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Sure, as an adult, coffee may be a more socially acceptable drink of choice in the morning, but deep down, everyone knows the best breakfast beverage is hot chocolate. While we may associate this drink with the cold winter months, I would argue hot chocolate is just as good any time of year (and you can always ice it)! Gone are the days of just a handful of options at the supermarket; now, there are dozens to choose from at stores and online, ranging from budget-friendly to super-splurge, and depending on chocolate intensity, flavorings, add-ins, health needs, and much more. Which is best for your chocolate preferences?
Here are the best hot chocolate mixes on the market today.
Best Overall: Guittard Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate
High-quality, luxurious consistency
Minimal ingredient list
Guittard is known for its top-notch baking chocolate chips, so it comes as no surprise they’d also offer a best-of-the-best drinking chocolate mix. What is unique about this mix is that it is a blend of both cocoa powder and ground chocolate, providing an ultra-chocolatey, smooth, rich drink once heated with milk. The mix is also non-GMO, peanut-free, and gluten-free. As this is by no means a diet hot chocolate mix, it’s not the lowest in calories or fat, but we appreciate the minimal ingredient list, meaning you’re getting just a handful of necessary ingredients without any extra additives or preservatives. As an added bonus, it can be used in baking (Hot Chocolate Brownie recipe conveniently provided on the can).
Best Healthy: Nestle Hot Cocoa Fat-Free Rich Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
Low in calories and fat
Works with water or milk
Contains artificial sweeteners
Although “diet hot chocolate” seems like an oxymoron, there are several lower calorie and lower fat options available in the supermarket, and these are great options if, like me, you’re prone to indulging frequently throughout the winter (or really any time of year). Not only is this Nestle Hot Chocolate fat-free, but it’s also relatively low in calories (25 calories per two tablespoons), has zero grams of added sugar, and is quite high in calcium (340 milligrams per serving). It’s quick and easy to prepare, providing both stovetop and microwave instructions for using either milk or water. According to the manufacturer, “Nestle uses only real cocoa from sustainably sourced cocoa beans.”
If the mix you’re using is able to be made with water or milk, using water will yield a lower calorie and lower fat (depending on the type of milk you have) final product, so if you’re watching your weight, keep this in mind. Whole milk will provide the richest hot chocolate, and skim milk (or water) will be on the opposite end of the spectrum; 2 percent is a solid middle-ground option. You can also get creative and play around using different types of alternative milk (whether your go-to is almond, oat, soy, etc.)—just remember it will slightly alter the nutritional information, consistency, and hot chocolate mix flavor.
Best for Kids: Swiss Miss Fun Bundle, Unicorn Marshmallows and Lucky Charms
Fun for kids
Higher in calories and sugar
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate marshmallows in your hot chocolate, but these particular mixes are extra fun and very kid-friendly. Instead of the standard plain mini marshmallows, why not top your steaming cup of chocolatey goodness with unicorn marshmallows or Lucky Charms marshmallows (the best part of the cereal anyway)? Unsurprisingly, these mixes are on the higher end when it comes to calories (190 per envelope for the Unicorn variety) and sugar (32 grams), but the envelopes do help with portion control.
Best Variety Pack: Godiva Assorted Dark and Milk Hot Cocoa Powder Canister Variety
Great for gift-giving
Includes both milk and dark chocolate
Godiva is famous for its high-end truffles, but they also sell hot chocolate mix for their chocoholic fans. This variety set is a particularly good option if you love both milk and dark chocolate and don’t want to pick just one, or if you like mixing the two varieties for a delicious hybrid. This would also be a great holiday (or birthday) gift for friends or family who appreciate luxury chocolates. According to the manufacturer, this Godiva “hot chocolate indulgence delivers a rich, smooth, and velvety drinking experience.” A three-tablespoon serving of the milk chocolate variety contains 130 calories and 22 grams of sugar (dark variety may differ slightly).
Best for the Holidays: Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa Mix, Peppermint
Well-balanced blend of peppermint and chocolate
Great for gift giving
Nothing screams “holiday season” quite like a steaming cup of peppermint hot chocolate in a large, decorative mug; the beloved combination of chocolate and mint is both cozy and sentimental. This peppermint hot chocolate by Ghirardelli “blends just the right amount of sugar, peppermint and high-quality chocolate for a perfectly balanced hot cocoa experience,” according to the manufacturer. A three-tablespoon serving contains 140 calories and 25 grams of sugar, and the festive packaging makes it a great holiday gift-giving option.
