Spanish Hot Chocolate (Chocolate Caliente)

Holding Churro Over Hot Chocolate

Yin Jiang / Getty Images

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 2 to 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
227 Calories
12g Fat
23g Carbs
6g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 227
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 16%
Saturated Fat 8g 38%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 75mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 21g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 191mg 15%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 267mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Chocolate has a long history in Spain, the country known for adding the familiar sweetness to what was originally a bitter-tasting Mayan beverage. Today, the Spanish enjoy hot chocolate for breakfast, and throughout the country there are chocolate drinking establishments, called chocolaterias, that serve chocolate caliente, or hot chocolate, as well as cakes and pastries to accompany it.

If the only hot cocoa you’ve ever had is the kind made using envelopes of powdered mix and hot water, you won’t recognize this incredibly rich, thick, and flavorful drink—but are sure to find it more genuine tasting. There are three slightly different versions here: One uses sweetened milk chocolate; one uses bittersweet chocolate; and the third uses baking chocolate and sugar. Try all three to decide which type you prefer. No matter which chocolate you choose, the process is almost the same.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 4 ounces milk chocolate

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the cornstarch. Whisk to dissolve the cornstarch.

  3. Once the cornstarch is dissolved, heat the milk over medium heat just until it is starting to simmer around the edges of the pan.

  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chocolate immediately, and begin stirring until the chocolate is completely melted. If the milk cools off too fast, place the pan back on the stove over low heat to melt the chocolate.

  5. Once the chocolate has been fully incorporated, place the pan back on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring slowly but constantly.

  6. When the mixture begins to simmer, it should start to thicken. As soon as you see it thicken, remove the pan from the heat so the cornstarch will not thin.

  7. Ladle the hot chocolate immediately into cups and serve piping hot, ideally with Spanish churros for dipping.

Tips

  • Be sure to use a clean spoon every time you taste the hot chocolate. Enzymes from your mouth can cause a thickened cornstarch mixture to become thin.
  • Do not cook the hot chocolate mixture over high heat because it can cause it to become lumpy.

Variations

  • For a bittersweet chocolate version, use 2 cups whole milk, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, and 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate and continue with the method as written above.
  • For a baking chocolate version, use 2 cups whole milk, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, 3 ounces baking chocolate, and 1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar. If you are using baking chocolate, pour the sugar into the chocolate milk mixture between Step 4 and Step 5, and stir until it is thoroughly dissolved. Start with the smaller amount of sugar and add more to taste if necessary. This should be done with the pan off of the heat. When you place the pan on the stove again in the next step, taste the chocolate for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary.

Chocolate Caliente and Churros

A typical pairing in Spanish cafés, as well as home kitchens, is a cup of hot chocolate and a churro. The delicately crisp, sugary fried dough is the perfect match for the rich chocolate beverage. A good test for the right consistency of the chocolate caliente is to see if the churro can stand up straight; once dunked, the churro should have a nice coating of chocolate, but the drink should be thin enough to sip easily.