Healthier Hot Cacao Recipe


There’s something about curling up under a cozy blanket on a cold winter day with a good cup of hot cocoa. Unfortunately, prepackaged hot cocoa mixes are full of health destroying ingredients like corn syrup, granulated sugar, hydrogenated coconut oil (hydrogenated = trans fat), inflammatory seed oils, emulsifiers, thickeners, anti-caking agents, powdered milk, and “natural flavors” that are anything but. Yuck! Below is my favorite homemade hot cocoa recipe that uses 5 ingredients and takes about 5 minutes to make. It’s rich and creamy, and made with more natural ingredients that offer some health benefits over store bought mixes. 

Healthy Hot ‘Cacao’ (Serves 2)
Cook Time: 3-5 minutes

2 cups Organic 100% Grass-Fed Whole Milk (or full fat coconut milk for a dairy free option)
2 Tablespoon Raw Cacao Powder
2 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Sea Salt 


1. Add all ingredients to a small pot and place over medium low heat. Whisk vigorously to combine and get rid of any lumps of cacao. Warm until steamy, about 3-5min. Do not let mixture come to a boil as overheating milk destroys its flavor and texture.

2. Once hot cacao is hot, remove from heat and pour into 2 mugs. Top with homemade whipped cream, chocolates shavings, or a dusting of cacao powder.

*You can easily double, triple, or quadruple this recipe to serve more people. If you’re preparing hot cacao for a crowd you can place all ingredients in a slow cooker, whisk to mix, and set on warm for 1-2 hours. Enjoy!

What makes this hot cocao healthier than premade mixes?

Raw Cacao: I used ‘cacao’ instead of ‘cocoa’ or ‘Dutch processed cocoa.’ All three come from the cacao bean of the Theobroma cacao tree. The main difference is how the cacao bean is processed after harvesting. Raw cacao is the minimally processed form and maintains more flavor and nutrients. Cacao powder is a great source of minerals (iron, magnesium, potassium), fiber, and flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals which contribute to aging and disease. The flavonoids found in cacao have been shown to protect against damage to cholesterol in the lining of our arteries and prevent blood clots. Cacao also supplies our bodies with arginine, an amino acid that helps our body produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps our blood vessels dilate which helps regulate blood flow, inflammation, and blood pressure (Murray, Pizzorno, & Pizzorno, 2005). 

Pure Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup is a healthful sweet alternative to refined white sugar or table sugar. It contains minerals (calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc), vitamins (riboflavin), various antioxidants, and it raises blood sugar less than refined white sugar. It also has antibacterial, anti-diabetic, and anticancer properties. 

100% Grass-fed Milk: Real, whole milk is preferred over the powdered milk found in store bought hot cocoa mixes. The dehydration methods used to make powdered milk oxidizes the cholesterol found in milk, rendering it harmful to the arteries. The high temperature drying also creates large quantities of cross-linked proteins and nitrate compounds, which are potent carcinogens (Fallon, 2001). By utilizing 100% grass-fed whole milk you will be using a product that is closer to nature. Cows are meant to graze in the pasture and eat primarily grass, it is their species appropriate diet. Dairy products and meats that come from grass-fed cows have a better balance of Omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) to Omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) essential fatty acids. It is also a source of butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that provides the cells of our intestines with energy, and keeps the lining of our gut healthy and sealed, which prevents leaky gut. Whole milk also boasts 8 grams of protein per cup. Together, the protein and use of pure maple syrup instead of granulated sugar in this recipe produces a lower rise in blood sugar levels. And, I cannot forget to mention the vitamins (A, D, B12, B2) and minerals (calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur) found in milk. *If you can find a trusted source to buy raw, unpasteurized, non-homogenized grass-fed milk from even better (this preserves more beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and minerals). 

Vanilla Extract: Vanilla beans contain a compound called vanillin, a phenolic plant compound that has potent antioxidant properties.

Sea Salt: Most table salts have been stripped of their beneficial minerals and only have sodium chloride, which can create imbalances and disease in the body. Sea salt is produced by the evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes and retains trace minerals. Some trace minerals you may find in sea salt include: phosphorus, bromine, boron, zinc, iron, manganese, copper and silicon. 

I’d love to know what you think of this Healthy Hot Cacao recipe! If you try it, send me an e-mail and let me know!  


Fallon, E. (2001). Nourishing Traditions (2nd ed.). Brandywine, MD: NewTrends.

Fisher, N. D., & Hollenberg, N. K. (2005). Flavanols for cardiovascular health: the science behind the sweetness. Journal of hypertension, 23(8), 1453–1459.

Greger, M. (Nov 8, 2022). Dutch cocoa processed with alkali vs regular cocoa. Retrieved from:

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The healing power of miscellaneous foods: Chocolate. The encyclopedia of healing foods (pp 634-648). New York, NY: Atria Books.

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