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This recipe makes thick, rich Italian-style hot chocolate, a luscious cold-weather treat (it’s almost like a dessert). 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).