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How To Make the Perfect Hot Cocoa, According to a Chef

The secret? Less is more. Find out how Chef Terhune of Milwaukee makes her cup of hot cocoa stand out.
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As temperatures begin to drop and the transition from fall to winter commences, it's time to start thinking about making more dishes and beverages that will warm you up. You have to combat the cold weather somehow, right? What better way to do that than with a nice warm cup of hot cocoa?

Think about those afternoons from your childhood spent sledding outside on the plush snow that blanketed once vibrant green grassy hills. One of the best incentives to brave the freezing temperatures was the piping hot cup of hot chocolate that was almost always waiting inside for you. And attempting to recreate those magical flavors from your childhood in one cup is a lot easier than you may think!

Executive Chef Heather Terhune of Tre Rivali and The Outsider rooftop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is well acquainted with snowy days, and she has a great hot cocoa recipe to whip up on those especially cold days. Terhune got her start as a pastry chef, and during that time she learned a thing or two about making the best thick and delicious hot cocoa recipe.

What's the secret to making the best hot cocoa recipe?

Surprise: Terhune never uses cocoa powder when she's looking to make hot cocoa. Instead, she uses real, high-quality chocolate.

Terhune also doesn't add cinnamon or marshmallows to her hot chocolate, which is why the quality of chocolate is so key for this hot cocoa recipe.

The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

How do you make the best hot chocolate?

Chef Heather Terhune shares her easy recipe for a rich, homemade hot chocolate.

Hot Chocolate Recipe

Makes 4 servings


1 cup whole milk, divided
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
4 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped from a bar (55 percent cocoa is Chef Terhune's preference)

How to Make It

  1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together 3/4 cup of the milk, cream, and sugar. Heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture starts to bubble around the edges.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup milk and cornstarch until well combined. As soon as the milk mixture bubbles around the edges, add in the milk and cornstarch mixture and whisk until heated through, about 1 minute.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add in the chocolate and pinch of salt, whisk until completely dissolved into the milk mixture, and is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into cups. Keep in mind that it's super-rich, so use espresso cups.
  5. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and top with chocolate shavings if desired. Serve immediately, as the drink will continue to thicken as it cools.
3/5 (34 Reviews)
Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne