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

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
  • 2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch or more to taste ground cayenne pepper*, optional
  • 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.

* 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.”
No matter — this is fast, easy and will keep for a year if kept in an airtight container in a cool place.



Add yours
  1. 1

    2 oz of water per serving?? That’s hardly any? So you need 8 tablespoons for an 8 oz mug? This sounds like it would be a thick paste..
    Thanks for the help.

  2. 3

    My son and I have a saying for people that do not pertain to the conversation, I love this recipe and thank you Alton for this recipe, and all you have given me and my son the pleasure of watching your episodes, I just made this mix and love it! I of course added my touches, but to each their own, and I do not see the need for people dissecting your recipe and posting it! Ingrate humans, get a life,get a show you BMC’s ( Bitch Moan Complain) don’t tread on his parade! Btw Alton, my 2 brothers and 1 sister used to call our mother the same as you call your mamia…..

  3. 4

    I’ve been making this for *years*, but ran into trouble when I started cutting dairy from my diet. After some experimentation (and switching from powdered (?!?) sugar to superfine), I have my recipe down. I leave out the powdered milk, use a rounded cup of cocoa, and only 1 1/4 c. sugar (I don’t have much of a sweet tooth). I tend to use 1 part coffee to 2 parts hot soy or nut milk. A sprinkle of cinnamon and some fresh grated nutmeg, and yummm!

  4. 5

    I have Type 2 Diabetes and I used superfine Coconut sugar (unrefined) in this last year because it has a low glycemic index and doesn’t make my blood sugars spike. I think it turned out quite well. First time, it didn’t taste well with the cayenne (I made a small test batch), so I think coconut sugar and cayenne may not be a good mix. But without the cayenne, it turns out well. I don’t do well with alternative sugars like Splenda or Stevia as they tend to make my mouth extremely dry and make my blood sugars drop too fast. I have not tried anything like Monkfruit sugar or Palm sugar. Coconut sugar seems to work for me and I’m on insulin and victoza. So, just letting anyone else know in case they also have Type 2 Diabetes that there is an alternative to Splenda and Nutrisweet which seems to work with baked goods out there.

  5. 8
    Diane Fowler

    I made this tonight and wow it is great! So l added a T. of Folgers instant coffee to the mix and my homemade vanilla sugar. I sifted as well to insure it was combined well. It’s a keeper.

  6. 9

    Just tried this for a camping trip and it was just about perfect! I added a little bit of granulated sugar after I mixed in the water to suit my personal preference, but others loved it as-is. Very nearly the tastiest hot chocolate you can get without actually melting chocolate. The cornstarch gives a nice creamy mouthfeel, and I sifted the ingredients together so it didn’t turn out grainy at all. Like the recipe said, I mixed in a little water to saturate my 2 heaping tablespoons then added the rest of the water to fill the cup. The recipe makes a HUGE batch, enough for eight of use to enjoy around the campfire, plus another 2 cups or so of mix left over that I took to work. I think I’ll get another 4 generous servings out of that.

    I used Nido brand for the powdered milk and blended a bunch of different cocoa powders because that’s what I had.

  7. 10

    I’m excited to use this on my camping trip. I’ve always made hot chocolate with pure chocolate and milk, but this dry mix cocoa will save me a ton of space and time to enjoy around the campfire. Thanks for another home-run, Alton!
    To Pia – this recipe doesn’t replace real hot chocolate. It’s simply a DIY take on powdered cocoa mix for the sake of convenience (for large groups or quick fixes). Way better than the commercial mixes and cheaper since I have most of these ingredients on hand all the time.

  8. 11

    Thank you Alton… my mom had a recipe like this except she used instant creamer this looks much more healthier… I’ve been searching the internet and found some organic powdered heavy cream this might be a good alternative to the cornstarch and maybe will give a richer flavor… Also thinking about sweetening with lakanto monk fruit sweetener for a low calorie Coco… Thank you again

    • 13

      I just use artificial sweeteners instead of the sugar. Right now I grind up 1/3 cup xylitol and 1/3 cup erithitol in my blender until they’re the consistency of powdered sugar, then add 1/3 cup stevia granular. That substitutes for a cup of powdered sugar (you might use more or less, depending on your taste and other ingredients)

    • 14

      You could just go low sugar; once I switched from powdered sugar to superfine, I ended up cutting it down to 1 1/4 c. per recipe. But then, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. If you’re willing to spend the bucks, you can find stevia-based sweeteners specifically for baking so you use it one-to-one. That’s the joy of DIY; you can experiment to find what works for you!

  9. 15

    I use Alton’s fudge pops recipe for hot chocolate. Sort of. Bittersweet chips, half & half, Hershey cocoa, vanilla. Freeze in single serving containers of third to half cup. Thaw in mug in microwave and add milk (or ice cteam!) as desired to go from pudding thick to drinking thin. Haven’t tried this dry mix. Can’t be as good as what I’m doing!

  10. 16

    I use Nido milk — NOT the baby formula, but the dried whole milk you can sometimes find in the “ethnic/international” food aisle. And, I have been known to put mini marshmallows in mine. I like the powdered sugar idea … I usually use homemade vanilla sugar, but it does settle some.

    • 17

      Stay away from powdered sugar! It has a totally different texture from superfine, and IME it left tiny lumps of cornstarch or something, and I couldn’t get rid of them. I went to superfine, and it works great!

  11. 18
    Jason Mills

    Pia. Salt is used to “wake up” flavors and make things taste more like themselves. That’s why baked goods almost always have a little bit of salt. The cornstarch is there to absorb moisture and to keep the mixture from clumping. You could easily leave it out if you wanted to.

