This hot cocoa is the perfect cold-weather treat. It’s sweet, chocolaty, and much better than any packaged mix from the store. The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and refined sugar-free.
My only memory of my dad in the kitchen was on Saturday mornings. He would set a pot of cold milk on the stove, turn the heat to high, and then go back to bed with his newspaper. The milk always boiled over and spilled all over the stove. The sizzling sound would get my dad’s attention. He would spring out of bed and run to the kitchen as fast as possible to save what was left. If there was still enough milk in the pot, he would mix in Nestle Quick and make hot chocolate. At least, that’s what he used to call it. In fact, that’s what everyone in my family called it. But as it turns out, it wasn’t actually hot chocolate.
Even though the terms are used interchangeably, the two beverages are not identical. Hot cocoa usually contains cocoa powder, milk, and sugar. It tends to be sweet and light in body – think instant packets of Swiss Miss. On the other hand, hot chocolate is made by finely chopping or grinding solid chocolate and then melting it into hot water, milk, or even cream. There’s usually no sugar added (it’s less sweet than hot cocoa), and it’s rich and creamy. The famous Café Angelina in Paris prides itself on their version of chocolat chaud, super rich in flavor and very thick in texture, almost pudding-like.
Although hot cocoa is the sweeter drink, both hot chocolate and hot cocoa are full of sugar. So, neither is really healthier than the other. European hot chocolate tends to be relatively thick and rich, while in the United States, the thinner instant version of hot cocoa is more popular. Personally, I make hot cocoa at home way more often than hot chocolate.
Tips for Making Hot Cocoa
This homemade hot cocoa is such a simple recipe that it’s almost a non-recipe. You only need three ingredients:
- Almond milk: I used homemade almond milk because that’s what I had on hand, but cashew milk is also wonderful. If you’re into oat milk, use it. The creamier the milk, the better. The creaminess of the milk will affect the creaminess of the drink.
- Cacao powder: cacao is the purest form of chocolate. It has not undergone any processing with high temperatures, which is why it’s sometimes even termed “raw cacao.” However, you can easily swap cacao powder for cocoa powder. In fact, if you aren’t interested in the health benefits associated with raw cacao, cocoa powder – be it Duch-processed or not – is a great substitute.
- Maple syrup: a sweetener counteracts the bitter flavor of cacao powder. I love the caramel undertones of maple, but you can use any sweetener you like.
How to Make Hot Cocoa
You can make homemade hot cocoa in a high-speed blender or a saucepan on the stove. I prefer the blender for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t have to worry about the cacao powder mixing properly; you know, when you want to mix a powder with liquid, and the powder kind of floats on top. And second, the blender heats up the hot cocoa in a few minutes without me having to keep an eye on it. Convinced? OK. Here’s the process:
- Blend. Add the almond milk, cacao powder, and maple syrup to a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. That’s it!
How to Serve Homemade Hot Cocoa
You really can’t go wrong with classic hot cocoa. However, you can introduce a little bit more flavor by adding cinnamon or vanilla, a pinch of sea salt to bring out the chocolate flavor, or a little bit of cayenne pepper for a spicy kick.
As far as toppings go – if you’d like to add them – I think that coconut whipped cream and chocolate shavings are the way to go.
More Chocolate Drink Recipes
- Hot chocolate: if you enjoy rich flavors and thick consistency, you might prefer hot chocolate to hot cocoa. Hot chocolate is the epitome of “drinking chocolate.”
- Adaptogenic hot chocolate: are you looking for a coffee replacement in the morning or a way to wind down in the evening? This adaptogenic hot chocolate is chocolatey, creamy, and sweet enough to feel like a treat.
- Frozen hot chocolate: in the hot summer months, frozen hot chocolate wins! It’s thick, frothy, and, of course, chocolaty. It’s essentially an icy-cold version of hot chocolate.
If you try any of these recipes, please leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
- 2 1/2 cups almond milk
- 2 Tbsp. cacao powder
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- Blend the ingredients. Add the almond milk, cacao powder, and maple syrup to a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely smooth and frothy.
- Serve hot or warm, straight out of the blender.