This sweet and creamy Healthy Hot Chocolate uses cacao powder, milk of choice, and is naturally sweetened with unrefined sweeteners! Even better, it requires just 4 ingredients and 5 minutes to prepare for a cozy, satisfying winter drink.
Table of contents
- Light and Creamy Hot Chocolate Recipe
- Why Make This Healthy Hot Chocolate?
- Ingredients for Healthier Hot Chocolate
- How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate
- Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Tips for Best Results
- How to Serve Homemade Hot Chocolate?
- How to Store Cacao Hot Chocolate?
- More Healthy Desserts to Try
Light and Creamy Hot Chocolate Recipe
When the temps start to fall, I love having a hot chocolate recipe on hand that I can enjoy guilt free with a holiday gingerbread cookie (or two!). This healthy hot chocolate has it all; it’s sweet, creamy and you can adapt/flavor it in a ton of ways!
Traditional homemade hot chocolate usually contains full fat dairy, refined sugars, and real chocolate (or preservatives and additives in ‘instant’ packet mixes). I’ve lightened up this winter classic with lighter dairy (or use dairy free milk), unsweetened cacao powder/cocoa powder, and unrefined sweeteners for a wholesome treat!
Why Make This Healthy Hot Chocolate?
- Easy to prepare: Just heat, mix, top with toppings (optional), and enjoy.
- Quick: Ready in just 5 minutes!
- Only 4 wholesome ingredients: No additives, powdered dairy or heaps of sugar. Just pure cocoa powder and natural unrefined sweetener.
- Warming and cozy: A perfect way to start or end your day during cooler winter months.
- Satisfies your sweet tooth: And your chocolate cravings, too, with a healthy take on a classic.
- Flavorful: Creamy hot chocolate recipe is full of decadent taste and you can even amp up the flavor with extracts, alcohol, spices, and more.
- Super versatile: Creamy hot chocolate recipe can be dairy free, sugar free, and even paleo/keto.
- Lower fat: Using lighter dairy or dairy free milk means lower fat and calories.
Ingredients for Healthier Hot Chocolate
- Cacao powder: You can use unsweetened raw cacao powder or cocoa powder. The first is the least processed option with a richer flavor but is also slightly more bitter. The latter is easier to find in grocery stores, but not as ‘healthy’.
- Milk: I recommend using 2% or 3.5% dairy milk. However, you can also make this healthy hot chocolate dairy free using your favorite plant based milk like oat milk, almond milk, etc. For a more decadent vegan hot chocolate, I recommend using a combination of canned coconut milk and a lighter option, like nut milk.
I don’t recommend using water. While you’ll have an extremely healthy hot chocolate, it will also taste very flat/boring.
- Sweetener: Maple syrup or honey would work well. Alternatively, you can use a sugar free sweetener like erythritol, xylitol, or monk fruit sweetener for a sugar-free hot chocolate.
- Vanilla: Will enhance the flavor of healthy hot chocolate without adding tons of calories.
Keep reading below (after the creamy hot chocolate recipe how to) for more information on any add-ins and recipe variations!
How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate
Preparing this healthy hot cocoa is remarkably simple and requires just three simple steps (technically two!)
- Heat the milk: Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it’s hot but not boiling. Stir it often, so it doesn’t scald.
- Add the remaining ingredients: Add the cacao powder, vanilla, and sweetener of your choice and whisk until thoroughly dissolved/combined. Then remove the pan from the heat.
Give it a final taste test at this point too, and adjust the sweetener or vanilla to preference.
- Serve: Serve the cacao hot chocolate immediately either alone or top with some whipped cream (or dairy free whipped coconut cream) and marshmallows for more of a decadent treat.
Once prepared, you can keep the homemade hot chocolate warm in the covered saucepan for several hours, reheating if needed.
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Espresso powder: Adding around ½ teaspoon of espresso powder (or instant coffee) to the mix will enhance the flavor of the cacao hot chocolate for more depth of flavor (without tasting like coffee).
- Salt: Likewise, a pinch of salt helps to enhance the cacao flavor, providing extra depth to the healthy hot chocolate.
- Extracts: There are several extracts you could use to flavor this creamy hot chocolate recipe. Peppermint extract, orange, almond, hazelnut, rose, coconut, caramel, and even boozy extracts like amaretto would work.
- Cinnamon: Add some cinnamon powder to the hot cocoa or simmer a cinnamon stick in with the milk (so the flavor incorporates better). You can also optionally serve with cinnamon sticks in the mugs. That way, they double up as a stirrer AND infuse the hot cocoa with more flavor.
- Mexican hot chocolate: Use a combination of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne/chili (regular or ancho for a slightly smokier flavor) for a warming drink.
- Other spices: Nutmeg, ground cardamom, ginger powder, chai spice, and gingerbread spice are all optional flavorings, added to taste.
- Nut butter: To add extra richness, heart-healthy fat, and protein, you can add a spoonful of your favorite nut or seed butter to the mixture. I recommend hazelnut butter for a healthy hot chocolate that reminds you of Nutella or peanut butter (because peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven!).
- Maca powder: This superfood powder is packed with health benefits, nutrients, and a malty caramel flavor.
- Alcohol: For a more grownup treat, you could add a splash of amaretto, brandy, bourbon, or even baileys/Kahlua. You can also use flavored liqueurs (like mint, orange, coffee, coconut, etc.).
- Coconut oil: Mimic the richness of traditional hot chocolate by adding a teaspoon of coconut oil (to replace the cacao butter in chocolate) to each serving of healthy hot chocolate. Use cocoa butter if you have some.
