The Rising Spoon: How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder

How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder

Guess what's special about today? It's 12/12/12 AND National Cocoa Day! 

To celebrate, I'm posting my recipe for spicy hot cocoa made with cacao powder. You might be thinking, hot cocoa needs a recipe? I know, I know! Sounds so simple, right? 

How to Make Hot Chocolate & Cocoa

All you have to do is dissolve some sugar, then melt a bit of chocolate into warm milk and you have hot chocolate. Or substitute cacao powder instead of bar chocolate for hot cocoa. 

It isn't astrophysics. 

Despite this, most people still purchase store-bought hot cocoa packets instead of making their own. (I was one of those people not too long ago.) 


For convenience, of course, and because most folks have no idea what's actually in these mixes. They assume it's only cocoa powder, powdered milk, and sugar. Wrong. 

Hot Chocolate & Cocoa Mixes Aren't So Wholesome

Here's the ingredients list for a packet of a popular Hot Cocoa Mix:
How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder
Image Source

Here's the ingredients list for the drink pods you stick into the single serve machines:
How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder
Image Source: cocoa ingredients 
Let's see, between the two products we have hydrogenated coconut oil, corn syrup, dipotassium phosphate, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, acesulfame potassium, carrageen, artificial flavor, sucralose, polysorbate 60...

Grossed out yet? 

Thankfully these sites had the ingredients posted already so I didn't have to go to the grocery store and pay for a box of hot chocolate only to immediately throw it away.

How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder

They Might Even Upset Your Stomach

Fun personal anecdote from last year: whenever I and a few of my co-workers made hot chocolate with a packet of "cocoa" mixed with water last winter, we'd end up with upset stomachs. Now I know why.

And it has nothing to do with the one brand over another. National brand, off brand, gourmet--they all contain additives and processed ingredients.

It's not just the cocoa companies doing this. They're only a minority of the food companies selling products laced with artificial ingredients. 

If you're at all concerned about this (you should be) then start by reading the back labels of every single thing you buy. Trust me, you'll be surprised by what's in your food.

Skip the Store & Make It At Home In Minutes

Now that I've jaded your sweet perception of down home hot chocolate drinks, let me present you with a recipe for inexpensively making your own SUPERIOR version at home.

It's a healthy, decadent hot cocoa you can feel good about drinking or gifting to others around the holidays. You can easily adjust the ratios to your personal taste, whether that be more chocolatey, less sweet, more sweet or a whole lot of spicy!

Update (November 2015): I fixed this recipe again so I could take new pictures and this time around made a batch of homemade honey-sweetened marshmallows to top it (recipe from my blogging friend Emily of Recipes to Nourish) + a quick homemade coconut milk as the base. Both of these extra steps took it over the top! So yummy! :) 

How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder

Homemade Spicy Hot Cocoa

A delicious & healthy hot cocoa recipe you can feel good about drinking!! Organic cacao powder creates a decadent chocolate flavor that's accentuated with a touch of ground cinnamon, a dash of cayenne pepper, and a pinch of sea salt. My favorite way to fix it is with raw milk or homemade coconut or almond milk. So yummy!
Serves: 1

1 cup + 1/4 cup full-fat milk (dairy or dairy-free like homemade coconut milk and homemade almond milk)
2 tablespoons of organic raw cacao powder (I use THIS)
1 1/2 tablespoons raw, organic sugar
1 teaspoon of powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon powder (I love THIS ceylon cinnamon powder)
2-3 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 pinch of sea salt (I recommend Pink HimalayanCeltic or Utah sourced salt)
Homemade whipped cream or homemade marshmallows (optional) 

Recommended Equipment
small saucepan
measuring spoons (these magnetic ones are cool!)
wooden spoon
cute latte cups (okay, these aren't obligatory, but it will make you feel fancy!)

Measure the cacao powder, raw sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, sea salt, and cayenne pepper into a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and slowly pour 1/4 cup of the milk into the spices, stirring constantly until the sugars have dissolved and all the spices are mixed together, making sure to press out any lumps with the back of your spoon. 

When the mixture is smooth, stir in the rest of the milk and heat the cocoa until it's warm enough to drink (don't let it boil over). Pour into your favorite mug and drink right away, or dollop some whipped cream or sliced marshmallows on top sprinkled with extra cinnamon and cayenne. Enjoy!

Notes & Tips
  • Make sure to use 100% cacao powder, NOT a hot cocoa or sipping chocolate mix.
  • This cocoa is pretty rich, so you may want to split it with someone else and enjoy a smaller portion OR drink it more slowly. Totally up to you! :)
  • For traditional hot cocoa, simply leave out the cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt.
  • This is REALLY yummy mixed 50/50 with freshly brewed dark roast coffee. It makes an amazing mocha-esque drink!

How to Make Hot Chocolate 
  • If you'd rather have hot chocolate instead of cocoa, substitute melted semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate instead of the cacao powder. You may need to add more or less chocolate pieces, depending on how rich you'd like it to taste.

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I'd like to hear from YOU!

What's your favorite cold weather comfort food to pair with hot cocoa or chocolate? 

How to Make Hot Cocoa with Cacao Powder

Keep Reading! More Posts From The Rising Spoon:

This post was shared on Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-UpYou're Gonna Love It Tuesday and Treasure Box Tuesday.

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About Elaina Newton
Elaina is the creator, writer, and foodie behind the blog, The Rising Spoon. She's a self-taught cook and passionate about spreading basic cooking skills and information about real foods. She loves reading fiction, crafting, video games, dark roast coffee, cats, and rainy days. Connect with her on Pinterest, Facebook, Google +, and Twitter.


  1. So true! Thank you so much for the info about the artificial stuff. I have been wondering why I feel so bad after drinking something that tastes good. I am so switching to the natural ingredients you listed.

    Thank you and keep sharing, your voice is being heard!

    1. Cameran: Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad someone is listening, lol. Honestly, if I can help enlighten just one person to all the junk that's in processed, pre-packaged foods, then I've helped them tremendously! The more they know, the better choices they'll make, which means they'll eat better foods and be healthier overall. :)