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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. But which is best for your chocolate preferences? We researched so you can decide.
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
Can be used for baking
Guittard is known for its top-notch baking chocolate chips, so it comes as no surprise it would 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. 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 for Easy Preparation: Nestle Hot Cocoa Fat-Free Rich Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
Low in calories and fat
Works with water or milk
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.
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 that's important to you, 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 marshmallow shapes
Convenient portion-control envelopes
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)? 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 portion-control envelopes are convenient for whipping up single servings.
Best for the Holidays: Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa Mix, Peppermint
Well-balanced blend of peppermint and chocolate
Great for gifting
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. The trusted Ghiradelli name ensures you're getting a high-quality chocolate taste, and the festive packaging makes it a great holiday gift-giving option. A 3-tablespoon serving contains 140 calories and 25 grams of sugar.
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, 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 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.
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. 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.
Best Variety Pack: Williams Sonoma Hot Chocolate Sampler
Classic and delicious flavors
Includes enough for a small gathering
The Williams Sonoma Hot Chocolate Sampler includes three signature blends—classic, peppermint, and salted caramel—packaged in festive, stackable tins. The three tins stack on top of each other with one lid at the top, making this a fun treat that also looks decorative on your counter. The blends are made with Guittard chocolate shavings and were inspired by the famous hot chocolate served at Angelina café in Paris, great for those looking for an authentic European-style cup. Each of the three sampler tins has enough mix for four servings of a cup of velvety, soothing, piping hot chocolate so you could host a small gathering or save for many nights of cheer for yourself.
Best for Large Gatherings: King Arthur Baking Company Classic Hot Chocolate Mix
Consistently rich flavor
Comes in two sizes
Only one flavor
King Arthur Baking Company may be most well-known for flour, but the employee-owned company extends the same commitment to quality to all of its products, including the Classic Hot Chocolate Mix. The hot cocoa, a premium mix of Guittard chocolate, is available in a 12-ounce jar or a 3-pound bag, which means you can throw a hot chocolate party or keep it in your pantry and know you'll be set for months. The hot chocolate is best enjoyed mixed into a cup of hot milk, but it also pairs well with espresso for a rich mocha.
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 (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 an easy cup of hot chocolate that's also fat-free, check out Nestle’s Fat Free Rich Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix (view at Amazon), which also 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 (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 adding marshmallows and whipped cream.