Skip the store-bought packets and make this 5-minute hot cocoa recipe! It tastes SO much better and uses just 6 pantry staples. Perfect for a snow day! Recipe includes a how-to video!
What’s to Love About This Hot Cocoa Recipe
- Rich chocolate flavor that’s SO much better than the pre-made packets! No artificial flavors here.
- Takes just 5 minutes to make! Great for whipping up last-minute.
- Uses pantry staples, so there’s no need to run to the store. Because of this, it makes a tasty snow day treat, especially when paired with my french toast or peanut butter cookies ❄️
- Makes a single serving but easily doubles or triples for more.
- Can be made dairy-free by swapping in a non-dairy milk.
While I already have a rich, decadent hot chocolate recipe on the blog, it’s not necessarily a quick treat. It’s the ultimate hot chocolate if you ask me, but it’s also slightly fussier than ripping open a packet and pouring it in some hot water. Some days I want something that’s just a little bit less complicated, but still chocolatey and flavorful.
This hot cocoa recipe is the solution for all of you who are just as impatient as I am. It’s easier and more basic, but still satisfying and better than those fake store bought packets. It’s perfect for days when you’re snowed in and stuck with what’s already in your pantry. I think you’re going to love it!
This recipe so simple with just 6 ingredients, all of which are pantry staples.
- Milk. I prefer to use whole milk, but you can really use whatever you have on hand, including non-dairy milk. Just keep in mind that whatever milk you use can change the final flavor/texture of your cocoa.
- Cocoa powder. Do not use Dutch processed cocoa powder, which is unfortunately unpleasant in this drink. Stick with natural cocoa powder for this recipe.
- Brown sugar. This drink is perfectly sweetened without being over the top. I opt for brown sugar which has a richer flavor than granulated because of the molasses, so it deepens the flavor of the cocoa nicely. I actually do this with quite a few of my chocolatey recipes, like my chocolate cake and my brownies. In a pinch you can substitute granulated sugar.
- Heavy cream. This is optional, but I love the richness it adds to this recipe. If you don’t have cream, or simply don’t want to use it, you can just use additional milk instead.
- Vanilla and salt. A pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla round out the flavors and make it so satisfying!
SAM’S TIP: To create a velvety smooth texture, I start by whisking just a bit of the milk with the cocoa and sugar mixture. This helps the sugar dissolve evenly and blooms the cocoa too (for a rich chocolate flavor!).
This is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Hot Cocoa
- Whisk together the cocoa powder, brown sugar, and salt in a saucepan.
- Add a few tablespoons of the milk and whisk until you have a smooth mixture. Heat over medium low, whisking frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the color deepens to a darker brown. This will ensure a smooth, lump-free final result.
- Pour in the cream and remaining milk and keep cooking/whisking until your cocoa is steaming.
- Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, then serve! I like to top mine with mini marshmallows and homemade whipped cream.
SAM’S TIP: Just like when making chocolate pudding, it’s best to add the vanilla after removing from the heat. Adding it before would cook off the flavor (and we don’t want to waste any vanilla extract–have you seen how expensive that stuff is?!).
Frequently Asked Questions
Hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder and hot chocolate is made with melted chocolate. Hot chocolate is typically richer and thicker as a result, and it takes a bit more time and effort to make.
In my opinion, hot cocoa is MUCH better with milk (and cream!). It’s richer, silkier, and has a far better flavor. I do not recommend making this recipe with water.
Yes. Making this recipe dairy-free is as simple as using a non-dairy milk! Just substitute this for the milk and cream, and you’re good to go.
- 2 Tablespoons (25 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 Tablespoon (6 g) natural cocoa powder
- Pinch of table salt about 1/16th teaspoon
- ¾ cup (177 ml) milk divided
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream (may substitute with more milk)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt and whisk together.2 Tablespoons (25 g) light brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon (6 g) natural cocoa powder, Pinch of table salt
- Add approximately 2-3 Tablespoons of your milk and whisk until smooth.¾ cup (177 ml) milk
- Place saucepan over low heat and whisk until sugar begins to melt and mixture darkens in color.
- Add the remaining milk and the heavy cream and whisk until mixture is steaming.¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Stir well then pour into heatproof mug. Enjoy warm, this cocoa is excellent enjoyed plain/as-is or topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate shavings, etc.!¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
ServingsThis recipe makes 1 cup of hot cocoa. Feel free to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to make as many cups of cocoa as you’d like.
CocoaUse natural/unsweetened cocoa powder. I do not recommend using Dutch cocoa, it has an unpleasant taste in this recipe.
SugarI prefer light brown sugar, but regular granulated sugar could be substituted.
MilkI use and recommend whole milk, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Heavy creamThis ingredient is optional. If you don’t have it on hand or don’t want to use it, simply substitute with more milk (bringing the total amount of milk to 1 cup (236ml).
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.