The Best Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa Recipes

Put on your comfiest, coziest sweaters… and let’s enjoy a chill evening together with mugs of hot chocolate!

Vertical top-down image of mugs filled with a creamy brown beverage topped with marshmallows next to a white towel and metal spoons.

It may surprise you that chocolate was solely consumed as a beverage for most of its existence, with evidence of its consumption possibly dating back four millennia to cultures of Mesoamerica.

The first solid bar of chocolate actually didn’t make an appearance until 1847, created by British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons who molded a bar from a paste of sugar, chocolate liquor, and cocoa butter.

The indigenous tribes of Mesoamerica revered the fruit of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, Latin for “food of the gods.”

In fact, the origin of the word “chocolate” is traced back to the Aztec word “xocolatl.”

Valuable enough to be used as currency, cacao beans were a cherished food item, and were also considered to have divine properties for sacred rituals.

The Aztecs and other groups would consume a bitter drink using fermented and roasted cacao beans with no sweeteners, but after the Spaniards arrived to the Americas and introduced this native concoction to Europe in the 1500s, Europeans started adding sugar, spices, and other flavorings to the beverage.

Throughout the following centuries, demand for this tasty and versatile product in its various formats – beverages, powders, bars, candies, etc. – has continued to flourish to present day, with more options and transparency for fair trade products and the pursuit of educating buyers on its origins.

And now, we can enjoy multiple versions of hot chocolate, one of the most iconic cold-weather drinks consumed and beloved at any age throughout the colder months of the year.

You might be looking for a basic, crowd-pleasing recipe you can make every year to start a heartwarming tradition among family and friends, or maybe you want something new and unexpected, with a unique twist, for when you’re craving a fun night in with equally fun flavors.

In our little roundup, learn how to make four fun styles of this beverage to enjoy all winter long! The recipes are quick, easy, and tasty!

And if you don’t drink dairy-based beverages, you certainly won’t feel left out! The milk used in all of these recipes can be substituted with equal amounts of your favorite non-dairy milk substitute.

I’ve had sweet success with using other non-dairy milks in many of these recipes. Almond, oat, soy, macadamia non-dairy milks are all great options you can buy at the store. You can even make your own almond milk from scratch, with our help!

Choose unsweetened, or go for the vanilla-flavored options if you want even more flavor with every sip.

Sweaters on? Let’s cozy up and drink!

The Best Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa Recipes

Chestnut Hot Chocolate

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… and then mixed into our mugs for a delightful drink!

Our recipe for this delectable homemade beverage featuring classic cold-weather holiday ingredients is worthy to be included in any song of the winter season.

Vertical image of two clear glass mugs of a dark brown drink, on a gray surface with scattered miniature marshmallows, large pieces of candy, and whole roasted chestnuts, with a white cloth with red trim in soft focus in the background.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Chestnut Hot Chocolate – Get the Recipe Now
Transform your beverage into the most decadent dessert drink of the season with the seasonal addition of roasted and peeled chestnuts.

You can roast the chestnuts fresh yourself – whether that is done on an open fire or in your stove is completely up to – or you can buy chestnuts that are already roasted and peeled.

Fresh and packaged chestnuts in either format are often available to purchase at the grocery store during the winter holidays.

Blended until smooth along with warming ground cinnamon spice, beans from a vanilla pod, and sweet honey, we also add freshly grated orange zest in this recipe for a subtle zing of citrusy goodness.

Our unique twist on the basic drink will have you caroling its deliciousness all winter long!

Hot Chocolate

But is there actually a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa?

While the terms may be used interchangeably, there can also be a clear distinction between the two, based on the ingredients in the recipes.

Vertical image of a messy mug with a creamy dark brown beverage topped with marshmallows.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

Basic Hot Chocolate – Get the Recipe Now
Hot chocolate can refer to a recipe that uses actual bar pieces or chips melted along with the other ingredients, while something labeled as cocoa can refer to a recipe that specifically uses cocoa powder.

Using a hefty 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate for four drink servings, this homemade recipe is an incredibly, outrageously, intensely – seriously, no joke – thick and rich ode to my favorite version of this wintry drink.

This is the time to use the higher quality bars you have stashed away in the back of the cupboards, separate from all the Halloween candy!

