Healthy Hot Chocolate

Technically hot cocoa, this dairy-free friendly recipe is deliciously smooth and chocolatey.


Did you know there’s a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa?

I always thought the two were interchangeable and the terminology used depends on what was customary growing up (both with a family and locally) and personal inclinations.

But apparently, there’s a verifiable difference that sets hot cocoa and hot chocolate apart. It’s all in the base: a powdered base of cocoa powder, sugar, and other flavorings is the foundation of hot cocoa whereas the main component of hot chocolate is chocolate which is melted and mixed with warm milk, water, or cream to make the hot chocolate drinkable.

The difference is rather evident now; nevertheless, old habits die hard because this Healthy Hot Chocolate is technically hot cocoa.

As most teenagers aren’t, I was NOT a morning person in high school. But I was a heavy sleeper though! Alarm clocks wouldn’t phase me; no matter the type of alarm, how obnoxiously ear-splitting the sound, or whatever contraption or trick that was put to test, my deep sleep prevailed. And my parents tried everything – even an alarm clock with wheels that shot off the nightstand and rolled around the room so you had to physically get up and out of bed to turn it off – but do you want to know the one thing that worked (okay, semi-worked)?

The ritual of my sweet (brave) mom coming into my room bearing a steaming cup of creamy hot chocolate. It was more of a peace offering really – as dramatic as it sounds – so the troll that I vehemently resembled in the morning wouldn’t bite her head or hand off while she gently attempted to stir me from my sleep. Do you remember the one episode of Spongebob with Dirty Dan when Patrick and Spongebob get trapped in Sandy’s treedome while she’s hibernating for the winter? And do you remember the moment when she gets woken up? Well, while that depiction is admittedly colorful, it’s honestly a pretty accurate comparison.

Because of those early morning hot chocolate memories, hot chocolate is more than a wintry drink; it’s acceptable and warmly welcomed at any point in the year. With a healthy twist on the holiday (or in my case, year-round) staple, this dairy-free friendly recipe is deliciously smooth and chocolatey.

Healthy Hot Chocolate


  • 16 oz. unsweetened dairy-free milk*
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup (Lakanto, monk fruit)
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. stevia or sweetener
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Optional: 4-5 drops of peppermint extract


  • Add the milk to a small pot over low-medium heat and bring it to a simmer*
  • Once simmering, add the remaining ingredients and consistently stir for about 5 minutes
  • Remove from heat and enjoy!


  • *Dairy-free milk: any kind of milk, dairy or non-dairy, should work fine. And if you’ve ever been interested in making your own dairy-free milk, it’s easy and nearly effortless with JOI (which stands for Just One Ingredient). The almond and cashew bases are my favorites. If you’re thinking about trying JOI for homemade non-dairy milk or a number of other recipes on their website, I’d love it if you saved on your order with my code, SU10!
  • *1. You can also add everything to the pot at once and bring it to a simmer, it just takes a little more effort to fully mix the cocoa power in, but I’ve made it both ways and it turns out amazing either way!
  • This recipe can easily be halved, doubled, or tripled!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Some might argue that no cup of hot cocoa is complete without a heaping handful of marshmallows layered on top. But whether its marshmallows, whipped cream with festive sprinkles, or left plain and simple, it’s a delightfully sweet treat that’s sure to hit the spot.

There’s no need for pre-packaged, instant hot chocolate when there’s this rich and velvety hot chocolate that so happens to be healthy, too! This holiday season (or whenever the craving calls, really) I hope that you get to relax and curl up with a soothing, warm mug of this hot chocolate and a fresh plate of chilled sugar cookies.

P.S. Here’s a secret to taking this hot chocolate, and any recipe for that matter, up a notch: Mexican vanilla extract.

If interested, the macronutrients are below. They are kept separate at the very end of each recipe blog so that this can remain a safe, positive space for all as not everyone wishes to see the nutritional information.

Macros: 16 C | 6 F | 3 P

This is for the entire recipe which makes either 1 big cup of hot chocolate or 2 smaller cups. If it’s split into 2 cups, each cup would be: 8 C | 3 F | 0.5 P

The macros for recipes are also available on MyFitnessPal. Simply search the name of the recipe followed by “ – SUNutrition” (so for this recipe, search “Healthy Hot Chocolate – SUNutrition”).

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