How to Make Hot Chocolate from Scratch

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Everything is better when you make it from scratch, and the same is true for the ultimate winter drink, hot chocolate. And of course…it’s less expensive to DIY it. And did I mention it’s way healthier than those little packets filled with all sorts of unpronounceable chemicals? Here’s how to make your basic cocoa, along with 18 delicious variations.

You only need five ingredients and any embellishments you and your family members like. This recipe is for one person. Simply multiply the ingredients by the number of cups you want to fill with cocoa.

This recipe is very flexible. You can use any kind of sweetener and any kind of milk. If you are using an alternative milk, like almond or soy, don’t add additional sugar if your milk is already sweetened.


  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons or sugar (you can also use honey or any other sweetener of your choice)
  • the teeniest pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of milk (this can be cow’s milk anywhere from skim to whole to cream, or the alternative milk of your choice)


  • In an appropriately sized saucepan, add about an eighth of a cup of the milk you’ve chosen, and then, over low to medium heat, whisk in all the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly incorporated.
  • Once the cocoa and sugar are dissolved, whisk in the rest of the milk.
  • Whisk your concoction intermittently until it’s hot all the way through – this will only take a few minutes. You aren’t trying to bring it to a boil.
  • Add your vanilla, give it one more quick whisk, and pour it into the appropriate number of mugs.

You can add a bit of cold milk of choice if your kid (or someone like me) is impatient and wants to dive right in.

Jazzing up your hot chocolate

You may want to fancy it up, ala barista.

Top it with…

  • Whipped cream
  • Marshmallows
  • A very light sprinkling of cocoa powder
  • A very light sprinkling of cinnamon
  • A drizzle of caramel syrup and a teensy tiny bit of sea salt

Stir in…

  • For a “dark chocolate” beverage, add an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder.
  • Peppermint extract (or stir it with a candy cane)
  • Butterscotch extract
  • Malted milk powder
  • Cinnamon and cayenne pepper (Mexican cocoa)
  • Peanut butter (it’s like a peanut butter cup in a mug)

Or add some alcohol to booze it up…

  • Kahlua
  • Orange liqueur and a dash of cinnamon
  • Baileys
  • Malibu Rum
  • Cherry Whiskey
  • Spiced Rum
  • Regular rum and a spoonful of butter
  • Peppermint Schnapps

How do you make your hot chocolate?

Do you have any fancy hot cocoa additions? Is your base recipe different from mine? Let’s talk cocoa in the comments!

How to Make Hot Chocolate from Scratch
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

9 thoughts on “How to Make Hot Chocolate from Scratch”

  1. I use the mug I’ll be drinking it from to measure the milk and then I don’t have a measuring cup to wash.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. I had gastric bypass surgery so I can’t ingest much sugar. So my hot cocoa has granulated Splenda, powered milk, and I use Hershey’s Dark baking cocoa powder. I make it in bulk so it makes about 3-4 cups of hot cocoa powder. Then I just put 2 heaping tablespoons in 8-10 ounces of hot/boiling water ( I just dispense it out of my keurig) and I sip away ?

  3. Well I make COCOA just like you posted above. I make HOT CHOCOLATE by opening the envelope and using hot water or milk to dissolve the powder.
    I grew up with a big pot of “real” cocoa on the back burner of the stove when I came in from being outside in the winter.
    If I get an urge for something different I add a different extract in it. I like mint, orange and coconut

  4. I’ve made it like that only with just one tablespoon of cocoa powder. A little instant coffee makes it a mocha. If you mix plain coffee with sweetener and just chocolate you’ve made a Sith Mocha – non of that pesky Light Side stuff.

    I love Mexican chocolate – it’s also tasty without the milk.

    When I was a kid we would make hot cocoa mix as gifts. We’d use powdered milk, cocoa powder, and sugar. You could jazz it up with spices too. You could package it up in a pretty jar or a decorated/repurposed container.

  5. My daughter is super fussy over her hot chocolate. But I’ll give this a try . At Christmas we crush up candy canes and have a spoon mold and make them into the spoons to add with the hot chocolate. I’ve had the mold for years and often make them as gifts with some hot chocolate mix and marshmallows for teachers or therapists.

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