For this recipe, I prefer to use bittersweet bars between 60 to 75% cacao for deeper, more pronounced flavors. The drink is still sweet and delicious, but if you prefer something even sweeter, decide to purchase bars with a smaller percentage of cacao, or use a combination of different percentages.

For the quickest melting time, finely chop the bars with a sturdy cutting board and sharp chef’s knife when you are in the prep phase of making this recipe. The smaller the pieces are, the faster they will melt, and the faster you can sit back and relax!

Hot Cocoa

Easy and unfussy, you’ll love this version when you’re looking for a quick fix of a warm and sweet drink!

With the least amount of prep work involved – no chopping required! – our cocoa-based recipe is a quick mix of cocoa powder, milk, sugar, and vanilla heated together on the stovetop.

Vertical image of mugs filled with a chocolate-based beverage on plates dusted with powder.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

Basic Hot Cocoa – Get the Recipe Now
The work involved is get a bare minimum, no more than measuring out the ingredients, then heating and whisking them together.

The cocoa powder will look a little clumpy at first, but within just a couple minutes on the stovetop whisked with the other ingredients, everything combines into a smooth and creamy concoction.

In my home, we are big fans of this perfectly simple option. And I am the biggest fan of all.

I absolutely love this basic recipe to serve the whole family, when we host the adults and their children all together at the house.

This recipe is so easy to make in large batches to satiate a whole crowd of folks coming back from a day of playing in the snow, Christmas caroling, and other cold festivities.

But I also like to create adults-only drinks every now and then, using this recipe as the base.

If you want to liquor things up a bit, add a shot of Bailey’s, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, or Kahlua to your mug before you ladle up a serving of this recipe.

Or take inspiration from our naughty Pharisäer Kaffee, and serve with dark rum and thick layer of whipped cream!

I’ve also included a spoonful or two of this magical liquid when I want to make a sweeter, more dessert-like version of espresso martinis, as a fun way to use leftovers from the night before!

White Hot Chocolate

As a loud and proud white chocolate enthusiast, I would sorely regret not including this recipe in our roundup!

Vertical top-down image of a mug of white hot chocolate beverage topped with whipped cream and candy shavings next to gray and checkerboard towels.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

White Hot Chocolate – Get the Recipe Now
Some guests actually prefer this to darker, more bitter varieties. And I’m happy to admit that it really hits the spot for me, too, when I’m in that kind of mood!

The perfect option for anyone who needs to satisfy a sweet craving, this recipe will scratch that itch.

I love serving this with shavings and a dollop of whipped cream on top. To make spiralized shavings, repeatedly drag a sharp vegetable peeler on the side of a white chocolate bar.

The combination of white colors from the drink, whipped cream, and shavings create an unexpectedly elegant presentation, the perfect option to serve for dessert at an upscale winter dinner party.

Sweet, creamy, and lovely, with just a hint of salt for balance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you will enjoy every sip of this drink!

Top It Off

We can’t talk about this warm and comforting style of winter drink without recommending some terrific toppers when serving.

Horizontal image of mugs of a creamy brown beverage next to spoons, marshmallows, and a white towel, on a wooden board.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

These warm and creamy drinks are excellent on their own, but childhood nostalgia beckons us to garnish them with something sweet and delightful.

The classics reign supreme, like whipped cream or fluffy marshmallows – mini or jumbo!

You can certainly use store-bought products when you want to eliminate additional prep work outside of making the drinks. I tend to keep a bag or two of marshmallows in my pantry when I know the cold weather approaches!

But if you are determined to go homemade from the drink to the garnish, we have all the advice and made-from-scratch recipes you need!

Achieve the perfect whipped cream with the right tools! You can make it by hand with a cold bowl and a whisk, or use the whisk attachment of your stand mixer.

Make our classic vanilla-flavored marshmallows, which you can cut into any size or shape you prefer. Consider making your own jumbo-sized marshmallows, or make them mini by placing the mix before it sets in a piping bag fitted with a round tip, piping them out in lines, then slicing them into small squares.

If you love mint, try our peppermint version to savor the sweet and refreshing flavors of the winter holidays.

What’s your favorite way to serve a steaming cup of pure fun at home? Do you love to use marshmallows or whipped cream as the final topping? Let us know in the comments!

