Best Homemade Hot Chocolate

5 from 1 vote

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Creamy, chocolatey, and rich hot chocolate. The only question is: marshmallows or whipped cream?

Marshmallows in a small mug of Hot Chocolate.

You already know you can buy hot chocolate mixes in the supermarket, and yet you’re here, so you are clearly game to make your own! You are obviously a smart person who loves hot chocolate and who is aware that homemade hot chocolate is next level. Nothing wrong with those packaged mixes (which we use all the time, though I would make a strong case for milk over water), but yes, let’s make this happen today.

Hand holding a small mug of Hot Chocolate.

Best Homemade Hot Chocolate: Creamy, chocolatey, and rich — the only question is: marshmallows or whipped cream?

Tweet This

Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows or Whipped Cream?

The answer is either, but the better answer is both. Sometimes, I use small marshmallows, which are lovely as you get little melty bits of marshmallow with many sips. Yet there is something beautiful and dramatic about a single large marshmallow (or maybe two) bobbing along on top of a mug of hot chocolate.

For your deciding pleasure, here is a mug of hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream:

Small mug of Hot Chocolate topped with whipped cream.

And here is hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.

Marshmallows in a small mug of Hot Chocolate.

And you can imagine what it looks like with both!

Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate

The two terms are used interchangeably in everyday lingo, but technically, hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, while hot chocolate is made with actual chocolate. I like the combo of both, so I guess this is a hot cocoa-chocolate recipe. There is some water in the mixture, but most of the liquid is milk.

Using all water in hot chocolate makes for a very weak drink, and I don‘t really see the point in that. Some people put cream in their hot chocolate or cocoa — I think if you were using only cocoa powder, that might add some nice richness, but because there is actual chocolate in this recipe, I’d rather save the cream for whipping and dolloping on top.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Ingredients

  • Water
  • Cocoa powder – Make sure to use unsweetened; Dutch or regular cocoa powder is fine.
  • Sugar – Not too much, as there is sweetness coming from the semi-sweet chocolate as well.
  • Milk – I like using whole milk in this recipe, but if you are looking to be a bit more restrained, think about 2% milk, possibly 1%. Do not use skim. Boo. Find something else to drink. If you want, you could also use a plant-based milk like coconut, soy, or almond milk.
  • Chocolate – See below for the best chocolate choices! Chop the chocolate as finely as possible to ensure it melts evenly, or use chocolate chips.
  • Kosher salt – Just a pinch amplifies all of the flavors.
  • Marshmallows or whipped cream – Or (to repeat myself) both!
Woman chopping chocolate with chef knife on cutting board.

What Kind of Chocolate to Use in Hot Chocolate?

You can go as basic or as fancy as you like with the chocolate. Nothing wrong with some bagged semisweet chocolate chips, whether a store brand or something tonier. If you have a favorite semi-sweet or perhaps bittersweet chocolate bar, try using it here.

Don’t use unsweetened chocolate in this recipe, though. The balance of sugar, cocoa powder, and semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate is just right, and unsweetened chocolate would make this drink too bitter — not the point of hot chocolate!

When a high-end chocolate bar lands in my kitchen during the cold months, this is a nice way to stretch it into a hot chocolate treat for a group.

Types of Chocolate for Homemade Hot Chocolate

If you choose chocolate labeled semisweet or dark, you will have rich hot chocolate that isn’t too sweet or too bitter. Bittersweet chocolate, with a higher percentage of cacao solids, will result in less sweet hot chocolate, and milk chocolate is the opposite — sweeter and softer in flavor.

The percentage of chocolate solids determines the level of sweetness in chocolate. Sometimes, the labels can be subjective, though, as 62% of chocolate solids might be labeled bittersweet for one brand or semisweet for another brand. The higher the percentage of chocolate solids, the more bitter the chocolate will be. For reference, Nestle Semisweet chocolate chips are at 47% cacao. If you choose chocolate that is higher than 65%, you will want to add a bit more sugar (just a tablespoon or two), as it will be slightly bitter and intense. It’s all a matter of taste!

How to Make Hot Chocolate From Scratch

  1. Boil the base ingredients: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water, cocoa powder, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Continue stirring frequently until the sugar and cocoa are dissolved.
Stirring cocoa and water in pot on stove.
  1. Add the milk and chocolate: Reduce the heat to medium, whisk in the milk, and bring to a simmer while continuing to whisk. Add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts and everything is smooth. Add the salt to taste.
Woman whisking a small pot of Homemade Hot Chocolate.
  1. Serve: Pour the hot chocolate into mugs and top with marshmallow, whipped cream, or both. A peppermint stick is a fun addition!
Pouring homemade hot chocolate into mug and serving with dollop of whipped cream

Variations

If you are looking for a spiked hot chocolate or one with a bit of extra flavor, here are some suggestions!

  • Rum
  • Brandy
  • Whiskey
  • Peppermint Schnapps
  • Amaretto
  • Frangelico
  • Vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • A shot of fresh-brewed espresso or strong coffee

FAQs

How bad is hot chocolate for you?

What kind of question is this? Apparently, one that gets asked a lot, but I don’t like this question. Are you seriously drinking hot chocolate because you think it’s healthy? NO. You are drinking hot chocolate because it is delicious, warming, and comforting, and you deserve a treat.

Is hot chocolate just milk and chocolate?

You can make hot chocolate with just milk and chocolate, but it won’t be quite as rich and layered. If you want to just melt chocolate into heated milk, you may want to use milk chocolate or a combo of milk chocolate and semi-sweet so the hot chocolate is sweet enough.

What kind of milk is best for hot chocolate?

If possible, I always use whole milk in this recipe. However, for a less rich version, you can definitely use 2% milk, even 1%. I do not recommend using skim milk, which is too watery, but if you want to use skim, sub that in for the amount of water and milk combined. You might also use plant-based milks like coconut, soy, or almond milk.

More Festive Cold Weather Drink Recipes

Marshmallows floating in Hot Chocolate.

More Chocolate Recipes

Pin this now to find it later

Pin It
5 from 1 vote

Best Homemade Hot Chocolate

Creamy, chocolatey, and rich hot chocolate. The only question is: marshmallows or whipped cream?
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 People
Save this recipe!
We’ll send it to your email, plus you’ll get new recipes every week!

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 6 ounces chopped semi-sweet or dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  • Pinch kosher salt (to taste)

Toppings (Optional):

  • Marshmallows (regular or mini)
  • Whipped Cream
  • Peppermint sticks

Instructions 

  • Combine the water, cocoa powder, and sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, and then continue to whisk until the sugar and cocoa powder are dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking very frequently. Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and everything is smooth. Add the salt, to taste.
  • Pour into mugs and top with marshmallows, whipped cream, or stick a peppermint stick in there!

Notes

You can go as basic or as fancy as you like with the chocolate.  Nothing wrong with some bagged semi-sweet chocolate chips, whether a store brand or something tonier. If you have a favorite semisweet or perhaps bittersweet chocolate bar, try using it here.  When a high-end chocolate bar lands in my kitchen during the cold months, this is a nice way to stretch it into a hot chocolate treat for a group. 

Nutrition

Calories: 439kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 155mg, Potassium: 673mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 39g, Vitamin A: 400IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 413mg, Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

You May Also Like:

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating