Reviews you can trust.See why.
Hot Cocoa Mix
The best cocoa mixes feature a double dose of chocolate.
Top PicksSee Everything We Tested
What You Need To Know
We wish that everybody had time to make homemade hot cocoa. It’s easy enough to stir together cocoa, sugar, hot milk, and maybe a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. But we admit that instant mixes are unbeatably convenient. To find out which are best, we rounded up leading supermarket brands as well as mixes from a few upscale chocolatiers.
Following the instructions on the package, we used water to make the cocoas from most brands. Two of our contenders can be reconstituted with either hot water or milk; we preferred them with 2 percent milk, which we then used to make the mixes that called for milk. Across the board, tasters valued creaminess, which can come from either the added milk or from dry milk in the mix (all mixes that can be reconstituted with water contain some form of dried milk). In the end, however, what separated winners from losers was big chocolate flavor.
One cocoa mix won in a landslide. The mix includes both Dutch-processed cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate. Our runner-up also has two sources of chocolate: cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. A milder, milkier cocoa captured third place. Tasters rated this kid-friendly cocoa the creamiest of the lot, thanks not only to the “dairy product solids” on the ingredient list, but also to hydrogenated oils and stabilizers like guar gum. The last on our list of recommended brands has notes of coffee and cinnamon, and is aimed squarely at grown-up palates.
What was wrong with the others? The losing mixes were all reconstituted with hot water, and they tasted watery. One cocoa was disgustingly sweet—on the ingredient list, sugar, corn syrup, and modified whey all precede cocoa powder.
Everything We Tested
The “deep, rich chocolate flavor” and “nice depth” of this cocoa made it a hit: “I love everything about this one!” Tasters described it as “balanced and complex,” with “intense” flavor and “a nice bitter edge” that made it “actually taste like chocolate.”
The second most-chocolaty cocoa in our lineup (according to tasters), it won high marks for a “good balance of chocolate and sugar” and “good bitter chocolate taste.” A few tasters complained, however, that the texture was “chalky.”
This “creamy and sweet” hot chocolate transported several tasters back to the skating rinks and sledding hills of their childhoods. They described it as “frothy,” “more milky than chocolaty,” “bland but not unpleasant,” and “just like Mom used to make.”
With both coffee and cinnamon supplementing the cocoa powder, this brand may not please children. But tasters found this “very dark and chocolaty” mix “rich, complex, a bit exotic.” It’s “not classic hot chocolate,” one said, but many tasters liked it.
"Tastes cheap,” tasters said of this “thin, watery” mix. The ingredient list includes partially hydrogenated soybean and coconut oils as well as artificial flavors, so it’s not surprising tasters detected a “weird, artificial taste.”
This hot cocoa mix had “strong,” “dark” chocolate flavor but was also “thin,” “dull,” and “watery,” perhaps because the package calls for it to be stirred into hot water, not milk. Although this mix does contain nonfat dry milk, it was rated the least creamy of the lineup.
With its ingredient list full of polysyllabic items, we weren’t surprised that tasters called this cocoa mix “plasticky.” Tasters detected little chocolate flavor, but did note a vanilla or “white chocolate” presence. “Like a hot Yoo-hoo: thin and watery.”
Its first two ingredients are sugar and corn syrup; tasters found this cocoa “really sweet,” with “more sugar than chocolate.” They rated it the sweetest of all with the second-weakest chocolate profile; one called it “super-mild and artificial.”
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.