This easy homemade hot chocolate recipe begins with simple ingredients, such as milk, half & half, cocoa powder, chocolate and salt. This rich and creamy hot chocolate puts powdered mix to shame.
My favorite winter drink is definitely a cup of rich hot chocolate made from scratch. It’s extra creamy and decadent, and it’s the perfect cup of comfort.
Being from California, we don’t often get exceptionally cold winters. Typically, it’s a mix of cold-ish weather (it’s weather I’d call cold but anyone from a snowy state probably wouldn’t…and they’d probably roll their eyes at me 😉) with a few days of really cold weather peppered in.
Last year was one of those years where I felt like we had a lot of exceptionally cold days, and my wimpy southern California body couldn’t handle it.
It was in that moment I realized living in snow and ice was probably out of the question. As much as I’ve dreamt of white winters and belted “Tennessee Christmas” at the top of my lungs (because who doesn’t dream of a tender Tennessee Christmas?!), the girl who wears flip flops religiously and owns only a handful of sweaters would get taken down by the snow.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a snow champ or a sissy like me, when it’s too cold for you to take it, this Homemade Hot Chocolate is always the answer. Always. (Pair it with a sugar cookie, molasses cookie or a snickerdoodle, and I’m not sure life can get any better).
Reasons Why I Love This Recipe:
- This is such a creamy hot chocolate recipe! Boxed mix has got nothing on homemade hot chocolate!
- It’s made with both chocolate chips and cocoa powder, making it extra, extra rich. Plus, it’s loaded with chocolate flavor.
- You can easily cut this recipe in half and have a homemade hot chocolate recipe for one!
- It’s super versatile. You can use milk, heavy cream, half and half, etc. You can also add in other flavors too, like peppermint extract, a dollop of Nutella, ground cinnamon, etc.
Now let’s talk specifics. Homemade Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
- milk: you can use whole milk, 2%, or skim milk. My go-to is 2%, because it’s not too thick or too thin when mixed with half & half.
- half & half
- cocoa powder: I use unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s cocoa powder, Ghirardelli, or Rodelle are my go-to favorite cocoa powders)
- chocolate chips: you can also use chopped chocolate instead of chips
- vanilla extract
This is a stovetop hot chocolate recipe, which means the entire drink is made in a pot on the stove. Cooking it on the stove helps everything combine together as it warms up, ensuring you don’t have any clumps of chocolate
What kind of chocolate should I use in this recipe?
- If possible, use a high quality cocoa powder and high quality chocolate chips (or chocolate you’ve chopped into smaller pieces). I like to use Ghirardelli, Baker’s, Hershey’s, Nestle Tollhouse, Godiva, or Guittard (whatever I can find that’s quality yet a reasonable price).
- I prefer to use semi-sweet chocolate; however you can sub in dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate.
- If you use bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, the finished hot chocolate will not be as sweet. It will be very rich.
- Both dark chocolate and milk chocolate will alter the flavor as well. Dark chocolate will definitely be richer and not as sweet (but sweeter than using bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate), and milk chocolate will be much sweeter.
- White chocolate can be used, but because of the cocoa powder used in this recipe, it won’t be a pure white hot chocolate recipe. It will be more of a zebra drink–part white hot chocolate, part classic hot chocolate.
Can I use any kind of milk in this recipe? And, do I have to use half & half?
- Yes, you can use any kind of milk. However, it is important to note that using whole milk will yield a richer, creamier hot chocolate and using skim milk will yield a thinner hot chocolate. For me, 2% is just right (but then again, I’ve grown up using 2% so it’s my natural choice).
- No, you do not have to use half & half (which is a combination of heavy cream and whole milk), and you could substitute milk for the half & half.
- But, here’s why I use half & half: My go to milk choice is 2% so adding in the half & half makes the hot chocolate nice and rich without going overboard.
What’s the Difference Between Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa?
- If we’re going to get technical, Hot Chocolate is made with melted chocolate and Hot Cocoa is made with cocoa powder.
- However, these names are often used interchangeably, and in many cases, hot chocolate recipes use a combination of both: melted chocolate and cocoa powder.
