Dairy-free hot chocolate is one of the coziest vegan drinks to make in the winter months, and this healthy-ish version can be more than an occasional treat if you want! I make it every few days, and more around the holidays.
I chose oat milk as the base here, because it’s cheap, delicious, and easy to find/make. It keeps things light enough that you can feel great after drinking this and has a neutral taste that works well here.
Instead of choosing a higher-fat milk, then, we’re adding cacao butter to the mix to make this hot chocolate properly rich despite being plant-based. If you can’t easily access cacao butter, use chocolate as outlined below.
It tastes great without, too, but the cacao butter is what turns this drink into chocolate instead of cacao water (worth noting that traditional cacao drinks are unsweetened and made with water though).
Raw cacao powder is where the real health benefits are coming from here, being high in magnesium, copper, and polyphenols (essentially antioxidants). To avoid overheating and losing a lot of the good stuff from the cacao, just the milk is heated before adding the remaining ingredients. To be clear, I’m not saying this is a health drink – it’s still sweetened, high in fat, blah blah – but there are worse things you could be making.
Scroll to the bottom of the post or click “skip to recipe” above to see the recipe card with full ingredient measurements and instructions.
Heat the oat milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil boil, then remove from the heat and add the cacao butter. Cover and set aside until the cacao butter has melted.
Once the cacao butter is melted, add the cacao, maple syrup or honey, vanilla, and salt.
Mix with an immersion blender until very foamy and completely emulsified, about 30 seconds. Serve hot, as is or topped with coconut whipped cream or marshmallows.
Tips and Notes
I highly recommend using an immersion blender to mix the hot chocolate if you have one. It creates the foam you see in the photos and really ensures a good emulsification.
If it’s not properly mixed, you’ll end up with the cacao butter floating to the surface of your drink and that’s not very pleasant. You can make this without a stick blender – it’s possible to use a normal blender, or whisk like mad until very foamy and well combined.
Top it off with some coconut whipped cream, or use a milk foamer to make some separately from the cacao. Vegan marshmallows are a nice treat to add, too.
Don’t mix up cocoa powder and hot cocoa mix. Read the ingredients to make sure, as the drink mix will have sugar and usually milk powder added, and you’ll end up with a very sweet drink.
Homemade oat milk has a tendency to thicken slightly when heated. I don’t mind that here as I find it loosens up again when blended with the other ingredients, but go for store-bought if you want to avoid the chance of thick cocoa.
For vegan hot chocolate, sweeten with maple syrup. You could also use date syrup, but I find that granulated sweeteners like coconut sugar don’t mix as well here, so it’s best to stick to liquid.
Other non-dairy milks work well in place of oat milk. Nut-based milks are great, but I don’t love rice and soy milk for this recipe. Coconut is good but very rich and can be a bit overwhelming.
Raw cacao and regular baking cocoa powder can be used interchangeably. Note that baking cocoa has a smoother flavour and that raw cacao is slightly more bitter.
If you can’t get cacao butter, don’t worry! Just sub dark chocolate in place of it and the cocoa powder. I add them individually here because it makes it easier to really control the level of sweetness in the hot chocolate, but of course you can melt chocolate in instead. Use the same amount of dark chocolate in place of cacao butter, leave out the cocoa powder, and sweeten to taste.
To use vanilla extract instead of powder, heat it with the milk. This will help to remove any slight alcohol taste from the extract.
More Chocolate Recipes
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Deluxe Dairy Free Hot Chocolate
- 500 ml oat milk
- 2 tablespoons cacao butter* about 25g
- 3 tablespoons raw cacao
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean powder**
- Tiny pinch sea salt
- Heat the oat milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil boil, then remove from the heat and add the cacao butter.
- Cover and set aside until the cacao butter has melted.
- Once the cacao butter is melted, add the cacao, maple syrup or honey, vanilla, and salt.
- Mix with an immersion blender until very foamy and completely emulsified, about 30 seconds. Serve hot, as is or topped with coconut whipped cream or marshmallows.
This post was originally published in February 2019. It has been updated with new pictures and text as of December 2020.