This healthier, homemade hot cocoa is a great way to warm-up on a cold day, satisfy your after dinner sweet tooth or wind down after a long day.

How to make a healthier homemade hot cocoa and how many caloreis are in hot chocolate

I love a creamy cup of hot cocoa! I often make a cup during the day, or after dinner if I want something sweet. Some nights, I  make a cup in the evening as I’m winding down from a long day.

In the past,  I would mix one of the store-bought hot cocoa packets with water, then top it with a few mini marshmallows. Using the packets was convenient, and I found them to make a great cup of hot cocoa. Then one day, when I really wanted a cup of hot chocolate, I realized I was out of packets. Rather than drive to the store, I decided to make my own. My love for hot chocolate changed forever!

Homemade hot chocolate is fantastic! It’s creamier, has a richer chocolate taste and is lower in sugar than the store-bought packets. And, it’s super simple to make. If you’re a fellow hot cocoa lover, definitely give this homemade recipe a try.  You won’t be sorry.

How To Make Homemade Hot Cocoa

How To Make A Healthier Homemade Hot Cocoa?

Traditional hot cocoa recipes use whole milk or half and half as the liquid base. Some even use heavy whipping cream.  While the higher fat percentage of those will result in a creamier hot cocoa, it also adds to the total calorie content of the finished product. I also find that most hot cocoa recipes use more sweetener than is needed to satisfy a sweet tooth. I wanted to share a hot cocoa recipe that you can enjoy on a regular basis, not one that is comparable to a large piece of chocolate cake. If you’re watching you fat, saturated fat, daily calorie or carbohydrate intake,  I share even more modifications below.

How To Make Homemade Hot Chocolate

The best thing about making homemade hot cocoa is that you can make it your way, with your favorite ingredients. If you’re on a low carbohydrate diet or limiting your sugar intake, you can use skim milk and a sugar substitute to make your cocoa. If you’re on a higher calorie diet or you like your cocoa super sweet, you can use whole milk and add a little extra of your favorite caloric sweetener. If you’re like me, and just want a cup of delicious, creamy, semi-sweet hot chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can make it the way I do, with 2% milk and maple syrup.

How To Make healthier homemade hot cocoa.

Choose A Milk

Looking back, I can’t believe I ever make hot chocolate with water. Milk is what gives hot cocoa its creamy consistency. It also adds high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium and lots of other nutrients, resulting in a nutrient-rich beverage. Any milk can be used, but the higher the fat percentage in the milk, the creamier your cup of hot cocoa will be. I like to use 2% milk, which is higher in fat than skim, but not as thick as whole milk.

Choose A Cocoa Powder

Natural, unsweetened cocoa powder tastes extremely bitter by itself, but it’s the ingredient that gives hot chocolate its strong, chocolatey taste. You can also buy dark unsweetened cocoa powder if you prefer dark hot cocoa.

Choose A Sweetener

There’s a variety of ways you can sweeten your cup of hot cocoa. You can use a granulated sugar, more commonly known as white table sugar. Or, you can use cane sugar or a variety of cane sugar like turbinado or demerara sugar, which have larger crystals. You could also use a liquid sweetener, like honey, maple syrup or agave. Coconut sugar, stevia or other granulated sugar substitute that measures cup for cup like sugar, can be used for a lower-sugar option.

I have tried every one of these sweeteners listed above in hot cocoa. I personally don’t like using liquid sweeteners. They have a different flavor and really do change the taste of the hot cocoa. My personal favorite is cane sugar, so that’s what I use in the recipe below.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is a must have ingredient in homemade hot cocoa. It works as a flavor enhancer, and also helps to reduce the bitterness from the cocoa. Use a pure, vanilla extract for the best flavor.

Choose Your Toppings

There are endless ways to top your cup of hot cocoa, but I personally think that less is best. The homemade hot cocoa itself is delicious, so you want to be careful not to overdo it or make it overly sweet. That said, adding a few mini marshmallows, a few tablespoons of whipped topping or a few mini chocolate chips can’t hurt. You can also add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to spice up your cup. Other popular topping ideas include a drizzle of caramel, a tablespoon of crushed peppermint stick or a bit of orange peel.

How To Make Healthier, Homemade Hot Cocoa

Should You Add Salt To Homemade Hot Cocoa?

While including a pinch of salt in your cup of hot cocoa isn’t absolutely necessary, it does Salt help balance to balance the bitterness of the cocoa and enhance the flavor. But, if you use too much, it can ruin your cup of cocoa. For that reason, I left salt out of the recipe below. I suggest tasting your hot cocoa first then adding salt only if you feel it needs some.

Make Your Hot Cocoa Festive

Enjoy a cup of halthier homemade hot cocoa at Christmas or other holidays

I’m all about celebrating the holidays with festive foods, and hot chocolate isn’t any different. To celebrate Christmas, add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle on some red and green sugar crystals or sprinkles. Use pastel blue and pink sprinkles at Easter and brown, yellow and tan around Thanksgiving. For Valentine’s day, you can put a small, heart shaped piece of chocolate on top of some whipped topping. Get creative and use your healthier homemade hot cocoa as a festive treat.

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Healthier Homemade Hot Cocoa

Whether you’re on a low-carb diet or trying to increase your calories, this homemade creamy hot cocoa is sure to hit the spot. Enjoy a cup as a way to warm-up on a cold day, satisfy your after dinner sweet tooth or wind down after a long day.
Author: Heather Mangieri, RDN


  • 8 oz 2% milk
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar


  • Put cocoa powder in mug. Heat milk in microwave for 1-1/2 minutes or until hot. Gradually add hot milk to cocoa mixture in mug, stirring until well blended. Stir in vanilla and sweetener. Add toppings, as desired*. 


  • Recipe Makes: 8 ounces
  • Serving Size: 8 ounces
  • Servings Per Recipe: 1
  • Nutrition Information (per serving): 190 calories, 28 g carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 13 g added sugars, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 9 g protein, 115 mg sodium, 15% DV for Vitamin D, 25% DV for calcium, 8% DV for potassium
  • Meal Planning Servings: 2 CHO + 1 PRO + 1 FAT
*Topping are not included in the nutritional analysis

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