How to Make Hot Cocoa from Scratch

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Morning hot cocoa is only about five minutes away and contains just five ingredients. Enjoy a hot cup of this easy, affordable chocolatey goodness.

cocoa in red mug with whipped cream and chocolate alongside toppings

Full day of skiing and sledding?

Camping trip?

Just a cozy day at home?

A hot chocolatey drink is just the ticket on many a day. When we want a sweet, warming treat or  some comforting sustenance, hot cocoa can fill the bill. 

Believe it or not, cocoa-based beverages have been used to fortify soldiers for hundreds of years, so it can certainly help us fight whatever battles we face on a daily basis.

Great thing is, this drink can come together on the stovetop in about five minutes — with just five ingredients. It’s totally worth your while!

cocoa in a sauce pan on stovetop

I haven’t purchased commercial cocoa mix in years. I read the side of the package one day and decided to just say no. There were way too many unpronounceable ingredients for something that’s so simple to make.

Instead we make it the old fashioned way with cocoa powder, sugar, fresh milk, and a pinch of salt. Simple, delicious, and easy on the budget!

Some things are just better made yourself.

While we still love my dry mix, Malted Hot Cocoa recipe, this fresh cocoa version comes together just as quickly.

The kids absolutely love it. I love it that my youngest can mix it up on the stovetop in about five minutes. She started at about age 9, so there’s freedom here for you parents of littles.

ingredients for hot cocoa

How do I make a cup of hot cocoa?

It’s easy to make a cup of this creamy, sweet drink. Of course, you can buy those packets of instant cocoa at the store or even create a mix of your own.

But, there’s something so delicious in a cup of cocoa made with fresh milk. The dry mixes just can’t compare with this stovetop concoction.

Can I use baking cocoa for hot chocolate?

Unsweetened baking cocoa is perfect for making stovetop cocoa. However, hot chocolate is made with chocolate, not cocoa.

What’s the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate?

Hot cocoa is a mixture of milk, sugar, cocoa, and salt, while hot chocolate is usually made from melted chocolate and milk. Hot chocolate is thicker and more dessert like than hot cocoa.

cocoa in red mugs on tray with toppings

What are good toppings for hot cocoa?

Hot cocoa, like hot coffee drinks, is perfect for topping with fun treats. Consider any of the following toppings for a cocoa bar:

  • whipped cream
  • steamed milk
  • chocolate shavings
  • cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamons
  • chocolate or caramel syrup
  • chocolate or rainbow sprinkles

Remember, too, that adding a shot of coffee or espresso is a nice touch, too.

step by step photos of making hot cocoa on stovetop

How do you make hot cocoa from scratch?

This recipe comes together in just minutes on the stovetop. 

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk together.
  2. Stir in hot water to help the mixture dissolve. Heat this and stir in the milk.
  3. Simmer the mixture, stirring, until very hot.
  4. Divide into mugs and top as desired.
  5. Store leftovers in the refrigerated in a covered container. Reheat before serving.

red mug of cocoa with marshmallows and cinnamon

How can I make this drink economically?

This recipe isn’t expensive to make, even from scratch. However, there are things that you can do to make your sweet treat even better.

cocoa with whipped cream and chocolate shavings

If you prepare this recipe, be sure to take a picture and hashtag it #GOODCHEAPEATS. I can't wait to see what you cook up!
4.5 from 4 votes
cocoa in red mug with whipped cream and chocolate alongside toppings
Hot Cocoa from Scratch
Prep Time
2 mins
Cook Time
2 mins
Total Time
4 mins
Morning hot cocoa is only about five minutes away and contains just five ingredients. Enjoy a hot cup of this easy, affordable chocolatey goodness.
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cocoa, cocoa from scratch, hot cocoa, stovetop hot cocoa
Servings: 2
Calories: 270 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 cups milk
  • toppings: whipped cream chocolate shavings, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk in the hot water until smooth. Add the milk and stir until well combined.
  2. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring, until hot.
  3. Divide into mugs and top according to your preferences.
Recipe Notes

Store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

Nutrition Facts
Hot Cocoa from Scratch
Amount Per Serving
Calories 270 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 24mg8%
Sodium 107mg5%
Potassium 486mg14%
Carbohydrates 43g14%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 37g41%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin A 395IU8%
Calcium 289mg29%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Lauren says

    5 stars
    This is SO good and SO easy! Yum!!!

    • Spencer says

      5 stars
      Super easy and the proportions are just right, sweet, but not too sweet.
      Choclatey, but not bitter. Added a teaspoon of vanilla just for a little nuance

    • Glad you liked it, Lauren!

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