Homemade Microwave Hot Chocolate

Why make hot chocolate from scratch when you can use little store-bought packets?

  1. You may not always have packets of mix on hand, but the ingredients for hot chocolate are staples most people always have in the cupboard or pantry.
  2. No additives or preservatives. Just fresh natural ingredients.
  3. You can tweak the recipe to suit your taste.
  4. It’s not any more difficult than using a packet. In fact, you can premix the cocoa and sugar in bulk, then scoop right from that into your mug. Just use the same number of total cocoa plus sugar measures per mug.

I’ve been working on the perfect homemade microwave hot chocolate and I think I’ve got it now. I don’t normally measure when I make it, but I have recently made mugs of hot cocoa in which I measured carefully based on many mugs of just “eyeballing” amounts. Once you make it a few times using your favorite mug(s) you’ll probably be able to just guestimate the liquid and use regular spoons for measuring, too. 😉

The main thing is the ingredient ratios. Once you get a feel for that you’ll be able to whip up hot cocoa in any size mug. People’s taste in hot chocolate varies quite a bit. Some people want very creamy cocoa, some like vending machine style hot cocoa, some want it sweet, some want more of a semi-sweet chocolate taste. Start with what’s below, then tweak the proportions to suit your own taste.

Here’s the main proportions:

1 part water to 3 parts milk
1 part cocoa to 2 parts sugar

To this is added a small amount of vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Amount of vanilla extract. For 10-12oz I wouldn’t use more than 1/8 tsp — a bit less would be better (to my taste). When making 8 oz. I’d shoot for something approximating 1/16 tsp. (I have a 1/8 tsp measure and there are even smaller measuring spoons. Most of the time I just pour a tiny amount into the cap of the vanilla extract bottle.) If you can taste vanilla, it’s too much; anything below the point where you distinctly taste vanilla is okay. If you think that vanishingly small amount of vanilla isn’t enough to matter, you will certainly taste the difference if you leave it out!

Pinch of salt (This is optional. Theoretically it makes the flavor stronger, but — unlike vanilla — it won’t hurt the flavor to leave it out.)

A Note About Cocoa: I usually use just plain ol’ Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa — the same thing I use for making brownies, but you can also get cocoa that’s been “dutched”; it’s sometimes sold as “European” style cocoa. So what’s the difference in flavor? The best way I can tell you is to think about the difference in flavor between hollow chocolate Easter bunnys and regular Hershey bars. Hollow Easter bunnys usually taste different: they taste like Dutch chocolate. You can use any kind of unsweetened cocoa powder: regular, Dutched, European, “gourmet”, etc. So if you have some kind of special cocoa powder that’s the secret ingredient in your chocolate cake or brownies, it can be the secret ingredient in your hot chocolate, too. 😀 It just needs to be unsweetened cocoa powder.

Do you know how much your favorite microwaveable mug holds? Get a liquid measure and find out. Do this once and you can probably fake it with your other mugs. The amount you need to know isn’t the total volume of the mug all the way up to the top, but about how high you usually fill it. My favorite mugs tend to be about 10 oz, which hold about 8 oz if they’re not over-filled. My regular travel mugs hold slightly over 12 oz and I usually fill them with about 11 oz. Your mileage may vary.

Below are the amounts for making up both 1 1/3 cups (slightly less than 11 oz) and 1 cup (8 oz). Both of these measures break down neatly for milk to water proportions.

For 11 oz in a 12oz (or larger) mug: Use 1/3 cup water to 1 cup milk. 1 Tbls unsweetened cocoa to 2 Tbls sugar. Add 1/8 tsp vanilla (maximum, slightly less may be better) and a pinch of salt.

For 8 ozs in a 10 oz mug: Use 1/4 cup water to 3/4 cups milk. 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa to 4 tsp sugar. Add 1/16 tsp vanilla (or anything less than 1/8 tsp). Pinch of salt.

Most regular spoons are actually close to 1 Tbls though we call them “teaspoons”, so you may be able to use the same spoon for measuring as for stirring when making the larger amount.

  1. Heat water in mug in microwave. I do this for 30-45 secs, depending on the amount of water, but it may be less or more depending on your microwave. It doesn’t need to be boiling, just good and hot.
  2. Add cocoa, sugar, vanilla and salt, stir well until it’s dissolved.
  3. Top off with milk. Stir. Heat in microwave 1 min (or to the temperature you want to drink it).

For a more semi-sweet drink, use less sugar. For a creamier drink, use more milk — or use milk with a higher fat content. This recipe was developed using 2% milk. Whole milk would give you a creamier drink (as would substituting a dollop of cream for part of the milk). For vending machine type hot chocolate, increase the amount of water in the water-to-milk ratio or use non-fat milk.

I haven’t yet tried the part-cream, whole milk, or non-fat milk variations, but it makes sense that a higher fat content would make the hot chocolate richer and creamier and since vending machine chocolate tends to be thin and water-based, using more water or lowering the fat content would probably approximate that. If you try these variations, let me know if I’m right. 🙂

Marshmallows, peppermint sticks or cinnamon sticks are embellishment serving options.

Enjoy this on cold winter days! 😀 I’d appreciate your comments here on the blog as this recipe is one of my originals. It’s not a very flashy recipe, but I consider it a necessity. I drink this year ’round! 😀


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