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10 Best Hot Chocolate Mixes (Hot Cocoa for Cold Nights) Brands/Reviews

On a cold day, there is nothing like a cup of hot chocolate. Add a crackling fire and it’s pretty much paradise. In this post, you’ll learn about the best hot chocolate mix (brands review), 14 things to add to hot chocolate, and the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa.

Best hot chocolate mix

10 Best Hot Chocolate Mixes for Cold Nights

Is there anything better than putting on a thick pair of socks (like these) and sipping a hot chocolate beverage on a chilly winter morning?

  • No. No there isn’t.

Are you looking for the best hot chocolate mix on the market? Here’s your guide to top-of-the-line hot chocolate mixes.

Hot Chocolate vs Hot Cocoa

Before we get into specifics, let me clear up something that comes up often: Is there a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate?

In practical terms, the answer is no. Companies use the terms interchangeably, so you might see the exact same beverage described as hot chocolate or hot cocoa. Some brands will even put both labels in their product descriptions so that they don’t miss any potential customer searches.

Historically speaking, however, there is a distinction between the two:

  • Hot cocoa is made with a combination of milk, sugar and cocoa powder. It’s the richer and sweeter drink of the two.
  • Hot chocolate is made with chocolate that’s been ground or shaved to quickly melt into milk. In the olden days, it wouldn’t contain sweeteners or cocoa powders at all, so it would be the stronger drink. However, modern companies often add things like sugar, cream, caramel, vanilla and cocoa powder to their hot chocolate mixes, so they’re virtually indistinguishable from hot cocoa.

If you’re looking for a “pure” hot cocoa or hot chocolate mix, it might take a bit of effort to find it. Most companies only make hybrid drinks these days.

Hot chocolate brands

5 Best Hot Chocolate Mixes: Packets

Now that we’ve covered the nature of the drink, let’s dive into the best hot cocoa mixes on the market. Here are my favorites that come in convenient packet form!

1. Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa Premium Indulgence

Ghirardelli has a reputation for luxury, and once you take a sip of their Premium Indulgence, you’ll realize how they obtained that reputation.

It’s the perfect blend of smooth, creamy and velvety, and you’ll be downing the whole cup before the dregs have the chance to settle at the bottom.

How do they make such fine hot cocoa? According to their website, they start by hand-picking their cocoa beans before adding a carefully-measured blend of vanilla and sugar. To top it all off, they flavor it with real chocolate.

If you’re looking for top-tier hot cocoa and not just a knockoff imitation, consider Ghirardelli Premium Indulgence.

  • Feature: Luxury chocolate
  • Packaging: Packets
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 1.5 ounces per pack, 15 packs in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 170 calories
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Sodium: 120 milligrams
  • Carbs: 32 grams (2 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 3 grams

2. Land O’ Lakes Cocoa Classics Variety Pack

Offering five different flavors for five different moods, the Land O’ Lakes Cocoa Classics will serve your entire household on a frigid morning.

Kids will go crazy for “Chocolate Supreme” while mom and dad will have an appreciation for the subtle swirls of “French Vanilla.” People of all ages will enjoy the deliciousness of “Arctic White”. If there are any mint fans in the house, “Chocolate Mint” will wake up their senses as soon as it hits their tongue, and “Caramel” is a classic that no one will ever turn down.

In addition to their fanciful flavors, Land O’ Lakes is also renowned for their smooth, creamy textures. Their hot cocoas are made with nonfat milk and Dutch-processed chocolate. You can just tell the difference in quality when you compare it to something that you buy on regular grocery shelves!

  • Feature: Variety pack (five flavors)
  • Packaging: Packets
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 1.25 ounces per packet, 48 packets in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Chocolate Supreme, Chocolate Mint, French Vanilla, Arctic White, Caramel
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 140 – 160 calories
  • Fat: 2.5 – 5 grams
  • Sodium: 170 – 290 milligrams
  • Carbs: 26 grams (1 gram of fiber, 19 – 24 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 1 – 3 grams
  • Calcium: 33 – 105 grams

3. Nestle Hot Chocolate Mix

Nestle is another brand that’s known for their chocolate products, so they have a lot to live up to with their hot chocolate mix. Fortunately, they’ve mastered the art of making a good cup, so I’m happy to consider them a contender for the best hot cocoa mix.

