How To Make Hot Chocolate (From Scratch)

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Wondering how to make hot chocolate from scratch? It doesn’t require a blender or fancy equipment. Here’s how to make hot chocolate in minutes.

Delicious drinks are an art form. Everybody who enjoys creating this type of kitchen art has their own theories and methods for making the best cup of hot chocolate. Below is how I make mine.

A brandy warmer sits filled with hot chocolate and three square marshmallows in this guide on how to make hot chocolate.

The Best Chocolate For Homemade Hot Chocolate 

Most folks would use semi-sweet chocolate. But for the purposes of this recipe, baking chocolate works the best. There is no sweetener added, so you have total control over the amount and type of sweetener used, while still getting a great texture and richness.

What’s The Difference Between Hot Chocolate, Hot Cocoa, And Drinking Chocolate?

Hot cocoa tends to be on the thinner side. It’s often lower in fat and is sometimes made with water.

Hot chocolate is typically made with real chocolate that is melted. It is thicker and tends to be a bit higher in fat.  It is most often made with milk or cream and has a much more intense chocolate flavor.

Drinking Chocolate – Drinking chocolate is a very rich, very thick drink that consists mostly of melted chocolate. You can almost eat it with a spoon.

A pitcher of fresh almond milk sits on a table, ready to pour in this guide, how to make almond milk.

Water, Milk, Or Cream?

This choice will depend greatly on what type of drink you prefer.

For a thicker, richer drink, you’ll want to use higher-fat milk. Try heavy cream, half and half, whole milk, full-fat coconut milk, or homemade nut or oat milk.

For hot cocoa, you can use water or lower-fat milk. For dairy-free hot cocoa, you can use almond milk or light coconut milk.

For drinking chocolate, you’ll want a small amount of heavy cream or coconut cream.

Spiked Hot Chocolate

Yes, you can spike your hot chocolate. While it’s not something I promote here and is definitely not considered clean eating, here are some ideas for special occasions. Please drink responsibly.

  • Vodka
  • Peppermint vodka
  • Chocolate liqueur
  • Spiced Rum
  • Butterscotch Schnapps
  • Peppermint Schnapps
  • Dry red wine
  • Bailey’s
  • Chocolate stout beer

Whipped Cream

If you are a purist, whipped cream is probably your favorite topping on hot chocolate. You can whip up some fresh whipping cream or try a dairy-free coconut whipping cream.

A broken bar of chocolate.

Cocoa Powder Vs. Real Chocolate

While this recipe uses unsweetened cocoa powder, here are some tips for using real chocolate.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is great for its ease of use. You don’t have to take extra steps like you do with regular chocolate. It provides a thinner hot chocolate that most kids are used to. It’s more like the consistency of a hot chocolate mix packet that you just add water to.

Real Chocolate

Using real chocolate will give you a creamier consistency. Closer to Drinking Chocolate than a package mix. It won’t be as thick as Drinking Chocolate, but it will definitely be creamier and richer. That being said, it does require some extra steps as you’ll want to first chop your chocolate and then melt it in the microwave in 30-second intervals before adding it to your heated milk and sweetener which you’ll want to warm together in a pot on the stove.

Adding Cayenne

Cayenne is definitely optional. But I find that it adds a wonderful kick. The Aztecs used to drink their chocolate with cayenne. Of course, they didn’t use sweeteners like we do. They had a completely different experience of chocolate than we do. But for adults, it adds just a little something extra than many of you might enjoy.

Three square marshmallows are stacked on a white, marble surface.

Topping Ideas

These are just a few suggestions:

  • Marshmallows
  • Peppermint sticks
  • Whipped cream
  • Coarse salt
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Coconut sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • Candy canes
  • Mini marshmallows
  • White chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Dark chocolate chips

Ingredient Checklist

Milk – any type. Unsweetened if dairy-free.

Honey – or maple syrup to taste

Ground cinnamon

Ground cayenne – optional

Unsweetened cocoa powder – If you prefer real chocolate, you’ll need 1 cup of chopped baking chocolate.

Vanilla extract – optional

How To Make Hot Chocolate

If you prefer a richer hot chocolate, chop up about 1 cup of unsweetened baking chocolate.

Melt in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until it’s fully melted.

During these intervals, combine all the other ingredients in a saucepot and warm. Do NOT let the milk boil or scald. You want it hot, but not burnt.

When the chocolate is fully melted, scrape it out of the bowl into the hot milk, turn off the heat under the pot and whisk quickly to combine.

Adjust sweetness to taste.

Pour into cups and serve.

What To Serve With Hot Chocolate

Pretty much any sweet treat will pair well with hot chocolate. It’s also great on its own. But here are some specific ideas for you.

How To Reheat

You have two options:

  1. Microwave – Reheat in a microwave-safe mug. Warm for 1 full minute, and then in 30-second intervals after that until it reached the temperature you like.
  2. Stovetop – Pour into a small saucepan and reheat over low to medium heat. Do not boil.

Prefer Hot Cocoa Mix?

If all of this is too much and you prefer to use a simple hot cocoa mix, I have an easy recipe for that here. Make it in minutes and keep it in your pantry!

Recipe Supplies

Saucepan sold on Amazon, perfect for this recipe on how to make hot chocolate. (Affiliate link)
Whisk sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)
Baker's brand unsweetened chocolate sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)

More Hot Winter Drink Recipes

How To Make Hot Chocolate

Copyright Information For The Gracious Pantry
A brandy warmer sits filled with hot chocolate and three square marshmallows.

