All-Natural Hot Cocoa Recipe

No need for sugary cocoa packets! This homemade hot cocoa recipe uses maple syrup as a natural sweetener. Top with whipped cream or enjoy as is!

All natural hot cocoa recipe

Eating real food

It’s funny how your childhood can shape your perceptions of food. For example, I used to think that croutons were symmetrical toasty cubes from a box. No idea that they were actually toasted bread, and that you could make them yourself. Same with salad dressing. Some of you also identified with my mashed potato misconception – that flakes from a box mixed with water magically made potatoes. Our path to eating real food has helped us bust some of these myths, and learn that there’s a real way to make many of these “ready-made” items. But apparently we still have a few left to bust.

Until about a week ago, we thought hot chocolate meant “chocolatey sugary powder in a packet.” I had actually resigned myself to giving up this drink altogether, since powder with unidentified ingredients doesn’t mesh well with our eating philosophy. Plus, getting accustomed to natural sweeteners makes overly sugary things taste a bit flat. Thanks to Alex’s inspiration, we’ve found a way to make a hot cocoa recipe without the powder – and without the refined sugar! Somehow, cocoa powder, milk, and maple syrup can be combined to make a delicious, chocolatey drink that tastes similar to the powdery variety, but a bit more…real.

all natural hot cocoa recipe

How to make homemade hot cocoa

This simple hot cocoa recipe uses cocoa powder, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk—that’s it! If you eat vegan or plant based, you can use soy or almond milk, which is just as delicious! Truly, using any type of non dairy milk will work to make this a vegan hot cocoa recipe! This recipe is suited for 2 large mugs, but to make a larger quantity, it’s easy to double or triple the ingredients.

To make this hot cocoa recipe, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk them together over the stovetop. You can top your homemade hot cocoa with whipped cream or coconut whipped cream or a piece of peppermint. You can also stir in a little vanilla or mint extract for extra flavor—just a few drops will do the trick! Since this all-natural hot cocoa recipe is made of mostly pantry items, you can whip this up with little forethought. I know we’ll be doing so frequently in the cold months to come!

all natural hot cocoa recipe

Looking for more holiday drink recipes?

This hot cocoa recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based and dairy free.

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All-Natural Hot Cocoa Recipe

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (20 votes, average: 4.35 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x


No need for sugary cocoa packets! This homemade hot cocoa recipe uses maple syrup as a natural sweetener. Top with whipped cream or enjoy as is! 


  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, soy or almond milk for vegan
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Peppermint stir sticks (optional)
  • Whipped cream or vegan whipped cream (optional)


  1. Place all ingredients in a medium pot and whisk to combine over medium heat; do not boil.
  2. Serve immediately in mugs, garnishing with peppermint stir sticks and whipped cream if desired. (To make a larger quantity, double or triple the recipe as necessary.)
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Mixed
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: hot cocoa recipe, homemade hot cocoa, homemade hot chocolate

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    Katy (KatySheCooks)
    December 19, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Homemade hot chocolate is saving me from grain-based dessert cravings right now — I love it! I’ve been making a dairy-free version for me and my 5yo with coconut milk tonic — a coconut beverage made at home from a can of full-fat coconut milk. It’s a bit fattier than soy milk — a turn-off for some, but it makes it especially rich and dairy-like, and helpful for those who can’t have soy.

    It took me way too long to figure out you could use honey instead of sugar, I’m kinda slow that way ; )

  • Reply
    December 19, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Haha. Glad you have a solid holiday treat! Fortunately, honey floweth from Sonja’s every thought – so we hit on it pretty quickly! I was surprised that it didn’t alter the flavor at all :)

  • Reply
    Living The Sweet Life
    December 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

    *Yum* this sounds far better than the ready made version – so much healthier and so much yummier :)

  • Reply
    December 19, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I have made a similar recipe and found that a dash of salt makes the flavor pop out.

