Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Mix

Instant cocoa is a fine concept, but most commercial mixes aren’t exactly packed with quality ingredients or flavor. My signature instant cocoa blend will fortify you through winter’s worst. My homemade marshmallows go pretty good with this mix too. Just sayin’.

Hot Cocoa Mix
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  1. 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  2. 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  3. 2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  4. 1 teaspoon fine-grain salt
  5. 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  6. 1 pinch (or more to taste) ground cayenne pepper*, optional
  7. Hot milk or water to serve
  1. Combine the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, milk powder, salt, cornstarch and cayenne in a large airtight container. Secure the lid and shake vigorously to combine, and remember to shake prior to every extraction.
  2. To serve: Place 2 tablespoons of the mix in a mug and add about 2 fluid ounces hot water or milk. Stir to combine. Fill the mug with more hot water or milk and enjoy.
  1. * The Aztecs always added chiles to their chocolate. Even a pinch ups the flavor ante quite a bit, and as called for here certainly won't be sensed as "heat."
  2. No matter — this is fast, easy and will keep for a year if kept in an airtight container in a cool place.


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  1. 1
    Thomas G.

    I’ve been working on tweaking this just a bit. I first off use the Nestle Nido Forticada from the Hispanic foods section. It is a much better powdered milk. Then I use 1.5x the cocoa and double the corn starch because I like my cocoa on the thicker side.

  2. 2

    I just made this recipe and it was not sweet at all. I thought maybe I had added too much water since the recipe doesn’t specify so I added another tablespoon of mix but no improvement. I know I got the ratios right? What gives?

  3. 3

    Ick. The powdered milk is horrible. I used Nestle Carnation nonfat milk. My kids and I have hot coco every morning and I was tired of buying the packets. The milk flavor really stands out. Just lost $20.

  4. 4

    I don’t know what I did wrong, but this is AWFUL with hot water. I’ll try it with milk, but I was hoping for a go-to homemade hot chocolate mix as easy as the boxed stuff.

  5. 6
    Jo S.

    LOVE this recipe! I made a batch of this at the beginning of the season, and it was GONE halfway through. Added just a touch more red pepper, because we like the zing. *grin* Tastes great in coffee.

    • 7
      Dale Cooke

      Normally, I drink my French press coffee black, but adding a heaping teaspoon of this cocoa mix really adds a lot of depth to the coffee without overpowering it the way some coffee chains do. Even my niece who is a addicted to a certain chain from the Seattle region prefers this drink.

  6. 9

    Why is the powdered milk needed? I I had to drink it as a kids and just the thought of it makes me gag. Tell me you can’t really taste it…

  7. 12

    For all of you that that are wondering about powdered vs confectioners sugar THEY ARE THE SAME THING!!!
    They both contain cornstarch for “anti caking”.
    And “SUPER FINE” is not as fine as either of the before mentioned (which are the same) and the superfine does not have cornstarch AND THEY CAN’T BE SUBSTITUTED (the superfine vs the other two)
    So just use powdered or confectioners sugar : ) (this isn’t a science oh wait it is)

  8. 14
    Sue L

    So we made this (a half recipe) on this snowy day. Delicious! I used a pinch of cayenne, but I can’t say we could taste it. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla powder I have, otherwise made as is.

  9. 15
    Cindy H

    If you use any dry ingredients high in fat, please store your hot chocolate mix in the fridge or the freezer if you can’t drink it up quick.

  10. 16
    Heidi Krueger

    AB, can you please answer a question for me about Hot Chocolate? While vacationing in the mountains of Italy we ordered “Hot Chocolate”. What we got no matter where we went was this incredibly THICK and delicious hot beverage NOTHING like what we drink here in the USA. Can you tell me how to make this beverage from HEAVEN!

    • 17

      That sounds like drinking chocolate. I don’t have a recipe, but when I googled it, several good-sounding ones came up. I may have to make some, myself. I didn’t realize it was so easy. 🙂

    • 19
      Tha Chick

      So if you go to the spanish aisle or a spanish grocery store you can find it. It’s a round block of chocolate used to make hot cocoa. It has an elderly lady on it. I don’t remember the name. That makes the best hot cocoa ever.

