Best Hot Chocolate from Scratch
This rich and creamy Hot Chocolate is easy to make, and has intense chocolate flavor. Garnish with whipped cream or marshmallows for a cold weather treat!
I’ve tested all the different ways to make hot chocolate and settled on this method as the best.
Since I’m not much of a coffee drinker, when I want something hot to drink I usually make tea or hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate can be made in many different ways, beginning with either cocoa powder or actual chopped chocolate. Personally, I don’t like the cocoa powder route.
Why I don’t like Cocoa Powder here:
It’s nearly impossible to get silky smooth (so many clumps!), and cocoa powder also doesn’t have the cocoa butter content that a chocolate bar has, so it’s not as rich and creamy.
That’s why the best hot chocolate always starts with real chopped chocolate:
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.
My Favorite Chocolate Brands:
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.
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.
How You Incorporate the Chocolate Matters:
The next thing I have played with is how to actually incorporate the chocolate into the milk.
A lot of recipes say to add the chopped chocolate directly into the hot milk, and stir until the chocolate melts.
I don’t think the drink ends up smooth enough this way, because it’s hard to chop the chocolate so finely 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.
So here’s what I do.
How to Make Hot Chocolate:
I heat up my milk in a saucepan per usual (with a smidge of sugar, which is optional):
I bring it to a scalding temperature, which is about 180 degrees F.
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, I turn off the heat, and add melted chocolate straight into the milk (just microwave the chopped chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time, until melted):
The melted chocolate whisks in beautifully and you end up with creamy, smooth end result:
Serve with either homemade marshmallows or whipped cream.
For another quick chocolate fix, check out my Actually Good Chocolate Mug Cake.
These Chocolate Pots de Creme are also one of my favorite chocolate desserts!
Below is a video I made for this recipe, and get the full recipe & instructions below.
Hot Chocolate Tips:
Can hot chocolate be reheated? 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.
How to store leftovers: Let the chocolate cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat per instructions above.
Hot chocolate vs cocoa: What’s the difference? Hot chocolate is made with actual chopped up chocolate (like this recipe), whereas hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder. Hot chocolate is richer.
Can you use chocolate bars that are meant for eating? 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.
- Instead of vanilla extract, swap in some peppermint extract to make it a minty hot chocolate.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/16 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 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, or even white chocolate. You may want to cut back on the sugar in those cases since they are sweeter.
Best 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 just melted.
- 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.