    • Reply
      December 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Wow, interesting with the salt! We will have to try this – thanks for mentioning! :)

  • Reply
    Heidi @ Food Doodles
    December 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I know exactly what you mean about real food! A friend and I were talking about how as kids, cake(among other things of course) came from a box. And that’s not unusual at all, sadly. I’ve been thinking of making some hot chocolate – I haven’t had some in so long. Yours looks perfect :)

    • Reply
      December 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Aww, thanks! Yes, it is funny how to many in our generation, the “real” way seems like it should be from a box! It’s fun to learn about the REAL real way :) Let us know if you try it out!

  • Reply
    Tiffany {A Clove of Garlic}
    December 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Brilliant. Like you said, I do have all of these ingredients on hand, so I can see if I like this easliy. And also like you, I have discovered the truth about croutons and salad dressing. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. But the more I know the more I can do — and keep my family healthy and my wallet plump.

  • Reply
    December 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I cannot wait to try this out…sugary hot chocolate packets be gone! Thanks for sharing, guys.

  • Reply
    December 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    too funny, yesterday I was randomly craving hot chocolate all day! We ended up going to the movies in the evening and I made a mug at home (with cocoa powder, unsweetened almond milk, stevia and a couple drops of peppermint extract) and snuck it in with me in my travel mug (yay for big purses!) It was awesome and totally hit the spot :)

    • Reply
      December 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Oh, that sounds delicious – I love the addition of peppermint extract! Great idea :)

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    December 20, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Yummy. I love homemade hot chocolate-thanks for reminding me. I always use hemp milk as it makes it nice and nutty.

  • Reply
    December 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I love this! Cannot wait to try it! Really hope I nail it, so the kids will like it on the first try!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    December 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Oh yes!! Natural Hot chocolate is the BEST! I’ve never made mine with honey before…I’m SO trying this tonight!!!

    • Reply
      December 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Great! Let us know how it works out :)

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 12:46 am

    My mother-in-law used coconut milk to stir into the Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa mix I made her while she was visiting. Although I used regular milk, she said it was just as delicious! I love your blast from the past commentary about potato flakes and croutons. My thoughts as a child…exactly! :)

  • Reply
    jaclyn kaiser
    December 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    love it! haven’t added honey before but i usually do 1/2 water and 1/2 coconut milk creamer. i’ll have to give the honey a shot!

  • Reply
    August 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Just found out my Aldi hot chocolate had aspartame in it and threw that out… then looked for a natural alternative and I have to say this is really nice! And alot cheaper than buying the pre-made mixes :D

  • Reply
    January 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Can also use pure maple syrup to sweeten!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    This was just what I was looking for. I’m new to all of this REAL food. I thought I was buying more REAL food, and I was, but didn’t realize some of the other foods I was buying and eating without thinking about it, have more ingredients that I can’t pronounce than I realized. I love hot chocolate and have been using the powder stuff, now it’s time to try something new and better for me and my family :)

    • Reply
      March 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Wonderful! Loving REAL food is exactly why we created this recipe. Let us know if you try it out, and what you and your family think!

  • Reply
    June 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I made this yesterday, tastes really good! I think I will be making this from now on instead of buying the packets.

  • Reply
    Joyce Snide
    November 5, 2014 at 9:23 am

    I love hot chocolate and like many others have avoided drinking it because of all the sugar they put in that stuff! Even the starbucks version is way way too sweet. Thank you for posting and sharing this with us. I just made it and it is so yummy!!

  • Reply
    Kali H.
    December 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    This is so good! I will say if one is used to hot chocolate mix this may take a little getting used too. It’s rich, chocolaty, and just sweet enough.

  • Reply
    Emma {Emma's Little Kitchen}
    July 18, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Made this tonight (even though I live in Houston and it’s 100 degrees…), it was perfect! Love the simplicity, thanks for a great recipe :)

  • Reply
    January 17, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    This is now a family favorite!!!!!! Excellent!!!!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2021 at 8:15 pm

    This was delicious. My sweet tooth is not what it used to be (that’s a good thing, ha!) so I put in half the amount of maple syrup. This treat hit the spot on a chilly night when I needed a hot drink and was also craving chocolate. Thanks, Alex and Sonja!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 26, 2021 at 7:48 pm

      You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed :)

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