Their chocolate tastes like the real thing with no nasty byproducts. Their powder can be mixed with milk or hot water depending on your preference for beverage thickness.

Another great thing about these Nestle packets is that they’re smaller and more quickly mixed than some of the other brands on this list. They’re frequently used in offices, hotels, and lounges in addition to residential homes. They make it easy to get your chocolate fix, and they taste great to boot!

  • Feature: 99.9 percent caffeine free
  • Packaging: Packets
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 0.71 ounces per packet, 50 packets in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 80 calories
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Sodium: 180 milligrams
  • Carbs: 16 grams (less than 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Calcium: None

4. Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Hot Cacao

As a dairy-free, gluten-free and caffeine-free product made with completely organic ingredients, the Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Hot Cacao is your answer to a vegan or paleo version of hot cocoa. It won’t make you compromise your ethical standards, but it’ll still deliver warmth and flavor. As a bonus, it can also give you a jolt of energy during a long day!

It achieves this energetic infusion thanks to its secret ingredient: mushrooms. Despite the name, the Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Hot Cacao doesn’t actually taste like ‘shrooms, but it’s made with the extractions of wild cordyceps that are known for their mood- and energy-boosting properties. It’s the vegan alternative to caffeine.

Do you need a pick-me-up in the morning? Could you use a little more pep in your step before a workout? Consider the Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Hot Cacao.

  • Feature: Organic, vegan
  • Packaging: Packets
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 0.21 ounces per packet, 10 packets in total
  • Kid friendly: Maybe
  • Flavor options: Chocolate with coconut sugar and cordyceps
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 25 calories
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Sodium: 25 milligrams
  • Carbs: 4 grams (2 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: None
  • Calcium: None

5. Velvet Cocoa Hot Chocolate Mix Gourmet Powder

Velvet Cocoa Hot Chocolate Mix is made with just three ingredients: cocoa, cane sugar, and sea salt. When you taste its premium flavor, however, you’ll be surprised that its label is so simple. It makes an exquisite mug of hot cocoa with sweet and silky notes that will slide down your throat and warm you from the inside out.

Unlike the other products on this list so far, the Velvet Cocoa Hot Chocolate Mix doesn’t come with pre-packaged portions. It’s shipped in a three-pound bag, and a serving size is simply “two tablespoons.” You can add more or less to your mug depending on how strong you like your hot cocoa.

Another nice thing about Velvet Cocoa Hot Chocolate Mix is that it can be used as a cooking ingredient as well as a beverage mix. Whether you’re hoping to eat, drink, bake or sprinkle cocoa on your menu, this is the powder for you!

  • Feature: Organic, kosher, gluten-free
  • Packaging: Pouch
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 48 ounces, 38 servings in total
  • Kid friendly: Maybe
  • Flavor options: Dark chocolate (peppermint and hazelnut praline available in a separate gift set)
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 130 calories
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Sodium: 40 milligrams
  • Carbs: 31 grams (3 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 21 milligrams
Best instant hot chocolate

5 Best Hot Chocolate Mixes: Tins and Bags

Let’s say that you don’t want individual packets. Let’s say that you’re another chocoholic, and you’re looking for a heftier bag of cocoa powder to get you through the entire winter. Here’s what I would recommend for cans and pouches.

1. Ghirardelli Chocolate Sweet Ground

Ghirardelli does it again. Their “Sweet Ground” cocoa mix comes in a powdered form that can be added to everything from beverages to baked goods, and it’s made with the finest of ingredients for a high-end, high-quality taste.

