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You could make your own hot cocoa from scratch...but there’s something so satisfying about being able to tear open a packet of hot chocolate mix, add warmed milk and indulge (especially when you’re only one button-press away from finally binging Selling Sunset. That said, the convenience is for naught if your drink tastes like gritty chocolate water. Trust us: Not all packets are created equal, which is why we took it upon ourselves to taste-test some of the most popular brands, uncovering the best hot chocolate mix around.
PureWow VP of editorial Candace Davison, an avid baker and recipe developer with more than ten years of digital media experience, tried more than 15 types of hot chocolate mix based on brand popularity, editor recommendations, reviews and availability. After an intense, super scientific taste-test she narrowed down her top choices of the lot. (Spoiler alert: Her top-scored pick was Godiva's Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa.)
The Best Hot Chocolate Mix, at a Glance
How We Tested Hot Chocolate Mixes
We averaged the scores of two taste-testers, offering half portions of each flavor (all prepared with milk, according to package instructions), with coffee and water on hand as palate cleansers. The brands were chosen based on reviews and availability (both in stores and online) with our scores targeting five areas: value, quality of ingredients, texture, aroma and flavor.
The Best Hot Chocolate Mixes, Ranked From “Passable” to “Pass Me Another One!”
Target’s in-house label is known for its high-quality foods at generic-brand prices (seriously, its mac and cheese is beyond), but we can’t say that holds true for its hot cocoa. At $7, it’s more than twice the cost of Swiss Miss, and it was just…all right. There was no minty aroma when you picked up a cup, but that first sip has a strong, almost mouthwash-like jolt of mint, which soon takes a backseat to a smooth cocoa finish. It’s fine for half a cup, but we found we didn’t want any more than that.
We wanted to like this so much more than we did. Torres’s chocolates are divine, and so was the flavor here—the kind of rich, dark chocolate you’d expect from the Nailed It judge—but we couldn’t get past the texture of this hot cocoa. With piping hot milk and a lot of stirring, you can break down the chocolate to a smooth consistency, but it quickly turned gloppy.
At $1 a box, Nestlé’s Rich Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix is one of the cheapest ways to satisfy a sugar craving. If you prefer your chocolate on the milkier end of the spectrum, this is the box for you. It’s a thinner, lighter drink than some others on this list, and at 99.9 percent caffeine-free, it’s a late night treat that won’t keep you up until 3 a.m. (On the flip side, though, testers complained it had a bit of a saccharine aftertaste.)
YouTuber Emma Chamberlain is building an empire with her Chamberlain Coffee line. Her cold brew maker and coffee beans are some of our favorites, and her hot chocolate mix is on point, too. Made with three ingredients—cocoa, sugar and milk, all organic—it's about as straightforward as it gets, with a smooth, almost latte-like crema on top and well-balanced chocolatey flavor. However, at $15 a bag, we'd hoped for more. Maybe a mocha riff? Or gobs of microscopic marshmallows? We're open to suggestions.
Starbucks gets to claim two spots in our roundup, simply because the two flavors wound up being so different. Sure, you can buy Peppermint and Salted Caramel varieties, but the Classic is named so for a reason. It’s a velvety, smooth chocolate that’s not too bitter that kids won’t enjoy it, and not so sugary that adults will complain of a toothache three sips in.
This one is for the milk chocolate lovers out there. Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa tastes like a molten candy bar. It’s milkier and sweeter than the rest, but not cloyingly so. There’s a light hint of vanilla that balances out the richness of that double dose of chocolate.
If the thrill of hot chocolate is skimming marshmallows off the top—the dehydrated mini ones, to be exact—skip the classic marshmallow packs and head straight to Swiss Miss Marshmallow Lovers. Other brands featured a coy sprinkling of marshmallows that’d melt away two sips in. Marshmallow Lovers covers your mug in a layer of mini mallows. The underlying cocoa is more sugary than rich, making it a guaranteed hit among the elementary school set (or anyone craving a dose of nostalgia).
Dehydrated mini marshmallows have met their match. Swiss Miss outdid itself with its Lucky Charms variety, which features the classic rainbows, clovers, horseshoes and blue moons (just to name a few) in separate packets to top each cup of its classic cocoa mix. We worried the end result would be too sugary, but the cocoa itself is rich, and as the marshmallows melt, they imbue a slight cereal milk flavor on the backend, creating a more layered drink that feels worthy of a Christina Tosi creation…all for $3 a box.
It’s no wonder the back of each packet includes a recipe for an easy Caffé Mocha—the mocha flavor in this drink is undeniable. Rather than being extra sweet, Starbucks’s take on Double Chocolate is sophisticated, with a richer, more semisweet taste overall. (The silky-smooth texture is what really sold us though.)
Admittedly, we had concerns about any hot chocolate mixes that claim to be healthy-ish. They often taste earthy or have an herby or mushroom-y aftertaste; not so with Cocoamy. Yes, it's vegan (provided you prepare it without dairy milk), soy-free and gluten-free, but it also contains 20 percent less sugar than many traditional hot chocolate mixes, is a solid source of fiber and boasts 4 grams of prebiotics per serving. (And you'd never know it.) It's a smooth—but not too thick—drink that has a hearty chocolate flavor, but it's not so overpowering that you'll want a glass of water between sips.
We’ll be honest: We didn’t see this one coming. The homespun mason jar packaging is sweet, but we feared this Long Island-made mix would taste like cocoa powder with a hint of sugar sprinkled in. We’ll never judge a cocoa by its container again. Kerber's ultra-thick (yet ultra-smooth) drink had a luscious dark chocolate flavor with the faintest hint of smokiness to it. It immediately made us dream of cozying up by the fire—and enjoying a second cup ASAP.
Serendipity3 has been a New York City staple for decades, but these days, you don’t have to travel to Manhattan to enjoy its Frrrozen Hot Chocolate—even its mocha and white chocolate varieties. We’re partial to the mocha flavor, in fact, as it tastes like a creamier, elevated take on a Frappuccino. The flavor is richer and more intense, with strong dark chocolate notes on the front end and a light, espresso-like finish. Even without whipped cream, it’s pretty splendid.
While some cocoa mixes include corn syrup, hydrogenated oil and ingredients whose names harken back to your chem lab days (like dipotassium phosphate, an emulsifier that helps preserve food), Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa is easy to follow. There are five ingredients total—sugar, cocoa, nonfat milk, salt and “natural flavor”—that when combined with warm milk, result in a silky, rich drink that doesn’t feel like an instant trip to the dentist’s office.
Godiva’s Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa is fine and all—until you try the Dark Chocolate version. It’s so rich, velvety and decadent that you’d swear you’re sipping a bougie, $6 hot cocoa from a boutique café. Only each serving will set you back less than $2 when you buy it by the canister.
The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what's worth the spend—and what's total hype. Learn more about our process here.
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PureWow's editors and writers have spent more than a decade shopping online, digging through sales and putting our home goods, beauty finds, wellness picks and more through the wringer—all to help you determine which are actually worth your hard-earned cash. From our PureWow100 series (where we rank items on a 100-point scale) to our painstakingly curated lists of fashion, beauty, cooking, home and family picks, you can trust that our recommendations have been thoroughly vetted for function, aesthetics and innovation. Whether you're looking for travel-size hair dryers you can take on-the-go or women’s walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet, we’ve got you covered.