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12 Twists on Instant Hot Chocolate

posted in Beverages by Lisa Freeman

Chilly afternoons cry out for mugs of steaming hot chocolate. It’s time to rescue all those instant hot chocolate packets wedged in the back of the cupboard! If you’ve got the time and ingredients to make homemade hot chocolate, by all means do so.

But there’s no shame in going instant, especially if you jazz it up with different flavors.

Just follow the package instructions for making the hot chocolate, and then try one of these 12 twists – topped off with marshmallows or whipped cream, of course.

  1. Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.
  2. Ice cream: It may sound weird to put something cold in your hot cocoa, but a scoop of ice cream makes it really creamy and thick. Make sure your hot chocolate is as hot as you can get it without allowing it to boil, and pop in a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
  3. Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these always adds zip.
  4. Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight.
  5. Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.
  6. Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold.
  7. Dark or White Chocolate Shavings: Dig that Hershey bar out of your bag and grab a grater. Sprinkling a few shreds of the real deal into your drink – or on the whipped cream on top of it – can only make things more heavenly.
  8. Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter , take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix really well until it melts.
  9. Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 fresh slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in.
  10. Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. Tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.
  11. Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.
  12. Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of maple syrup livens up ordinary old hot chocolate.


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Andrew Flusche said:

Nice post! My wife likes the espresso addition. And she likes a shot of vanilla to sweeten up the plain cocoa.

Lisa Freeman said:


Glad to hear your wife is already souping up her cocoa! I hope I’ve inspired her to try a few more ideas since we are thick into hot chocolate season right now! I woke up to 36 degrees this morning. Brrr!

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Andrew! For this photo I made the cocoa according to the directions on the back of the Hershey’s box. I agree with you, that splash of vanilla really made all the difference! The instant packets are great BUT nothing compares to the real thing!

Melanie said:

These sound delicious, I’m off to make hot chocolate now!! :-) Thanks for the tips.

bri said:

Yum, these are great suggestions! Spicy hot chocolate, like how it was originally drunk, is a great idea. Peanut butter is a totally fun suggestion too. What fun!

Kathy Maister said:

Mel, depending on how it’s made, hot cocoa may well be a Fabulous Snack Under 200 Calories!

Bri, I love peanut butter! Adding it to hot cocoa is simply scrumptious!

Chris said:

What about pepperment schnapps?

Kris said:

I often make my hot chocolate into mocha by using strong coffee instead of water. That’s a buzz in a mug!

mirco said:

habanero/hotsauce? sounds a bit harsh. chili powder is much milder. has flavour ttoo, not just searing hot…

Kathy Maister said:

Kris, I too love a “Buzz in a Mug”-particularly on a cold winter’s day!

Micro-I am always amazed at how “HOT” some people like their food. Personally I like the flavor without the HEAT! :)

Shawn said:

I use the swiss miss bulk hot chocolate mix… then add one spoon (place setting spoon) of Ghirardelli Cocao powder, one bitesize block of 85% cacao bar, and 1tsp confectioners sugar. One all the powdered stuff is wetted, I add 2-3 heaping spoons of marshmallow fluff (or 2-3 jumbo marshmallows).


Chris B said:

You can also use Butterscotch Schnapps for those after dinner or late afternoon drinks with your adult friends….

Jon said:

I had a great experince with hot chocolate recently which has turned into a huge hit with the kids. We went to a place which in York offered Belgian Hot Chocolate. What this turned out to be was a mug of hot milk with a sprinkling of either dark, milk or white chocolate powder on the top. We were then given lumps of Belgian chocolate (of the desired colour) which was stirred into the hot milk until it had melted (with optional cream to make it truely sinful).

Great fun for kids and adults of all ages

Leigh said:

I have found that Girl Scout Thin Mints are wonderful! You just drop one in the bottom and let the chocolately mint slowly mix in and when you are done you have a yummy cookie that is all soft to eat. I love doing that…

ian said:


Kathy Maister said:

Shawn, I can only imagine what you must do to ice cream!

Chris B, my guess is that just about any flavor schnaps would work. What do you think?

Jon, hot chocolate, dolled up with all these extras AND made with cream is indeed sinfull!

Leigh, I’m with you! Nothing better than thin mints. Simple…sweet…perfection!

karen said:

I add almond extract, makes your hot chocolate taste like amaretto!

Bruce Barberich said:

I like to make a triple hot chocolate overload. You need a 16 or 24 oz cup. first put two or three scoops of haggen dazs chocolate ice cream in to your cup. then break up a 1/2 special dark choc. bar. start your 2 cups of milk and bring to near boil. check on ice cream it should just be melting then put in your choc. bar. pour in hot choc. mix into cup. then pour the milk over ice cream, chocolate bar and mix. stir very throughly until smooth and creamy.

Lisa Freeman said:

Ah, Bruce! That sounds totally divine! I have to give that a try!

Kathy Maister said:

Bruce, I’m coming to your house for Hot Chocolate!

Rachel said:

Bruce, you are a genius, and Karen, i do that too!

peanut butter sounds divine!

Bruce said:

If you like what I can do with HOT Chocolate ! I am a whiz with adding stuff to any dessert. Like apple pie. Bake a frozen or make one from scratch. Then let cool. Get a bowl and put THREE scoops of Haggen Dazs Dulce De Leche Ice Cream on top of your warm pie then sprinkle with pecan or almonds. Serve to anyone and watch their face light up with pleasure. Most of my concoctions are not for the very healthy person, but I’m still working on the BEFORE picture anyway.

Jane said:

I made hot chocolate using the recipe they give you. I added a tablespoon of peanut butter, and it was indeed amazing! I would totally suggest making the hot chocolate recipe given with just 2/3 the amount of sugar they suggest.

Kathy Maister said:

Given the change of seasons, I think it’s time we start thinking about a really great recipe for cold hot chocolate! :) Any suggestions?

lori said:

I tried it with chocolate swirl icecream and it is absolutly wonderful. I didnt stir the ice cream in but instead let it melt as I sipped. Sort of like a rootbeer float. Can’t wait to try the peanutbutter!

Chocolate Lover said:

Here is another flavor for you to add to you list. Dove Hot Chocolate. It is really simple, and can really help make a regular cup of hot chocolate taste like it’s gourmet.

Kathy Maister said:

I’m not so sure adding ice cream to hot, hot chocolate makes a lot of sense! It seems like a total contradiction to me!

Rose said:

I never imagined hot chocolate with coconut milk but its GOOD! Thanks! I used to go online just to watch funny videos but now i’m hooked on your blog. Thanks!

startcooking said:

Thanks Rose!
I had a great time making my videos and am delighted to hear that they have found an appreciative audience!

foodfan said:

I visited a family in Colombia once that served hot cocoa with a small piece of white cheese in it after breakfast…. queso fresco, perhaps? It was FABULOUS! A melty delicious treat at the bottom of your mug.

startcooking said:

Hi Foodfan, that sounds like a really interesting combination of flavors. I have only ever purchased queso fresco once and the particular brand I bought was REALLY salty. I will have to give it another try!
Thanks for sharing!

Cindy said:

Wonderful suggestions! The caramel sauce is the one that i MUST try first…YUM!

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