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

    We made this as a take home favor to go along with the custom mugs we made a few years back. Our friends still comment to us occasionally on how much they loved the recipe!

  2. 3

    I just made this and am having my first cup as I type this. I’ve made many a home made hot chocolate mixes and was never impressed. The powdered milk seemed too bulky to incorporate well with the rest of the ingredients. The flavor has been flat and not something I’d have considered mixing with water. When I made this, I used a Ninja to mix it. It looks just like the purchased powder mixes. It tastes MUCH BETTER than ANY mix I have ever purchased, accept one – $4.99 and made 6 cups of hot chocolate and honestly, I didn’t like it as well as I LOVE this recipe. I did add the cayenne pepper. Probably more than the dash called for in the recipe, but only enough for interest – not really heat. I made this first cup with water (that’s because I have faith in Alton Brown’s recipes), and I can say … For the very first time, I’ve enjoyed hot chocolate made with water (I always have used hot milk). Thank you Alton Brown! I LOVE DIY that works out equal or better than store bought.

  3. 5

    Just made this with 1 cup Splenda in place of the 2 cups powdered sugar. Ran it all through the dry blade of my Vitamix.
    Added 1/4 cup mix, 1/2 cup liquid coffee mate, 1/8 tsp xanthan gum, a handful of ice cubes and enough milk to make 3 cups. Blended on high a minute for a delicious frozen hot cocoa. (Will probably cut down/out the liquid coffee mate next time. Probably also gonna just toss some xanthan gum into the mix next time)

  4. 9

    To the people who are complaining that this is bitter (or awful), my first thought is that you’re using the wrong kind of cocoa powder. There is a big difference between dutch processed cocoa powder and what most of us think of as baking cocoa powder (e.g. Hershy’s). Using baking cocoa will produce a fairly bitter result because it’s very acidic. Dutch processed cocoa uses an alkaline agent to reduce the acidity and thereby reduce the bitterness. To make sure you’re using dutch processed cocoa, check the ingredients for an alkali. Also, quality matters.

  5. 10

    My two boys lived on this stuff through the winters in Illinois. It was their go to snack along with popcorn after school. I used to make a big batch and put it in a large canister. When they got old enough to mix it up on their own, I posted the recipe on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door. It’s still there, but the boys are grown and gone with kids of their own.p

  6. 12

    I love this recipe! My son is allergic to dairy, as you can imagine that makes life pretty challenging. I have yet to find a dairy-free store bought instant mix. This is perfect for us to substitute powdered rice milk.

  7. 13

    This is really excellent. I sub Splenda for the sugar and cut the amount in half and it is plenty sweet. Also, don’t use boiling water, just hot. Otherwise the milk proteins will clump up and you’ll get that nasty lumpy bilge in the bottom of your mug!

  8. 14

    Substitute dry whole milk powder for the nonfat dry milk powder, add a touch of lecithin to help with emusification, and cut back the sugar, if you prefer the taste of chocolate to the taste of sugar. Cocoa powder is not chocolate liquour, it is the solids left behind after the liquour and butter have been extracted, which is why you are always going to have cocoa powder setlling to the bottom of your cup unless you keep stirring with every sip.

  9. 15
    Wayne Williams

    I think the odd taste I get from this is due to the powdered milk. That said, it makes a great mocha with pour-over fresh-ground Guatemalan coffee beans!

  10. 20
    Doug Hart

    I made three versions for my wife for Christmas; Salted Caramel, White Chocolate Marshmallow, and Mexican Spice. Truth be told the Mexican was for me, she can’t handle the chipotle.

  11. 21
    Alan Marks

    Perhaps this formula would do with a bit of a whirl in a food processor to combine and marry the ingredients, since cocoa powder is not very friendly to any liquids, but with the persuasion of the sugar and milk powders might emulsify better, just a thought…

    • 23

      OMG … thanks for much for posting your Bailey’s suggestion. I just made this mix. It’s sitting beside me still hot and I have Bailey’s on hand … can’t wait … Thanks!!!

