Best Hot Chocolate


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Are you ready for the best hot chocolate you’ll ever taste? This recipe is sumptuously rich, velvety smooth, and perfect for warming up throughout the winter season.

Hot chocolate in a white mug on a table.

There’s nothing quite like a cozy mug of hot chocolate in your hands on a cold, wintery day. It’s decadent, slightly indulgent, and one of the best parts of the holiday season, along with baking the perfect batch of no bake cookies.

While you can stir cocoa powder into warm milk and call it a day, this recipe is extra special and worth the splurge. Hot, simmering milk melds with semi-sweet chocolate, cacao powder, and a dash of maple syrup, all in one pot. It’s lusciously thick, deliciously creamy and a little piece of chocolate heaven.

Ingredients for hot chocolate on a table.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Ingredients

There’s just four ingredients in this recipe! In my opinion, the best hot chocolate is simple to make, with just a few quality ingredients.

  • Milk: You can use dairy or dairy-free milk, including cashew milk, almond milk, or oat milk. The creamier the better! And since this recipe has sugar in it, I’d choose unsweetened milks (if you’re buying them from the store).
  • Chocolate: An essential ingredient for making hot chocolate! Whether you’re using bars or chips, just make sure to finely chop it.
  • Cacao Powder: The cacao powder (or cocoa powder) plus the chocolate is what makes this recipe so phenomenal. Trust me, you need both.
  • Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is a great natural sweetener, but feel free to swap in honey, coconut sugar, or your sweetener of choice.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below

The Best Type Of Chocolate To Use

Unlike its close cousin hot cocoa, which is made from only cocoa powder, hot chocolate requires that you actually use chocolate. You can use your favorite brand of chocolate, though I recommend a semi-sweet or dark chocolate that’s hovering around the 50 to 60 percent range.

Dark chocolate has a distinctly rich flavor that tastes amazing when whisked with milk. And when you’ve finely chopped the chocolate, it’ll melt into the most luxurious, velvety texture. But if you’re not a fan of the bitterness of dark chocolate, don’t worry. A splash of maple syrup sweetens it perfectly.

Chocolate shavings on a board for hot chocolate.

How To Make The Ultimate Hot Chocolate

It’s super easy to make hot chocolate on the stove. All you have to do is…

  • Simmer the milk. Add the milk, cacao powder and maple syrup to a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer and whisk together until there’s no clumps.
  • Add the chocolate. Add the finely chopped chocolate and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is fully melted and combined.
  • Serve. Pour into your favorite mugs and serve.
Stirring hot chocolate in a pot.

Hot Chocolate Flavor Variations

While simple hot chocolate is a classic for a reason, there’s many ways to amp it up, if you so choose. Here’s a few fun and delicious ideas.

  • Peppermint: Add one drop of peppermint extract into each cup.
  • Boozy: Pour in a bit of bourbon or brandy for an extra fun night in.
  • Salted Caramel: Dollop whipped cream (or coconut whipped cream) and drizzle salted caramel sauce over it.
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate: Stir in cinnamon and serve with a cinnamon stick.
  • Classic: Top it off with marshmallows and a sprinkle of cacao powder.

How To To Store

To store: Pour any leftover hot chocolate into airtight glass jars, and store in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. It may separate, but that’s fine if it does. It will recombine when you reheat it.

To reheat: Add the hot chocolate to a saucepan and gently reheat on medium heat, until warmed through.

2 mugs of hot chocolate next to cacao powder.

Hot Chocolate Recipe Video

Want to see how I make this in my kitchen? Watch the video below! 

More Cozy Winter Drinks

Nothing beats bundling up on the couch with a warm drink in your hand. Here’s a few other options I know you’ll love.

If you make this recipe, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Best Hot Chocolate

5 from 40 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


This is hands down the best hot chocolate you'll ever taste! It's unbelievably rich, velvety smooth, and perfect for warming up throughout the winter season. Watch how I make it in the video above!



