Sure, as an adult, coffee may be a more socially acceptable drink of choice, but deep down, everyone knows the satisfaction that truly good hot chocolate can bring any time of day. While we may associate this drink with the cold winter months, some 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, as well as options tailored to your desirable chocolate intensity, flavorings, add-ins, dietary needs, and much more.
Guittard Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate
High-quality, luxurious consistency
Minimal ingredient list
Can be used for baking
A lot of the mix is required per cup of milk
Guittard is known for its top-notch baking chocolate chips (the perfect addition to some decadent homemade chocolate chip cookies) so it comes as no surprise it would also offer a best-of-the-best drinking chocolate mix. What is unique about this one 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.
Although 4 tablespoons are required for each serving, we do 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 (a Hot Chocolate Brownie recipe is conveniently provided on the can).
Price at time of publish: $7
Calories Per Serving: 40 | Cacao Percentage: 53 percent | Allergens: None, and made in a peanut-free and gluten-free facility
Best Dark Chocolate
Valrhona Dark Hot Chocolate Mix
Chocolate chips for extra chocolatey experience
Short ingredient list
Can be used for iced drinks
Valrhona, a chocolate company based in France, dates back to 1922 and is well-known for its baking chocolate. This hot chocolate mix was the first item the company produced in the U.S., and it is a combination of cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips, providing a super-rich drink. Valrhona is 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.
Price at time of publish: $20
Calories Per Serving: 120 | Cacao Percentage: Not indicated | Allergens: This product is prepared and packaged using equipment that may come in contact with Wheat, Egg, Milk, Soy, Tree Nuts (Pecans, Coconut, Almonds), and Sesame
Best for Coffee Lovers
Lake Champlain Chocolates Mocha Hot Chocolate
Minimal ingredients list
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, Vermont. 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 delicious mocha, look no further than this Mocha Hot Chocolate. A 2-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 other flavors.
Price at time of publish: $12
Calories Per Serving: 100 | Cacao Percentage: Not indicated | Allergens: None
Best Variety Pack
Whittard of Chelsea Luxury Hot Chocolate Selection Luxury Hot Chocolate Selection
Enough for almost 20 cups
Two are dairy-free
Whittard of Chelsea’s variety selection features three of its most popular flavors—all of which are in its luxury collection. The Luxury Hot Chocolate is made with 39% cocoa sugar, and salt, the Luxury White Hot Chocolate has 15% cocoa butter, sugar, skimmed milk powder, whey powder, and salt, and the 70% Cocoa Hot Chocolate simply contains 70% cocoa and sugar. Basically, there’s an option for any palette. The collection makes a great gift or addition to any pantry.
Price at time of publish: $29
Calories Per Serving: 79 for Luxury Hot Chocolate, 91 for Luxury White Hot Chocolate, and 81 for 70% Hot Chocolate | Cacao Percentage: 39 percent for Luxury Hot Chocolate, 15 percent cocoa butter for Luxury White Hot Chocolate, and 70 percent for Cocoa Hot Chocolate | Allergens: Milk
COCO Colombian Plain Hot Chocolate Mix
Made with dark chocolate and cocoa powder
Good for gifting
Hot chocolate can be made with milk or water, but even choosing the latter doesn't guarantee the drink will be dairy-free. Many mixes have milk powder or another form of dairy in the ingredients—but not this one. There's only two ingredients, dark chocolate and cocoa powder, so you can mix it with your favorite alternative milk (or water) for a vegan beverage. With its bright and colorful design, the COCO Colombian Plain Hot Chocolate Mix isn't one to just keep in the pantry, it also makes a great gift.
Price at time of publish: $18
Calories Per Serving: Not indicated | Cacao Percentage: 45 percent | Allergens: Soy
Best for Easy Preparation
Nestle Hot Cocoa Fat-Free Rich Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
Low in calories and fat
Works with water or milk
Available in multiple sizes including in pouches
Contains artificial sweeteners
Sometimes the hot chocolate craving strikes and you want it quickly. This mix is convenient because you can make it even if you're completely out of milk. It’s quick and easy to prepare, providing both stovetop and microwave instructions for using either milk or water. Not only is this Nestle Hot Chocolate fat-free, but it’s also relatively low in calories (25 calories per 2 tablespoons), has 0 grams of added sugar, and is quite high in calcium (340 milligrams per serving). Nestle is also committed to using only real cocoa from sustainably sourced cocoa beans.
Price at time of publish: $0.63 per packet
Calories Per Serving: 25 | Cacao Percentage: Not indicated | Allergens: Contains milk; may contain soy and wheat
Land O Lakes Arctic White Hot Cocoa Mix
Comes in individual packets
Can get watery
Milk and dark chocolate aren't the only types that can be made into a creamy, warm drink. Land O Lakes—yep, the company known for its butter and other dairy products—also has a white hot chocolate mix that is sweeter than others on this list. It is sold in individual packets large enough for a cup, but be careful with how much water or milk you put in, as too much can saturate the flavor.
Price at time of publish: $1
Calories Per Serving: 160 | Cacao Percentage: Not applicable | Allergens: Coconut, milk, and soy
Best for Kids
Swiss Miss Unicorn Marshmallow Hot Cocoa Mix
Fun marshmallow shapes
Convenient portion-control envelopes
Just add hot water
High in calories and sugar
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate marshmallows in your hot chocolate, but this particular mix is extra fun and very kid-friendly. Instead of the standard plain mini marshmallows, why not top your kids' steaming cup of chocolatey goodness with colorful unicorn marshmallows?
These mixes are on the higher end when it comes to calories (190 per envelope) and sugar (32 grams), but the portion-control envelopes are convenient for whipping up single servings. All you need is some hot water to pour into a mug with the hot cocoa mix, and once that is good and stirred, add a packet of the colorful marshmallows. There are six of each in every box.
Price at time of publish: $4
Calories Per Serving: 190 | Cacao Percentage: Not indicated | Allergens: Milk
If you are looking for an overall winning hot chocolate that is super chocolatey and rich and has very few ingredients (meaning no questionable additives), Guittard Chocolate Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate is the way to go. It’s non-GMO, gluten-free, and can even be used in baking. If you’re in search of an easy cup of white hot chocolate, Land O Lakes Arctic White Chocolate Mix is an excellent and delicious choice.
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 actually "cocoa mass," as opposed to other added ingredients (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.
How We Selected
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best hot chocolate mixes on the market, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, cocoa powder percentage, and price—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
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 adding marshmallows and whipped cream.
Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food—from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. She updated this article to include the most up-to-date information.
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Gluten free labeling.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Organic on food labeling.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fair trade.
USDA. Foodkeeper data.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 'Gluten-free' means what it says.