Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix

Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade hot chocolate, made from milk or rich cream, is nearly impossible to beat. Unfortunately, it takes a little time to make. I prefer hot cocoa mixes for sheer convenience.

I’ve been making my own cocoa mix for a few years. Packets of hot cocoa mix that you get in the grocery store are way too sweet for me now! I tried one about a month ago, and it’s never a good sign when you grimace while you’re trying to eat or drink something. It was so sweet and gross. Some hot cocoa mixes have weird (and not-so-weird) additives – corn syrup solids and the like. The same goes for powdered non-dairy creamer, which I also won’t use in hot cocoa mix.

I made a lot of hot cocoa and cocoa mixes during the past two years, but I keep returning to this same recipe, which I compare all mix recipes to. I want to add the caveat that I haven’t tried mixes made with actual chocolate – only cocoa powder. [I still have 7 canisters of cocoa left from when I ordered a case of 12 but ended up with 23 canisters of the stuff.]

The best hot cocoa mix recipe that I’ve found is still Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix recipe, with the adjustments below.

This mix is for a dark hot cocoa. It’s not particularly sweet. I like to think of it as an everyday hot cocoa mix; the Mocha Hot Cocoa I made last year is different (and not for everyone) with the addition of instant coffee, and other Hot Cocoa Mix is definitely much sweeter than this one. Alton Brown’s recipe is a solid, go-to recipe.

Alton Brown's hot cocoa mix, mixed with hot water, topped with marshmallows in a mug

I make this with non-fat powdered milk, powdered sugar, cocoa powder (mine right now is a Dutch/regular blend), salt, and cornstarch. The cornstarch thickens things up a little bit, but not too much. I also blend this together to make it dissolve better. The recipe originally calls for a pinch of cayenne, but I found it overwhelming when I added it to the mix the first time I made it – I probably added too big of a pinch.

I have a bullet blender, so the recipe below reflects that. I would say that this would probably yield 7 mugs of cocoa, but honestly, I forget to keep count. Alex and I combined can’t drink 7 mugs of cocoa in one sitting.

This cocoa thickens up a little after a minute or two, but it isn’t thick. If the flavor is too dark for you, you can add a few marshmallows to lighten it up. You could also add a little more sugar to your mug. It’s also nice if you put a little vanilla extract in it. I’ve slipped a vanilla bean in my container of it before and I think that it gives it a nice, rounder flavor. You could blend in some cinnamon, or add almond extract.

Even better: you can add a few chocolate chips to your mug when you add the cocoa mix to give the cocoa a richer, more velvety texture.

Trust me, though – it’s delicious without all those little additions too.

I’ve had good luck with using 3 tablespoons of mix for each 8 ounces of water, but if you don’t blend yours you’ll need to make adjustments, and stir extra well.

Looking for a hot chocolate mix to combine with milk instead? Try Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix (for a richer version) or Monster Hot Chocolate Mix (for a sweeter version).

Alton Brown's Hot Cocoa Mix
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins

A not-too-sweet hot cocoa mix, meant to be added to boiling water. Make it with artificial sweetener to cut calories.

This is a small batch version, the perfect amount to make with a bullet blender. 

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Alton Brown's Hot Cocoa Mix, hot cocoa mix
Servings: 7
Author: Leona Konkel
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 5/8 cup powdered milk (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. Blend mixture together. Store with vanilla bean if desired. Use roughly 3 tablespoons mix per 8 ounces hot/boiling water.


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