Being lactose intolerant, dairy sensitive, allergic to milk, or just trying to avoid dairy for other reasons is difficult.

During the summer, you fight through the pain of going to get ice cream with your friends or family while staying at the beach just to be told, “I’m sorry but we do not have any dairy free ice options."

Now winter has hit and you are ready to go out and get hot chocolate, a winter staple.  In order to avoid the summer's predicament, here is a guide to help you choose which chain to get a dairy free hot chocolate at this winter, ranked from worst to best.

Dunkin Donuts

milk, coffee, tea, ice, cream, sweet
Jacqueline Canino

Dunkin Donuts is my go to place to get a nice, refreshingly energizing iced coffee made with almond milk after school.

Much to my disappointment, their hot chocolate is not up to par. It was for sure the worst out of all of them, with artificial coming  to mind as I took my first sip. It was watery and not chocolate-y at all.

After being so disappointed with the hot chocolate I went home to research its true contents.

It is made from water with a stir-in powder, consisting of sugar, dairy free creamer, cocoa, a bunch of chemicals, and non-fat dried milk! Even though the cashier stated that it was made with water and a powder mixed in, it was unclear that the powder had dairy in it.

If I wanted a cup of powdered hot chocolate I could have found it in my mother’s pantry.

Panera Bread

Panera is known for their addictive bread and their mouth-watering pastries. Immediately after I tried their hot chocolate I asked myself, "Is this hot chocolate?"

Don’t get me wrong, it was good. It was very good, so good that I finished the whole cup in like 5 minutes. However, something was missing.

Then it hit me: it wasn’t super chocolate-y. The hot chocolate was more like a glass of warm milk with a nice sweet touch and a subtle hint of chocolate. It was made with almond milk, so it was expected to be on the watery side rather than super creamy, as expected from soy or whole milk.

If you're not a huge fan of strong chocolate, Panera’s hot chocolate is for you. It was the perfect treat to warm me up but, sadly, did not completely satisfy my chocolate craving.

Joe Muggs

Rachael Stockel

Joe Muggs’s hot chocolate was definitely a close contender for favorite dairy free hot chocolate. The hot chocolate, made with soy milk, had the perfect consistency: smooth but not too thick. They also nailed the chocolate flavor with a perfect balance of sweetness — not so sweet that you can feel a tooth ache coming, but sweet enough that it harmonizes perfectly with the chocolate.

I was super impressed with Joe Muggs’s hot chocolate; it was the perfect cold weather drink, leaving me planning my next visit.


coffee, cappuccino, milk, espresso, cream, chocolate, sweet, mocha
Becky Hughes

Starbucks was the best. It's the classic that you can never go wrong with. Their hot chocolate is absolutely incredible. I got mine with soy milk and I was immediately addicted. As a huge chocoholic, I was hooked on their rich, smooth cup of heaven.

Now I admit, I didn’t just taste their regular hot chocolate.

I also tried their salted caramel one. Their salted caramel hot chocolate was out of this world. A mix of my two favorite things — chocolate and caramel— the flavor highlighted both equally.  Starbucks also offers Peppermint, snickerdoodle, toasted white chocolate, and toffee almond-milk varieties.

I was so pleased to know that not only does Starbucks kill it with their coffee, but they also dominate with their hot chocolate.

The Bottom Line

coffee, tea, milk, mug, bed, cozy, Morning
Caroline Ingalls

Hot chocolate is the perfect treat to enjoy during the winter whether you're studying for exams, taking a break from holiday shopping, catching up with friends, or in need of a chocolate boost. Knowing that there are dairy free options out there keeps lactose-intolerants in the loop and always ready for some winter vibes.

'Tis the season to get some delicious dairy free hot chocolate, so go grab your coat, slip on your boots (or your slippers, whatever you're feeling), and get some chocolate-y goodness to complete your day.

#SpoonTip: Here is another way to take your love for hot chocolate to the next level. Who knew you could make it into a hot chocolate cookie?