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

  • 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! 


  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 ½ cups milk, soy or almond milk for vegan
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ 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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. 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 ; )

  2. 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 :)

  3. 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 :)

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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 :)

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