Every winter, I get the urge to cozy up with cocoa by my fireplace and read a book. However, since discovering I am allergic to dairy proteins, this soul-warming activity has become a challenge. As an unashamed chocolate enthusiast, being deprived of any kind of chocolate makes me sad, so I embarked on a quest to find dairy-free hot cocoas just as dreamily luscious, rich, and velvety as their dairy-filled counterparts. I tried seven different store-bought packets to compile this ranking of the best dairy-free hot cocoa mixes. Even if you’re not allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant, these cocoa mixes will still sweep you into chocolate heaven. 

As a disclaimer, my rankings are based on my personal opinions and the opinions of a few willing friends. I personally love dark chocolate, so I tended to favor the dark chocolate cocoa mixes over the milk chocolate ones. I also have to say that I didn’t dislike any of these — I think they are all wonderful hot cocoa mixes. But there definitely were a few that I will continue purchasing as winter progresses. 

My ranking system is based off of the mix’s depth of flavor, texture, consistency, and how well the powder dissolved. The milk alternative I used was unsweetened cashew milk since it’s my personal favorite and had a more neutral flavor. You can use any kind of milk with these mixes, non-dairy or dairy. Without further adieu, here is my ranking of dairy-free hot cocoa mixes.

7. Sillycow Farms’ Chocolate Moo-usse

Photo via Sillycow

Aesthetically, this hot cocoa takes the prize. It comes in a cute little glass jar that I will totally be reusing. It’s also incredibly cost-effective, since it’s only $9 and you get about 23 servings. Despite the cow reference, it does not contain any dairy. I appreciated that the powder dissolved well into my cashew milk, because I don’t like dry powder chunks in my hot cocoa. The reason why I placed it seventh, however, is because it lacked depth of cocoa flavor and was a little too sweet for my taste. My milk chocolate-loving roommate liked it, though, because it wasn’t so overpowering. I think this hot cocoa would work as a really good base for those who like adding a surplus of toppings, such as whipped cream, candy canes, and chocolate sauce. I picked this one up at my local market, but Target, Walmart, and Amazon also sell assorted Sillycow flavors.

6. Starbucks’ Classic Hot Cocoa

Photo via Starbucks

I was delighted to find that Starbucks’s hot cocoa packets don’t contain dairy. The chocolate flavor was well-rounded — not too intense but not too mellow. This one might be the creamiest and lightest mix out of the seven, so if you aren’t a fan of thick cocoa, this one's for you. My main criticism was that my powder didn’t dissolve completely into my cashew milk, but that might’ve been my fault because it did okay in my roommate’s 2% milk. Pricing-wise, for $9, you get eight single-serve packets. As an added bonus, there’s a super easy mocha recipe on the box that you can use the packets for if you prefer the wonderful coffee-chocolate duo. A lot of stores sell Starbucks products, so this might be the most accessible cocoa mix as well.

5. Moonstruck’s Dreamy Dark Chocolate Cocoa

Photo via Moonstruck

Of all my milk chocolate mixes, this one was my favorite. Instead of normal sugar, Moonstruck’s “dreamy” mix has powdered sugar, and it definitely made a difference. The texture was thicker than the other two, perfectly sweet, and super smooth. I liked using my handheld frother to blend my hot cocoas, and this one probably frothed the best. I also love that it’s a small business based out of Portland that uses ethically-sourced chocolate and locally-sourced ingredients. My only negative comment is pricing — it’s $3 per packet unless you buy it on sale like I did, in which case it was two for $4. Even so, the combination of powdered sugar and cocoa was so lovely and unique that I will probably buy it again. I bought mine from my local market, but you can also find it at REI, Walmart, and online.

4. Retreat Drinks’ Classic Hot Cacao

Photo via Retreat

This hot cocoa comforted me through one of my final projects, so it has a special place in my heart. The quality of the organic ingredients impacted the overall taste more than I expected. Instead of dry milk powder that dairy hot cocoa mixes have, this one had coconut cream powder which resulted in an extremely decadent and rich cup of cocoa. The powder did clump a little bit in my mug, but it might be different depending on what alternative you use. The packet also said to mix it with hot water (which I noticed too late), but I think using a milk alternative deepened the flavor. All that aside, I loved this cocoa a lot and I would have placed it higher on the list if it wasn’t so pricey. I bought a single serving of this one at my local market.

3. Numi’s 65% Dark Drinking Chocolate

Photo via @numiorganictea/Instagram

When I opened the bag and saw the tiny shards of chocolate staring back at me, I knew this hot cocoa mix was going to be wonderful. The first ingredient in Numi’s drinking chocolate is cocoa beans, and surprisingly, that made a world of difference in comparison to alkalized cocoa powder. In fact, the mix only has four simple ingredients, and the cocoa is Fair Trade Certified. Even though I mixed it with 8 ounces of milk instead of the suggested 2 ounces, I didn’t feel like I missed out on the rich depth of flavor. The subtle fruitiness and nuttiness of the dark chocolate shone through without being overpowered by too much sugar, and the Himalayan salt accented the cocoa nicely. While not as cheap as the first two on the list, you get about nine servings for $13. You can buy it at Whole Foods or order it online, which might change the price slightly.

2. Treehouse’s Original Drinking Chocolate

Photo via Treehouse

My top two mixes are both from Treehouse, but that’s because the coconut drinking chocolate was so good I wanted to try another variation to see how it compared. This one is in the dark chocolate sweet spot at 72%. After tasting Numi’s and then trying Treehouse’s, my friend declared that “Numi’s was the best cocoa I’d ever had until I tried this one,” which ultimately determined the order of my top three. Once again, I loved the pure chocolate flavor from ethically-sourced cocoa beans unhindered by refined sugars. On the package, it states that the natural ingredients may cause clumping, but I think my frother took care of that. Plus, it was already so thick and creamy I wouldn’t have noticed. This one is on the more expensive side ($25 for 10 or $3 for a single serve packet), but I know I will splurge on it in the future. I bought mine at Whole Foods but you can also get it from Walmart, Amazon, or through Treehouse’s website.

1. Treehouse’s Coconut Drinking Chocolate

Photo via Treehouse

Finally, we have the vegan hot chocolate mix that started it all. I’m not joking when I say that this one was so good that I cried. There is something about coconut milk powder and coconut sugar that enhances dark chocolate, because this one beat its original counterpart by a fraction of flavor. If you’ve ever melted good quality dark chocolate and indulged in a spoonful, then you can imagine the texture of a cup of Treehouse’s coconut drinking chocolate. And don’t even get me started on how heavenly it smells. Forget croissant perfume, I just want my apartment to smell like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. However, if the chocolate flavor is too heavy for you, you could always try adding it to hot water instead of milk. Personally, I loved how full and rich it was in my cashew milk, but I also consume more dark chocolate than the average person, so I may be biased. You do have to splurge a bit to buy a box, but I can assure you that it’s worth it. You can find this delicious and inviting hot cocoa mix at Whole Foods, Amazon, and Treehouse’s website.