Hot Chocolate

Keep warm with homemade hot chocolate! Check out the best chocolate to use, and all the variations you can make

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


Basic Hot Chocolate

  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 8 ounces of chocolate (60% cacao, preferably)
  • 3 teaspoons of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt


1 Finely chop the chocolate into small pieces. The pieces have to be able to dissolve easily in the liquid.

2 Place the milk into a small, thick-bottomed pot on low heat and bring to a low simmer. Whisk once in a while to ensure that the milk doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

2a If you plan to steep herbs or spices, add the herbs or spices to the milk, bring to a simmer then take off heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid then place back into the pot and return to a simmer.

3 Add the vanilla, powdered sugar, salt, and chocolate and whisk vigorously until the chocolate has melted.

3a If using liquors add them to the chocolate.

4 Heat for another 4 minutes, constantly stirring.

Serve. Add a dollop of whipped cream if you want.

Favorite Variations

Steep a vanilla bean and a cinnamon stick in the milk while simmering. After whisking in the chocolate and letting it rest and reheat, cool it down a tad with a small bit of cream and throw some orange zest on top to perk it all up. Very Parisian.

A teaspoon of Chinese five spice does wonders and gives it a slightly oriental kick. A fabulous twist on hot chocolate. Another viable alternative is Chai spice for something a bit more familiar.

Some edible lavender and lemon zest in white hot chocolate are aromatic and perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.

I like rum in my hot chocolate. Rum is good.

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  • Ariane

    I’ve made this more times than I can remember and it is always delicious. Thanks.


  • Goss

    I got addicted to the maple machiato and the dark Belgian hot chocolate with almond milk at blenz so I’m going to try doing your recipe, but subbing in almond milk and a little maple syrup (the darker, richer variety) instead of regular milk and sugar. Might experiment with a touch of Himalayan pink salt and see how it goes :)

    Winter always has me craving hot chocolate, the richer and nuttier the better and sea salt caramel flavors are just divine

  • Yoko

    OMG, Garrett you’ve made my day.

    I bought a Bialetti hot chocolate maker last month and I’ve been trying all sorts of things but nothing worked as well as your recipe.

    The salt did wonders! I also made mine with both dark & white chocolate – absolutely divine. Now all I need is a good book to read. :)

  • Jes

    This recipe looks amazing. I just tried it and have a question. It came out slightly gritty. Gritty’s not the exact word, but the closest I can think of. When I sip, it feels thick and textured, but still soft, I can’t actually find any “grits”. Maybe the chocolate didn’t melt all the way? Doesn’t make sense to me, it certainly should have melted. Any ideas?

    Sounds like it didn’t melt all the way or maybe the milk overheated and curdeled/burned. ~Garrett

  • Travis Harvey

    Since we moved to Mexico, I’ve been playing around with whole cocoa beans to make hot chocolate for my wife (the way to her heart). There really is something incredible about the flavour of them, provided you can get your hands on them. Good delicatessens, baking supply stores or latin delis tend to have them. There is a good recipe here at the bottom of the page.

    Enjoy, chocoholics!

    This is fabulous, Travis. I look forward to trying this myself. ~Garrett

  • Alexis

    Great recipe! My personal variation is cream thinned with skim milk (skim is what I normally keep on hand, cream is bought during cold months for hot chocolate) + chocolate + red salt.

    I usually do an espresso liqueur/vodka, but this year, I found a pumpkin spiced liqueur that is lovely and a bit sweet, a wonderful addition to hot chocolate. I highly recommend it (think it’s Hiram Walker?) for anyone wanting to experiment.

    Also, I think red salt adds the optimal bang for you buck as far as chocolate + salt. I always have it on hand for hot chocolate – brings out the chocolate flavour as well as adding a bit of earthy depth.

    Also, to be just a little different, if I do want a little extra sugar, I use honey powder. I think the powdered sugar (with the cornstarch) adds more body than I want. Besides, the honey powder adds a little floral je ne sais quoi.

  • Kristin

    My children and I are big fans of homemade hot chocolate–can’t stand the packaged stuff!

    When you simmer a vanilla bean, do you use the whole bean? I’ve not used vanilla beans very often and it seems that the few times I have, the recipe has called for splitting the bean before steeping.

    Thanks–can’t wait to try this! ~K

    Scrape out the seeds then toss it and the empty pod in. Remove the pod later as it is inedible. ~Garrett

  • Regina

    I find that adding butterscotch schnapps or a hazelnut liqueur is also quite yummy.

  • VBP

    I tried this recipe, and I doubled the amount of sugar, thinking that 3tsp for 4 cups was too little. I used a non-premium brand of chocolate (Ghirardeli). Either because of the chocolate, or my messing with the recipe, it was too sweet! So for those tempted to up the sugar level, don’t! A wonderful drink! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Alejandro Ortega

    Had a tough evening yesterday, I saw this recipe, and I decided to treat my wife and I to it. Very good chocolate – we used a mint dark chocolate, and simmered a cinnamon stick in the milk.

    BTW, I made my thanksgiving Turkey with your recipe, and it was great.

    Thanks Elise!

  • marla

    What a thorough hot chocolate post. I love your detailed collection of drink preparations. I myself am a purist. I drink hot chocolate daily. Hot water, a splash of non fat milk, dark Scharffen Berger cocoa, stevia to sweeten and this girl is all happy!! I do add a few drops of peppermint extract in the winter!

