On The Table

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Healthy Hot Cocoa Recipe (& 10 Ways to Flavor!)

Store-bought hot cocoa can be tasty, but it’s often full of added sugar. Use our homemade hot chocolate recipe to keep health goals in check while adding a unique flavor.

Healthy Hot Cocoa Recipe (& 10 Ways to Flavor!)

If you enjoy drinking hot cocoa during the winter season, you’ve probably paused at some point to ask “Is hot cocoa healthy?” Healthy homemade hot cocoa can be both delicious and nutritious. Wondering how to make hot cocoa?

Keep reading for healthy hot cocoa recipes, including directions for how to make hot chocolate with cocoa powder and how to make hot cocoa in a crockpot. 

Healthy Hot Cocoa Recipe

Yield: 1 serving

Nutrition per serving: 125 calories, 2g fat, 10g protein, 23g total carbs, 4g fiber
*Prepared with 1 cup skim milk and 1 Tbsp sugar

Prep time: 0 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes


• 8 oz (1 cup) milk (1 percent or skim)
• 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 Tbsp sugar, Stevia, or other desired natural sweetener
• ¼ tsp vanilla extract
• A pinch of salt (optional)


1. In a small saucepan or microwavable-safe mug, heat the milk at low to medium heat until hot (or desired warmth). Milk can burn easily, so be sure to keep a close eye on it and stir frequently to prevent burning.

2. Add the cocoa powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until all ingredients are fully dissolved. 

3. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy your cup of hot cocoa!

Crockpot Instructions: 

1. Combine ingredients in a 3-quart crockpot. (Keep in mind, this method is generally used when making multiple servings of the recipe. A 5-quart crockpot can typically be used for up to 6-8 servings. If you are planning to make more than 8 servings, it’s best to use a bigger size, such as a 7 or 10-quart crockpot.) 

2. Cover the crockpot and cook on “LOW” setting for at least 2 hours. Then, turn the setting to “WARM” until ready to serve. 

3. Stir before serving, and feel free to garnish as desired! 

Healthy Homemade Hot Cocoa: 10 Variations to Try

Searching for flavorful hot chocolate recipes? Here are 10 tasty twists on the traditional recipe. 

1. Extra Nutty Hot Chocolate 

If you enjoy a natural, nutty flavor in your hot cocoa, replace the milk in the above recipe with a dairy-free milk alternative. For example, unsweetened almond milk or (surprisingly) oat milk adds a nice, nutty flavor reminiscent of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” 

Alternatively, you can blend in a scoop of nut butter to the original recipe or add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter powder. 

2. Dark Chocolate Mint Cocoa 

Like peanut butter and chocolate, mint and chocolate are a classic power couple. Simply swap your unsweetened cocoa powder for dark cocoa powder (preferably still unsweetened). 

Make it minty by either adding 1-2 drops of mint extract or adding fresh mint to the mixture while it’s being heated (just remember to remove it before you start sipping). 

3. Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Not a fan of dark chocolate? Adding peppermint is one of the most perfect ways to keep your hot chocolate healthy. Simply add a drop or two of peppermint extract to the recipe for a flavorful and festive twist. It will taste like a candy cane in a cup!

You can add a mini candy cane on the rim for garnish. The mini version will contain less sugar and calories than its full-sized companion but allow you to keep the festive appearance. 

4. Tropical Hot Chocolate 

Dreaming of someplace tropical while whisking your hot chocolate? Use coconut milk instead of regular milk in the recipe listed above. Alternatively, you can add 1-2 drops of coconut extract. Remember, a little extract goes a long way! 

Then, top with coconut whipped cream, which can be homemade from canned coconut milk or cream that has been refrigerated. In lieu of chocolate chips, top your hot chocolate with cacao nibs, toasted shredded coconut, and orange zest for Hawaiian-inspired hot chocolate. 

5. Orange Hot Chocolate

Did you know that many citrus fruits come into season during winter? Take advantage of seasonal citrus by adding a splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice (½ teaspoon, or more, to taste). 

Similar to tropical hot chocolate, you can add a bit of orange peel on top to complete the look or a slice of orange on the side.

6. Banana Hot Chocolate

Bananas add a natural sweetness that is perfect for healthy hot chocolate. To make, use the recipe above as a base, but whisk in a blended banana and add an extra dash of cinnamon. 

The texture will be thick and creamy, and it makes for a great breakfast drink on cold winter mornings.

7. Pumpkin Pie Hot Cocoa 

Can’t get enough pumpkin flavor during fall and winter? While combining ingredients, add 1 teaspoon of pumpkin puree and ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. If you’re not using a homemade blend, be sure your spice mix doesn’t contain added sugar. 

As with tropical hot chocolate, you can use homemade whipped coconut cream on top to cut calories and increase nutrients. Don’t forget a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg on top! 

8. Gingerbread Hot Cocoa 

Craving the taste of gingerbread, but wanting to take it on the go? Simply add a ¼ teaspoon of each of the following ingredients to the original recipe:

• Allspice 
• Brown sugar 
• Cinnamon 
• Ground ginger 

Add the final concoction to a travel mug, and you’ve got a perfect companion for cold-weather activities. 

9. Mexican Hot Chocolate 

There are many takes on Mexican hot chocolate, all involving a special blend of warm spices. If you’re using the recipe listed above, increase the vanilla to ½ teaspoon total. Then, whisk in ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Garnish with a cinnamon stick to complete the look. 

10. Chai Hot Chocolate

Chai hot chocolate may be the easiest recipe to replicate in your own kitchen. Simply steep a bag of chai tea in your mug of hot chocolate. Alternatively, you can add the following ground spices during cooking to create a similar flavor: 

• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp ginger 
• ⅛ tsp cloves
• ⅛ tsp nutmeg
• ⅛ tsp pepper (optional) 
• Pinch cardamom 

Recapping Healthy Homemade Hot Cocoa

There’s nothing quite as cozy as a mug of hot chocolate. By adding seasonal spices and ingredients, you can make healthful versions and variations on the classic cup. Healthy hot chocolate makes the perfect base for creative flavor combinations.

Related Questions

Is hot cocoa healthy?

Most traditional recipes contain fat- or sugar-filled ingredients, like sweetened condensed milk. Classic toppings like whipped cream or syrups can also increase the amount of overall calories and sugar. 

Recipes with added fruits and vegetables boast the most health benefits. For example, adding pumpkin puree or blended banana for flavor can also add antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Ingredients like coconut may also be good for fortifying heart health 

Can you make hot chocolate with cocoa powder?

Healthy hot chocolate recipes typically use cocoa powder in place of sugary mixes. Homemade recipes can also be quick and easy, most with five ingredients or less. Look for recipes with 1 tablespoon of sweetener or less, plus vanilla, milk, salt, and other spices as desired.

How many calories are in hot cocoa? 

Keep in mind that any ingredient you add to the original recipe may increase calorie levels. Try to choose nutrient-rich ingredients and toppings, such as nut butters (which also add protein).