Hot Chocolate Recipe

You can choose to use unsweetened cocoa powder (like the recipe) or follow my tips for using real chocolate!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 309kcal
Author: Tiffany McCauley


  • 4 cups milk (any type. Unsweetened if non-dairy)
  • ½ cup honey (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • tsp. ground cayenne (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder


Using Cocoa Powder

  • Combine all ingredients in a pot and warm over medium to medium high heat. Stir constantly with a whisk.
  • Pour into cups and serve.

Using Real Chocolate

  • If you prefer a richer hot chocolate, chop up about 1 cup of unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • Melt in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until it's fully melted.
  • During these intervals, combine all the other ingredients in a saucepot and warm. Do NOT let the milk boil or scald. You want it hot, but not burnt.
  • When the chocolate is fully melted, scrape it out of the bowl into the hot milk, turn off the heat under the pot and whisk quickly to combine.
  • Adjust sweetness to taste.
  • Pour into cups and serve.


Please note that the nutrition data below is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible. Also be aware that if you are using real chocolate, the nutrition data will change.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 309kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 109mg | Potassium: 523mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 47g | Vitamin A: 460IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 317mg | Iron: 2mg

Recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted on 11/4/09.

Website | + posts

I'm Tiffany, a writer for MSN and the AP Newswire, a cookbook author, digital publisher, food lover, and mom. I create healthy, clean eating recipes for everyday living.

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  1. You are sooo right! The hot choc looks amazing.

    Take good care,

  2. Some of your posts sound awesome, I just may try a few. Say, No Sandwiches? I’m crushed!


  3. the hot chocolate looks so good. I love the photo and the tipped-over glass. Beautiful.

    1. Thanks! Let me know how you like the hot chocolate!

      Take care,

  4. omg i love your site and have for a while now..i love this recipe and the marshmallows…THANK YOU for making clean eating enjoyable and satisfying!

    1. Karen – You’re very welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Oh my!!! I just tried this for the first time, it was outstanding!!!

    1. Meghann – Wonderful! I love a good cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter evening. Especially when there’s a fireplace involved!

  6. Marisa Kleinschmidt says:

    I tried this for the first time today when I found myself itching towards the cabinet for the “unclean” hot chocolate that’s still in there because the entire house is not yet converted. I converted the recipe to one serving so I do not drink all four in one (I have a hard time saying “no” to chocolate) and have not yet tried the marshmallows, but it is definitely growing on me by the sip. Thanks!

    1. Marisa – That’s wonderful! I’m glad it’s helping you get through those cravings!

  7. Didn’t see the marshmallows in the ingredients list. Are those vegan marshmallows you used? It looks like the Sweet & Sarah vegan marshmallows I found at Whole Foods–can also be bought online through Pangaea Vegan Food Products on

    1. Charlena – No, they are not vegan. They use gelatin. I’m still trying to figure out if gelatin is clean, so I haven’t done any more marshmallow recipes.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Stengfive – This is amazing!! I’ve never seen or heard of the stuff! I’ll have to look for it. Thanks so much!

  9. Nicole Park says:

    Yum! I was definitely skeptical with the honey/chocolate combination, but this is delicious. Perfect on a snowy October (WHAT?! Yep) day. 🙂

    1. Anonymous says:

      Nicole – Haha! Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Carolyin – No, they are not.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Amyjo – If you can get it to melt and mix with the milk properly, then it’s worth a shot.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Amyjo – Sounds great!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Amyjo – Sounds good!

  14. graciouspantry says:

    Gcgrytdal – Fantastic! As far as I’m concerned, anything is better than the awful packaged stuff. It doesn’t taste real to me. Probably because it isn’t!

  15. Laura Beth Pagano says:

    This came out delicious!

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Awesome! 🙂

  16. Risë Wood Ruhl says:

    Yummy!  Just came in from the tree lighting at the boardwalk and needed something to warm us up from the inside!  MR made us some of your hot cocoa and it was just what we needed!

  17. graciouspantry says:

    Gelatin is not clean, so no. Sadly, there’s no substitute for gelatin that I know of. I did try a seaweed product that was supposed to be similar, but it failed miserably. That said, the version on my site is a heck of a lot healthier than what you buy in the store. I still make them for Mini Chef on occasion.

  18. Krista Monin Rumage says:

    just made this tonight, best hot chocolate ever! i did use skim milk, it was all i had. i will be making this as the only hot chocolate in my house from now on.

  19. Amazing is all I can say!!!!

  20. You are the guru of clean eating! Thank you so much for these recipes!

  21. Love, love, love this! And your coconut one almost more! I’m totally trying them…but I’m wondering if you can help me. I need to give presents of sorts (im doing nuts for the parents) to some kids of several different ages and I’m on a SUPER tight budget. Since I’m such a proponent for clean eating, I want this to be something that represents me well….but they will still enjoy. I found a cute way to package a hot chocolate mix to look like a reindeer. Only problem, I have scoured the internet and pintrest to try to find a clean(er) version. Think this is possible!? I refuse to use the pre-made stuff. I wonder if I just sub the sugar for coconut palm sugar or sucanat if that would be good enough, but I worry about the taste and I personally don’t have a sweet tooth to test it. Any suggestions!?

    Thank you as always! I LOVE your blog and re-post your recipes often!

  22. the chocolate was wonderful but I really love your “pot”… is it available anywhere?

    1. Jane – That’s an old brandy glass. It belongs to my mother and has been in her hutch my entire life. I’m not entirely sure where it came from, but I believe it was a wedding gift.

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