This cinnamon hot chocolate feels like a warm hug on a cold day. The richness of the chocolate and the cozy smell of cinnamon will transport you to a posh Parisian cafe. Once you realize how easy it is to make this hot chocolate, you will never buy the powdered mix again.
You may also enjoy my pistachio hot chocolate next.
- What is Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
- Hot Chocolate vs Hot Cocoa
- Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Instructions (Step-by-Step Photos)
- The Microwave Method
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Tips for Recipe Success
- Scaling the Recipe
- Making Ahead
- Serving Ideas
- More recipes to try
What is Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
Cinnamon hot chocolate is a cinnamon-spiced version of traditional hot chocolate. This recipe calls for semisweet chocolate chips for a rich and velvety flavor. It is quick and easy to make and goes well with a variety of toppings. The best part is that you can customize it quite a few ways and enjoy this decadent treat as you like.
Hot Chocolate vs Hot Cocoa
Hot chocolate, also sometimes known as drinking chocolate, is made by melting chocolate (like baking chocolate, chocolate chips, etc.). On the other hand, the key “chocolatey” ingredient in hot cocoa is cocoa powder. Other ingredients in both hot beverages can be more or less the same.
Hot chocolate can be prepared with almost any type of baking chocolate you like, such as semi-sweet, white, dark, milk, peanut butter, butterscotch, or even mint chocolate. Because chocolate is used instead of cocoa powder, the consistency of hot chocolate is thicker and richer than that of hot cocoa.
The terms "hot chocolate" and "hot cocoa" are often used interchangeably. If you're particular about the type of beverage you want, it's always a good idea to check whether the main ingredient is cocoa powder or melted chocolate.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Here are some helpful notes on the ingredients you need to make this decadent cinnamon hot chocolate.
Chocolate Chips or Baking Chocolate Bar
I like to use semi-sweet chocolate chips, but you can use milk or dark ones if you prefer. You can even use a baking chocolate bar. Just chop it up or break it up into small pieces before use.
You may need to change the amount of sugar in the recipe depending on the type of chocolate you choose. I use Kirkland's semi-sweet chips (51% cocoa), and I don’t use any additional sugar.
I find that adding cocoa powder makes this drink a little less creamy and velvety. While my recipe doesn’t call for cocoa powder, you can add up to 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder per cup — while cooking. But when doing so, reduce the quantity of chocolate chips by 1 tablespoon, and adjust the sugar as per your liking.
The creamier the milk, the better. Use whole milk for this recipe, or if you are in the mood for some serious indulgence, use half and half. Low-fat, skimmed, or fat-free milk can be used too, but you won’t get the same creamy consistency.
You can also use non-dairy, vegan milk varieties like oat milk, cashew milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk. Creamier varieties like oat milk will work best, though.
Like many ground spices, ground cinnamon loses its aroma and flavor over time. You might have to increase the quantity of ground cinnamon if it's been sitting in your pantry for a while. But be careful when adding extra cinnamon; you don't want the flavor of cinnamon to overwhelm the taste of chocolate.
If you don't have real vanilla extract, you can use artificial vanilla extract instead (also known as vanilla essence). Check the label on your chocolate chip pack since some brands contain vanilla flavoring. If you are using these vanilla-flavored chocolate chips, you can leave out the extract.
Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder
Using a little instant coffee or espresso powder is an easy way to amplify the chocolate flavor. Although instant coffee and espresso powder are not the same things, they both work nicely in this recipe. Oh and if you have some instant coffee lying around, you gotta try this whipped coffee float — perfect for when you're craving a chilled drink!
A pinch of salt balances the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor. Make do with whatever salt you have on hand. Sea salt, pink salt, kosher salt, or table salt will all work.
You may not need any additional sugar if you’re using semi-sweet chocolate. Milk chocolate chips, on the other hand, can have more sugar than semi-sweet ones. The amount of sugar in various varieties and brands might vary widely.
If you'd like to control the amount of sugar, use unsweetened chips and then add sugar to taste. Sugar-free chocolate may not be the same as unsweetened chocolate and may include other sweeteners or sugar substitutes. Always read the label to be sure of the ingredients.
Common toppings include whipped cream, marshmallows, cinnamon sticks, and chocolate shavings. See the serving ideas section for more topping suggestions.
Instructions (Step-by-Step Photos)
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare this cinnamon hot chocolate. Don't forget to check out the recipe card down below for the printable version of this recipe with detailed instructions and all the important tips and notes.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat it to a gentle simmer (not a boil). Stir the milk constantly, or it will stick to the pan and burn.
