The Best Hot Chocolate Mixes, Tested by Food Network Kitchen

We made more than a dozen cups of hot cocoa to find the best store-bought hot chocolate mixes.

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December 11, 2023

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Homemade hot chocolate with mini marshmallow in a blue enamel mug on a light slate background.Rustic style.

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Homemade hot chocolate with mini marshmallow in a blue enamel mug on a light slate background.Rustic style.

Photo by: Lilechka75

Lilechka75

Our Top Hot Chocolate Mix Picks

Tested by Lesley Porcelli for Food Network Kitchen

When it gets cold out, sometimes a steaming cup of hot chocolate just hits the spot. (Seriously, was there anything better as a kid than coming in from a day of sledding to a cup of cocoa? We think not.) Though your childhood memories may be of an envelope of instant powder from the grocery store, sometimes the occasion warrants something more indulgent. To find out how the classic grocery store hot cocoa mixes stacked up against newer, fancier options, we stirred, we whisked, and we sipped more than a dozen cups of hot cocoa in classic, dark, white and marshmallow varieties to find the best hot chocolates to suit everyone’s preferences. These are the best hot chocolate mixes on the market.

How We Tested

Though there are some debates about what to call “hot cocoa” and what to call “hot chocolate,” we ignored that for this test. For this hot chocolate test, we only purchased mixes that required no more than mixing in hot water or milk, and no additional ingredients.

To test, we used 2-percent milk any time a cocoa called for “milk” only (only one, the Vosges, specified whole milk, but, spoiler alert, going with 2-percent did nothing to make that experience less rich). Any time a brand called for “hot water or milk,” we went with milk, on the idea that milk just had to be inherently better, and we wanted to give each brand its best shot. However, for those that asked for hot water only, we obliged, thinking that perhaps those brands included dry milk in their mixes and using milk would just muddy the waters. For those that specified, we whisked the cocoa into the milk while warming on the stovetop; for those that just asked for “hot” or “warm milk” without specifying how it got that way, we went with microwaving the milk, on the idea that ease of preparation, particularly for this thing that our kids sometimes do on their own, is a plus. Finally, we taste tested each hot chocolate and noted any odd flavors, textures or difficulties when mixing. Our top picks all had rich, delicious tastes and were simple to make.

$11.99

If we had to pick one that would please the most people at a big gathering that included chocolate snobs, children, and you know, regular people, who don’t think too hard about hot chocolate, this is it. This cocoa has a huge, rounded chocolatey flavor without leaning too heavily on any bittersweet notes or getting too heavy or rich. That said, it definitely and noticeably tastes more special than anything available at the supermarket.

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$3.59

I know, I know, those of you who aren’t into dark chocolate will panic at this, but trust us here. Without throwing shade on the supermarket brands, let’s just say that many of them go to that place that’s so sweet that it can practically force a toothache. This is the exception, and we promise it doesn’t taste particularly “dark chocolatey,” just nicely balanced. The Swiss Miss universe is a big one, but dare we declare this the one Swiss Miss to rule them all.

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We admit it, we got swept away with this one, because you open the tin to find chocolate shavings! The tingling of the senses continues as you prepare it, whisking it into milk in a saucepan, because the butterscotch-y aromas that rise to greet you are pretty darn exciting. And the flavor is just right, too, with those buttery notes that you want from milk chocolate, yet still deep and rich flavor.

Buy It
$18.50

For those who prefer their eating chocolate one way — dark — this cocoa will make you very happy. Even the aromas while you’re making it convey that you’re headed to the dark side. This is ideal, rich, balanced, deeply bittersweet, and exactly what you want for slow sipping while reading the Sunday paper with snow swirling outside your windows. (If you’re us, anyway.)

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$10.35

Ironic that a dark horse candidate could land itself in first place, despite the category itself being, uh, white horse? Anyway, this was the only of the white chocolates tested to use hot water rather than milk; we were skeptical. Further yet that it looks thin, kind of like when you add a dash of milk to a cup of Earl Grey tea. But we were blown away by how its flavor is thick and rich (despite no milk) and of all of the whites, truly captures the signature pale caramelly flavor profile of white chocolate.

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$19.49

What a delightful experience. Indulge us for a moment to again, perhaps, throw shade on the instant-mix-with-marshmallow experiences you may have had in the past. That saccharine-sweetness, those scary “marshmallows” that crunch like Styrofoam at their centers? Toss that all aside from your mind. This mix produces wonderfully chocolatey cocoa with full-size mini marshmallows that bob to the top like magic as you stir everything together, and stay fluffy (and taste like real marshmallows!) while you sip. This mix raises this category to an art form.

Buy It
$8.99

A really good runner-up that is more widely available, this mix also had wonderful real marshmallows, much like the Barú. The cocoa here was a little less chocolatey, but in honesty, had the Barú not crossed our paths, we would be raving about this mix as the winner instead.

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Look, this is not for everyone. This is for your friend who obsesses about chocolate and thinks nothing about dropping $8 for a cup of hot cocoa at a fancy city café or chocolatier, of which Vosges is one of the premier examples. This cocoa costs a lot, takes the longest to prepare (instructions tack on 5 minutes of steeping time after whisking together on the stovetop) and, maddeningly, comes in a box that is 3.5 servings. (Throw us a bone, Vosges, what are we supposed to do with that extra half serving?) But if you want to give someone that transportive experience you get drinking the best hot chocolate in a European café (and not one of those greasy cups of hot chocolate that you can also encounter in a European café), look no further. This is rich, complex, with notes from floral to tobacco. Pair with fresh croissants for breakfast and it will all be so over-the-top, your recipient will think you are about to propose.

Buy It
$14.15

If you’re sold on that European sipping experience but are saving for an actual European vacation, a cup of Trader Joe’s is a delicious consolation prize, almost as rich and sophisticated as the Vosges. It smells divine, is well balanced, and would, with a store-bought shortbread cookie alongside, transport you wherever you’d like to go.

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