  • 4 cups milk (dairy or dairy-free)
  • 3 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, or honey
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (or approx ⅔ cup chocolate chips)
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract


  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, cacao powder, and maple syrup to a simmer. Stir until there's no clumps.
    Stirring hot chocolate in a pot with a whisk.
  • Add the finely chopped chocolate and whisk for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the hot chocolate is smooth.
  • Pour the hot chocolate into mugs, and if you'd like, add your favorite toppings (see ideas above).
    A whit mug with hot chocolate and whipped cream.

Lisa’s Tips

  • If you’re using chocolate chips, I still recommend doing a quickly chop with your knife to finely chop the chocolate. Otherwise, you might end up with clumps of chocolate in the bottom of your mug.
  • Keep an eye on the stove! Milk can easily boil over, and that’s never fun.
  • This is a really thick and luscious hot chocolate, though the type of milk you use will affect the level of creaminess. Nut milks naturally won’t be as thick as full-fat milk. If you’re using full-fat milk and would like it a bit thinner, just swap one cup of milk for one cup of water.


Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 165mg | Potassium: 240mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 14IU | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: best hot chocolate, homemade hot chocolate, hot chocolate, hot chocolate recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally posted December 2020, but updated to include new information.

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I make this hot chocolate for my husband and myself when we go to the hockey rink to watch our grandsons play hockey (we are at the rink a lot over the winter). Most times I leave out the semi-sweet chocolate and it’s still very good! We think about the antioxidants we are getting from the cacao while we are enjoying the treat. Thank you Lisa for so many great recipes!5 stars

  2. I have never succeeded in making hot chocolate from scratch to where it was healthy and tasted good. You’re recipe is perfect, I used extra creamy almond milk and followed your ratios. It’s very delicious, thank you!!!5 stars

  3. I’ve made this recipe several times with real whole milk to great success. Today I tried it with oat milk and don’t miss the real milk at all. The consistency with oat milk is creamy, though not as thick as whole milk (it’s probably equal in consistency to 2% milk) but it’s still delicious.

    The only changes I made to the recipe is to decrease the maple syrup to 1 Tbsp and use baking melting wafers (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate) instead of chocolate chips, so I don’t have to chop up anything and can drop it in.

    Another great recipe, Lisa! Thanks for sharing!!5 stars

  4. Tried this for the first time today its amazing didn’t have regular marshmallows but used these ice cream cone ones instead for a different look.5 stars

  5. Liked this recipe a lot over others I’ve tried, but added some hwc and a few pinches of cayenne pepper just to give it that extra boost. These ingredients made this recipe for me a keeper!5 stars

  6. YUM! Thank you. I used a mix of coconut, oat, and whole milk. I cut chocolate chips by half. Perfect on a rainy day!5 stars

  7. Since it’s starting to cool down here in SoCal, I made it without maple syrup and used unsweetened cocoa powder and it was perfect. My family loved it, so easy to make and will definitely make again soon. 5 stars

  8. The taste is really great, but it seems a little too sweet for me. By the way first time I tried doing it and all the links brought me this page. Thank you for the beautiful recipe . Sending love from Northern Cyprus and wishing you a happy new year.5 stars

  9. Hi Lisa, 
    Love your hot chocolate recipe. Just as a quick aside as a fellow vitamix lover you can absolutely make this recipe in the
    Vitamix and it’s just a touch less fussy and has less clean up. I have the a3500 and use the soup function but cut it off at about the 5 minute mark. I’m lazy and don’t even cut the chocolate up. 

  10. Thank you Lisa for the wonderful recipe! I made this last night for my friends at holiday party and everyone loved it! I used full fat milk with good quality chocolate chips. I didn’t chop the chocolate chips but stirred to the bottom of the pot to make sure all chips were melted before serving. I will definitely make this again and will try changing it up with soy milk. Thanks again and happy holidays!5 stars

  11. Hi – bizarre request I know but is it possible to switch the chocolate out for something else? I love hot chocolate but I’ve been advised by my doctor that I cannot eat it any more. 

    Thanks so much!

    1. It’s best not to make this recipe and opt for other drinks such as my Chai Spiced Coconut Milk or Pumpkin Spice Latte!

    1. A hot chocolate won’t taste as good without sugar in it. But, I will keep in mind to make one that’s reduced in sugar.

