Italian Hot Chocolate (Insanely Thick and Rich!)
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This rich, creamy homemade hot Italian chocolate recipe is a luscious cold-weather treat. It’s so easy to make and absolutely one of our all-time favorite chocolate recipes. Serve it in small cups with softly whipped cream for a decadent treat.
Do you want to up your hot chocolate game? This Italian-style hot chocolate recipe makes an insanely thick and rich drink. It’s an indulgent pleasure to drink this stuff out of a mug (or eat straight with a spoon).
The mix for Italian hot chocolate has just the right amount of sweetness, along with a little cocoa and a lot more chocolate. The consistency is plush and velvety, like a creamy, drinkable chocolate ganache or a pourable chocolate pudding.
Although there will always be a place for everyday mini marshmallow-strewn powdered hot cocoa mix, this decadently smooth confection is a thousand times more luxe. It’s perfect to make as a special treat!
Italian hot chocolate (cioccolata calda) originates from northern Italy, specifically the cities of Turin and Piedmont, which are world famous for chocolate production. I learned how to make this amazing hot chocolate when I worked in an Italian cafe while I was learning to cook professionally.
About the ingredients
- Dark chocolate: Amazing hot chocolate is ALL about this ingredient. I recommend using a very high-quality chocolate with at least 65% cacao — it’s worth the splurge! Buying the chocolate in chunks or chocolate wafers/discs will save time, because there’s no need to chop it.
- Cocoa powder: Unsweetened cocoa powder is the co-star of the hot chocolate mix. I love a good Dutch-processed cocoa powder to make hot chocolate. Because the beans are treated with an alkaline solution, the cocoa is a beautiful rich, deep red color. You can also use raw or natural cacao powder to make hot chocolate.
- Milk: Dairy or plant-based milk will work (I recommend oat milk) Be sure to use full-fat milk for the best creamy texture.
- Confectioners’ sugar: Also known as 10x, icing sugar or powdered sugar. This finely ground version of granulated sugar includes cornstarch, which helps to thicken and stabilize the hot chocolate.
- Vanilla: Use a good quality pure vanilla extract. You can use a split whole vanilla bean too — add it to the milk before bringing to a boil.
- Flaky sea salt: A pinch of sparkling flaky salt (like Maldon) adds a delicious counterpoint to sweets, especially the flavor of chocolate. Use half the amount of kosher salt instead.
Hot chocolate tutorial:
Pro tips for serving Italian hot chocolate
- The hot chocolate can be kept warm on the stovetop for 30 minutes on very low heat. To keep it hot up to 2 hours, transfer the hot chocolate to a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of with 2 inches of simmering water, stirring every once in a while to the the chocolate from settling on the bottom of the bowl. A slow cooker set on warm is another option.
- Serve the hot chocolate all by itself, or with a garnish if you like it a bit over the top!
- Add a shot of rum, brandy, Irish cream or your favorite liqueur (for the grown ups); add whipped cream and a sprinkle of shaved milk chocolate, small soft marshmallows or cinnamon sticks.
- The recipe can be doubled or tripled. All the dry ingredients, along with the chopped chocolate, can be mixed together and put in a glass jar with instructions on how to heat with milk.
- Serve this hot chocolate with simple sugar cookies for the whole family after a special meal, or simply to treat yourself.
Incredibly Creamy Italian Hot Chocolate
Yield: 2-6 servings, depending on cup size
- 2 cups (475 ml) full fat milk, dairy or non-dairy
- ⅓ cup (35 g) confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ cup (20 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon; or ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces (170 g) dark chocolate, in chunks or discs, or a bar broken into rough pieces or chopped
- ½ cup soft unsweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
- Put the milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- While the milk is heating, sift the sugar and cocoa powder over a small bowl — a mesh strainer works well. Add the salt and whisk to blend.
- Add the cocoa mixture, vanilla and chocolate to the milk over low heat. Whisk until the chocolate is melted, about 1 minute, until the mixture thickens.
- Divide the hot chocolate into small cups (it's very rich!). Serve with a spoonful of whipped cream on top, if you like.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- To keep warm: The hot chocolate can be kept warm for 30 minutes in the pan set over very low heat — stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. To keep it hot up to 2 hours: Place in a slow cooker on the “warm” setting. Or, transfer the hot chocolate to a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of with 2 inches of hot water, stirring every once in a while to keep the chocolate from settling on the bottom of the bowl. (check the water level occasionally, adding more as needed so it doesn’t boil dry). A large thermos will also work!
- Hot chocolate can be refrigerated up to 1 week. Reheat gently (don’t bring to a boil) over low heat before serving.
- The recipe doubles or triples well. To make a batch of hot chocolate mix for gifting or just to have on hand in the pantry, combine the cocoa, sugar, salt and finely chopped chocolate. Store in a jar in a cool, dry place. Mix with the hot milk when ready to serve (use about 1/2 cup of the mix for each cup of milk).
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.
Made this for my kids in the last days of winter holiday. Spectacular.
Amazing Kristy! What a wonderful treat.
This is so good! Rich and chocolatey (if that’s not a word it should be!).
YUM! It looks soooo good and the perfect treat on cold winter days ♥