    • 22
      Sue L

      I highly recommend Penzey’s Dutch Process cocoa (and their natural high fat cocoa as well, and all of their spices and herbs, actually).

  11. 23

    Looks delicious, BUT IT would be great if you put some of your incredible talent to recipes re-mastered WITHOUT any sugar! Like xylitol or stevia instead. Thanks for all you wonderful recipes!

    • 26

      Joy, I hope this doesn’t sound rude, because that is NOT my intentions. You can substitute nearly any recipe that calls for sugar with equal amounts xylitol or Splenda. I don’t think anyone should have to go through and change all of their recipes when you can simply do it yourself. It really is that simple. May I suggest that if you are looking for sugar free recipes, search “sugar free ——- recipe”? I have a hard time believing some of you are serious. I think that the only recipes you should probably stick with real sugar are things like rock candy, candy strings, etc.

  12. 27
    Stephanie Stephens

    Thank you Mr. Brown, this will be super useful! I am inspired to make some for friends for Valentines Day, maybe layered w some marshmellows in mason jars. What do you think?

  13. 28

    I know why the dried milk powder is in the recipe but I’ve recently been diagnosed as being casien intolerant. I have been trying to get a good hot chocolate that does not include casien. HELP! This recipe has been a staple in our house for years.

  14. 35

    Sounds awesome! Alton is the sole reason I started cooking & it’s changed my life. For the better of course, however, when did the quantities change from weight?

  15. 37

    Mr. Brown, my favorite thing about Good Eats was the education about /why/ certain ingredients were chosen for a recipe. Understanding how an ingredient affected the recipe always helped me understand what was needed if I needed to make a substitution for some reason. Why have all the recipes that you’ve shared recently not had the explanations?

  16. 38

    Zeke, confectioner’s sugar = powdered sugar (icing sugar is another name), which usually contains a bit of cornstarch. The good thing about powdered sugar in this recipe is it dissolves quickly & the starch adds a bit of thickening. Superfine sugar, also know as castor sugar, is sugar with smaller crystals — which is easily made by running regular sugar through a blender. It won’t dissolve so nicely in this recipe though.

    • 41

      That would take something like a Vitamix. What you’ll get with a regular blender is superfine granulated, not powdered (confectioner’s). Most people keep powdered sugar on hand to make icings; it’s not an unusual item.

  17. 42
    Brian Lindahl

    I tried this years ago when I first saw it on Good Eats… but couldn’t stand the taste of the milk powder. Is there more than one kind of this stuff? The only kind I find locally is “instant dry milk powder” – Milkman is one brand. Tastes a little bit like milk, but not much.

    • 43
      Liz Casillas

      Brian; All dry milk, whether whole or non-fat has that horrible taste (IMO). In several hot cocoa mix recipes that I have seen, plain powdered coffee creamer is used. You have to be careful because even plain powdered coffee creamer has sugar added I believe, although not a huge amount. I would suggest making a small fraction of the recipe, maybe just a few servings worth to see if it works!

    • 45

      You can try looking for whole milk powder online. Most powdered milk is skim, but ages ago when my mom made this — the recipe has been around 40 years or more — she used whole milk powder and, at least in my memory, it did not have that powdered milk taste (which I can taste just thinking about it).

    • 47
      Brian Lindahl

      I’m pretty sure it would. I have yet to found anything that doesn’t work with Splenda. OK, I admit that I don’t bake with it, especially sugar cookies that are rolled in sugar before baking, but that’s the only thing. 🙂

  18. 49

    For those of you wanting to use powdered sugar be aware that most powdered sugar contains corn starch as an anti asking agent. Always read your labels.

  19. 52
    Taylor Zachar

    Hershey special dark is Dutch processed. Though there is usually other more expensive brands for something like this that would definitely suffice. Of course if you really want to make a good brew. Then use natural cocoa and bloom it in boiling water then add that as well as a but of suger and some semi sweet morsels and a pinch of salt to a French press then add hot water and or milk depending on you particular tastes then just plunge nice and slow and repeats plunging nice and slow as many times as needed to emulsify the beverage. Replacing the water or milk with hot coffee is also fantastic.

