Favorite Hot-Chocolate Recipes From Popular Chefs
- I made five celebrity-chef hot chocolates to see which recipe is the best.
- My favorite recipe was Sandra Lee’s, which calls for a bit of alcohol.
- All of the recipes were pretty good, but I would make some adjustments to a few.
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Like many people, hot chocolate was a staple of my childhood. On snowy days, I’d go build snowmen or sled with my little brother, then run inside to a cup of it.
I’d never had a homemade mug of hot chocolate — or hot cocoa, if it’s made from a powder — so I decided to try five recipes from celebrity chefs Ina Garten, Jacques Torres, Sandra Lee, Alton Brown, and Carla Hall to see which ones I’ll be following all season long.
Read on to find out how each cup stacked up.
Garten’s hot-chocolate recipe includes espresso powder and a cinnamon stick for garnish
The “Barefoot Contessa” host’s hot-chocolate recipe is great for a crowd — although I cut the recipe in half, it still made two to three servings.
Without downsizing, this recipe calls for half a pound of chocolate, so I expected it to be very rich. It also includes espresso powder, which I knew would boost the chocolaty flavor.
To garnish, Garten calls for a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick, which are even fancier and more expensive than marshmallows, whipped cream, or peppermint rods.
Once the ingredients were measured and chopped, this drink quickly came together
It took me some time to measure out all of the ingredients, but after that was out of the way, Garten’s recipe was pretty quick and straightforward.
I heated the milk and half-and-half on the cooktop, then whisked in the bittersweet and milk chocolate until they were melted. From there, I added in the rest of the ingredients, stirred it all together, and poured it into my mug.
I garnished the completed drink with a cinnamon stick — vanilla beans are a little too pricey for me to justify using them for garnish.
This hot chocolate was delicious and not too sweet
Rich is the best way to describe this hot chocolate — it had a thicker consistency and a delicious, chocolaty flavor that wasn’t too sweet thanks to the bittersweet chocolate, and the espresso definitely helped bring that out.
Although the cinnamon stick was a nice touch, a drink this good begs for some whipped cream as well.
Torres’ hot-chocolate recipe calls for 4 ingredients, and none of them are sugar
Torres, a renowned pastry chef and “Nailed It!” cohost, has a very simple hot-chocolate recipe with just four ingredients — milk, milk powder, cornstarch, and dark chocolate, which I Iove, so I couldn’t wait to get started.
But the one thing I noticed right away is that there are no sweetening agents in this recipe, so I expected it to be more bitter than the others.
The directions were as simple as the ingredients list
With only four ingredients, it makes sense that this recipe was also easy to make.
I boiled the milk, stirred in the chocolate until it melted, then added the milk powder and cornstarch to thicken the mix. Although I quickly whisked nonstop, I later found out that some of the milk powder didn’t completely dissolve.
I would’ve liked a bit of sweetener in this recipe
I liked the use of dark chocolate, but this recipe needed a little bit of sweetener.
It was just a bit too bitter, but the worst part was the clumps of milk powder that didn’t dissolve, no matter how hard I whisked. Luckily, this is an easy fix — I’ll be sure to use a strainer next time.
Otherwise, the texture was thick — but not as rich as Garten’s — and it would be really delicious with a little bit of sugar.
Lee’s recipe is a little boozy
I was unsure if I’d be a fan of Lee’s “Semi-Homemade Cooking” recipe, which calls for milk chocolate, half-and-half, cinnamon, and either vanilla vodka or hazelnut liqueur.
I opted for the latter because it’s what I had on hand, but I was worried the milk chocolate would make this drink too sweet.
This was the fastest recipe to make
With only three ingredients that go onto the cooktop at the same time, this recipe was ready in five minutes.
After the mix melted together and heated up, I poured it into a cup and added an ounce of hazelnut liqueur.
I couldn’t believe how incredible this hot chocolate turned out
This recipe is so good! The drink had a hint of spice and was sweet, slightly nutty, and definitely chocolaty — I loved the flavor that the cinnamon and hazelnut added.
I knew after one sip that I’d make this option again and again all winter long.
Brown’s recipe is for hot cocoa, but I wanted to give it a try
This recipe results in a hot-cocoa powder that you can store and use again, because it keeps “indefinitely,” according to Brown. This was definitely an advantage the hot-chocolate recipes didn’t have, so I was excited to see how this turned out.
The mix calls for six dry ingredients that you combine with hot water.
Mix, pour, and stir — this recipe was ready in no time
I measured out all of the dry ingredients, including a pinch of cayenne as directed, and stored the mix in an airtight container. Even after cutting the recipe in half, this still made about two cups of hot-cocoa powder.
Once everything was combined, I filled my mug halfway with the mix, then poured in the hot water and stirred.
This was a simple hot cocoa that has the slightest kick from the cayenne
The finished drink had a barely sweet chocolate flavor, with a little heat from the cayenne.
The recipe lists hot water in the ingredients, so that is what I used, but Brown also said in the directions that the mix works great with warm milk, which I’ll use next time for a slightly thicker and richer drink.
Overall, this hot cocoa was still tasty and better than the store-bought alternatives.
I was excited to experiment with the unique hot-chocolate ingredients in Hall’s ‘Snow Day Cocoa’
Culinary judge Hall had the most unique lineup of ingredients in her hot-chocolate recipe, ranging from dark chocolate and toasted cinnamon to ginger and orange peel, plus a homemade whipped cream.
I love all of these flavors, so I was looking forward to trying this option.
This recipe took the longest to make
Hall’s hot chocolate was more involved than the others, but the steps were still easy to follow.
I started by toasting some ground cinnamon in a pot on the cooktop, then I added the rest of the base ingredients.
As that heated up, I made the whipped cream — which requires heavy cream, ginger, and sugar — in my stand mixer. The original amount of cream was too little for my attached whisk to reach and whip, so I doubled the recipe.
I enjoyed the various flavor profiles in this hot chocolate
The drink had a very strong dark-chocolate flavor, which I liked. And the toasted cinnamon and hints of ginger and orange helped tone down most of the bitterness.
I think I’d add a little more sugar to the hot chocolate itself, but overall, this recipe was great.
I liked all of the recipes, but Lee’s was my favorite
I’d try all of these recipes again, but Lee’s was the winner for me. I loved the chocolate-cinnamon-hazelnut combination, and the texture was perfect — not too watery nor too thick.
Garten’s recipe was a very close second, as it was so rich and chocolaty, just as this delicious drink should be.
I’d also happily make Hall’s “Snow Day Cocoa” again with a little more sugar, and Brown’s mix is still in my pantry, just waiting for a cooler Los Angeles day.
I would also attempt Torres’ recipe again, though I’d use a strainer and add sweetener to it.
Click to check out the other celebrity-chef recipes we’ve put head-to-head so far.