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DIY Hot Cocoa Mix (Bulk Recipe)

Ready to snuggle up and have a warm, chocolatey beverage by the fire to keep warm? Make this bulk DIY hot cocoa mix for your pantry for winter-time snuggles. It’s quick and easy and can be adjusted for almost any dietary need!

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Here’s an interesting tidbit! Is there a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa? Does it matter? It’s all a hot, chocolatey drink in the end, right?

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What is the Difference Between Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa

The essential difference comes down to this:

Hot Chocolate is a beverage made from melted chocolate and milk or cream. With a rich chocolate flavor, with a little whipped cream or marshmallow snow on top, it is a decadent treat for a cold winter’s night.

Hot Cocoa, on the other hand, is a lighter, sweeter drink made from cocoa powder, sugar, and milk or water (or even cream). It can be flavored with vanilla, caramel, or cinnamon and tends to be what we know as those store-bought packets with far too few of those teeny little marshmallow pieces.

• LEARN MOREHow to Dehydrate Marshmallows for Hot Cocoa

While it’s dreamy to make a fresh cup of hot chocolate for the family as a special treat, I know you’re busy. You also want to be able to stock your pantry with easy and healthy options for your family (well, who am I kidding? Hot cocoa isn’t exactly healthy!).

It is easy to store chocolate in the pantry to make hot chocolate from; I want to help you save a little time and money with this fast and easy hot cocoa mix to stock your pantry.

Mom’s DIY Hot Cocoa Mix (Bulk)

I will be completely upfront and tell you that Alton Brown highly influenced this recipe. But I’ve made a few changes with testing, researching, and testing, and more taste testing.

“Hey, kids, wanna test the next batch?
 “Nah,” said no child of mine ever.

Ingredients photo for Mom's Best Hot Cocoa Bulk Mix in Oxo containers and mason jars.


The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below, but you can change to suit your preferences. These are the ingredients you will need to gather.

  • Dutch-process cocoa powder. You can use regular cocoa powder.
  • Powdered milk (See non-dairy options below). Nonfat dry milk is a good alternative if you want more longevity for storing.
  • Confectioners’ sugar aka powdered sugar  (this can be adjusted down to meet your preference)
  • Heavy Cream Powder – this is optional, but it can add a bigger, creamier taste.
  • Malted milk powder. Your store might carry it as Ovaltine malt powder. Of course, you can just substitute all the dry milk and malt powder with malted milk powder if you’d like, and not have to source two different ingredients.
  • Fine-grain salt Do not use table salt. If you use a coarse grain salt, grind it in a coffee grinder to get a more fine-grained texture. It will blend better. You can leave this out if you don’t want the added sodium. Salt elevates the flavor a little more!
  • Arrowroot powder (corn starch can be substituted). This helps keep your hot cocoa powder from clumping in storage, but it is unnecessary.

Yield: This recipe makes approximately 7.5 cups of powder or approximately 40 cups of hot cocoa. 


  1. Place confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, milk and malt milk powders, salt, and arrowroot powder in a large bowl.
  2. Use a whisk to mix thoroughly
  3. Pour into an airtight container.

Directions for serving:

  • Place two heaping tablespoons of Mom’s Hot Cocoa Mix into a mug (it needs to be a mug, a teacup simply won’t do).
  • Pour two ounces of hot milk or water and thoroughly mix. A whisk is handy for this.
  • Fill the rest of the mug with hot milk or water. 


Creating this homemade mix is quick and easy, but you may want to try some alternatives to ingredients to make it more to your liking or needs.

  • Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the mix (or more if you’d like).
  • You can use natural cocoa powder instead of Dutch-process cocoa powder if that’s what you have in your pantry. But the Dutch process is a deeper, richer chocolate taste than natural cocoa powder, but you really can use either. 
  • The inclusion of arrowroot powder serves two purposes. It helps make the cocoa mix less prone to caking or clumping in storage AND adds a little creamier texture to the final product. You can substitute cornstarch, but I find arrowroot works better.
  • You can use Ovaltine Malted Milk Powder if it is easier to get. The chocolate variety will give a rich taste. Use it to replace all of the dry milk and malted milk powder.
  • This tip from Alton Brown can be a game-changer in flavor: Toast your milk powder in a single layer on a sheet pan in a 300°F / 149°C oven for about 20 minutes. If it’s clumpy, whirl it in a food processor to break up clumps. Cool. Combine with the rest of the ingredients in the recipe.
Hot cocoa mix on with marshmallows and a peppermint stick on a Christmas tablescape.

