorporate the dry ingredients, 1-2 tablespoons. I choose whole milk when I have it because it makes the cocoa rich and creamy.
Stir together until no lumps remain and the mixture is smooth. This can take a moment since the cocoa and the sugar don’t dissolve well in cold liquids, but do your best to get them as incorporated as you can.
It should be thick and dark, like this:
Slowly stir in the remaining milk until incorporated.
Pop it in the microwave for a minute then stir to distribute the heat. Place it back in the microwave and cook for another 30 seconds or until the cocoa is nice and hot.
All you need now is a blanket, some marshmallows, and a fireplace.
Christine is the founder of TheCookful and also of her blog COOKtheSTORY. Her passion is explaining the WHY behind cooking – Why should you cook things a certain way; Will they turn out if you do it differently; What are the pros and cons of the method? Learn more about Christine, her cookbooks, and her podcast.
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