Hot Cocoa Recipe: How to Make Finger-Lickin’ Good Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa is the ultimate savior in the brutally cold nights of winters. Nothing can beat the good ol’ feeling of serendipity when you are sitting in front of a fireplace, wrapped in a warm, cozy blanket and enjoying the time of your life with a finger-linkin’ good hot cocoa. 

However, this nostalgic picture can quickly become a disaster if you happen to mess up this hot beverage. Don’t worry you aren’t alone with this nerve-racking thought. 

I also struggled to make that signature cup of luscious hot cocoa made by my mom in my childhood. However, with 4 years of rigorous trial and error, I was finally able to rock the hot cocoa that I always wanted.

The best part? I added my own variations too. 

And today, I decided to pack my years of experience into this complete hot cocoa recipe to solve all your problems too.

So, let’s dive right into it!

What is Hot Cocoa? 

Be it a deliciously scooped whipped cream or plump marshmallows, a good cup of hot cocoa is a must-have of every winter. However, consider the variations of this drink, it can be difficult to distinguish hot cocoa from the rest. 

Here, hot cocoa is usually made up of cocoa powder, milk, and sugar. Because of this, hot cocoa is more likely to be light and sweet in flavor. It also contains the essence of vanilla and ground cinnamon. 

It is creamy, smooth, and chocolatey in every way. This is why most people prefer to indulge in hot cocoa right before they sleep to help them get that ever-needed good night sleep that they have been craving. 

So scroll down to read the full hot cocoa recipe for 5 servings and its variations to help you ace your cup as well. 


  • Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Unsweetened cocoa – 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 3/4 teaspoon
  • Dash of salt
  • Milk – 5 cup 
  • Hot water – 1/3 cup
  • Toppings of your choice: Mini marshmallows and/or sweetened whipped cream
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Step 1

Whisk together all the dry ingredients including sugar, salt, cocoa with 2 tablespoons of milk over medium-low heat. This is needed to make sure all the ingredients have been properly dissolved before you move on with the rest of the milk.

Step 2

Once the mixture has come to a boil, add the rest of the milk and stir for 2 minutes. Do not boil. Make sure the mixture doesn’t scorch. Remove the saucepan from heat and add vanilla essence. If you like your hot cocoa to be frothy, you can even our it in a blender and blend until the liquid has reached your desired consistency. 

Step 3

Divide the hot cocoa between 5 mugs and add whipped cream or mini marshmallows according to your preference.  As the recipe multiples easily, you can add milk and ¼ teaspoon of salt to maintain its flavor. 

Different Hot Cocoa Variations You Can Try 

Now that you are aware of how to make the basic hot cocoa recipe, you can always mix and match different ingredients in your pantry and create a personalized beverage of your own. 

But lucky for you, I already activated my creative juices and came up with these mouth-watering variations of hot cocoa to steal every after-party evening. 

Cinnamon Cocoa:

Follow the same method mentioned above and add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon to add a subtle burst of spice to your hot cocoa. Later, you can top it with a cinnamon stick and sprinkle cinnamon ground on the whipped cream. However, bear in mind not to sprinkle too much cinnamon as it can feel too raw when you are drinking it straight from the top of the drink. 

Mint Cocoa: 

Mint cocoa is a great way to freshen up your regular cocoa and add variety to your options. For this, simply add 1/2 teaspoon mint extract or 3 tablespoons of crushed hard peppermint candy into the standard hot cocoa recipe mentioned above. 

Mocha Cocoa:

Mocha cocoa is a great way to amp up your ordinary Mocha and Hot Cocoa and bless your tastebuds. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of powdered instant coffee into the standard hot cocoa recipe to give a boat of caffeine to your drink. 

Nutritional Benefits of Hot Cocoa 

While hot cocoa is mainly known for its miraculous ability to warm you up on a cold evening, it actually offers far many benefits that have proven to be nutritious for your body. Here are some of the nutritional benefits of hot cocoa that you can gain by simply incorporating it into your life. 

Cocoa Is Nutritious

When I say cocoa is nutritious, I mean it contains a good amount of iron and fiber which is enough to fulfill your regular needs. In fact, dark chocolate with 70-85 perfect cocoa solids is known to contain high calcium, potassium, vitamin A, Vitamin K, and phosphorus content. This means you can now indulge in your favorite cup of hot cocoa guilt-free!

Cocoa Contains Antioxidants

I’m sure you have heard that antioxidants are a circle part of your wellbeing. But ever wondered what exactly are antioxidants and why you should consume more of them? Let me break it down here. 

As a general rule of thumb, most diseases root in increased inflammation. Here, inflammation refers to the process where white blood cells and other body protectants fight off any bacteria and virus that invades your body. 

Now, someone your body mistakenly perceives its own tissues and cells as harmful. This can lead to a wide range of autoimmune diseases like diabetes and obesity. When this happens, you need antioxidants to bring your digestive system back to normal. 

This is where foods like cocoa come to the rescue.