  20. 53

    Alton, I enjoy your recipes but this one isn’t friendly for my family. The cornstarch in the confectioner’s sugar, and the cornstarch added separately, set off our corn allergy. I’d love to see you do a revised version without any cornstarch, please!

    • 54
      Thom Foster

      It’ll work with regular sugar and no cornstarch, but it won’t have the body. You could use a little gelatin, I suppose. That’s why marshmallows melted in your cocoa add so much.

    • 55

      You can probably do without the corn starch as a thickener. I would substitute with sugar that you put through a coffee grinder or blender to get it very fine. Replace with a different starch that you might normally use. I’m thinking ground chia seed at 1/4 the recipe and go from there, or perhaps arrowroot with the same.

    • 59

      Confectioner’s sugar shouldn’t contain cornstarch (you may also find it billed as ‘superfine’ sugar- it’s just ground up white sugar), powdered sugar is the one cut with cornstarch. You can probably substitute the added cornstarch with arrowroot, agar-agar, or unflavored powdered gelatin.

      • 60

        I think, perhaps, you may be confused.
        Confectioners sugar, powedered sugar, icing sugar, and 10x sugar all represent the same product. They are all white sugar which has been pulverized to powered form and cut with a touch of cornstarch to prevent caking. Superfine sugar is granulated sugar which has been processed to a smaller crystal than typical granulated white sugar, but not taken to powder form. The differences are subtle, but not to be overlooked.

    • 61

      Karen, I’m allergic to corn. You can buy confectioner’s sugar treated with tapioca starch at a health food store – Trader Joe’s carries it. Also, you can use arrowroot starch as a substitute for corn starch. If you have trouble finding it, Penzeys Spices carries it online.

    • 62

      Then just make old-fashioned hot cocoa. It’s really no more work. Just mix a couple of tablespoons of cocoa and a couple of tablespoons of sugar with a couple of tablespoons of hot water in a mug until dissolved (so, more or less equal amounts). Add hot milk. Done. Add a dash of salt if it’s not Dutch process — that will balance the bitterness. Adjust the amounts to your own taste.

  21. 63

    I make a similar mix but I mix cocoa and powdered sugar 1:1 and don’t add cornstarch or milk powder. I add a tablespoon or more to each 8 oz of skim milk. And then add Irish creme. Perfection. If not adding Irish creme, a dash of vanilla is a nice substitute.

  22. 64

    And just where do you find dutch processed cocoa? It used to be at the run-of-the-mill grocery store. But not anymore. Any suggestions for alkaline addition to make “regular” cocoa powder “dutch”?

  23. 69
    Lauretta B. Souza

    Just a suggestion, the font used for the comments needs to be darker. It is so light it is very hard to read. I not only visit your site for your recipes and words of wisdom, but I also like to read your fan’s comments. Can you please make the font darker. Thank you

  24. 71

    Looks like I’ll be making up a batch of this hot cocoa mix this weekend! Although, to make the final product a little more richer in taste, I use Nestle Nido (whole milk powder found in the Mexican food aisle at my local grocery store). Yumm!

  25. 73
    R Carr

    Can’t wait to make a batch for my Granddaughter at college. She Loves hot cocoa and I’m sure it will be fantastic.
    To Mr. Salinas, Alton is correct about the Aztec – The Aztec capital city was located at Tenochtitlán, which is the site of the modern Mexico city, and their empire covered nearly all of the current country of Mexico, extending down into other regions of Central America as well (see this Aztec map for details

  26. 74
    Sarah C.

    I’ve been looking for a recipe like this for a while, but most had a bunch of add ins or things I wouldn’t want to deal with that are usually for making a batch of homemade hot chocolate for immediate consumption (like melting solid chocolate).
    This will replace all of those packets of hot cocoa mix that are full of unwanted junk and cost a fortune. A delicious money saving recipe to have on hand? Thanks a ton, Alton!

    • 76

      You would probably have to try to find powdered soy or nut milk of some kind since there recipe wouldn’t really hold without the milk powder.

      • 77
        Elaine Williamse

        I have seen powdered coconut milk in the baking aisle of the grocery where I work (and shop). I would imagine that would work.
        I used my mom’s recipe and increased the amounts to make a batch for my best friend. We always added a little vanilla, so I was able to find powdered vanilla from and used it in place of the liquid.

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