dairy-free hot chocolateFew beverages are as deeply-rooted in my childhood memories as hot chocolate – decadent, rich, velvety smooth, and perfect on a cold wintery day. It’s one of the best parts of the holiday season. The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and refined sugar-free.

Growing up, hot chocolate was reserved for special occasions and holidays. Christmas was my favorite. My parents and a few of their closest friends would get together and share their favorite drinks. Most of the drinks would be alcoholic, but someone always pulled out a huge thermos filled with homemade hot chocolate. This was no ordinary hot chocolate. It was made with real dark chocolate, which made the drinking chocolate incredibly rich, creamy, and chocolaty. 

Hot chocolate is one of the best ways to warm up when it gets cold outside, so it’s unsurprising that countries worldwide have their own variations of this classic recipe: 

  • Mexican hot chocolate (champurrado): it makes sense to start with the country of origin for hot chocolate: Mexico. Mayans were the first culture to make a drink out of chocolate, and the Aztecs were the first to introduce hot chocolate. The main ingredient is Mexican table chocolate, which is less intense than the typically used dark chocolate and has a distinctive spiced flavor of cinnamon and a heat of chilies.  
  • French hot chocolate (le chocolat chaud): the French have one of the most decadent hot chocolate you can find in the world – luscious, velvety, and rich. The recipe calls for the highest quality bittersweet chocolate (~ 70%), whole milk, and sugar to create a thick consistency. French hot chocolate differs from others in that the flavor is intense (since real chocolate is the only thickener) and not as sweet. 
  • Italian hot chocolate (ciccolate calda): the Italians use not only whole milk but also heavy cream and cornstarch to thicken their hot chocolate to a pudding-like consistency. The result is the epitome of “drinking chocolate.”
  • Spanish hot chocolate (chocolate caliente): the Spanish set their recipe apart by sweetening the bitter version of hot chocolate that persisted otherwise. Like Italian hot chocolate, Spanish hot chocolate relies on cornstarch to thicken it to a pudding-like consistency and is often used as a dip for churros.
  • Dutch hot chocolate (Warme Chocolademelk): Dutch hot chocolate is similar to the French version, but Dutch people like to also add Dutch-processed cocoa powder for extra oomph. They don’t typically sweeten their hot chocolate much but sometimes add a flavoring such as vanilla extract or almond essence.
  • American hot chocolate: what separates American hot chocolate is its sweet flavor, thin consistency, and lighter texture. The main ingredient in American chocolate is still real chocolate, but it’s diluted with quite a bit of milk, no corn starch.

Whether you are in Western nations, the European continent, or the Asian parts, hot chocolate soothes the soul and lifts the spirits on any cold, dark day. Without further ado, here’s my favorite vegan hot chocolate recipe.

hot chocolate

Tips for Making Vegan Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

Made with real chocolate, this vegan hot chocolate is much more flavorful than any hot cocoa mix. The ingredients you’ll need are:

  • Cashew milk: I prefer cashew milk for vegan hot chocolate over any other plant-based milk. It tastes a little sweet and only a little bit nutty. Other plant-based milks are certainly an option, but most come with their peculiarities. Almond milk tastes exceptionally nutty, soy milk tastes too beany, and coconut milk tastes like a sweet, floral tropical island. Rice milk would probably be the best alternative, but I would still blend it with some cashews to add creaminess. The creamier the milk, the better. The creaminess of the milk will affect the creaminess of the hot chocolate.
  • Chocolate: an essential ingredient for any hot chocolate recipe is real chocolate. There’s no right or wrong when choosing chocolate – simply choose the one you enjoy eating. I typically eat 70% dark chocolate, so that’s what I use. Of course, go for a vegan chocolate bar (or chocolate chips) to keep the hot chocolate vegan.
  • Cocoa powder and maple syrup: high-quality ingredients are definitely worth the splurge. However, if you want to make hot chocolate more often and not spend a fortune, I recommend adding cocoa powder and pure maple syrup instead of relying on just real chocolate. The cocoa powder and maple syrup act as a substitute for some of the chocolate you’d normally add. Not all, but some. If you make hot chocolate as a special treat only, by all means, use only real chocolate and cashew milk. 

How to Make Vegan Hot Chocolate

Fortunately, the perfect hot chocolate requires no special equipment. If you have a stove, saucepan, and whisk, you’re on your way.

  1. Warm up the cashew milk. Add the cashew milk to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. 
  2. Dissolve the cocoa powder. I bet there has been a time when you tried mixing some type of powder with liquid, and the powder just wouldn’t mix in. Instead, it would kind of just float on top. The trick is to mix all the cocoa powder with a tiny amount of cashew milk to create a thin paste. The paste will mix with the rest of the milk much better than cocoa powder.
  3. Simmer. Add the cocoa paste, shaved chocolate, and maple syrup to the saucepan with the cashew milk and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until hot and smooth. The longer you simmer the hot chocolate, the thicker it will get.

how to make vegan hot chocolate

How to Serve Hot Chocolate

While simple hot chocolate is a classic for a reason, there are many ways to change it up. Personally, I prefer drinking my hot chocolate plain, with no toppings. However, if you like the extras, you should absolutely top your mug with coconut whipped cream, a drizzle of salted caramel sauce, a dusting of cocoa powder, or even a sprinkle of cinnamon. For a boozy twist on the classic, try adding a splash of bourbon or brandy.

How to Store and Reheat Hot Chocolate

  • Refrigerating: transfer the hot chocolate to an airtight container and refrigerate it for 3-5 days.
  • Reheating: transfer the hot chocolate to a saucepan and heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.

dairy-free hot chocolate

More Chocolate Drink Recipes

  • Adaptogenic hot chocolate: 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. 
  • Hot cocoa: compared to hot chocolate, hot cocoa tends to be sweet and light. However, even though it’s not as chocolaty or rich, it’s just as comforting.
  • 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.

vegan hot chocolate

Vegan Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
Few beverages are as deeply-rooted in my childhood memories as hot chocolate - decadent, rich, velvety smooth, and perfect on a cold wintery day. It's one of the best parts of the holiday season.

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Warm up the cashew milk. Add the cashew milk to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. 
  • Dissolve the cocoa powder. Add the cocoa powder to a small bowl with a tiny amount of cashew milk and mix to create a thin paste. The paste will mix with the rest of the milk much better than cocoa powder.
  • Simmer. Add the cocoa paste, shaved chocolate, and maple syrup to the saucepan with the cashew milk and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until hot and smooth. The longer you simmer the hot chocolate, the thicker it will get.
  • Serve. Pour the hot chocolate into mugs and add your favorite toppings (optional).
  • Store. Leftover hot chocolate keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Notes

*Nutrition information is approximate and may contain errors. Please, feel free to make your own calculations.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 2, Calories: 280kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 13g, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 15g
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keywords: best hot chocolate, hot chocolate, hot chocolate recipe, vegan hot chocolate