Then, reduce the heat to low and add the semi-sweet chocolate chips (or baking chocolate) to the saucepan.
Add instant coffee or espresso powder.
Also, add some ground cinnamon.
To balance the flavors, add a pinch of salt.
And add vanilla extract or vanilla essence.
After adding all of the ingredients, whisk until the chocolate is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into a cup.
Enjoy with your favorite toppings (see topping ideas here).
The Microwave Method
You can make this recipe in a microwave when preparing a single serving. This method is not suitable for making any bigger quantities of cinnamon hot chocolate.
In a microwave-safe mug, heat the milk for 90 seconds (microwave in three intervals of 30 seconds, stirring in between). Then, in the heated milk, add all of the additional ingredients and stir with a spoon until all the chocolate dissolves. If necessary, use a small whisk. Microwave the mug for 30 seconds more. Then, stir again and enjoy.
Don’t leave the microwave unattended, as milk drinks tend to spill easily because of the uneven heating in the microwave.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There is a slight difference. These are both chocolate-flavored milk drinks. Hot chocolate is often prepared with melted chocolate and is served hot or warm with a variety of toppings. In contrast, chocolate milk is made by blending chocolate syrup or cocoa powder with milk and sugar and is served chilled. Unlike hot cocoa or hot chocolate, the ingredients of chocolate milk are not heated together during the preparation.
It all depends on the type of chocolate you enjoy. If you prefer milk chocolate, choose chocolate chips or baking chocolate with up to 35% cocoa. If you like your concoctions a little darker and more intense, look for semi-sweet chocolate with up to 65% cocoa content. And for a very dark chocolate drink, look for chocolate with even greater percentages of cocoa.
I like my hot chocolate semi-sweet, so I look for 45% to 60% cocoa content.
Remember, the lower the percentage of cocoa, the sweeter the chocolate. So if you’re using milk or semi-sweet chocolate, don't add any additional sugar until you've tasted your drink.
Yes, in most cases. Hot chocolate is prepared using chocolate, milk, sugar, and sometimes added spices or extracts. All of these ingredients are typically gluten-free, but always read the label to be sure. Toppings and sauces may not always be gluten-free, so double-check before consuming.
Yes, you can. But the resulting drink will be hot cocoa, not hot chocolate. Still very delicious though.
For each cup of milk, use 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (assuming you are not using any chocolate chips or baking chocolate). Use all the other ingredients listed in the recipe and follow the same instructions for preparation. If you're using unsweetened cocoa powder, you may need to add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of sugar.
Use half-and-half instead of milk to make your hot chocolate more rich and creamy.
A better and less calorie-intense option is to use some cornstarch (cornflour) slurry. Mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of cold milk and mix until all the clumps dissolve. Then add this mixture to the boiling hot chocolate while continuously stirring. In a couple of minutes, you’ll see the drink thicken up.
This method of thickening is inspired by the Italian style of making hot chocolate (called Cioccolata Calda). While some Italian recipes use as much as 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per cup, I suggest you start with a slurry made of 1 teaspoon and work your way up, if needed.
Use vegan chocolate chips or baking chocolate, and replace regular milk with vegan milk. Lactose-free dairy options such as lactose-free whole milk or half-and-half can also be used.
This recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate that already contains sugar. I find that there’s no need for additional sugar, but if you like your drinks sweeter, feel free to add 1 teaspoon of sugar or more to taste.
If you’re using dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate, and you want to sweeten up your hot chocolate, you’ll likely need to add 2 teaspoons of sugar or more to taste.
Tips for Recipe Success
- Use the right kind of milk. The milk you use will determine the creaminess of your hot chocolate. You can pick half-and-half for a very rich, Parisian-style hot chocolate and can also choose skim milk for a low-fat alternative. But the taste and texture of the hot chocolate made with these different milk options will not be the same. If you’re using vegan milk, select creamier options like oat milk or cashew milk.
- Use good quality chocolate. If you're using semi-sweet chocolate, choose one with a higher cocoa percentage, ideally between 45% and 60%.
- Stir the milk while it heats to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Use a whisk to mix all the ingredients together. A spoon can also be used, but it will be difficult to stir everything together evenly. Also, if you're using a nonstick pot, use a silicone whisk. A metal whisk will scratch and damage the nonstick surface.
- Taste the drink for sweetness before you add any sugar. Semi-sweet chocolate chips and baking chocolate bars already contain sugar. Take a couple of sips of the prepared hot chocolate, and then add extra sugar, if you feel the need.
- Don't skip the salt. It's only a pinch, and you won't even notice it. However, it will help to balance out the other flavors and provide a bold, rich flavor.