Tips for Best Results
- Serve with stirrers: The ‘sediment’ in cacao hot chocolate can settle after some time. So serve the mugs with stirrers (or cinnamon sticks/ candy canes to double up as stirrers).
- Adjust the sweetness: To personal taste. Start with just a spoonful and increase to taste.
- For a frothy hot chocolate: There are several ways to achieve frothy results. You can whisk the milk constantly while heating it, use a milk frother, or even use a blender (for 1-2 minutes). Of course, the results will vary based on the type of milk you use (dairy vs. dairy free).
- To serve at an event: You can prepare a hot chocolate bar for various toppings and add-ins. You can also keep the homemade hot chocolate warm throughout your event by storing it in a slow cooker on the ‘low’ or ‘keep warm’ setting. For smaller events, you can use an insulated flask/coffee pump.
- If you notice a milk film: This can happen when saving hot chocolate to serve later. Simply use a fork to remove and discard it.
- Use a high quality cocoa powder: This makes a big difference to the overall flavor of your healthy hot cocoa. Choose brands like Ghirardelli’s (I use Rodelle organic) and other high quality options for the best flavor.
Definitely. Whereas ‘instant’ mixes are packed with additives, preservatives, and tons of sugar, this recipe contains just four natural, wholesome ingredients. More so, if you use raw cacao powder, this healthy hot cocoa is also an unrefined treat! All while managing not to compromise on delicious flavor, same goes with healthy chocolate muffins!
I wouldn’t recommend making this healthy hot cocoa with water in place of milk. The flavor will be very ‘flat’ and missing the creaminess needed to elevate this healthy version.
Absolutely. Not only is it delicious, but cinnamon also contains anti inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects. Just be wary of how much powder you add, as it has thickening properties and can thicken the homemade hot chocolate.
Whereas cocoa powder is made with cocoa beans that have been fermented, roasted, and processed in high heats, raw cacao powder is the far more unprocessed predecessor. Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing the unroasted cacao beans (to separate them into cocoa butter and cacao powder). Because of the lack of processing, cacao powder is packed with minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, and living enzymes. In fact, it is often considered a superfood with heart, skin, and mood-enhancing benefits.
In terms of flavor, cacao powder is richer but also more bitter. In comparison, cocoa powder is more mellow with a more rounded flavor, yet you miss out on the extra nutrients and antioxidants, etc. Though either is healthier than using chocolate to make a healthy hot chocolate.
Use dairy free milk like oat milk, cashew milk, etc. For a richer vegan hot chocolate, I recommend using a blend of canned coconut milk (for richness) and lighter dairy free milk (of your choice).
You may need to experiment to find the dairy free milk flavor that you prefer when making this healthy hot chocolate recipe.
Sure can. To do so, use a keto friendly milk option. Unsweetened cashew milk, almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk would all work. You’ll also need to use a keto friendly sweetener like erythritol, monk fruit, or stevia (adjust the amount to taste as they have different sweetness levels).
If you want to make a large batch, then sure thing. First, dissolve the cacao powder in some hot water (which will help it disperse into the mixture better). Then, add all the ingredients to the crockpot, whisk well, and cook on LOW for between 2-3 hours. Stir every 30 minutes and then taste and adjust any of the ingredients. Serve immediately or keep warm on the ‘low’/’warm’ setting.
How to Serve Homemade Hot Chocolate?
With this creamy hot chocolate recipe being as ‘light’ as it is, you can have some fun with the toppings. Some of my family’s favorites are:
- Whipped cream or dairy-free whipped coconut cream
- Mini marshmallows although you could use one big one, too if that is all you have!
A favorite brand of mine is Dandies. They have no artificial colors or flavors and contain no gelatin making them vegetarian friendly!
- Shaved chocolate, just a fine sprinkling of shaved chocolate (dark chocolate or milk chocolate) for extra richness. Use a Keto/ unsweetened chocolate bar if preferred.
- Healthy caramel sauce or chocolate sauce
- Shredded coconut or coconut flakes
- Chopped nuts, just a sprinkle for crunch.
- Crushed peppermint candy or candy canes (to double up as stirrers)
- A sprinkle of cinnamon or other spice
- Flaky sea salt, just a pinch.
- Sprinkles (look for natural sprinkles)
Wintry snowy days, cocoa and cookies are just meant to be had together! Make a cookie platter with healthy choices such as thumbprint cookies, chocolate dipped shortbread, iced sugar cookies and melt-in-your-mouth snowball cookies!
How to Store Cacao Hot Chocolate?
Storing: Allow the hot cocoa to cool and then store in an airtight bottle for up to three days in the refrigerator. Reheat as needed, shaking/stirring well before using.
Reheat: Either in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
More Healthy Desserts to Try
Healthy Hot Chocolate
- In a small pot, add milk and bring to a very hot temperature on medium heat (it doesn't have to boil).
- Add cacao powder, maple syrup and vanilla. Whisk very well until dissolved completely. Turn off heat.
- Serve hot with marshmallows or whipped cream.
Store: You can keep hot chocolate in a covered pot on the stove for a few hours and reheat as needed. To store for longer period of time, cool and place hot chocolate in a tight cap bottle. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat in a microwave or in a small pot on the stovetop.
- Milk of choice: You can use any milk but remember the higher fat in milk, the creamier hot chocolate. Plant-based milk works as well, less creamy though but still flavorful.
- Water? I do not recommend to use water. Although no calories, it makes very flat hot chocolate.
- Make sugar free: You can replace maple syrup with the same amount of sugar free natural sweetener like erythritol or monk fruit sweetener.
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