Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

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Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix! With instructions for making plain, peppermint, and Mexican chocolate versions. Easy, inexpensive homemade gift.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Do you hate crowds? Do you have gift-giving anxiety? I do.

In fact, I’ll do almost anything to stay out of the stores during the holidays. My friends all know that they will receive a gift, but that gift will come from my kitchen.

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Hot Cocoa Mix

Now I’ve been given some doozies in the past from friends similarly inclined to edible gift-giving, so I try to make gifts of food that will appeal to as many people as possible. No dilly beans. No “what’s-in-that?” unidentifiable candies. Nope. I’m playing it safe.

A cocoa mix like this one is universally loved and goes a long way toward solving my holiday shopping anxiety. Preparation time is ridiculously fast. The result is ridiculously charming.

I tried many versions before deciding that a simple approach is really the best—no fancy chocolate bits to melt, just cocoa powder, sugar, and flavorings. Dutch process cocoa is more alkaline and darker in color than natural cocoa powder, and therefore slightly more appealing in a hot cocoa, but you could really use either kind.

I’ve also included variations for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Hot Chocolate, just in case you’d like to mix it up!

Hot Cocoa Mix

One pastry chef trick I use: Blend pure extracts or finely grated citrus zest into the sugar so the sugar becomes perfumed. I’ve done this here for this recipe, but the trick is good enough that you should think about using it other sugary situations as well. Try combining sugar and lemon zest the next time you make a lemon bundt cake, for example.

When you’re shopping for ingredients, pick out some pretty jars, wrapping paper, ribbon, and few holiday baubles to in which to wrap your gift. Print out the mix directions and paste them on oak tag labels, or write them out by hand. Check out your local office supply stores for ideas and supplies.

A homemade gift is truly a gift of love. Love thyself, too, and keep a jar stashed in the cupboard for yourself. You’ll be glad you did when the four o’clock slump hits on a chilly, gray day.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups cocoa mix (about 24 servings)

Cornstarch gives the cocoa a smooth and creamy texture that doesn’t interfere with flavor.


BASE RECIPE: Plain Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

VARIATION: Mexican Chocolate Cocoa Mix

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder (optional)

VARIATION: Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure mint extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To make one cup of hot cocoa:

  • 4 teaspoons hot cocoa mix
  • 3/4 cup milk (any milk of your choice)
  • Cinnamon sticks, optional
  • Peppermint sticks, optional
  • Mini-marshmallows, optional
  • Whipped cream, optional


1 Mix the extract in with the sugar: In a bowl, place the sugar and sprinkle the extract over top (along with the orange zest, if making the Mexican Hot Chocolate variation). With a whisk or your fingers, work the extract into the sugar until thoroughly combined.

The addition of extract to the sugar makes it slightly damp, but the moisture is distributed when you mix it with the cocoa and cornstarch.

Hot Cocoa Mix

2 Add the remaining ingredients to the mix: Add the cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon (if using) to the bowl and whisk to combine. Store in jars for up to three months.

Hot Cocoa Mix

To make one cup of hot cocoa:

1 Make a paste of the mix and cold milk: In a microwave-safe cup, stir 4 teaspoons of hot chocolate mix with 1 tablespoon of the milk until blended.

2 Stir in the rest of the milk. Stir until the paste is dissolved in the milk.

3 Warm the cocoa: Warm in a small pot on the stovetop until steaming, or in the microwave for about 1 minute. Serve immediately with any optional toppings you like.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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8 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Liz

    I have a very picky mostly sugar free diet family. Would love to offer as a gift the hot cocoa mix. What and how much substitute sugar can I use?

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  2. Jelena

    Is it possible to reduce sugar or even leave it out completely? Thanks!

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  3. Aleeha

    Ooh, I really want to try the peppermint hot chocolate!
    Aleeha xXx

  4. Corinna

    This sounds wonderful! In your directions, what quantity of hot cocoa mix do you mix with 1 tablespoon of milk?

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Hot Cocoa MixHomemade Hot Cocoa Mix