Few beverages are as deep-rooted in the culture of Americans’ collective childhood quite like hot chocolate. This drink reminds me of rainy days, skiing, sledding, or even a quiet day watching the snow fall. It’s thick, silky, toasty, and usually smothered in whipped cream—no other drink brings warmth to our lives and tastebuds quite like hot chocolate. Cozy up with your favorite mug because today, January 31, we celebrate National Hot Chocolate Day, a day devoted to our favorite chocolate beverage.

Sure, you can buy the pre-made packets with pictures of snow-covered ski chalets. But did you know the absolute best hot chocolate is homemade in just 5 minutes? After years of tinkering, I’ve got a master recipe for you.

All you need are a few ingredients, and you might already have them on hand. And if you’ve got chocolate chips…well, they make all the difference. It’s creamy, rich, chocolaty, and tastes like a dream.

There’s a bit of a debate in the culinary community about what makes the best homemade hot chocolate recipe. Some claim it’s chopped melted chocolate. Others claim cocoa powder is the way to go. After numerous tests, I found cocoa powder plus real chocolate is the real winner. But you can omit the chocolate if you don’t have it on hand!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cocoa powder
  • 2% milk (or oat milk)
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional but recommended)

There’s not much to a homemade recipe: it’s pretty much dump and whisk! But I’ve got a couple of tips before you scroll down to the recipe:

  • First, whisk a little milk with the cocoa powder. This helps to make a paste and dissolve most of the powder, which can get lumpy.
  • A pinch of cinnamon adds complexity. You can add even more if you’d like a stronger flavor.
  • Real chocolate adds richness, body, and depth in flavor. You can make it with just cocoa powder, but the real chocolate takes it to a whole new level.

This homemade hot chocolate recipe tastes absolutely amazing as is. Honestly, I rarely add anything else. But if you’d like, add toppings to make it next level cozy! Or you can use these as part of a hot chocolate bar and let guests top their drinks as desired.

Try these toppings:

  • Homemade whipped cream
  • Shaved chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Marshmallows (homemade or purchased)
  • Peppermint candies, crushed
  • Chocolate sauce

And lastly, there are many ways to vary this hot chocolate recipe! Here are the best variations I’ve tried (add the quantities to the 2 serving recipe below):

  • Peppermint: Add ⅛ teaspoon peppermint extract to the 2 serving recipe below.
  • Vegan:Use oat milk and dairy-free chocolate chips.
  • Healthy: Skip the chocolate and reduce the sugar slightly.
  • Spiked: Add 2 ounces aged or dark rum or bourbon to the 2 serving recipe below.




  • 3 T. cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
  • 2 cups 2% milk (or oat milk)
  • 3 T.  sugar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • ¼ cup (1 ½ ounces) semisweet or dark chocolate chips


  1. Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and ¼ cup of the milk and whisk until the cocoa powder is mostly integrated. Whisk in the remaining milk until smooth.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and heat over medium heat until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Do not boil. Serve immediately, garnished with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Serves 2