Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate: What’s the Difference?

When the mercury drops, you may start craving a cup of hot cocoa. If you go to your favorite coffee shop and order one, you may ask for a hot cocoa one time and a hot chocolate the next. Or maybe when you make it home you just assume either one will do the trick. After all, aren’t they both the same? Don’t get your marshmallows in a bunch when we tell you that they’re not! 

Mind blown? Yep, we know.

There are distinct differences between these two tasty treats. We’re here to tell you what they are so that you truly know what’s beneath that whipped cream and marshmallows.

Hot Cocoa Uncovered


Hot cocoa is like the prom queen of warm chocolate drinks. It’s most likely seen in your grocery store aisle and is probably what you grab when you want to make hot cocoa at home. 

What’s inside? 

Hot cocoa is made from sugar, milk, and cocoa powder. That’s why it’s pretty light whether you add milk or water. It’s also on the sweet side but still tastes chocolatey. Sometimes it can include special flavors like vanilla or cinnamon. 

Hot Chocolate Uncovered


Hot chocolate is like hot cocoa’s first cousin. They share some similarities because they both have that yummy chocolate taste, but there’s something that certainly sets them apart. 

Hot chocolate doesn’t have cocoa powder or sugar. It’s just straight-up melted chocolate that can be combined with hot water, milk, or even cream.

The chocolate is usually chopped up or shaved so that it can melt quickly. The result is a richer taste without it being sugary and extra sweet.

While there is sugar in the chocolate, there is no added sugar. So, it’s just a mug of warm chocolate-flavored goodness.

Which one tastes better?


Oooh...this is a tough one! The answer really depends on what taste you’re going after. If you want a richer, more chocolatey flavor, then you may want to opt for hot chocolate.

But, if you still want a chocolatey taste, but one not so rich, then hot cocoa would be your mug of choice.

Many people go for hot cocoa because it’s often easier to make and is great when you’re on the go. Either way, you really can't go wrong! 

Hot Cocoa Recipe

If you want to branch out a bit from those hot cocoa packets in the store, you can make your own hot cocoa from scratch. It’s not hard, really, trust us! Here are two recipes.

The first is a standard hot cocoa recipe and the second one is made especially for our vegan friends. Enjoy!



½ cup sugar

¼ cup baking soda

⅓ cup hot water

4 cups of milk

Dash of salt

Combine sugar, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan. Add water and bring it to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in milk and heat to a good serving temperature. Be careful not to boil it! Remove from the heat. Stir in some vanilla if desired. Whisk until frothy. You can add marshmallows, cream, or cinnamon sticks if you’d like.

Hot Cocoa Vegan Style



3 tablespoons canned coconut milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons white sugar

4 ½ teaspoons cocoa powder

1 dash ground cinnamon

1 cup boiling water

Stir together coconut milk, vanilla extract, sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a large mug. Add boiling water. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Both of these recipes can be a delicious warm-up to a chilly day. Let’s raise a mug to warm chocolatey goodness! 


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