        • 25

          Oh, one more thing … I didn’t have any dry milk powder so I just mixed it up without it and added a heaping spoonful of that mixture to about a 3 part milk to 1 part water mixture (heated up first). Worked well.

          • 26
            Lisa M Hillard

            Even with the milk in the mix, I use hot milk to make it. It’s even creamier. (And Bailey’s makes almost everything better. Lol)

  12. 27

    Up the ante: add a cup of chocolate chips. Put them and the cornstarch in a food processor / blender and make them as powdery as possible (you might need a bit of the powdered sugar too). Then follow the recipe as written. Topped with real marshmallows, heaven in a cup.

  13. 28

    Until I mixed with double the mix (4 TBS) and 3/4 the water (6 oz) as called for on another website, this stuff was awful. Quite tasty if you use the right proportions. Alton, this is the only time you have ever failed me. Just a tweak, but a big one.

  14. 29

    Has anyone else had issues with stuff not completely mixing into the liquid? I made a bunch of this mix to give as gifts and I’ve been drinking it for the past couple of nights and when I get the the bottom of the cup there is some of the mix that didn’t mix in. I used water one night and milk the other night and both liquids were very hot.

    • 30

      I’ve drunk gallons of this cocoa, and one thing I’ve noticed is that it takes a LOT of stirring. Like a lot a lot. In the Good Eats episode, he uses one of those wooden Mexican hot cocoa whip/stirrer thingies with all the rings. HTH.

  15. 33

    I don’t know what I did wrong. Used good, organic cocoa. It’s super sweet and weak. Will add more cocoa and perhaps some creamer, but I prefer a richer, darker cocoa.

    • 34

      When making this recipe, I always skimped on the sugar and heaped the cocoa. Also, it takes a surprising amount of mix per cup. I usually fill mine about 1/4 to 1/3 with mix, depending on how much nostril hair you want to grow. XD HTH.

  16. 37

    I made this with Splenda and instead of a pinch of cayenne, I sprinkled a bit out of the Zataran’s container. After making a cup, I added just a splash of sugar free chocolate syrup.

  17. 38

    In regards to the people asking about alternative sweeteners, give Whey Low a try. I love it. Comes in all types. Made from real sugars so you don’t save calories, but it is supposed to be safe for diabetics and it isn’t made from chemicals! For add ins, I would try coffee powder, cinnamon, or red chile powder. Red chile and chocolate is the bomb.

  18. 39

    I made this using Monk fruit instead of Splenda. I eliminated the corn starch, since it isn’t really necessary. Next time I think I will cut the salt in half. To those who said it is bad, make sure to use a tablespoon of mix for every ounce of liquid. This works well in a Mason jar if you make it in half batches.

  19. 40

    Just a word of caution for those people recommending xylitol as a substitute for sugar. Xylitol is HIGHLY toxic to dogs, even in very small doses. So if you have dogs in the house that might sneak a sip while you aren’t paying attention, you should definitely use another type of sugar substitute.

  20. 42
    Gigi Rulz

    1st and foremost this is not sweet hot Chocolate; it is hot cocoa which is less sweet. The 2 are NOT synonymous.

    If you like yours on the sweet side, add 1 cup of brown sugar (yes, that is correct…brown) to give it more support for the toasted marshmallows atop. Also, increase the cornstarch by 1/2 tsp more and switch out the powdered milk for powdered creamer for a richer texture and taste.

    Your welcome!

  21. 46

    For all the people commenting on the cornstarch, you can make your own confectioner / icing sugar without cornstarch super easily. At home we would grab the electric coffee grinder (maybe a jar blender works but not sure) and grab caster sugar and mill it down to icing sugar consistency. Confectioner sugar is more compact than caster sugar so for 2 cups of icing sugar you will need more than 2 cups of caster sugar (not sure how much though but they beauty of doing it yourself is you can do just as much as you need and not worry about adding cornstarch for keeping it unclumpled). Your cocoa will be w bit thinner because of the lack of starch but shouldn’t be the biggest of issues.

