Easy Hot Cocoa Mixes

Last year or perhaps early this year, I whipped together a basic cocoa mix for cold Chicago nights in. It was just something I could quickly add to some milk to make a warm, seasonal drink. And, frankly, it used up some of the random ingredients I had made or bought for household experiments. And it quickly made a batch for 2 – 4 folks, depending on how much cocoa you gave each person.

A frothy mug of hot cocoa.

Hot Cocoa Version I

6 tbsp vanilla sugar1
4 tbsp cocoa powder

3 c milk

Heat milk to a near boil on the stove, then whisk in the cocoa and vanilla sugar. Once thoroughly combined, serve.

It was very simple, but quite good. And it made Nicky happy when they visited, which is also great. And since I had buckets of vanilla sugar around, it was easy to throw together.

However, I wanted something that was both a little easier to use and a lot easier to gift. I wanted something that could easily be taken on a plane or on a camping trip. Basically, I wanted something that would be satisfying without added milk.

A fully mixed batch of cocoa mix.

Yesterday, or the day before, I realized the time was right to start playing with the recipe again. And I ended up with this for a single serving portion:

Hot Cocoa Version II

2 tbsp dry milk powder
2 tbsp vanilla sugar

2.75 tsp natural-process cocoa (Process type is optional, but it’s what I have in the house.)

1/8 tsp kosher salt (I use Morton’s)

0.03 oz 70% dark chocolate (Hat tip to The Kitchn for this idea.)

1/8 tsp espresso powder (From King Arthur brand baking supplies.)

Mix the above, then add to 8 oz boiling or near-boiling water and mix thoroughly.

To me, this nailed it. I’d originally tried it without the espresso powder, and it wasn’t really right. The minute addition of espresso powder balanced it out and made it delicious. I was thrilled.

Then I did the math to attempt to scale it up to a 1 qt container…

The ingredients for hot cocoa mix on the table.

Let’s just say it was kind of rough. I ended up with the cocoa being “.75 c + 1 tbsp + 2.25 tsp,” which is kind of ridiculous. I just rounded down to 0.75 cups of cocoa. It made more sense.

Hot Cocoa Version III

This is the ideal, I think. This makes a quart mason jar of mix, plus one serving for the “cook”. A quart jar is about 12 – 16 servings.

1 3/4 c dry milk
1 3/4 c vanilla sugar

3/4 c cocoa

heaping 1/2 tbsp kosher salt

heaping 1/2 tbsp espresso powder

1/2 oz 70% dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Combine the above ingredients and mix very thoroughly. It should look homogeneous except for the chocolate chunks. To use, add 1/4 cup of the mix to 6 – 8 oz of near boiling water, depending on your tastes.

A bunch of chocolate chunks on a cutting board with a recently used knife to cut it.

This could be made richer by adding more dark chocolate chunks or using milk in place of water. You could, instead of using vanilla sugar, add orange sugar. To make it spicy, add a heaping half tablespoon of cinnamon, and maybe a scant tablespoon of cayenne. Really, it’s all about playing with flavors and ratios you enjoy.

Then, if you want to use it as holiday gifts, just portion out in whatever quantities you want to give. A pint mason jar would be about six servings, and feels very homey. If you’re like me, you’ll just write the name & directions on the lid. But if you want to get fancy, there’s a bunch of tutorials out on the web for how to make labels. Which, frankly, I only thought of because my new neighbor, Tasha (yes, really) brought over some infused vodkas to try, and I loved her labels a great deal. You should check out Tasha’s tutorial, if you’d like to make labels. Click on the photos to really see them.

Now that I’ve made up this batch, you can bet I’m not going fail to have it in my home for the winter months, both for myself and for guests. And I’ll definitely have it on hand for gifts.

1 Making vanilla sugar is easy; add any vanilla bean pods you would normally discard to sugar. Experiment with ratios you’d like. I tend to just keep it constantly going, throwing in pods as I generate them and sugar when it seems low. If your vanilla bean pod was first soaked in something like a custard mix (mine usually were), just rinse and allow to dry first. I learned this trick from The Craft of Baking. This is also a good way to use any vanilla beans that have so thoroughly dried out it’s hard to use them, which hopefully has never happened to you, but definitely has to me. You can also buy vanilla sugar easily enough. I never have, but I would expect it to be delicious and more intensely flavored than making it the way I do.

Empty vanilla bean pods in sugar.

Note: All Amazon links above are affiliate links. This means I get a tiny percentage if you buy the linked items or other things via Amazon after clicking. Your purchase price won’t change. And if you do smile.amazon for charity, they stack. Still without changing your purchase price. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Easy Hot Cocoa Mixes

    • Thanks, Tasha! It’s very simple, and makes a nice gift as well, though you’d probably want to set it up months ago. Alas!

  1. 1. I OBVIOUSLY need to start buying vanilla sugar. I’d say “making,” but I am not the type to have vanilla bean pods lying around.

    2. Ditto espresso powder.

    3. Why is there salt in your hot cocoa?

    • 1) Hey, whatever it takes to have vanilla sugar around.

      2) I actually liked my homemade coffee powder a lot better than the stuff we’ve bought, but more people will buy powder than make it (I think), so I try to keep it on hand for recipe creation. At least when I plan to write about it. And it’s a shame, because to make coffee powder all it takes is to grind any coffee that’s gone a bit stale on you at the finest setting on a grinder. Better texture and more akin to the flavors you’d normally like in coffee. (For example, light roast in our case.)

      3) Because salt is a flavor enhancer, so a little bit makes everything more delicious. This means I can use, for example, less sugar and less cocoa to get a satisfying product than I’d have to use if I didn’t use salt. Heck, look sometime at the recipe on the back of a Hershey’s cocoa can; I am 98% sure it calls for a pinch of salt. 🙂

Comments are closed.