The first thing that you’ll notice is that it’s sealed in a can instead of portioned into individual packets. This means that you’ll need to decide for yourself how many tablespoons to add to your milk or water. Ghirardelli recommends three, but if you like an extra-strong blast of chocolate on your tongue, you can scoop a higher amount.

Another great thing about this powder is that it’s made from real cacao beans. There are no artificial flavors here! If you only want the best hot chocolate mix, consider Ghirardelli Sweet Ground.

  • Feature: Luxury chocolate
  • Packaging: Can
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 48 ounces, 39 servings in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Dark chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 120 calories
  • Fat: 1.5 grams
  • Sodium: 50 milligrams
  • Carbs: 31 grams (2 grams of sugar, 27 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Calcium: 2 percent

2. Lakanto Drinking Chocolate

Lakanto Drinking Chocolate is unlike almost every other brand of hot chocolate on the market. Let me count the ways:

  1. It’s made with an all-natural sugar substitute. Instead of artificial sweeteners, it uses a special “monk fruit” extract that comes from a plant found in the highlands of Asia.
  2. It’s been supplemented with probiotics for digestive health.
  3. It’s low-carb and low-calorie. It doesn’t contain any sugar, dairy or gluten. It won’t spike your hypoglycemic index after drinking it.

If that wasn’t enough, Lakanto Drinking Chocolate also offers a sweet and full-bodied flavor that will leave you coming back for cup after cup. Instead of asking yourself why you should buy it, a better question is why you haven’t already bought it!

  • Feature: Organic, vegan, probiotic ingredients
  • Packaging: Pouch
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 10 ounces, 26 servings in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? Yes

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 10 calories
  • Fat: None
  • Sodium: 50 milligrams
  • Carbs: 9 grams (3 grams fiber, no sugar)
  • Protein: None
  • Calcium: 4 percent

3. Swiss Miss Classics Hot Cocoa Mix

You can say that Swiss Miss started it all. They’re one of the first brands that you think of when you daydream about hot chocolate. Thankfully, they’re just as luscious as they were when they first started brewing cocoa drinks in the 1950s.

Part of their reputation is based on the fact that they use real dairy products mixed with real cocoa beans. In a world where companies are racing to be everything-free, Swiss Miss still offers their classic formula.

They’re also extremely convenient when it comes to brewing. This tightly-lidded container can be taken to schools, offices, daycares, hotels and anywhere else that you’d like to share a cup of hot chocolate with someone. Swiss Miss is a brand that’s meant to be savored with your loved ones, so break out the coffee mugs and enjoy!

  • Feature: Classic hot cocoa
  • Packaging: Can
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 58.4 ounces, 87 servings in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Milk chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 80 calories
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Sodium: 140 milligrams
  • Carbs: 15 grams (less than 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Calcium: 360 grams

4. Swiss Miss Sensible Sweets

What if you love the taste of Swiss Miss, but you do like your products to be everything-free? What if you have allergies or sensitivities that keep you away from most hot chocolate brands?

Swiss Miss Sensible Sweets is for you. Made without sugar, gluten or caffeine, it’s the healthier alternative to Swiss Miss’s usual fare. It’s also a fine source of calcium!

It still has the warm and creamy taste that made Swiss Miss such a famous brand, especially if you prepare it with milk instead of water. You just won’t have to deal with the extra calories sneaking on your waistline. One of the “free”s on the label is also “guilt-free,” so you can sip it to your heart’s content.

  • Feature: Sugar-free, gluten-free
  • Packaging: Can
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 13.8 ounces, 22 servings in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Milk chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? Yes

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 70 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Sodium: 160 milligrams
  • Carbs: 12 grams (1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 360 grams

5. Starbucks Classic Hot Cocoa Tin

Rich and sweet, Starbucks’s hot chocolate is a go-to beverage for many people during long commutes. But what if you were able to bring its flavors home instead of dealing with crazy lines?