- In this recipe, I use both as well. The reason is that the melted chocolate gives this homemade hot chocolate such a rich flavor and thick texture. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, adds an extra dose of chocolate without making the drink too thick.
- To get a deep flavor, I wanted a lot of chocolate; however, too much melted chocolate could make this hot chocolate more like a pudding or custard. Thus, I combined the two: melted chocolate and cocoa powder.
This is a basic hot chocolate recipe. However, because this is so basic, you can definitely mix it up and add other ingredients:
- As mentioned above, you can omit the half and half and instead use all milk. Additionally, you can use heavy cream instead of half and half (it will be even creamier and richer).
- You can use peppermint extract instead of vanilla extract (although I’d only use 1/4 -1/2 tsp of peppermint extract. It’s very, very strong and can overpower other flavors easily).
- You can add in some cinnamon (about 1 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon) or another spice (ginger and nutmeg will give it a bit of kick).
- Stir in a dollop of Nutella, Peanut Butter, or Cookie Butter (about 1 Tbsp or so).
- Feel free to get creative! Because this is a classic hot chocolate, there are plenty of ways you can doctor this up with mix-ins to get whatever flavor you want.
- Crushed peppermints or crushed chocolate mint candies (like Andes mints)
- Whipped cream
- Chopped chocolate
- cocoa powder or cinnamon dusted on top
- Chocolate dipped cookies or wafers (they make great stir sticks!)
Is Cocoa Powder The Same As Hot Chocolate Powder? Can I Use It Instead?
- No, cocoa powder and hot chocolate powder are not the same thing, and you cannot use them interchangeably.
- Cocoa powder is made when cocoa butter (the fat) is removed from cacao beans. When ground, it becomes cocoa powder.
- Hot chocolate powder is something made specifically for making hot chocolate. It is a mixture of sugar, cocoa powder, and sometimes other ingredients, and it’s used for the purpose of making ‘instant’ hot chocolate.
- This recipe already has sugar added into it, and using hot chocolate powder would alter the flavor too much.
How To Make Hot Chocolate With Milk:
- Mix Ingredients: Over med-low heat, you whisk the cocoa powder, sugar and salt with milk/half & half mixture. It will take a little bit of time before the cocoa is fully incorporated, but it will eventually whisk in smoothly.
- Whisk: You need to whisk constantly while making this, and you need to make sure the milk doesn’t boil. Basically, as long as you keep an eye on this, you won’t be able to mess anything up.
- Simmer: Once the milk and cocoa has just come to a simmer, whisk in the chocolate and vanilla extract. Keep whisking until the chocolate is fully melted and the hot chocolate is smooth.
- Drink: This recipe should make about 4 cups of hot chocolate (more or less depending upon how big or small your mugs are).
Lastly, here are a few tips and tricks to make this the best hot chocolate ever (and easiest!):
- Remember, you can be creative! You can make homemade hot chocolate with chocolate chips, chopped chocolate, a mix of chocolates (like mixing dark chocolate and semi-sweet), etc. Plus, top it with anything you want! I love marshmallows, whipped cream, and extra chocolates on top.
- Top it with anything you want: marshmallows, extra chocolate, sprinkles, caramel sauce, etc. My favorite is hot chocolate with whipped cream, especially a homemade whipped cream or a caramel whipped cream.
- This uses both chocolate and cocoa powder to make it extra rich and flavorful. But remember, you cannot use hot chocolate mix in place of cocoa powder. It must be cocoa powder.
- This needs to be made with milk, half and half, or heavy cream. You cannot use water.
Get cozy and grab a mug!
This easy homemade hot chocolate recipe begins with simple ingredients, such as milk, half & half, cocoa powder, chocolate and salt.
- 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Whisk milk, half & half, cocoa powder, sugar and salt together in a medium saucepan over med-low heat.
Whisk the mixture constantly, until it just reaches a simmer (do not let the mixture boil). Then, add in the chocolate chips and vanilla extract, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the hot chocolate is smooth.
Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Top with whipped cream or marshmallows, and dust with powdered sugar and chocolate shavings, if desired.
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