Homemade Hot Chocolate
I’ve tested all the different ways to make Homemade Hot Chocolate and settled on this method as the best. It’s rich, creamy, and easy to make, with intense chocolate flavor. Garnish with whipped cream or marshmallows for a cold weather treat!
Since I’m not much of a coffee drinker, when I want something hot to drink on a cold day, I usually make tea or a warm cup of hot chocolate.
Though this classic drink can be made in many different ways, beginning with either cocoa powder or actual chopped chocolate, I personally don’t like the cocoa powder route.
Why I Don’t Like Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder doesn’t have the cocoa butter content that a chocolate bar has, so it’s inherently not as rich and creamy. You just can’t get that luxuriously creamy hot chocolate experience from cacao powder alone. The chocolaty flavor will be lacking.
Most standard product formulations of hot chocolate mix are made with dry packets of cocoa powder not because that’s what’s best, but because it’s shelf-stable and cheap. But you deserve better, so use the good stuff here. It’s also nearly impossible to get the powder silky smooth, and there are always so many clumps!
The best hot chocolate always starts with real chopped chocolate! For best results, make sure to use a good quality brand.
Recommended Chocolate Makers
Guittard – My absolute favorite, and a good balance of affordability and quality. Pretty easy to find, and I get mine at Whole Foods or Target.
Callebaut – I tend to only find this in big block form, at Whole Foods or other specialty stores.
Scharffen Berger – Harder to find but great quality. I have the least experience with this one but every type I’ve had has great flavor. I love that they give details about the cocoa beans they use in each variety.
Vahlrona – Available in lots of different forms, and very high quality. Also harder to find.
Ghirardelli – Not as high end as the others but still good, and probably the most widely available quality brand. Pretty affordable.
Historically I’ve used bars of Callebaut (which is shown above), but you can also do a rough chop on high quality chocolate chips or drops from brands like Guittard or Vahlrona.
Tips for Best Results
Be careful to not boil the milk – When you’re heating the milk, try not to walk away from the stove. We just want to heat the milk through, not bring it to a rolling boil, which will risk curdling the milk and give you a grainy end result.
Use a quality chocolate – Please try to use one of the recommended brands above for the best sipping experience. Not all chocolate is created equal, and some is in fact very junky! We are using only simple ingredients here, so they need to be good quality.
Use whole milk – Now is not the time to pull out the fat free milk. Treat yourself to whole milk so you have a creamy consistency. Maybe even add a splash of heavy whipping or light cream if you’d like!
How You Incorporate the Chocolate Matters
I’ve tested out many methods for how to actually incorporate the chocolate into the milk.
A lot of recipes say to add the chopped pieces directly into the hot milk, and stir until it melts. But I don’t think the drink ends up smooth enough this way, because it’s hard to chop it finely enough that it melts in the hot milk. The chopping is something that has to be done by hand (the food processor doesn’t work well, in my experience), and it’s an annoying enough task as it is. Proceed to the step by step to see the best method I’ve found for ultimate smoothness.
Step by Step Overview:
Heat up your whole milk in a small saucepan, and if you’d like, add a smidge of sugar.
I only add sugar when I’m using a really dark chocolate, so know that it’s not necessary. I recommend a white granulated sugar, or an organic cane sugar. I do not recommend brown sugar, as it will add a slightly molasses flavor to the drink.
Also, if you do not wish to use milk for dietary reasons, I recommend swapping in coconut milk, soy milk, “milk” made from tree nuts, or the non-dairy milk of your choice. While hot water will technically work, it adds no flavor at all which is slightly inferior to the non-dairy options.
Bring the milk to a scalding temperature, which is about 180 degrees F, over medium heat.
If you don’t have a thermometer (affiliate), no problem, because you can tell when it’s about 180 degrees F when little bubbles start to form on the side of the pot, but it’s not quite boiling:
Be careful to not let the milk come to a boil, or your end result will be grainy.
When the milk is properly hot, turn off the heat, and add melted bittersweet chocolate straight into the milk (just microwave the chopped chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time, until melted):
You’ll see that it whisks in beautifully and you end up with a creamy, smooth end result:
If you prefer to use a different type of chocolate, like milk chocolate, semisweet, or white, I’ve included instructions for that in the recipe box. In those cases you may want to reduce the sugar slightly.
How to Serve It
Serve promptly in mugs as is, or with Homemade Marshmallows or whipped cream on top. You may also add a drizzle of Caramel Sauce. If you want to keep your drink hotter for longer, preheat them with boiling water first.
If you’re someone who likes to play with different flavors, here are some delicious variations from the classic.
- Instead of a splash of vanilla extract, swap in some peppermint extract to make it a little minty!
- Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/16 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, and the tiniest pinch of salt (less than 1/16 teaspoon) to the milk before heating to make it spiced and reminiscent of a Mexican hot chocolate.
- You can use other types of chocolate than the bittersweet, such as milk, semisweet, white, or even Ruby. You may want to cut back on the sugar in those cases since they are sweeter.
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Yes, you just need to make sure you don’t bring it to a boil. For that reason, I recommend reheating it on the stovetop until it’s hot and steamy (but not boiling), instead of using the microwave where it’s harder to control the heat.
Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat per instructions above.
Hot chocolate is made with actual chopped up chocolate (like this recipe) and is therefore much richer, whereas hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder.
I find it’s pretty hit or miss. The chocolate bars that are sold in a different section from the baking section can sometimes not melt well. They are more meant to be broken off into squares and eaten. Many of them are grainy and not smooth when you melt them.
I don’t recommend it, as the dairy tends to curdle.
Below is a video I made for this recipe, and you can get the full recipe & instructions below.
Homemade Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tbsp sugar *
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped (just under 1 cup measured)
- splash of vanilla extract optional
- whipped cream optional
- marshmallows optional
- Combine milk and sugar in a small saucepan and place on the stovetop over medium heat.
- While the milk is heating place the chopped chocolate in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds. Take the chocolate out and stir it. Return to microwave and heat for another thirty seconds, remove and stir. Continue to heat and stir the chocolate in 30 second intervals until it has *almost* melted. Always err on the side of undermelting, so you don't risk overheating it and causing separation and grainyness.
- When the milk reaches the scalding point (180 degrees F, with bubbles on the side), turn off the heat and add the melted chocolate, whisking to combine. Add the vanilla extract now, if desired. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows if using, and enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in December 2020. Originally published January 2015.