Scaling the Recipe
This recipe is simple to scale up. Increase the number of servings on the recipe card below (using the + sign in the adjustable servings box), and the quantity of ingredients in the card will automatically adjust.
Be careful with the quantity of salt as you scale up the recipe. A pinch of salt is generally defined as 1/16 teaspoon. Remember this measurement when making a large batch.
The microwave method should only be used for preparing a single cup or mug of hot chocolate. When scaling up to prepare larger volumes, use the stovetop method. Batch heating milk in a microwave will be tricky and may result in spills since microwaves do not heat uniformly.
This cinnamon hot chocolate can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Add the toppings after reheating, just before you serve.
Allow your cinnamon hot chocolate to cool to room temperature. Then transfer it to an airtight container, such as a mason jar. Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Don't worry if the hot chocolate separates; just give it a good stir when you reheat it, and it’ll come together again.
Microwave: To reheat a single serving, pour the hot chocolate into a microwave-safe cup and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until warmed through. Doing this will prevent any hot spots from forming. Don’t leave it unattended, as milk drinks can easily spill in the microwave.
Cooktop: You can also reheat on a cooktop, which is the method I prefer, especially for larger volumes. Pour the drink into a saucepan and reheat over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Slow Cooker: Reheat the hot chocolate on low until it's nice and hot. After that, you may leave it on warm for up to 2 hours. If you're setting up a hot chocolate bar for a party, this may be an excellent method to serve hot chocolate. Don’t forget to leave a ladle on the side so your guests can fill their cups. If your instant pot includes a slow cook mode, you can use that too.
Here are a few useful and delicious variations of this recipe if you’d like to change things up a bit.
- Mexican Hot Chocolate: While preparing hot chocolate, add a pinch of ground nutmeg and a pinch of ground cayenne. A pinch is 1/16 teaspoon. And a pinch is needed for each cup of the drink. Increase the quantity accordingly as you scale up.
- Italian Hot Chocolate: Italian hot chocolate (or Cioccolata Calda) is regular hot chocolate thickened with some cornstarch slurry. Mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of cold milk and mix until all the clumps dissolve. Then add this mixture to the boiling hot chocolate in the saucepan while continuously stirring. In a couple of minutes, you’ll see the hot chocolate thicken up.
- Cinnamon Hot Cocoa: For each cup of milk, use 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (assuming you are not using any chocolate chips or baking chocolate). Use all the other ingredients listed in the recipe and follow the same instructions for preparation. If you're using unsweetened cocoa powder, you may need to add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of sugar.
- Spices: Try out different spices to make the flavors more exciting. Some options include ground cardamom, ground cloves, star anise, and ginger powder. You can use a pinch of any of these and experiment with different flavors.
- Nutella Hot Chocolate: Replace half the quantity of chocolate chips or baking chocolate with Nutella. The rest of the ingredient list and the process will remain the same.
- Vegan Hot Chocolate: Use vegan chocolate chips or baking chocolate, and replace regular milk with any creamy vegan milk like oat milk or cashew milk.
- Lactose-free Hot Chocolate: See the FAQs section above.
- Mini Marshmallows
- Whipped cream
- Mini chocolate chips (milk, dark, or white)
- Chocolate or rainbow sprinkles
- Crushed peppermints
- Chocolate truffles
- Cinnamon sticks
- Chocolate or caramel sauce or syrup
- Chocolate shavings
- Chocolate wafer rolls (or any other flavor you like)
- Chocolate cookies
- Peanut butter cookies
- Croissant or baguette (a french way of enjoying hot chocolate)
- 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk - See Note 1 for substitutions
- ¼ cup (56 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips - See Note 2 for substitutions and tips
- ¼ teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch salt - about 1/16 teaspoon
- ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract (real or artificial)
- Sugar to taste - optional, as the semi-sweet chocolate chips already contain sugar. See Note 3 below
- Toppings of choice - See Note 4 for topping ideas
- Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring it to a slow simmer, just until you notice a very slight movement in the milk. Stir the milk constantly, or it will stick to the pan and burn.
- Then, reduce the heat to low and add the semi-sweet chocolate to the saucepan. Stir for a couple of minutes so the chocolate starts to melt.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (instant coffee, ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and vanilla extract). If you are making any flavor additions or variations (see the variations section in the blog post above), now is the time to add those extra ingredients.
- Using a whisk, mix all of the ingredients until the chocolate is completely dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a cup. Pour the hot chocolate through a strainer if it appears grainy or if you're making a big batch.
- Add your favorite toppings (see Note 4 below for some options) and enjoy.
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