The secret behind the cocoa
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
what is instant hot chocolate
Credit: Photo by Janine Lamontagne

It’s that time of year, when people of the Northern Hemisphere start sipping hot chocolate. If you’ve ever tried to make your own hot chocolate, you know that a good cup requires more than just cocoa powder and a spoonful of sugar. So, what else is going on in instant hot chocolate?

One of the most popular brands of instant hot chocolate is Swiss Miss. Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix contains sugar, corn syrup, modified whey, cocoa, hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, salt, sucralose (also known as the artificial sweetener Splenda), artificial flavor, calcium carbonate (which can act as an anti-caking agent), dipotassium phosphate (which acts as a buffering agent), carrageenan (a thickening and stabilizing agent), mono- and diglycerides (which help emulsify water and fat), and Acesulfame Potassium (also known as Ace K, an extremely sweet yet calorie-free artificial sugar-substitute).

The multitudes of preservatives in Swiss Miss are likely to ensure that the product always stays the same, as it has an extremely high distribution.

Another popular type of instant hot chocolate is made by the chocolate brand Ghirardelli. Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Hot Cocoa contains sugar, cocoa, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin (an emulsifier), and vanilla. Ghirardelli's ingredients list contains few preservatives, likely do to the fact that it doesn’t contain ingredients like Swiss Miss’s nonfat milk, which could grow mold if it comes in contact with moisture.

All things considered, making your own hot chocolate mix isn’t actually hard. Sift together 2 cups cocoa powder with 1 cup powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, and, if you’d like, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Whisk the mixture together and transfer it to a jar with a lid that tightly screws on. Stash the jar in the fridge until you want a cup of cocoa. To make the hot chocolate, whisk 3-4 tablespoons of the chocolate mix with ¾-1 cup hot milk (regular or nondairy) or boiling water. You can also do this over the stove, or shake it up in a tightly sealed mason jar. For super-rich hot chocolate, add a splash of half-and-half or coconut cream.