Starbucks Classic Hot Cocoa Tin lets you do it. These hot chocolate tins contain the exact same thing that goes into your drink at the Starbucks counter. As a bonus, they come in a twin pack, so you won’t be running out of drink mix anytime soon!

If you’re looking for a great hot chocolate mix, Starbucks Classic Hot Cocoa is a delicious and delectable product. It isn’t quite as convenient as packets or ready-to-go orders, but its DIY container offers greater control over your beverage experience, and that’s worth the trade.

  • Feature: Name-brand, ethically-sourced chocolate
  • Packaging: Tin
  • Price: See current price.
  • Units: 30 ounces per tin, 60 servings in total
  • Kid friendly: Yes
  • Flavor options: Chocolate
  • Fat-free/sugar-free? No

Nutrition Info, Per Serving

  • Calories: 120 calories
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Sodium: None
  • Carbs: 22 grams (3 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 2 percent
Best hot cocoa mix

14 Things to Put in Hot Chocolate

So, rich hot chocolate is fine. But what else can you put in hot chocolate? Here are 14 add-ins to spice up your drink.

  1. Whipped Cream: Easy to make at home, buy a can, or you can try a refillable whipped cream dispenser.
  2. Marshmallows: For authentic hot cocoa, consider dehydrated marshmallow. Or for something different, maybe some gourmet peppermint marshmallows.
  3. Maple Syrup: Just add 1-2 teaspoons to each mug. I recommend pure maple – the artificial stuff just doesn’t have the best flavor. And for drinks, I prefer the dark and robust taste. The lighter taste syrup is too mild for mixing with chocolate.
  4. Peanut Butter: Here’s how to make salted peanut butter hot chocolate.
  5. Nutella: Done in much the same way as with peanut butter, but with Nutella.
  6. Chocolate chips: Consider dark or white chocolate, butterscotch or peanut butter chips.
  7. Panela: Unrefined cane sugar adds a depth of flavor to chocolate that I love. When I lived in Ecuador, I used to make chocolate with chocolate liquor and panela. Add a little pure vanilla extract and it is AMAZING!
  8. Oreos: Enough said.
  9. Peppermints / Candy Canes: Adding some peppermint candy to your drink will add some great flavor. Use whole or crushed candy canes.
  10. Cinnamon: Just a teaspoon in the pot or a pinch in your mug will do the trick.
  11. Ginger: A slice of ginger root in your drink or while preparing stovetop will add that gingerbread man taste.
  12. Alcohol: If you are of legal age in your state/province, you might consider brandy, Bailey’s Irish Creme, or amaretto.
  13. Flavored Syrups: This is a great way to experience different flavors. You might consider salted caramel, vanilla, or even spicy ginger. If you don’t have any of these on hand, maybe some maraschino cherry juice will do the trick?
  14. Chili Powder: While spicy chocolate isn’t universally loved, if you like that combo, you might consider adding a pinch of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to make some Mexican hot chocolate.
Things to put in hot chocolate

If you have guests, you might consider setting up a hot cocoa bar. Here are some great suggestions about how to do this. Some accessories to consider at your hot cocoa bar include sprinkles, mugs, straws and spoons, chopped nuts, and pretzel rods.

Food that pair well with chocolate: Some foods that pair well with chocolate include strawberries, raspberries, strong coffee, chai tea, goat cheese, blue cheese, and spicy foods.

Hot chocolate mix

The Best Hot Cocoa Mix: What’s Your Favorite?

These are just a few brands that I would consider to be the best of the best. There are plenty more, of course, and I encourage you to have your own taste tests on chilly winter mornings. What’s your favorite? Tell us in the comments!

You never know when you might stumble on the most magnificent hot chocolate of them all. Just do me a favor and let me know if you ever find something out of this world!

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Meet the Author

Drew Haines

Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast, travel writer, and content marketer. She loves to share her passion through her writing. She is the founder and owner of EverywhereWild Media, EverywhereWild, and co-founder and owner of JustBirding. She also guest blogs on LatinRootsTravel and GringosAbroad. She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.

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