For more warm and soothing beverages, you’ll bring a smile to everyone at the table with these steamy favorites:

Photos by Meghan Yager and Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Ashley Martell on December 20, 2014. Last updated on January 15, 2023.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Nikki Cervone

Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

42 thoughts on “The Best Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa Recipes”

  1. Truth be told, the chocolate fever has began and as a proud self-confessed chocoholic…, for starters this page has been bookmarked for daily reference up until we enter the new year, i just cooked some pancakes today and in the ingredients, chocolate and coffee did not lack…and the trend continues …Viva Chocolate and Coffee 😉

    • ‘A taste on my lips and pounds on my hips’…that’s the damage chocolate has done to me over the holiday season but no regrets…every moment was amazing!…and am still motivated to try out the said recipes above…it shall be done…soon 😉

    • Those all sound delicious recipes. I love chocolate too. I especially found the information about the history of chocolate to be quite interesting.

  2. Thanks for posting this, maybe I can spice up my hot chocolates a little bit. There is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of it and read a book or just watch a movie. Especially that we are nearing Christmas, it helps me to get into a festive mood.

  3. Those recipes look fairly easy. I would love to try the white chocolate one. I love chocolate, all chocolate types depending on my mood. We never bother to make it that way. Right now we have a can of Tim Hortons Candy Cane Hot Chocolate and it taste great but I imagine homemade like these recipes taste way better.

  4. I’ve never made white hot chocolate before. I must say that I am one of those people who turns their nose up at white chocolate since it is not really chocolate. However, I am really looking forward to trying this white hot chocolate recipe. The idea of replacing some of the white chocolate with Andes peppermint crunch is genius!

  5. Yes! I absolutely love hot chocolate, but have never thought of making a white chocolate drink. I just made one and…


    It was amazing. Also, I used a mint wafer tube as a straw and it added a nice minty taste.

  6. Thick and creamy is how I like my hot chocolate, none of the pale milky drinks for me. These days it’s easier to make with chips to make it even chocolatey. I usually like to dip in a cookie into it as well. As you can see I am a chocoholic.

    I’m finding more places are offering flavored hot chocolate and orange – it is a really good combination to try.

  7. WOW – I have to say you taught me so many things about chocolate that I had no clue about! I am with you and cannot either live without chocolate or coffee. Chocolate flavored coffee is actually one of the best things ever created! lol. I cannot wait to go do my groceries in a couple days and try some of these recipes out! Thanks 🙂

  8. Oh my goodness….these recipes are sublime! Chocolate and coffee are my most favourite things both individually, and combined in warming hot drinks. I’m experimenting with adding some spiciness to my drinks too.

    I particularly like your white chocolate recipe – this isn’t something I thought of doing before, so I’ll be trying this one today. For me, hot chocolate/cocoa and coffee combinations goes on all year round!

    Thanks for sharing your lovely recipes.

  9. Overall great post. I’ve always wanted to make some cocoa, especially at times like these, with the cold and all. Never thought it’s that easy, just made the classical one and it tastes great! Will be my go-to when it’s cold outside, so basically everyday for the next month haha. Thanks for the easy recipe!

  10. I am really interested in trying the Basic Hot Chocolate recipe! I once tried a hot cocoa recipe using cocoa powder, but my husband was not a fan. It might have needed a little more sugar or something, but I think he might really like the recipe using chocolate chips. Plus we usually have chocolate chips, but cocoa powder is not really something I use that much, so I would have to think of buying it ahead of time.

  11. Chocolate is my favorite thing to eat or drink. I will be making the Hot Coca drink to help keep me happy during this cold weather we are having right now.

  12. Haha, I’m one of those who uses hot chocolate and hot cocoa interchangeably! I love any hot chocolate drinks! My mother said the reason I can’t get enough of chocolate drinks is because that was her go-to-drink when she was still carrying me. Our local hot chocolate drink is made purely from roasted cacao seeds. Anyway, I was thinking of whipping my own hot chocolate drink, but instead of using chocolate bars, I’m going to use the locally made ‘tableya’ (100% roasted cacao beans milled into tablets).

  13. I just had to go back. Thanks to this recipe, I’m reminded again how delicious chocolate drinks are. It’s because of this recipe that I was reminded to buy ‘tableya’ – our local roasted cacao beans formed into tablets when I went to the supermarket early this evening. Thanks, thanks, I’m now enjoying my hot choco! Ah, bliss!

