How to Make Hot Chocolate

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Wondering how to make hot chocolate to enjoy on a cold day? My simple hot chocolate recipe uses basic ingredients to make the best cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

Homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream and salted caramel sauce.

My girls won’t touch hot chocolate that comes from a packet anymore. They were gifted some and both of them dumped out their cups after tasting it. They said it just doesn’t compare to my homemade hot chocolate.

After you try a decadent cup of hot chocolate from this easy recipe, you’ll never buy those packets again either. Whip up a batch to enjoy on a cold winter day and it’ll quickly become a comfort food your family turns to over and over.


  • ⅓ cup filtered water
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Sauce Pan
  • Whisk
  • Mugs

By the Numbers: How to Make Hot Chocolate

Follow these simple steps to make my personal favorite hot cocoa recipe.

Step 1: Bring Water to a Boil.

The first step is to add ⅓ cup of filtered water to a medium saucepan, then bring it to a boil.

Water in saucepan with whisk.

Step 2: Make Your Hot Cocoa Paste.

As soon as the water is boiling, it’s time to whisk ⅓ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ cup of white granulated sugar and a pinch of sea salt into the hot water.

Cocoa powder, sugar and salt whisked into water.

Step 3: Whisk in Milk.

Once a paste is formed and smooth, it’s time for you to whisk in 4 cups of whole milk, one cup at a time. Continue heating your hot chocolate until it’s warm.

Keep a close eye on your hot chocolate so it doesn’t scorch to the bottom of the sauce pan. When you find your hot cocoa is reaching the temperature you like to drink it at, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Continue heating for a few minutes, or until it’s at your desired temperature, then remove from heat.

Milk being whisked into chocolate paste to make hot chocolate.

Step 5: Serve Hot Chocolate.

Pour your homemade hot cocoa into mugs and top with your favorite toppings (see below for ideas).

If you have little ones that want to drink their hot chocolate right away, try adding a little extra cold milk or heavy cream to cool it down a bit.

Homemade hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

Tips for Making the Best Hot Chocolate

Everything you need to know about customizing this simple recipe to your family’s tastes.

1. How to make dairy-free hot chocolate?

You can use any milk substitute in this recipe, including unsweetened vanilla almond milk (homemade almond milk is the best!), coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, etc.

Since milk substitutes are usually a bit thinner in consistency than whole milk, I’ve found that you typically need to add extra milk or the hot cocoa flavor is pretty intense.

2. Can fat-free milk be used?

Yes, while you’ll get the best results with whole milk in this recipe, you can substitute fat-free milk. It just won’t be as rich and creamy.

3. What are some good topping ideas?

I like to go with the classics – homemade whipped cream, homemade salted caramel, homemade chocolate sauce and maybe some chocolate chips.

Other popular topping choices are candy cane pieces, mini marshmallows, chocolate shavings or curls, chocolate syrup, Cool Whip and orange zest.

4. Can a different sweetener be substituted?

Yes, while I prefer the taste of white sugar in my hot cocoa, you can also use brown sugar, maple syrup or your favorite sweetener.

5. Can this hot cocoa mix be used in hot chocolate bombs?

Absolutely. When my daughters and I make hot chocolate bombs, we always use the dry ingredients from this hot chocolate mixture in our fillings (unless we’re making white chocolate hot cocoa bombs).

6. How to make adult hot chocolate with this recipe?

You can make boozy hot chocolate by adding one ounce of Irish Cream before serving. Alternatively, you can add a scoop of Instant Coffee for a pick me up!

7. How does this compare with hot chocolate packets?

It’s so easy to make your own delicious hot chocolate that there’s no reason to buy the packets. If you haven’t read the ingredients on those things, here they are for the Nestle Rich Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix:

Sugar, corn syrup solids, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated coconut or palm kernel and hydrogenated soybean), dairy product solids (from milk), cocoa processed with alkali, and less than 2% of salt, cellulose gum, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, sodium citrate, sodium aluminosilicate, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, artificial flavors, sucralose.

My homemade hot chocolate tastes so much better than what comes from those packets! You’ll want to toss them in the garbage the very first time you make your own hot chocolate powder from scratch.

8. How to gift hot chocolate?

My favorite way to gift this sweet drink during the holiday season is by making Hot Chocolate Christmas Ornaments by filling clear ornaments with hot chocolate powder along with fun toppings and attaching directions.

Hot Chocolate Christmas Ornaments.

9. Where to buy pantry staples?

I like to buy a lot of my pantry staples, including the ingredients for making hot chocolate, from iHerb. They have a great selection of some of my favorite brands and a great rewards program where you can earn credits towards future purchases.

If you’d like to try them out, you can get 5% off with no minimum purchase on your first order on the iHerb website through my referral link.

Close up of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

Best Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

Easy recipe shows you how to make homemade hot chocolate that’s amazingly delicious, rich and creamy! Great recipe to make in the cooler months.
4.79 from 33 votes
Print Recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Recipe Servings: 4


  • cup filtered water
  • cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Sauce Pan
  • Whisk
  • Mugs


  • Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
    Water in saucepan with whisk.
  • Immediately whisk the cocoa powder, sugar and sea salt into boiling water.
  • Once the mixture has formed a paste, whisk in in the whole milk (you can add more milk to make it less rich).
    Once it’s nearing your ideal temperature, add the vanilla extract. Continue to stir and heat until the homemade hot chocolate mixture over medium heat until it’s very hot – but be careful not to bring it to a boil.
    Milk being whisked into chocolate paste to make hot chocolate.
  • Remove from heat, pour into your favorite mugs and top with your favorite toppings.
    You can add a little milk (or heavy cream to make it even creamier) to the homemade hot chocolate if you need to cool it down quickly for eager little ones (like mine).
    Homemade hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

Calories: 263kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 117mg | Potassium: 433mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 395IU | Calcium: 286mg | Iron: 1mg

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