I have never been a big coffee or tea drinker, so I usually default to hot cocoa as soon as remotely chilly weather arrives. Having the warm mug in my hands always makes me think of cold, lazy days spent reading a good book – even if it’s 2 a.m. and I just started writing a paper due in seven hours. Undoubtedly, mixing the store bought packets and some boiling hot water is the easiest way to make it, but homemade hot cocoa is well worth the smidgen of extra time and effort. The chocolate flavor is much richer and you can easily find your favorite spot on the spectrum between a bittersweet and milk chocolate taste by adjusting the amount of sugar you add. Also, if you don’t have a saucepan or stovetop readily available, a microwave works just as well.


Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes

Servings: 1


2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup milk


1. Stir together the cocoa powder and sugar with about 2 tablespoons of the milk in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. When the cocoa powder and sugar have dissolved, add the rest of the milk.

Photo by Justin Shannin

3. Stir over medium-high heat until the ingredients are completely combined and the liquid is hot throughout.

Photo by Justin Shannin

4. Pour into a mug. Add marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.

Photo by Justin Shannin

Optional step: stir in a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla or peppermint extract to add a complementary flavor to the drink.

Microwave Directions:*

1. Stir the cocoa powder and sugar together with about 3 tablespoons of milk in a microwave-safe mug. The dry ingredients won’t dissolve much at this point.
2. Microwave the mixture for 45 seconds.

Note: Do not microwave for longer than 45 seconds at this step, and keep an eye on it. Putting it in the microwave for too long here will make it bubble over.

3. Remove from the microwave and stir again. The cocoa powder and sugar should mostly dissolve in the warm milk.

Photo by Justin Shannin

4. Add the rest of the milk.
5. Microwave for 1 minute.
6. Stir to make sure there are no lumps of cocoa powder left. Add marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.

*As with any microwave instructions, the cooking times might not be exact depending on how powerful your microwave is. You can always add more time if it’s not hot enough at first.