Few beverages are as deeply-rooted in my childhood memories as hot chocolate. Thick, silky, and rich-tasting. So, here’s my favorite vegan hot chocolate recipe with simple ingredients you most likely have on hand right now.
Growing up, hot chocolate was a drink 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. The majority 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 consumed throughout the world and comes in multiple variations.
French hot chocolate (le chocolat chaud) is probably the most popular one – sweet, velvety, and thick. Bittersweet chocolate is the only thickener, which makes French hot chocolate extremely luscious and intense. Dutch hot chocolate (Warme Chocolademelk) relies not only on the finest dark chocolate chips, but also Dutch-processed cocoa powder for extra oomph. Mexican hot chocolate (chocolate caliente) is comforting but also unexpectedly refreshing. The main ingredients 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.
The other two popular versions of hot chocolate are Italian hot chocolate (ciccolate calda) and Spanish hot chocolate (chocolate caliente). Both versions rely on cornstarch to get a thick, pudding-like consistency, which sets these recipes apart. These thick hot chocolate recipes are the epitome of “drinking chocolate”.
Tips for Making Vegan Hot Chocolate
The number one ingredient in any hot chocolate is real chocolate. You can find many recipes that differ from one another, but the main ingredients of any hot chocolate are chocolate and milk (or cream). There’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing the actual chocolate. The easiest way to choose the right chocolate is to use the one you enjoy eating.
When it comes to plant-based milk for vegan hot chocolate, I keep coming back to plain cashew milk. When made at home with just water and cashews, it tastes plain — in the best way possible. It’s a a little sweet, and only a little bit nutty. Other plant-based milks are certainly an option, but most of them 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.
High quality ingredients are definitely worth the splurge. But if you want to make hot chocolate more often and not spend a fortune, I would recommend adding cocoa powder, ideally Dutch-processed, and a sweetener in place of some of the chocolate. Not all, but some.
Fortunately, the perfect hot chocolate doesn’t require any special equipment; as long as you have a stove, a whisk, and a sauce pot, you’re on your way.
The only tricky part in this recipe is consistency of the cashew milk. If you heat up homemade cashew milk, it thickens. If you cook the milk for too long, it thickens quite considerably (I was actually able to make pudding out of this). If the milk thickens too much, you can always add more fresh milk to thin it out.
One more tip is about mixing the cocoa powder with the milk. 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 powder (cocoa) with just a small part of the liquid (cashew milk), creating a thick mixture. You can then dilute the thick mixture with the rest of the liquid.
More Hot Chocolate Recipes
If you enjoy less intense flavors and lighter (thinner) consistency, you might prefer hot cocoa to hot chocolate. European and Latin American hot chocolate tends to be relatively thick and rich, while in the United States the thinner instant version of hot cocoa is more popular.
In the hot summer months, frozen hot chocolate wins! It’s thick, frothy, and of course chocolate-y.
If you try this recipe, please, let me know! Leave a comment, share your feedback, rate the recipe. It always means a lot when you do.
Tools You’ll Need
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- Warm the milk. Add cashew milk into a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat until warm.
- Dissolve the cocoa powder. Add the cocoa powder into a small bowl and mix it with just a tiny bit of milk to create a thin paste. (This will help the cocoa powder mix with all the ingredients properly).
- Simmer. Once the milk is warm, add the cocoa-milk paste, chocolate, and maple syrup into the saucepan, and whisk to combine. Simmer until the hot chocolate has reached the temperature and consistency you like. The longer you cook the hot chocolate, the thicker it will get.
- Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more cocoa powder for a more chocolate-y flavor, maple syrup for sweetness, and cinnamon for a sweet-spicy flavor with a woody fragrance.
- Serve hot, topped with coconut whipped cream, a dusting of cocoa, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Store. Leftover hot chocolate keeps well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.