How to Make Amazing Homemade Hot Chocolate

Updated on December 21, 2017
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Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over twenty years and has cooked on multiple television stations, including Food Network.

Because sometimes you just need to go a little over the top. Ultimate homemade hot chocolate with real milk, cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon is just about the best thing ever.
Because sometimes you just need to go a little over the top. Ultimate homemade hot chocolate with real milk, cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon is just about the best thing ever.

It's Like a Hug in a Cup

It's been a long-standing rule at my house that the kids can have all the junk food they want, as long as it's homemade. This hot cocoa recipe is the result of that rule, because as soon as I put that rule down, they immediately went to work perfecting it. So this is a joint effort, developed over many years.

Some years back, we watched the Simpson's movie, including the scene where Flanders makes a ridiculous, over-the-top cup of hot chocolate for Bart - which was hilarious. We started off down that path but pulled the reality back when the 8-year-old wanted a blowtorch.

This is our favorite version, and it's also the one that's the most practical and easy to make. I wanted them to have treats on occasion, but not to take hours making it, involve too many crazy steps (did I mention the blowtorch?), or trash the entire kitchen in the process. I'm still working on that last bit.

A couple of notes about this. I often serve very young or very old people and in both cases temperature matters. You do want to bring the temperature up enough to dissolve the sugar, make it nice and toasty warm and marry the flavors of the spices. But what seems reasonable to a regular adult may actually damage very young or very old palates. The marshmallows and whipped cream bring the temperature of the hot cocoa down a lot but be mindful.

About the cinnamon stick - it's mainly for fun and decoration. And every single kid ever will try to use it as a straw. It doesn't work well, but they try anyway. That's the fun part. BUT - once, just once - I had a kid tilt the cup back with the cinnamon stick still in the cup and it went right down her throat. So once they get tired of the straw that doesn't really work, have them toss it, if they're young enough to think that they can drink the cinnamon stick.

Have You Tried This Recipe?

5 stars from 1 rating of Ultimate Homemade Hot Chocolate

Cook Time

Prep time: 3 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 13 min
Yields: Serves 4-6

Ultimate Hot Chocolate Ingredients

  • 6 cups whole milk, or half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, grated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • grated chocolate, unsweetened
  • 4-6 whole cinnamon sticks

Ultimate Hot Chocolate - Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, cocoa, and sugar. Add the spices and continue whisking until cocoa is fully incorporated and there are no lumps. The lumps tend to dissipate in the heat, but sometimes you'll get one, so just keep an eye out. If you find one, squash it against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon.
  2. Once the hot chocolate has reached a bare simmer, remove it from the heat. You don't want to let it boil - it can get bitter. And if you're serving this to very little or very old folks, keep the temperature in mind.
  3. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract. Place a handful of marshmallows (however many makes you happy!) in the bottom of a cup. Ladle hot chocolate over the top of the marshmallows.
  4. Top with whipped cream. With a microplane grater (you know, a box grater would work just fine) grate semi sweet chocolate over the top of the whipped cream. Add a cinnamon stick to the whipped cream and serve.

Start with Whole Milk

For a richer hot chocolate use whole milk. Skim or part skim milk just doesn't have the body. I've been known on occasion to use half-and-half, but I don't admit to that, so don't tell anybody.
For a richer hot chocolate use whole milk. Skim or part skim milk just doesn't have the body. I've been known on occasion to use half-and-half, but I don't admit to that, so don't tell anybody.

Milk, Cream or Half and Half?

I've seen or read plenty of recipes for homemade hot chocolate that call for cream or half and half instead of milk. You know what? They're amazing. But - with cream, it simply gets too rich, and you can't drink more than a few sips. Half and half is wonderful, but then the hot cocoa is almost a dessert on its own, instead of a drink. If you want the dessert version, go ahead! I have and intend to do so again as soon as I have an excuse. Like I said, judgment-free decadence here.

Real Cocoa

I just use the standard grocery store stuff, but if you want, use a high end brand. It really does make a difference. I use 1/4 of a cup, and *may* add a tablespoon or so more, but it gets bitter and too much if you aren't careful.
I just use the standard grocery store stuff, but if you want, use a high end brand. It really does make a difference. I use 1/4 of a cup, and *may* add a tablespoon or so more, but it gets bitter and too much if you aren't careful.