  12. 21
    Pia Van Coutren

    Well, why do you have to add salt, corn starch, when you can use pure chocolate and any kind of milk? This recipe, sorry to say, is too commercialized!!
    I love hot chocolate also, but the Mayans have the great recipe!! All pure chocolate! Yumm!

  13. 22

    I just made this and really enjoyed it. I used Hershey’s 100% Cocoa and Carnation powdered milk. I suspect I went a little heavy on the cayenne, but I loved the heat. It gave me a nice little blast of heat that didn’t linger around too long.

    I’ll eventually make this again but use a higher quality cocoa, perhaps trying some Dutch processed cocoa. Also, I bought the small bags of powdered milk and the bag said it had four 1/3 cup servings. “Nice,” I thought, “I’ll buy two bags because I need 2 1/2 cups for this recipe.” Then I measured out the first bag and it was barely under a cup. Not sure if it settled too much or what, but I’ll take this into account next time.

  14. 24
    Liz Ingersoll

    Add mix to cup. Pour in a small amount of hot coffee. Cocoa easily dissolves in coffee. Prepare with milk to make richer. Even better with added heavy cream. Better yet to make a large batch in a pan on the stove and mix with a immersion blender as the froth gives it more body.
    I skip the sugar and sweeten with dates by soaking the milk with two whole dates per cup in the fridge a few hours or overnight.
    Leftover dates can be used in a bowl of oatmeal.

    • 25

      Twinsies! My morning mocha starts with some coffee in my cup, add soy milk and heat; add mix, cinnamon, vanilla, or whatever, and stir stir stir! Yummm!
      Except for today; donut holes means no mocha. 🙁

  15. 26
    Kathleen L Kelm

    Freeze dried powdered skim milk does not have that awful taste. Sanilac is excellent. Note it is not marketed like the flower brand and does dissolve more slowly than the heated carmelized flower brandnI too hate. Sanilac is great.

  16. 27
    Teresa Nystrom

    Suggestions for powdered milk. I find it tastes pretty bad in spite of the other ingredients. Is there a brand that is better than the one named for a flower?

  17. 28

    I had great success with this receipe. Lucky here in Nova Scotia as we have some specialty suppliers who stock only the finest cocoa and chocolate which I used for this. I did cut the sugar (diabetic) by using Truvia baking mix. But I did add bits of chocolate that I ran through my food processor – almost frozen first. Alas: could find only skim milk powder in the stores here though so I made it with whole milk. I’m a cinnamon hound but held back on adding it to the batch as some relatives “like it plain”. Am satisfied with sprinkling it on top of the whipped cream. Can add the cayenne to my cup individually.

  18. 29

    Ok. Pay attention. Some people are giving the wrong info here. Confectioner’s sugar & powdered sugar ARE interchangeable. They ARE BOTH icing sugars & contain cornstarch as an anti-clumping agent. Superfine sugars are just white sugars ground “super fine”, as the name implies & ARE NOT interchangeable with confectioner’s/powdered sugars. Use the correct sugar for the recipe.

    • 30

      I second this! I made this recipe for years with powdered sugar, and always found tiny clumps of white stuff, and it was miserable to mix, especially when leaving out the milk. Last year I found some “baker’s sugar” aka superfine, and my recipe is now PERFECT! Interestingly, I use much less of the superfine; 1 1/4 c. per recipe, vs. a scant 2 c. of the powdered. I still use a rounded cup of cocoa powder, because CHOCOLATE. 🙂

        • 32

          I run it through a sifter; the blender is too much like work. 🙂 Nowadays the cocoa powder is the only clumpy ingredient, which is impressive, considering how humid it is around here.

  19. 33
    Linda B

    Love the recipe! My husband was enthusiastic – not normal for him regarding hot cocoa. The “plain” recipe just has an extra kick that gives it a fullness. Leaving out the dried milk, I pour mix into gift baggies plain or with cayenne pepper, crushed peppermint, or pumpkin pie spice and give as gifts. Surprised by how many people like the spicy! They look forward to sipping it with the cookies and bread they get from others. (With three boys causing many distractions, cookies and breads often burned. Mixing cocoa handles interruptions better!) People can also save for when other homemade sweets are eaten.

  20. 34
    Karen R.

    Have enjoyed Alton Brown for years, but I hate this recipe. In fact, I tore it up. So very disappointed. I was making this for Christmas gifts. Taste tested it. Such a miserably bitter watery mess I checked the recipe. I already triple checked while measuring the copy I had written out. No mistakes on my part. Good quality ingredients. I spent over an hour tweeking and tweeking. Finally decided to give the “rescued ” version to my adult son. Looking for another gift for others on list. If there are no typos in this recipe shame on you Mr. Brown!

    • 35

      Sounds like you weren’t adding enough mix to the cup. It takes a lot; I generally fill the cup 1/4 to 1/3 with mix before adding hot water. HTH.

  21. 36

    itt is just ok. It needs to be creamier and it needs vanilla for sure. I felt it really was just average ok. It didn’t seem to mix very easily so i put it all in a sifter after I added some vanilla to regular granulated sugar about 3/4 cup since iI think it should be a bit sweeter with a bit more salt.

    • 37

      That’s the great thing about recipes; you can customize them to your heart’s content. For myself, I cut the sugar way back and use a rounded cup of cocoa, so mine tastes like dark chocolate. My favorite thing is that it has six ingredients and I can pronounce all of them.

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