This decadent winter treat is more dessert than drink.

If you've grown accustomed to lackluster hot chocolate made from ripping open an envelope of powder and pouring it into a cup of hot water, I'm here to tell you that real hot chocolate awaits. And it's just as easy to make. Rich, thick, and velvety smooth, hot chocolate is made using a few simple ingredients that make all the difference. If the weather outside is frightful, warm up with a cozy cup of homemade hot chocolate (not to be confused with hot cocoa, more on that later). Read on to learn how to make the best hot chocolate from scratch.

What's the Difference Between Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a real difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa — and it turns out it's right there in the name. Hot chocolate is made with whole chocolate (and sometimes a little cocoa powder) and hot cocoa is made from just cocoa powder. This is why hot chocolate tends to have a thicker consistency than hot cocoa.

The Best Ingredients for Hot Chocolate

For the richest hot chocolate, go for the highest quality chocolate: dark chocolate that is 60 percent cacao or higher. In terms of dairy, hot chocolate recipes tend to call for thicker forms of dairy such as half-and-half, heavy cream, or whole milk. A good dairy-free alternative for hot chocolate is coconut milk, which can also be mixed with other alternative milks to reduce the coconut flavor.

How to Make Hot Chocolate

hot cocoa with whipped cream in a glass mug
Credit: Buckwheat Queen

Learn how to make homemade hot chocolate based on this Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa from recipe creator Aurora. This recipe makes one serving.


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon


  1. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
  3. Stir dark chocolate until it's completely melted. About 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cream and cinnamon.
  5. Top with whipped cream, marshmallows, crushed peppermint, or any other topping of your choice.


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