Let's Talk about the Sugar

We don't eat much sugar, so typically I will use only about 2/3 of a cup when I make this for the kids. However, every single time I've served it to their friends that way, they say it's not sweet enough. So I wrote this recipe with a full cup. However, I would encourage you to try it with less first. The other flavors become more pronounced and less overwhelmed by the sweetness when you use less. You can also use turbinado or raw sugar if you have it, which is actually my favorite.

Freshly Grated Nutmeg

I'm pretty easy going over most ingredients, but freshly grated nutmeg is one place I make a stand. The fresh stuff is just amazing, but the pre-ground stuff from the store is just 'meh'. It's cheaper to use fresh, and they last forever, so use fresh
I'm pretty easy going over most ingredients, but freshly grated nutmeg is one place I make a stand. The fresh stuff is just amazing, but the pre-ground stuff from the store is just 'meh'. It's cheaper to use fresh, and they last forever, so use fresh

Whisk Everything Together

Add the spices and bring to a simmer. You really don't have to cook anything, all you need is to dissolve the sugar, wake up the spices and blend the flavors. Once that's done, it's ready at whatever temp you like it.
Add the spices and bring to a simmer. You really don't have to cook anything, all you need is to dissolve the sugar, wake up the spices and blend the flavors. Once that's done, it's ready at whatever temp you like it.

Whisk Until Smooth

Most of the cocoa lumps will just dissolve as the milk warms. If you find one, squash it with the back of a spoon against the side of the pan.This is lazy, easy cooking.
Most of the cocoa lumps will just dissolve as the milk warms. If you find one, squash it with the back of a spoon against the side of the pan.This is lazy, easy cooking.

Add Vanilla Off The Heat

Remove the hot chocolate from the heat before stirring in the vanilla. Vanilla extract is usually dissolved in alcohol, which will dissipate in heat. Adding it last helps retain the most flavor.
Remove the hot chocolate from the heat before stirring in the vanilla. Vanilla extract is usually dissolved in alcohol, which will dissipate in heat. Adding it last helps retain the most flavor.

Marshmallows!

Use either large or mini marshmallows - whatever you like. And use however many makes you happy - a little, a lot, the whole cup, or none. Make it the way you like!
Use either large or mini marshmallows - whatever you like. And use however many makes you happy - a little, a lot, the whole cup, or none. Make it the way you like!

Ladle in Hot Chocolate

Ladle the hot chocolate into the cup over the top of the marshmallows. This lets the marshmallows get coated and start to get nice and squishy, which is the most beautiful state for a marshmallow.
Ladle the hot chocolate into the cup over the top of the marshmallows. This lets the marshmallows get coated and start to get nice and squishy, which is the most beautiful state for a marshmallow.

Whipped Cream!

Most of the time I make my own whipped cream, but I have to admit I like the design the stuff from the can makes. Use what you like -- this is judgement free decadence.
Most of the time I make my own whipped cream, but I have to admit I like the design the stuff from the can makes. Use what you like -- this is judgement free decadence.

Just for Looks - the Luxurious Wow Factor

Grate a little semi sweet chocolate over the top of the whipped cream. This adds almost nothing in terms of flavor, but it does make it look amazing for almost no additional effort. Add a cinnamon stick to the whipped cream.
Grate a little semi sweet chocolate over the top of the whipped cream. This adds almost nothing in terms of flavor, but it does make it look amazing for almost no additional effort. Add a cinnamon stick to the whipped cream.

The Ultimate Hot Chocolate

Ready to go - as I said, a hug in a cup. Hot chocolate laced with cinnamon, nutmeg, marshmallows and whipped cream. This alone will make you a culinary Bombshell.
Ready to go - as I said, a hug in a cup. Hot chocolate laced with cinnamon, nutmeg, marshmallows and whipped cream. This alone will make you a culinary Bombshell.

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

How to Make Your Own Whipped Cream

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Jan Charles

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