How to make the perfect hot chocolate (dairy-free and dairy version)

Ingredients needed:

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Sugar or stevia
  • Milk or unsweetened almond milk
  • Chocolate chips, chunks, or shavings (regular and/or dairy-free)
  • Vanilla extract
  • (optional) Peppermint extract 
  • (optional) marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, etc.


To me, hot chocolate has always been a warm, soothing drink that I would enjoy drinking during the holidays. I first started off making instant hot chocolate until I learned how to make a delicious homemade version which I – and hopefully you also – now prefer over the instant one. Today, I would like to take a couple minutes out of your time to teach you how to make one of the best versions of homemade hot chocolate. To start off, I will begin with the dairy version then continue with the dairy-free version. For the unsweetened cocoa powder,  you can use whichever brand of your choice. All the ingredients needed for both the dairy and dairy-free version will be unsweetened hot cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, chunks or shavings, almond milk or regular milk, and vanilla extract. 

Regular hot chocolate 

To start off making your hot chocolate, you will need to get a medium sized saucepan. In this saucepan, you will need to take ¼ cup of sugar and cocoa powder. Don’t turn on the fire until you add your wet ingredients unless you want your sugar to start caramelizing. After mixing the sugar and cocoa powder together nicely, you will add in your other liquid and solid ingredients. Your other ingredients include 4 cups of whole milk, ½ cup of chocolate chips, chunks or shavings, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. After putting all ingredients into the medium saucepan, whisk together until all ingredients are combined. At this time, you will need to bring all ingredients to a light boil over medium heat. Remember to continue mixing your ingredients so your chocolate does not burn and everything gets warmed equally. You will know if your hot chocolate is burnt because the smell of the chocolate being burnt smells horrible! The smell will probably linger for a little while in the kitchen. You will also be able to tell by taste. If you taste your hot chocolate and it tastes burnt, that is because the burnt chocolate pieces got mixed into the mixture. After your mixture gets to the temperature of your liking, set the saucepan to the side to let cool. While your hot chocolate is cooling, check and see if it is at your desired sweetness. If not, now is the time to add sugar to reach your desired sweetness. After your hot chocolate is cooled, place in mugs and serve with your favorite toppings such as marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, etc. 

Dairy-free hot chocolate 

You can never forget about dairy-free hot chocolate! If you have a dairy allergy or just prefer dairy free options, this is the recipe for you. Dairy-free hot chocolate is made very similar to hot chocolate with dairy, it just depends on which ingredients are used. For this dairy-free hot chocolate, the ingredients are very simple which are almond milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate, and sugar. If you don’t prefer sugar, you can use stevia as an alternative. First off, you will need to bring 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk to a simmer over medium heat. Once your milk is to the temperature of your liking, add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 and a half tablespoons of dairy-free semisweet chocolate, and your sweetener of choice. If using sugar add 1 tablespoon or if using stevia, use half a packet. If you want a more festive tasting hot chocolate, you can use ⅛ teaspoon of peppermint extract. After mixing all ingredients together, continue cooking your mixture until it is thoroughly combined. When your hot chocolate has met your desired temperature, turn off heat and let cool. When you are ready to plate your hot chocolate, taste and adjust sweetness if needed. If you love to have whipped cream on your hot chocolate, you can add coconut whipped cream or the whipped cream of your choice to top it all off! 


I hope everyone who tries out these recipes are able to enjoy their hot chocolate! A fact about where hot chocolate originated at is that hot chocolate originated in Mexico. Drinking “chocolate” has been dated back to at least 500 B.C. when the Mayans would crush up cocoa seeds, water, cornmeal, and chili peppers. To mix the drink, they would pour the mixture back and forth until a thick foam developed and then would enjoy cold. This fact reminds me of when I would be drinking hot chocolate on cold winter nights while reading a book by the fireplace. Once again, enjoy!

Robyn White – Marist High School – DMSF Class of 2026