  14. Hot chocolate is my favourite type of drink when it’s very cold outside. Although I make it most of the times, I’ve never really used whipped cream. It doesn’t make it any better for me.
    On the other hand peppermint is a god-send for hot chocolate! Definitely recommend!

  15. These are all great cocoa recipes. I love hot chocolate, it’s my one weakness. Cinnamon or peppermint or any other topping, I don’t care, all of these are lovely. Before, I didn’t put any salt at all in my hot chocolates, because I didn’t get it, but I changed my mind when I tried it once. It really brought out the flavors of the drink and took away that overbearing creamy sweetness that made me have heartburn.

  16. Ooh, I was not aware there was a distinction between cocoa and hot chocolate. Good to know. Either way, homemade is definitely the way to go. I used to make a seriously indulgent cocoa/chocolate mix, but I haven’t done it in ages. We’ve been having such dismal weather here lately, it seems like a perfect time to try some of these recipes. I love cinnamon and chocolate together, but hot chocolate and orange appeals to me at the moment. Thank you for sharing!

  17. I am the biggest chocolate addict and I cant resist from a good cup of hot chocolate but I have never made my own at home and I have always wanted to try. These recipes look so easy and absolutely delicious, especially the white hot version! I have never tried white so I cant wait to make these with my daughter this week!

  18. I know it’s almost June, but these pictures really caught my eye, and I enjoy a cup of hot chocolate year round. Making things from scratch is something I enjoy, but I haven’t really found a good hot chocolate or hot cocoa recipe so far. I have tried other recipes in the past with varying results, so I think I’ll try out your recipes. I enjoy white chocolate as well, so that recipe will come in handy, since I know a few people who would really like it.

  19. The fact that every recipe here has milk makes me happy. I do not understand these people who use water unstead of milk. I find that it is nowhere near as good. I have tried to give it a chance but honestly I was no where near converted. Whipped cream is just the icing on the cake. I tend to be very boring with hot chocolate and just have the regular cream and sometimes splurge with a few marshmellows.

    However I love the idea of the caramel and also the nutella. Sometimes adding a little amaretto for somethiing with a little more of a kick 😉

  20. I just made the basic hot cocoa for my little brother and I, and he said it was the best he’s ever tasted! Thank you so much for the recipe. Usually I stick to the old hot water and instant hot cocoa mix, but it doesn’t quite taste authentic. This was absolutely perfect, although it probably would have been better during cold weather (does turning the air conditioning on count as cold weather?).

  21. I always add some chilli pepper. I like it spicy! Now, if I drink hot chocolate without chilli, it seems too sweet and bland to my taste.

  22. Hot chocolate is seriously my one true love, and all the ideas in here along with the pictures have given me the biggest craving ever. I’ve never had white before, but the recipe in here sounds tasty, especially with the vanilla extract. Gonna give that a try on one of the more chilly nights, since it is way too warm out recently to do now. One of my favorites of my own “hacks” is to use mint chocolates in it instead of regular. I love mint so it tastes heavenly. Another thing I like is adding some brandy into it to make it a “warmer” (opposite of a cooler, haha). And if I make a combination of the two it makes for the best treat in the world!

  23. Hot chocolate.. oh, dear hot chocolate! There’s no Christmas without one of my favorite drinks, well.. actually for me there is no life without hot chocolate. I drink it in every season, cold milk chocolate is also a god-send. I also love to give it a nice flavor, something like mint for example.

  24. All of these look so awesome. I didn’t know there were variations in hot chocolate. I must learn these and teach them to my kids. I love the peppermint, caramel extracts, and the sticks. Perfect time of year for it too, can’t wait to try.

  25. I totally love these recipes and hacks! I would like to try the basic version with whipped cream, salted caramel and baileys to drink with the family after Thanksgiving dinner this year. On my own time I would like to try the white chocolate version. I’m a die hard chocolate fan and the white version is simply a drink I need to try. I will be perfectly ready for the upcoming winter nights thanks to you. Wish me luck!

  26. This might be my favorite article from this blog so far. I absolutely adore hot chocolate and cocoa!

    I tend to not think too much when preparing some, since I usually do it when I’m really stressed during finals or midterms. but after reading this I really don’t know why I haven’t gone that extra mile before. I mean, is it really that difficult to add a dash of salt? I feel silly now.

