The best hot chocolates taste tested
Read our expert taste test to discover the very best hot chocolate mixes, including powders, flakes and chunks, plus vegan and gluten-free versions.
A mug, glass, or even bowl – if you want to be very continental – of hot chocolate has got to be the ultimate comfort drink. The market is overflowing with choices of hot chocolate drinks, and there's something out there for all budgets, diets and desires.
When choosing the right hot chocolate for you, it depends on how strong a flavour and how sweet you like it. Most dark chocolate will show the percentage of cocoa solids and the higher the number, the stronger and somewhat darker the taste.
With lesser numbers, the taste is softer, but beware that sugar may be used to compensate for loss of flavour. Milk chocolate goes from dark to lighter too, but will always contain milk, so isn't suitable for a vegan diet or those with a dairy intolerance.
Authentic hot chocolate, therefore, is made with chocolate, whatever strength or colour you like. It can be a bar that you grate at home; ready-grated; sold in chunks, flakes, drops or discs; and even sold on a stick to stir through hot milk.
Read on to discover our top-rated hot chocolates for making instant warming drinks. If you'd prefer to make your own from scratch, see our classic hot chocolate recipe, slow cooker hot chocolate or a hot chocolate stirrer.
For more unbiased expert buyer’s guides, visit our reviews section to find 400+ round-ups of everything from the best coffee machines to the best milk frothers for making hot chocolate or decadent chocolate hampers.
The best hot chocolates at a glance
- Best luxury milk hot chocolate: Hotel Chocolat Milky 50% hot chocolate drink, £8.50
- Best budget hot chocolate powder: Green & Black's organic hot chocolate, £3.60
- Best luxury dark hot chocolate: Pump Street drinking chocolate 85% Ecuador, £13.65
- Best ethical dark hot chocolate: Chococo 70% flaked dark chocolate, £10
- Best vanilla-infused hot chocolate: Bettys Swiss dark hot chocolate, £14
- Best sweetened hot chocolate: The Spice Kitchen hot chocolate, £6
- Best small-batch drinking chocolate: Bullion single-origin drinking chocolate, £12.50
- Best hot chocolate bombs: Cocoba hot chocolate bombes, £14.95
- Best plain drinking chocolate: Cosy Chocolate original plain drinking chocolate, £3.50
- Best for coffee fans: Modern Standard 52% hot chocolate, from £6
- Best white hot chocolate: Whittard crème brûlée white hot chocolate, £9
The best hot chocolates to buy 2023
Hotel Chocolat Milky 50% hot chocolate drink (250g)
- Available from Hotel Chocolat (£8.50)
Best luxury milk hot chocolate
You can find a Hotel Chocolat on most high streets and shopping centres in the UK. From a small start in 2004, it now has 106 stores and cafés and a strong online presence. It has a wide choice of all things chocolate, including the drinking variety.
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We test the highly popular Milky 50%, which is more mellow than the 70% and better suited to those who prefer a less sweet drink. It's also vegan-friendly and gluten-free. The Milky comes in a resealable packet or carefully measured 35g sachets (which are perfect if you have a Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser hot chocolate maker).
We use the traditional stovetop method, with 35g chocolate to 220ml hot milk. We whisk in the chocolate grains, which melt in an instant, then reheat and enjoy a deeply flavoured, velvety smooth chocolate that isn't too sweet.
The quality of the chocolate shines through. There are also several other interesting flavours to choose from, including a rather tempting salted caramel.
Hotel Chocolat (£8.50)
Green & Black's organic hot chocolate (300g)
Best budget hot chocolate powder
You can find Green and Black's hot chocolate in supermarkets across the UK. It gets points for its availability and price, the lowest on test.
The packet suggests mixing 4 tsp hot chocolate powder to 250ml scalded semi-skimmed milk, or use the same ratio and heat in the microwave for 1 min 40 seconds.
We try both methods and in both cases the drink is very light and a little bland – one tester says it only tastes of hot milk. We up the number of teaspoons with much better results – it's creamier and chocolatey.
The microwave recipe also works well, but beware the risk of burning the chocolate unless the microwave is used precisely.
Of the 'off the supermarket shelf ' brands on test, this is our favourite as it’s less sweet and has a more pronounced taste. Definitely worth having a tub of it in the cupboard. Organic, fat-reduced cocoa powder.
Pump Street drinking chocolate 85% Ecuador (200g)
Best luxury dark hot chocolate
One of the most truly luxurious hot chocolates on offer, this drinking chocolate from Pump Street Bakery is well worth a try. We love the silky-smooth texture and deep flavour profile of the artisan chocolate flakes.
The 85% dark chocolate is made in Suffolk from beans sourced from Hacienda Limon estate by the Guantupi River in Ecuador.
You can taste the strong notes of toffee, toasted walnut and cocoa. Our favourite way to enjoy this hot chocolate is with oat milk, as it adds a very subtle sweetness.
Chococo 70% flaked dark chocolate (115g)
- Available from Chococo, £10
Best ethical dark hot chocolate
This strong 70% hot chocolate comes from the Dorset-based independent artisan chocolate brand, Chococo. Its 70% flaked dark chocolate drink is a single-origin Raisetrade chocolate from Madagascar.
The beautifully flaked chocolate melts quickly into the hot milk, turning smooth and creamy in seconds. The flavour is deep, chocolatey and – though on the website it says no added sugar, cane sugar is listed on the packaging – not sweet at all.
Though a little pricey, the ethical promises from this company and the quality of the chocolate make it a worthwhile treat. Vegan-friendly, no additives or preservatives.