Best for Coffee Lovers: Lake Champlain Chocolates Mocha Hot Chocolate
Minimal ingredients list
Supporting smaller, family business
Organic and fair trade
May not appeal to non-coffee drinkers
Lake Champlain Chocolates is a certified B Corporation and family business based in Burlington, VT. According to the company’s website, products are non-GMO, organic, and use fair trade certified ingredients (whenever possible), and they never use preservatives, extenders, or additives (resulting in a very small ingredient list). If you’re an avid coffee lover or your go-to order at the local coffee shop is a mocha, look no further than this Mocha Hot Chocolate, a “lively blend of rich cocoa and aromatic coffee is kissed with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon, perfect when mixed with your favorite milk,” per the company’s website. A two-tablespoon serving contains 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. The company also offers traditional, spicy Aztec, and marshmallow varieties (or variety packs), if you want to try their other flavors.
Best Dark Chocolate: Valrhona Dark Hot Chocolate Mix
Chocolate chips for extra chocolatey experience
Short ingredient list
Valrhona, a chocolate company based in France, dates back to 1922 and is well-known for its baking chocolate. Their hot chocolate mix is their first item produced in the U.S., and it is a combination of cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips, providing a super-rich, indulgent drink. They are also a certified B corporation. The mix is packed in a convenient, resealable pouch, making it easy to store. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 120 calories and 22 grams of sugar, and the product has a relatively short ingredient list, so you know you’re getting quality chocolate ingredients without a bunch of unnecessary additives.
Best Splurge: Neuhaus Belgian Dark Hot Chocolate
Great gift for foodies
Uses chocolate versus the more typical powder
Takes more time to prepare
For your super-chocoholic friend or family member, look no further than this Neuhaus option. This Belgian chocolate company is famous for its high-end truffles, but they also offer a unique hot chocolate product that, unlike the rest of the options listed, does not come in powder form. Instead, you get whole “hot chocolate beans,” which are actually chocolates that are “shaped like cacao beans and filled with delicious ganache with dark chocolate from Ecuador,” according to Neuhaus. To prepare your drink, you simply add hot milk and stir until the chocolate melts, creating “an intense hot chocolate taste for an experience unlike any other.” Each serving contains 160 calories and 8 grams of sugar. At $23.90 per box, it’s quite the splurge, but well worth it for a unique, high-quality hot chocolate experience.
If you are looking for an overall winning hot chocolate that is super chocolatey and rich (no special diets here) and has very few ingredients (meaning no questionable additives), Guittard Chocolate Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate (view at Amazon) is the way to go. It’s non-GMO, gluten-free, and can even be used in baking. If you’re in search of a great healthier hot chocolate mix, check out Nestle’s Fat Free Rich Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix (view at Amazon), which is not only fat-free, but is also low in calories and added sugar, plus has plenty of calcium.
What to Look for in Hot Chocolate Mixes
Most of us are familiar with the three main, broad types of chocolate—milk, dark, and white—but there are also percentages to take into account that further sub-divide those categories. You will often see a cocoa percentage listed on bars of chocolate or powders, and this captures how much of the product is actual ‘cocoa mass,’ as opposed to other added ingredients (i.e. sugar, vanilla, etc.). So if a product is labeled 70 percent dark chocolate, that means its cocoa mass is 70 percent, and 30 percent of the product is made up of other ingredients.
In order to make the best hot chocolate, you will want to follow the instructions on the label and prepare it as the manufacturer recommends. Some brands may specify using milk, others may say water or milk will suffice, and you’ll want to ensure you’re using the correct cup amount so as to not dilute your drink. Some companies may recommend using the stovetop, while others may offer microwave instructions. If your instructions specify getting your liquid to a certain temperature (to boil or not to boil), make sure to follow those instructions as well.
Like all products, you always want to pay careful attention to ingredient lists. While this is especially important to those with food allergies or sensitivities, it’s also simply a good habit to be aware of what’s in your products. Generally speaking, the shorter the list, the better; as ingredient lists grow longer and fill up with more difficult-to-pronounce, mysterious ingredients, you end up with more additives and artificial flavors. With a short, concise list, it’s easy to see and understand exactly what you’re getting in your product.
Does hot chocolate mix expire?
Hot chocolate can expire once the package has been opened. The USDA recommends one year in your pantry after opening. Always check your product’s label and follow the manufacturer’s expiration date on the package, as well as any storage instructions they provide.
Does hot chocolate mix contain gluten?
Most hot chocolate should be gluten-free, but, like any food allergy or intolerance, you want to double-check the label to be sure. If a product has a gluten-free claim or certification on the label, you’re good to go. Products can also state if they’re made in a gluten-free facility. Your best bet is to be your own detective and carefully read your labels.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The Spruce Eats writer Alyssa Langer is a registered dietitian and foodie, always curious about the next food or ingredient craze and hungry to learn and try more. Having worked in cookbook publishing, CPG label data, nutrition writing, and meal kits, her diverse background and varied interests provide a unique perspective that fosters clear, well-researched, and trustworthy reviews. A self-proclaimed chocoholic, she’s tried her fair share of hot chocolates over the years and will always say yes to marshmallows and whipped cream.