    Anyway, another interesting addition to hot chocolate I have found is to add a dash of cayenne pepper in the mix, and if you have some oranges, a bit of zest as well. I guess it’s all a matter of experimenting and seeing what works best for you. Chocolate has been experimented with plenty, but there’s always room for innovation in our kitchens. Personally, it never occurred to me to add some nutella to hot chocolate, but now I can’t wait to test that out. What could possibly go wrong, right?

  27. I didn’t realize there was a difference between cocoa and chocolate. You learn something new everyday! I think it’s really weird that I’ve only been buying real hot chocolate in cafes, and resorting to cocoa powder when I make it on my own. Winter is coming, so I guess i better start trying out these recipes. Thanks for the ideas!

  28. Wow. This is interesting. I didn’t know that there is a distinction between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. That’s so nice of you to mention it. I like the part with the white version as well. I LOVE white chocolate and my husband loves cocoa so your recipes are a good treat for me. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can see the effort that you put in your blog. Good luck and more power to you! =)

  29. I love using chopped chocolate for my creations but out of laziness I always use cocoa powder. I think next time I make some I will try your recipe with the chopped pieces. I also usually make an Italian version too which is so thick you have to eat it with a spoon. Also I can’t wait to try the white hot chocolate. Every holiday my daughter feels a little left out because she is not a fan of chocolate but loves the white version. I am so glad to see a recipe for white variety and I will try it out this weekend. I think it will make her day.

  30. I swear, you just made me drool all over myself. I love chocolate so much it’s practically unhealthy. The thing though is I’ve never tried white chocolate before. I can’t recall seeing it in the supermarkets here. These recipes are definitely worth giving a try.

  31. Hot chocolate in winter is the best!! I never put vanilla in mine though so I guess I will have to try it with this new ingredient soon!:)

  32. Just came back to say the White Hot Chocolate was a winner. My daughter was so pleased to learn that it was indeed a thing lol. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  33. It’s winter, and I love a cup of hot chocolate during the holiday seasons. It just comforts me so much. I actually love cinnamon, but I haven’t thought to put some in mine, so thank you for that one!

  34. I was so excited to see this post. I am a lover of hot chocolate and hot cocoa. Thanks for explaining the difference. I drink this all year round so I am always looking for a spin to put on it. I’ve never tried vanilla so I will be adding that as an option to see if I like it.

    I love to get recipes together like this and provide just enough ingredients and a cute recipe card to people for the holidays. It’s always a joy to see someone appreciate something so simple.

  35. I’m looking forward to making this receipe. There’s nothing better then a delicious cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. The prepackaged ones you buy from the local supermarket just don’t have the same taste as the cocoa bought from a higher end sweet shop. However it can get expensive. I can’t wait to try some of these out to see how they compare.

  36. The white hot chocolate recipe has definitely piqued my interest, especially since I would prefer that over regular hot chocolate any day. I will definitely be trying this out this holiday season! Looks perfect for Christmas Eve with the kiddos!

  37. I love hot chocolate! I’m not a big coffee drinker so these are what keep me warm in the wintertime. Thanks for sharing! definitely going to try out the white chocolate one.

  38. The white hot chocolate looks so decadent and elegant. I can see myself serving this beside some shortbread cookies with some peppermint bark sprinkled on top for aesthetics. I’ve also never tried adding pepper but cayenne and chocolate sounds like a nice combo. It think it would pair even better with dark variety. Has anyone tried that? Looks like I’ll be experimenting in my kitchen today. Instead of nutmeg I think I’ll add some ground hazelnuts or maybe sweetened condensed milk. Your recipes always inspire me to make new things.

  39. Seems like the white hot chocolate is loved by most people in this forum. I guess i will have to try it out since i was finding it hard to select a perfect recipe to try. I really do not know what i would have done if i didn’t come across this forum.

  40. Wow , thanks Ashley, I’m personally more fond of the “white hot chocolate” because in all honesty, I do not enjoy the traditional brown chocolate, it irritates my tongue, so I’m always inclined to buy and munch on white chocolate. So I’m pretty glad you could whip up a recipe for me about white hot chocolate, so I’m pretty excited to have a taste of that indeed!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.