Bettys Swiss dark hot chocolate (250g)
- Available from Bettys, £14
Best The famous Yorkshire-based Bettys cafés are known for all things delicious, including its hot chocolate. The Swiss chocolate used in this pretty caddy comes from Venezuelan cocoa beans and is infused with Madagascan vanilla – it's no wonder you're met with a heavenly aroma on opening.
At 65%, the colour is darker than most and the chocolate is a lovely, even, almost granular texture. The recommended 5 tsp to 200ml of scalded whole milk is precisely the right quantity to create a delicious mug of chocolate heaven.
We love the creaminess and ever-so slight bitterness, which combats the added sugar. The vanilla takes this to another level – we love it. There's no surprise this is award-winning chocolate. May contain milk.
Spice Kitchen hot chocolate (100g)
- Available from Spice Kitchen, £6
Best sweetened hot chocolate
This self-proclaimed 'yummiest' hot chocolate is a powder made of fat-reduced 25% cocoa powder and sugar. Spice Kitchen suggests mixing the powder with water to create a paste before adding hot milk.
The fine powder blends quickly with the heated milk and melts quickly. The result is a more cocoa-like drink, perfect if you like a lighter yet still chocolatey flavour. There is high praise for the taste, though a few testers find it a little too sweet.
We also like the ethics of the mother-and-son team behind Spice Kitchen, who produce award-winning spices, spice blends and gin. Through sales of their products, they help children in India to receive nutritious midday meals through the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Dairy- and gluten-free, high in sugar.
Spice Kitchen (£6)
Bullion single-origin drinking chocolate (250g)
- Available from Bullion Chocolate, £12.50
Best small-batch drinking chocolate
Award-winning Bullion chocolate is a relative newcomer to the chocolate business, founded in 2016 by Max Scotford in Sheffield. He follows the bean-to-bar approach for chocolate-making and is one of only a handful to use craft, small-batch techniques to bring the best out of the cacao.
On opening the packet of chocolate, we are welcomed with a waft of heavy chocolate. A peep inside shows some serious chunks nestled into the powder.
We test a 50% single origin chocolate from Santo Domingo, Ecuador – the only hot chocolate Max currently makes. He suggests mixing 30g chocolate with hot milk (an unspecified quantity – we use 200ml), stirring until the chocolate melts.
We follow these instructions and find that the chocolate melts very quickly, and are very impressed by the rich, thick texture, depth of flavour and creaminess.
For 50% chocolate, it tastes much deeper and darker, with a lovely sweetness. Like a good wine, Max offers tasting notes – expect roasted nuts, butterscotch and vanilla. Not suitable for vegans, contains sugar.
Cocoba hot chocolate bombes
Best hot chocolate bombs
Celebrate a special occasion with these fun hot chocolate bombs from Cocoba. Simply drop the bomb into a mug of steaming hot milk and watch the magic happen as the chocolate melts and releases the mini marshmallows in the middle.
The creamy pure Belgian milk chocolate melts easily and makes for a rich and smooth texture. It's on the sweeter side, but subtle enough for adults to enjoy with the kids. This pack of three makes a great gift or stocking filler at Christmas.
Cosy Chocolate original plain drinking chocolate (160g)
Best plain drinking chocolate
Cosy Chocolate is a small homemade hot chocolate business based in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside. It makes hot chocolate in a range of flavours, with an aim ‘to create the perfect cosy moment in a mug’.
Its 62% chocolate is a handcrafted and hand-flaked drinking chocolate with a rich, dark colour.
There is no given quantity of milk in its recipe, so we used 200ml and 4 tsp chocolate.
The chocolate disappears into the milk in an instant and with a few stirs, froths up. A delicious aroma conjours smiles all-round. This is a lovely, deep-flavoured drink with a velvety texture. It lives up to its name – we immediately want to hunker down and enjoy it. Suitable for vegans, may contain milk.
Modern Standard 52% hot chocolate (200g)
- Available from Modern Standard, £6
Best for coffee fans
Modern Standard is first and foremost a coffee company, however it offers one hot chocolate sourced directly from a family-run business in Manizales, Colombia. To offset any social impact, it gives 10p from every purchase to a local social impact project.
The chocolate is a light-coloured powder that has an intense, chocolatey aroma. Modern Standard uses Cacao Fino de Aroma beans (a classification of the International Cocoa Organisation), which is the gold standard of all cocoa produced across the globe.
It recommends steaming the hot chocolate, which will only work for those with a coffee machine with a steaming wand. We make a paste with the chocolate and milk, then whisk in scalded milk (around 70C). Modern Standard recommends a 9:1 milk to chocolate ratio, which is handy if you need to make a big quantity.
The texture is slightly grainy, but this doesn't affect the taste, which is wonderfully deep, strong and quite nutty, even with added sugar. This hot chocolate is delicious. Dairy-free, suitable for vegans, with added sugar.
Modern Standard (£6-£25)
Whittard crème brûlée white hot chocolate (350g)
Best white hot chocolate
While Whittard's classic white hot chocolate (£16 for two, Amazon) is delicious enough on its own, take things to the next level with this crème brûlée flavour. It's creamy and sweet but not sickly, as many white hot chocolates can be.
The silky-smooth texture is accompanied by a rich vanilla and caramel flavour, with a hint of butterscotch. If you're a fan of the sophisticated French dessert, this hot chocolate version is sure to go down a storm.
How we tested hot chocolate
We made each hot chocolate mix with both dairy and dairy-free milk. For every chocolate sent for testing, we used the quantities and recommended recipe instructions from the company. We scored the hot chocolate against the following criteria on our test matrix:
- How easy it is to prepare
- How long it takes to make
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This review was last updated in October 2022. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.