We Tasted Every Instant Hot Chocolate We Could Find — Here Are the Best

Yes, Swiss Miss is part of the line-up.

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Food and Wine's favorite hot chocolate

Matt Taylor-Gross

Perhaps it’s a variation of classical conditioning or a Pavlovian response, but the taste of instant hot cocoa conjures visions of searing my tongue on too-hot cocoa at the ice skating rink. Is it just me or did this happen to all 10-year-olds? While I’ve gained enough patience with age to wait until my cocoa cools, the sheer joy of sipping a warm cup of chocolatey goodness in the winter remains unchanged. 

Despite the category’s obvious wide appeal, not all hot chocolates are created equally. You can make this delicious version with creamy coconut milk by spending time over a stove slowly integrating chocolate into simmering milk, but if you’re like me, you’ll want to enjoy your hot cocoa in mere seconds. We’re in luck, there are endless options when it comes to hot chocolate mix and we tasted as many as we could get our hands on. Read on for 5 outstanding hot chocolate mixes.  

What is Hot Chocolate Mix? 

Traditionally, hot chocolate is made in a saucepan by combining chocolate with warm milk and sugar. Hot chocolate mix follows the same basic combination of cocoa, sugar, and sometimes powdered milk, which all blend together when whisked with hot milk or water. Mixes lean on different types of chocolate; some blends have small chips or flakes of chocolate which slowly melt, while others use a cocoa powder for rich bitter intensity. Typically,  drinking chocolate or sipping chocolate refers to cocoa made from melted chocolate, whereas hot chocolate is an all-encompassing term that refers to cocoa powder-based varieties as well. 

We tested over 20 hot chocolates made with hot whole milk. Two tablespoons of each hot chocolate mix was whisked into the hot milk until melted and combined. Sadly for our tasters, no whipped cream or marshmallows were consumed, this is, afterall, for science. 

Best for Dark Chocolate Lovers: Crow & Moss Honduras Wampusirpi Drinking Chocolate 70%

Crow & Moss Drinking Chocolate

Specializing in thoughtfully sourced and crafted chocolate bars, it’s no surprise that Crow & Moss makes an excellent drinkable version, too. This 70% drinking chocolate is ultra-luxurious with rich notes of honey, aromatic coffee, and toasted nuts. “This is a very complex drinking chocolate,” shared one editor. “It tastes like if I melted a really high-quality chocolate bar. You get those sweet, nutty, banana bread notes, which is a nice surprise.” 

If you are a lover of dark chocolate and care about thoughtful, sustainable sourcing, this is the pick for you. Made with cocoa beans harvested in North-Eastern Honduras, in a region called Wampusirpi that is only reachable by a two-day canoe journey up the Rio Patuca river, this cocoa stood out to our team for its flavor and aroma. 

Price at time of publish: $18 per 10-ounce packet

Most Nostalgic: Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate

swiss miss hot chocolate mix


We’d be remiss not to include Swiss Miss in our taste test because when it comes to hot chocolate mix, it's by far the most well-loved. Swiss Miss makes a variety of flavors of powdered hot chocolate mix from seasonal favorites like pumpkin spice, to mix made with unicorn-shaped marshmallows. Still, the Milk Chocolate hot cocoa reigns supreme. 

Made with cocoa powder, powdered nonfat milk, and coconut oil, Swiss Miss has a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel and balanced sweetness. Our tasters agreed that Swiss Miss lives up to the communal memories shared of childhood snow days, and for some, it actually impressed even more. “Love it!” shared one editor, “It’s balanced and not too sweet — classic and comforting.” 

Price at time of publish: $3 per pack of 8 servings

Nostalgic Runner-Up: Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate

nestle rich milk hot chocolate mix


Nestle’s Rich Milk Chocolate mix also deserves an honorable mention when it comes to hitting both quality and nostalgia. Our tasters loved the old-school milk chocolate flavor, even noticing a balancing salty finish, but agreed it was a tad sweet. “Sweet and salty!” said one editor. “This feels like what I remember enjoying after playing in the snow as a kid.”  

Price: $6 per 39-serving tin

Best Spiced: Spicewalla Classic Hot Chocolate

spicewalla classic hot chocolate mix


Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to the top of hot cocoa is always a welcome addition in my book. We tasted multiple hot chocolates that leaned on spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger to round out the sweetness of the drink and add a little heat. Our favorite spiced hot chocolate kept things simple with a dash of cinnamon to pair with the warming chocolate. Spicewalla uses high-quality Dutch Process cocoa powder, which is dark and vibrant with aromatic and nutty notes. “Reminds me of licking brownie batter off the spoon,” shared one editor during our tasting. 

The addition of cinnamon and vanilla actually enhances the chocolatey flavor in this hot cocoa, giving it an indulgent richness that goes unmatched. “Smells really spicy in a good way,” one editor noted. It’s round and warming with a strong cinnamon flavor,” agreed another. “A pleasant and delicious divergence from the classic.” 

Price at time of publish: $15 per 4.1-ounce tin

Most Spike-able: Lococo Hot Chocolate

lococo hot chocolate mix


Don’t get me wrong, Lococo’s hot chocolate is totally delicious on its own. The women-owned brand crafts a surprisingly complex dairy-free hot cocoa mix made with organic cocoa, coconut milk, adaptogenic mushrooms, and a warming blend of spices including ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. The depth of spice in this hot chocolate makes it a fabulous companion to a bit of booze: it has enough oomph and personality to stand up to bourbon or perhaps a sweet digestif like amaro

Price at time of publish: $24 per 14-serving jar

Platonic Ideal: Starbucks Double Hot Chocolate 

starbucks hot chocolate mix


When it comes to hot chocolate, Starbucks is a personal favorite. While it might not have a blend of spices or be sourced from hard-to-reach locations, Starbucks’ Double Hot Chocolate mix has a comforting familiarity while still being delicious. “It tastes just like the one you get in the store,” shared one editor. For me, that’s a big achievement for hot chocolate made at home in seconds. Have some peppermint syrup on hand, and maybe some espresso? Add a pump or two and make a peppermint mocha in the comfort of your own home.

Price at time of publish: $7 per 8 servings

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