  12. Loved the recipe! Love the idea that it worked for different milk types. I made it with Almond and Lactose free milk. Works every time, and I can drink it without nasty side effects!5 stars

  13. The hot chocolate it’s amazing and I love it, the only thing it that there is so much milk I empty out one cartoon of milk from the recipe so idk if I could replace the milk with water ?5 stars

  14. yummy! Even my husband liked this hot chocolate! It was so good. It will remain a special occasion treat for our family (anything can be considered a “special occasion”5 stars

  15. Super quick to whip up and really tasty! I also added a piece of Peppermint because I was using a mint chocolate bar for some Peppermint hot chocolate. And I’m using the leftovers for a mocha tomorrow.5 stars

  16. This really is the BEST hot chocolate recipe! Delicious and so easy to follow. (p.s. Take her warning about not walking away from the pot seriously! Milk really can boil over quickly, haha!) We saved the rest and heated it up the next day. So good!5 stars

  17. My husband loves hot chocolate so I told him to try this recipe, and he swears it’s the best one he ever had! He says he’ll be trying again throughout the winter.5 stars

  18. I love this hot chocolate. Its the perfect balance of richness without being overwhelming. A million times better than the powder! I have made with with half water and half milk and used semi sweet and milk chocolate chips. Although the flavor changes slightly, it’s still excellent! I think its the vanilla that rounds out the flavors.5 stars

    1. Hi Kiersten – I’m thrilled you love the recipe! And it really is quite versatile once you have those basic ingredients. Enjoy!

  19. Your recipes and lifestyle are amazing. By adapting a few of your tips, I’ve lost 30 lbs. I am forever grateful! 5 stars

  20. WOW. I’m definitely a hot chocolate snob and I have to say this made the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Holy moly. I ended up using about 2-3 cups whole milk + the liquid from a can of coconut cream (I used the hardened cream to mak a coconut whipped cream). I also added the optional vanilla extract and a touch of cinnamon. Make this ASAP. You won’t regret it.5 stars

    1. Hi Michelle – I’m so thrilled you loved the recipe! Especially as you’re a hot chocolate connoisseur. ;) I’m sure your version was extra creamy with the whole milk and coconut cream – yum!!

  21. YUMMAY! I love hot chocolate in general but adding in extra dark chocolate 🤯spectacular!!!! This recipe is a keeper.5 stars

    1. Hi Sarah – it’s amazing how much dark chocolate elevates the recipe, isn’t it? So glad you enjoyed it!

  22. Thank you for all of your amazing recipes Lisa!!! We are on our journey of healing from Autoimmune disease and with your bulletproof recipes, videos, tips and tricks we are able to enjoy delicious meals&treats all year around! Happy Holidays!5 stars

    1. Hi Kerstin – oh wonderful! I’m so happy you’re enjoying all of my recipes. Happy holidays to you as well!

  23. This really is the best hot chocolate recipe I’ve had in a long time!! I love how creamy and thick it becomes, I’ll be drinking this all winter long!5 stars

    1. Hi Anjali – yes, it really is thick and smooth, especially if you’re used to drinking hot cocoa. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  24. Lisa, your recipes are always the bomb! This one is no different. I’ve always made hot cocoa thinking it as hot chocolate. Now I know the difference… hot chocolate is the way to go!!! I also want to mention that I LOVE all the tips you give for each recipe – all the different flavor variations, ways to store the recipe, ways to reheat, etc. it’s all very helpful info and sets your recipes apart from others. 5 stars

    1. Hi Becky – Yay, I’m thrilled you love this recipe! And thanks for your lovely feedback on the recipe post as well. I’m glad you enjoy all those little tidbits. :)

  25. This cocoa is rich and decadent! I never would have guessed it is so easy to make from scratch! I’m never going back to hot cocoa packets again.5 stars

    1. Hi Toni – I’m so happy you loved the recipe! Homemade hot chocolate really is SO much better than those packets. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  26. I made this recipe for my family and it was a hit. It’s not too sweet and it’s very delicious! We made it with oat milk and it was still creamy. Great recipe – thank you! 5 stars