Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate (Dairy-Free Option)

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Yesterday, we made homemade marshmallows and talked about the importance of slowing down and fostering meaningful traditions. In the spirit of slowing down, today, we’re going to make easy homemade hot chocolate.

A simple stove-top hot chocolate, sweetened with maple syrup.

I’ve been challenged this holiday season to slow down and prioritize spending time with my family in the kitchen and outside the kitchen. Slowing down isn’t just going to happen without some intentionality. I’m not going to wake up one day with margin in my calendar and space to breathe. In order to slow down, I have to make this happen.

Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate

To do this, I created an advent calendar for our family. Our calendar isn’t anything fancy–it’s made from a string of cards with numbers on one side and an act of kindness or activity of togetherness on the other side.

Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate

The advent calendar is my way (my family’s way, I should say) of intentionally slowing down during the busy holiday season. Some of the activities involve spending time in the kitchen and making homemade treats (like marshmallows, hot chocolate, and cookies), and others involve non-food related activities (like dancing to our favorite Christmas songs and seeing Christmas lights).

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mixing cocoa with milk

Here’s what our advent calendar looks like…

1: see Christmas lights

2: make a Christmas card for your teacher

3: watch a Christmas movie

4: dance to our favorite Christmas songs

5: make marshmallows

6: make hot chocolate + enjoy it with marshmallows

7: take a bubble bath

8: family game night with popcorn

9: make a favorite Christmas cookie

10: make a card for someone you care about

11: read a Christmas book

12: make beeswax taper candles

13: read The Gingerbread Man Story

14: make gingerbread men

15: donate a toy or book to children in need

16: make a favorite Christmas cookie

17: make a cookie box for your teacher with the cookies we’ve been making (in freezer)

18: decorate the Christmas tree

19: give a compliment to each family member

20: make hot chocolate + enjoy it with marshmallows (in the freezer)

21: read the Christmas story

22: family game night with popcorn

23: s’mores outside with a backyard campfire

24: open stockings

making hot chocolate on the stove-top

Making homemade hot chocolate is a repeat activity, along with enjoying homemade marshmallows (which is a bit more time intensive, but you can make a big batch and store them in the freezer).

whisking hot chocolate

Piper, my oldest child, favors making hot chocolate. While he loves a warm mug of hot cocoa, I think it’s the act of making this special drink that’s won his heart. He looks forward to the process: adding the ingredients to the Dutch oven, whisking the cacao powder until it’s dissolved in the milk, and waiting for the hot chocolate to reach the perfect temperature.

pouring hot chocolate into mugs

When he’s grown and on his own, I hope he looks back at this time and remembers the sweet memories we’ve made while making something as simple as homemade hot chocolate. I hope the sweet memories also serve as a reminder to him that it’s important to slow down and create memories with the people you love.

Hot Cocoa Versus Hot Chocolate: What's the Difference?

Before sharing today’s easy recipe, let’s talk about the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. Technically, today’s recipe is more of a hot cocoa recipe versus a hot chocolate recipe. So, what’s the difference?

Hot cocoa is usually made with cacao or cocoa powder, milk, and a sweetener, making it a lighter version of hot chocolate.

pouring hot chocolate into mugs

Hot chocolate, on the other hand, is made with melted chocolate and milk, making it a thicker, more indulgent chocolate drink.

adding marshmallows to hot chocolate

Today’s recipe is more of a hot cocoa as it’s made with cacao or cocoa powder, maple syrup, and milk. If you want a rich, more chocolatey drink, melt in a handful of chocolate chips (Enjoy Life is my favorite brand).

hot chocolate in a mug

How to Make the Easiest Homemade Hot Chocolate

drinking homemade hot chocolate

The trick to making super easy and delicious homemade hot chocolate is to keep things simple! There’s no need to overcomplicate this drink. There are two ways to go about making the easiest hot chocolate…

  • Make a Hot Chocolate Mix: If you want to easily make hot chocolate at any moment, in just under two minutes, make a homemade hot chocolate mix. Just warm milk and stir in a tablespoon or so of powder.
  • Make a Stove-Top Hot Chocolate: This is the recipe we’re going to make today. Add a few ingredients (milk, cacao or cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt) to a pot and warm the ingredients on the stove-top. The entire process takes just a few minutes.

enjoying homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows

How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate
5 from 4 votes
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Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate

A super easy homemade hot chocolate made on the stove-top and made with simple ingredients: cacao or cocoa powder, maple syrup, milk, and salt.

Course Dessert, Drinks, How To
Cuisine American
Keyword Homemade Hot Chocolate
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 cups, double or triple if more is needed
Calories 242 kcal
Author Kristin Marr

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk or a plant-based milk: coconut, almond, cashew
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder cocoa powder will also work
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Special Equipment:

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into a Dutch oven, followed by the remaining ingredients: maple syrup, cacao powder, vanilla, and salt. Whisk the ingredients. The cacao powder won't fully dissolve in the milk just yet.

  2. Warm the mixture over medium heat on the stove-top, whisking every couple of minutes to fully dissolve the cacao powder in the milk. Once fully dissolved and warm (or to your desired temperature), turn off the heat. 

  3. Ladle the hot chocolate into mugs. Enjoy warm. 

A simple stove-top hot chocolate, sweetened with maple syrup.

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