It only takes 5 minutes to make your own homemade hot cocoa mix! A dozen servings will be ready and waiting for you and some warm milk on the next cold winter's night. Sorry not sorry, Swiss Miss! Try a white hot chocolate next time.
For me, the only thing better than someone else making me a big mug of hot cocoa is when I can whip up homemade hot cocoa.
And that right there is why I keep a jar of homemade hot cocoa mix in the house during the winter season – you never know when a hot cocoa craving is gonna hit after an intense snowman-making session.
What is hot cocoa?
Hot cocoa is a sweet, heated drink that people typically associate with winter and the holidays. It's often topped with whipped cream, mini marshmallows, or shaved chocolate.
Hot chocolate mix that you find in grocery stores that only requires you to add water or milk is, funnily enough, not technically hot chocolate – it's hot cocoa.
What is the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate?
Hot cocoa has a powdered base of cocoa powder, and hot chocolate is made from melted, solid chocolate.
Due to the difference in ingredients, hot cocoa is thinner than hot chocolate and requires adding sugar to it to adequately sweeten the mix.
Hot chocolate can typically stand on its own without additional sweeteners due to the naturally occurring sugar in the solid chocolate. It's also a deeper and more flavorful drinking chocolate experience.
Ingredients for homemade hot cocoa mix
- Dry milk powder – This evaporated milk powder turns everything nice and creamy when combined with hot milk (or water, in a pinch)
- Powdered sugar – For sweetness
- Cocoa powder – Dutch processed (or “Special dark”), or natural unsweetened. Scroll down for more about the different types of cocoa powder.
- White chocolate – Adds creaminess
- Dark or unsweetened chocolate – For flavor, and… you know, chocolate!
- Cornstarch – Adds a bit of thickness and smoother texture
- Salt – To cut the sweetness a bit for balance
Is powdered milk the same thing as evaporated milk?
Despite powdered milk being the product of evaporating fresh milk, don't be mistaken – powdered milk and evaporated milk are not the same thing!
Powdered milk is exactly that – a powder. It has had the water from milk completely evaporated from the milk.
Evaporated milk has had ~60% of the milk's water evaporated, and is in liquid form.
You can make a substitute for evaporated milk with equal parts powdered milk and water, but you cannot make a substitute for powdered milk with evaporated milk.
What kind of cocoa powder should I use?
It depends on your specific taste preferences! I like to use a mix of dutch processed and natural unsweetened cocoa powder for mine, but you could use:
- Dutch processed cocoa powder has been treated with an alkalizing agent to reduce the natural acidity of natural cocoa, giving it a less bitter taste and darker color).
- Unsweetened cocoa powder or natural cocoa powder is a lighter brown color and has a more bitter taste than dutch processed cocoa. In baking, it's typically paired with baking soda because of its acidity.
- Special Dark cocoa powder is… surprise, it's also dutch processed! “Special Dark” is just Hershey's branded name for it.
How to make homemade hot cocoa mix
Step 1: Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it creates a fine powder.
Step 2: No step two, that's it!
Ingredient substitutions in hot cocoa
- Powdered sugar: You can substitute the powdered sugar for granulated sugar, raw sugar, or coconut sugar. I haven't tried it with zero-calorie sweeteners like monk fruit, so I can't speak to the results those would yield.
- Cocoa powder: Like I mentioned earlier in this post, you can use dutch processed cocoa or unsweetened cocoa, or a mix of both!
- White chocolate: I like the added creaminess that white chocolate adds to the mix, but you can substitute the white chocolate for additional dark chocolate.
- Dark chocolate: I know some people don't like dark chocolate, so you could swap in semisweet chocolate.
- Use chocolate baking bars instead of baking chips. White chocolate and regular chocolate chips are made to withstand heat during baking, so they don't melt as easily as baking bars do. So for the sake of Future You making yourself a mug of hot cocoa, use baking bars so that the mix is sure to melt evenly!
- Use high quality ingredients. The flavors of everything you're using are front and center, so make sure you're using ingredients you enjoy the flavor of! I like to use Nestlé Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk or Bob's Red Mill Milk Powder, Ghirardelli baking chocolate bars and Ghirardelli cocoa powder.
- Store mini marshmallows separately. If you plan to add mini marshmallows to your hot cocoa, I recommend keeping them separate rather than adding them to the mix itself to make sure there's an even distribution and they don't all settle in one place in the container.
For the sake of this particular recipe, no – you do have to include the powdered milk so it can interact with the milk you add when making your drink.
Whatever you'd like! Cow's milk is always a winner, but if you need a dairy free option, oat milk and cashew milk are my top suggestions. Almond milk lends an odd flavor, in my opinion. I haven't personally tried macadamia milk (yet!).
I recommend adding 1 cup of your hot milk of choice to 1/3 cup hot cocoa mix.
Technically, yes – but I don't recommend it. You'll really be missing out on the full flavor potential, and it was be a bit thin.
It can last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 months, or in the fridge for up to 3 months.
This makes about 4 cups of powdered mix. So if you use 1/3 cup for each servings, there is about 12 servings of hot cocoa in total.
Toppings for hot cocoa
I'm a big fan of the classics: whipped cream and mini marshmallows! But you could also add:
- Chocolate syrup, white chocolate syrup, caramel syrup
- Chocolate shavings
- Toffee bits
- Crushed peppermint
- Sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg
- Or just… sprinkles!
How to make spiked hot chocolate
I know I said before that this is technically hot cocoa and not hot chocolate, but when we're talking about the adult version – let's all just agree to call it spiked hot chocolate to keep things simple.
Generally speaking, you could add 1 ounce of any of the following liqueurs to your hot chocolate after you've combined the milk and cocoa mix:
- Dark rum
- Bailey's Irish cream
- Creme de menthe
- Peppermint schnapps
- Godiva chocolate liqueur
- 2 cups dry milk powder
- 1 ⅓ cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
- 1 cup cocoa powder, dutch processed (or "Special Dark"), or natural unsweetened
- ½ cup white chocolate, 4 ounce bar, roughly chopped
- ½ cup dark or bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounce bar, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine dry milk powder, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, white chocolate, dark chocolate, cornstarch and salt.2 cups dry milk powder1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)1 cup cocoa powder1/2 cup white chocolate1/2 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate2 teaspoons cornstarch1/8 teaspoon salt
- Pulse until combined into a fine powder, and transfer to an airtight container.
- When ready to use, combine 1/3 cup hot cocoa mix with 1 cup of your milk of choice and stir until the cocoa mix has completely dissolved. Top with whipped cream or other desired toppings, serve immediately and enjoy!
The provided nutrition information is generated by an automatic API and does not take variations across specific brands into account. This information is provided as a general guideline and should not be treated as official calculations. Learn more here.