  22. 48

    I use Good Eats Fudge pops recipe for hot chocolate. Just freeze 1/4 or half cup single servings. To serve, melt in microwave, add milk (anything from skim to ice cream) to make a full mug, mix well and heat in microwave. Incredible. I use bittersweet chips and half & half with plain old Hershey cocoa powder.

  23. 58
    Laurel Marvin Jacobs

    Stop by the shop when you are home and I will hook you up with Black Onyx cocoa powder and passilo negro ground chile powder. Add just a tad of each to your recipe and you are sure to get that AB look of victory we all seek.

  24. 60

    With the plethora of cups and mugs out there do you have a base amount og cocoa mix to liquid? Does the amount change if you choose milk over water?

  25. 67

    I make this recipe every year since I saw you make it on one of your shows. I do increase the cocoa powder by another 1/2 cup. Seems to work better for me

  26. 68

    Leave out the cornstarch, add sweetener to taste. Use a good quality cocoa powder. Leave out anything that is an allergen for you. Alternative for milk is almond milk. Experiment to see what suits your taste. I prefer agave to sugar. You can make cocoa by the pot or buy the glass as needed as well. The recipe is a nice jumping in point if you want something storable.

  27. 69

    Jeez people just follow the recipe on the Hershey’s cocoa tin Just make the liquid syrup but don’t add milk untill you want cocoa the syrup will keep in the fridge for weeks if it lasts that long. Frankly it does not last that long..

  28. 70

    This is not sweet at all. It is disgusting in fact. Followed every step correctly, and it is still terrible. Don’t waste your time/money on this, it’ll be gross.

  29. 71
    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.

  30. 72

    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?

  31. 73

    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.

  32. 74

    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.

    • 75

      I make a mix using dry non-dairy coffee creamer, Dutch process baking cocoa & regular granulated sugar that’s been run through a food processor. I don’t have an actual recipe that I use, I just throw stuff together. You might try playing around with those ingredients to come up with something you and your kids prefer.

  33. 77
    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.

    • 78
      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.

  34. 80

    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…

  35. 83

    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)

  36. 85
    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.

  37. 86
    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.

  38. 87
    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!

    • 88

      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. 🙂

    • 90
      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.

    • 93
      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).

  39. 94

    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!

    • 97

      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.

  40. 99
    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?

  41. 100

    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.

  42. 108

    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?

  43. 110

    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?

  44. 111

    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.

    • 114

      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.

  45. 115
    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.

    • 116
      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!

    • 118

      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).

    • 119

      When I make my own homemade cocoa, I’ll often muddle in some butter for richness. We’ve been milk free for quite a while now, so I don’t miss the moo juice at all. Just an idea. Rum, too. That’s always good. Lol

    • 121
      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. 🙂

  46. 123

    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.

  47. 126
    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.

  48. 127

    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!

    • 128
      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.

    • 129

      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.

    • 133

      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.

      • 134

        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.

      • 135
        Brilliant Baker Bitch

        Powdered sugar and confectioners’ sugar are the EXACT same thing, the name difference is just a regional thing. Sometimes, depending on the brand, it even says “10x powdered confectioners’ sugar” on the package. But they all have cornstarch unless you get a specialty powdered sugar that has a different anti-caking agent added.

    • 136

      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.

    • 137

      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.

  49. 138

    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.

  50. 139

    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”?

  51. 144
    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

    • 145
      Russell Hyland

      I totally agree. If you’re at all tech-minded, look into using the Stylish browser add-on. I use it to change websites all the time.

  52. 147

    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!

  53. 149
    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

  54. 150
    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!

    • 152

      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.

      • 153
        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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