  • Tom Hammer

    Great recipe Garrett. I subscribe to a pinch of cayenne in my chocolate. Mmmmm…….

  • pv

    Re: step 2: if you dampen the pot with water before adding the milk in, it’s a lot less likely to stick.
    Recipe looks yum! Have to try it soon!!

  • Samme

    I don’t make sweet drinks often, but when I do making my own is the only way to go.

    Last year I tried adding the cinnamon and cayenne as some people have suggested and I haven’t gone back to the plain chocolate. The spices really bring out the flavor.

    It only takes a little cinnamon and a little less cayenne, just a pinch per serving. You shouldn’t really taste the spices themselves as much as the way they enhance the overall chocolate taste.

  • Kristin

    I recently made some hot chocolate with a small bar of Donna Elira’s Sicilian-style hazelnut chocolate. The hazelnut is finely ground and incorporated into the bar. It’s not that smooth to eat straight as a bar, since it has a gritty texture from the sugar (the sugar is not melted into the chocolate, but added straight as crystals in this style), but it was really yummy melted with milk. I would highly recommend it if you can find a bar–not too sweet, the hazelnut was nicely subtle, and naturally didn’t have that weird aftertaste I’ve found with pre-flavored hazelnut cocoa from companies like Ghiradelli. I bet a spoonful of nutella or other chocolate/hazelnut butter would up the ante as well.

  • Marjy

    Yum! On the soy milk note, having grown up with a milk allergy that caused hives during a time when there weren’t any alternatives, I’ve explored lots of options, so I thought I’d offer one of them up. I prefer almond milk to soy milk for hot beverages. It’s almost as easy to find as soy milk, and in hot chocolate, my husband can barely tell the difference between it and cow’s milk.

  • peanutts

    There is nothing more comforting than a cup of hot chocolate. Is there a difference between cacao and cocoa?

    Cacao is the name of the cocoa plant. Cocoa is a by product of the processed cocoa beans. ~Garrett

  • Katherine @ NightOwlChef

    Yum! I like the idea of using powdered sugar; it must dissolve so easily. Usually I use agave syrup, though. Garrett, thanks for the salt tip – now I know why my last few mugs have been so … blah!! And yum to Chinese 5-spice powder! That beats my usual cayenne-cinn-nutmeg blend.

    In a pinch if I’m out of chocolate, I like using cocoa, but for some reason Dutch-processed tastes best to me. Has anyone else used Fry’s? I got it in Montreal and LOVE it!

  • jrhather

    Add a 1/2 tsp of cayenne or a shredded Habanero in a teabag to the milk.

    Spicy hot chocolate is where it’s at. Try it before you slam it, it’s quite amazing.

    Also, hot peppers and chocolate are always good together, IE: cake, muffins, doughnuts, icing and homemade bars!

  • Candy Schoppe

    I grew up drinking Hershey’s cocoa and condensed milk, and I loved it. I still use Hershey’s cocoa, but not the condensed milk.

    And, as a mother of six, living in VT, I don’t have time to do fancy recipes when my kids and the neighbors come in from sledding or shoveling snow.

    I whisk 1c dark brown sugar, 1/2c cocoa powder, 1/4t salt in a glass bowl. Then I add 2/3c hot black coffee (right out of the coffee pot) and continue to whip until it’s all dissolved.

    I heat the mixture to a boil in my microwave and then whip it some more while adding 6c whole milk. I heat it up some more in the microwave, add 2t vanilla extract while stirring it with a rubber scraper, and pour it into mugs.

    The kids and I love it. I might try condensed milk again sometime (the kind from contented cows), but living in VT, I like to support the local farmers (and their cows look pretty contented, too).

  • Carol Merrill

    About the chocolate: did you use 8 oz by weight or by volume?

    Weight. ~Garrett

  • Sally

    I like my hot chocolate plain, but I also like it with Kahlua, or Amaretto, or Bailey’s Irish Cream. Whipped cream on top, naturally!

  • Rathi Varadarajan

    Am curious. Why the salt?

    Salt enhances the flavor of chocolate and sugar. If you want to see what I mean, make the recipe without the salt and try it. Then, add the salt and try it again. It’s a world of difference as the chocolate and milk flavors become more pronounced. ~Garrett

  • Jeni

    My favourite way to drink hot chocolate is with a bit of whisky or Bailey’s. Yum! Oh, and whipped cream and marshmallows are awesome, too.

  • Michael Leung

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! For a moment there I thought I would have to resort to powdered cocoa this year, but after learning how easy it is to make hot chocolate, I guess not anymore! One question though, do I have to put the vanilla extract or can I just skip it? It’s hard to find where I live.
    You can skip it if there’s none to be had. Plus, you can look at this as a chance to try some other flavors. I recently heard of steeping a tea bag of chai tea can do hot chocolate wonders. ~Garrett

  • Attila

    I made some hot chocolate last week, pretty much the same way as described here! MUCH better than those powdered bags of blasphemy!
    I used honey instead of sugar and spiced it up with some cinnamon and pili-pili (couldn’t find the chili powder) and it turned out fabulous! I strongly recommend it to everyone!