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.

A white mug of hot chocolate and whipped cream.

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 semi-sweet 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

Chocolate shavings on a board for hot chocolate.

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.

How To Make The Ultimate Hot Chocolate

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.

Making hot chocolate in a pot.

Add the chocolate. Add the finely chopped chocolate and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is fully melted and combined.

Mixing chocolate into warm milk.

Serve. Pour into your favorite mugs and serve. If you want a little extra holiday cheer, top the mugs with whipped cream and a little shaved chocolate!

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.

How To To Store

  • In the fridge: 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. Alternatively, you can warm a mug in the microwave.
Mugs of hot chocolate with cream.

More 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.

  • Eggnog – The creamiest and easiest eggnog recipe you’ll ever make (my personal favorite).
  • Golden Milk – A healing turmeric milk recipe for winter.
  • Chai Spiced Coconut Milk – A warming chai spice infused creamy drink.

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

A mug of hot chocolate.

Best Hot Chocolate

5 from 48 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 the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen.



  • 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. This is truly the yummiest, creamiest hot chocolate! And SO east to make. It was a big success at my Valentine’s tea party!
    Thank you So much for sharing it.5 stars

  2. Just amazing! We used soy milk and bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet (all we had) and it was just the right consistency and taste (perfectly sweet). Thank you!5 stars

  3. Best Hot Chocolate ever. Never can I go back to the instant “stuff” that is called hot chocolate. Followed your recipe exactly, well done. Added mini marshmallows as we were out if whip cream. Fresh fruit on the side made it a nice afternoon treat on a sub-zero cold day.5 stars

  4. This recipe is rich and creamy and simply far better than any packet you’ll ever try! I add a dash of cinnamon over the whip.5 stars

  5. I just made your hot chocolate recipe. It was delicious – almost decadent. Next I will try your chai tea latte. Thanks for t he wonderful recipes.5 stars