According to scientists from Cornell University, cocoa contains twice the number of antioxidants present in a glass of red wine and three times as much as in green tea. 

The antioxidants also have a direct connection to cancer prevention, improved life quality, and weight management. That’s not it, you can improve the entire process by sticking to cocoa powder or dark chocolate with the highest cocoa content. 

Cocoa Promotes Heart Health

According to the American Heart Association, cocoa’s flavanols are known to reduce the risk of heart diseases, stroke, LDL cholesterol, and reducing blood clotting which can unlock good health in no time. Therefore, it’s never a bad idea to count on hot cocoa before you sleep to wake up feeling refreshed and healthy. 

Cocoa Aids Memory

 A study conducted in 2013 indicated a correlation between hot cocoa and improved memory. This is because, according to Dr. Paul Rosenberg,  different areas of the brain require energy and blood flow to compete day to day tasks. By counting on cocoa’s ability to boost blood flow, you can also drive away serious mental health problems like Alzheimer which is slowly eating away the peace of your life. 

Researchers also narrowed down the other benefits of hot cocoa and show direct evidence that cocoa can indeed increase cognitive functioning. It does this by boosting brain activity in the region called the dentate gyrus, which has shown incredible improvement in your overall memory.

Cocoa Makes You Happy

Chocolate is packed with happiness-triggering properties that are essential for your daily dose of energy. Cocoa contains certain neurotransmitters that can not only make you feel comfortable but also reduce pain to a great extent. 

Don’t take my word for it. 

The next time you are struggling with a headache, instead of sleeping it off or taking painkillers, drink hot cocoa. The energy-boosting caffeine, relaxing tryptophan, and mood-lightening properties can make it easier for you to stay happy and content with you at all times. 

If you are looking for a low-fat version, it’s best to drink hot cocoa made with plant-based milk. I have tried both soy and almond milk with my hot cocoa and they always turn out to be better than ever. So feel free to mix and match multiple things from your kitchen and customize your recipe. You can also sweeten it up using honey or maple syrup instead of sugar to keep your beverage healthy and delicious. 

Hot Cocoa Recipe: Things to Consider Before Making Hot Cocoa 

Now that you are fully armed to make your next awesome cup of hot cocoa, there are still a few things that distinguish bad hot coca from a good one. In fact, that is what really brought me to perfecting this hot beverage and bring back all those childhood memories again. 

So here are the top 4 things to consider before making hot cocoa at home. 


Ever wondered why your hot coca never turns out to be like the ones made in restaurants? Making a small difference in the boiling timings can fix that. Unless you like the grainy texture of your hot cocoa, never bring your milk to boil. You can either put the milk on the stove for 3-4 minutes or use a thermometer to switch off the stove right before the boiling point. This will ensure you get a rich, smooth, and creamy consistency of your hot cocoa. 

Make sure to add vanilla essence at the end 

Vanilla works like alcohol. If you pour it in the beginner or middle of your hot cocoa recipe, the flavor will evaporate before you pour it into your mugs. The same goes for the rest of the ingredients. Heat the milk just before its boiling point and start adding your ingredients in a sequence (more on that later). 

Therefore, to make sure you have a strong flavor, add vanilla essence after you have removed the saucepan from the stove.  

Whipped Cream

Need to take your hot cocoa to the next level? Add flavor to your whipped cream!

Instead of breaking your bank and spending your precious time searching for the right flavors, DIY one yourself so you have full control over your recipe. 

To do this, mix 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract or any other flavor of your choice. Now, beat the mixture on high until stiff foam forms in the bowl. This will usually take around a minute. 

If you want to go the extra mile, you can also scoop some of the whipped creams into a pastry bag with a wide tip to spread pretty swirls onto your hot cocoa mug!

Your milk matters! 

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the fat content in your milk, the creamier the drink will be. Here, not only is your mixing and boiling need to be on point, but you also need to make sure you are getting your hands on top quality, high-fat milk to create that extra-creamy hot cocoa texture. 

After that, it’s important to heat and froth the milk before you add any other ingredients into the saucepan. This will help improve the taste and preserves the foam for the last. Here, boiling the milk at 140ºF can ensure you are preventing grainy texture and scald the milk. If that’s too much of a hassle for you, feel free to microwave the milk before pouring it into the saucepan and get consistent results. 

So, What’s Next?

Whenever the weather cools down you can never go wrong with a steamy cup of hot cocoa that is just the right way to enjoy your cozy winter days. While using instant hot cocoa powder is an option, mastering how to make hot cocoa from scratch is a skill that will help you personalize your drinks as you like. 

You can also read our hot chocolate recipe *insert link here* to distinguish its taste from hot cocoa and add more variety to your everyday beverages. 


Photo of author
Hi, Nelson here... is the lead reviewer here at Cocoaness. A cocoa enthusiast and an ‘honest’ reviewer. I know cocoa more like you know your favorite fruit. I’m a farmer by birth because of my family’s vast cocoa farm in Ghana. In fact, I will be a chocolatier in the near future.