Mom’s Secret Sleepy-Time Hot Cocoa Recipe

This is the magical, sleepy-time hot cocoa mix I have served my boys during the annual viewing of Polar Express on Christmas Eve since they were wee (the oldest one is 23 now!). It blends a little of both worlds of an instant hot cocoa mix with creamy hot chocolate. 

And I won’t say that a mug of hot cocoa with a splash of bourbon has been enjoyed as a parents’ treat!

I’ve never told them the secret, but it’s a simple piece of love that I add to the hot cocoa mix above before they hit the sack to dreams of sugar plums and Christmas cheer.


  • 1 Serving of Mom’s Hot Cocoa Mix with your preferred liquid.
  • Add one Hershey’s Kiss or another favorite chocolate chunk (or more…it’s Christmas Eve!)
  • Add one peppermint candy. You can use a candy cane if you don’t mind giving away a little of the secret.
  • A little marshmallow snow or whipped cream on top.

When will I give up the secret? Once they have kids of their own. They’ve already guessed the secret, but it can’t be officially confirmed until they’ve become parents themselves. 

Topping Suggestions

  • Dehydrated marshmallows (or buy some commercially done bits in bulk) 
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Marshmallow snow (peppermint snow might also be your family’s favorite!)
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate Shavings
  • Crushed peppermint candies
  • Cinnamon or pumpkin spice sprinkled on top
  • Pure vanilla extract, hazelnut or french vanilla coffee creamer, or peppermint extract added to the cup
  • Raspberry Powder – add a tsp of raspberry powder per cup for a subtle raspberry flavor.
  • For an adult version, add a splash of rum or bourbon.
  • Add a little cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, or chili powder to change the flavor. 

Healthy Ingredient Swaps

These healthier ingredient swap ideas are safe for storing the bulk recipe in your pantry for the long term.

Non-dairy alternatives:

Something to remember when using non-dairy milk alternatives is that the powders may not dissolve well. I’m listing a few alternatives that do, but you’ll want to experiment with the ones that work best for you.

Sugar Alternatives:

You can reduce the amount of powdered sugar in the recipe to something more you like. But if you want some sugar substitutes, try one of these: 

Use Sucanat or another Keto-friendly sweetener or coconut sugar to replace the confectioner’s sugar. You may want to grind both of these to help them dissolve better.

How to Store

Storing your DIY hot cocoa mix is best in an airtight container (mason jars are perfect) in a dark, cool place for approximately six months. You may get longer if you use non-dairy or nonfat dry milk alternatives.

The recipe as listed, will last for about six months. 

If it makes things easier for kids or to transport, feel free to divide this mix-up into zip-top bags, reusable sandwich bags, or even modified Foodsaver bags, then store them in an airtight container together. Then you can grab a few to tuck into your bag and make your own hot cocoa mix wherever you can find hot water.

Gift Idea

This hot cocoa mix is perfect for Christmas or hostess gifts! Be sure to attach a gift tag with the instructions!

  • Layer the ingredients for a pretty sand art effect in mason jars.
  • Place mix in a cute jar, and layer mini chocolate chips and dehydrated marshmallows.
  • Package up in individual, holiday, and cellophane treat bags.  
  • Buy a cute holiday mug, and stuff a zip-top bag with a few servings, a card with the instructions, and a nice candy cane ‘garnish.’

More DIY Hot Cocoa Mixes 

Vegan Hot Chocolate Mix (you can store this!)

Hot Chocolate Bombs (this is not a shelf-stable recipe, but you can make up bulk and store them in your freezer!)

Frequently Asked Questions

Can hot cocoa mixes go bad?

Because this mix uses whole milk powder, yes, eventually, it can go bad. Manufacturers suggest storing whole milk powder in the fridge or freezer after opening, but I have found we get about six months on the shelf. Store this in the freezer or use nonfat dry milk to extend the shelf life.

Can I use a sugar substitute in Hot Cocoa Bulk Mix?

Yes. You can use a confectioner’s sugar alternative like swerve or monk fruit to replace the sugar here. Test the flavor before making the bulk to ensure the ratio is what you want.

Can I store hot cocoa mix with dried marshmallows?

I recommend storing the dehydrated marshmallows separately for long-term storage, but it’s fine for short-term gift-giving or camping.

tablet with 30 Day Pantry Challenge book cover on a table with a cup of coffee and buy now text
Hot cocoa in a cup with a bulk hot cocoa mix in a mason jar

Hot Cocoa Bulk Mix

Create a magical hot cocoa mix in bulk for your pantry to celebrate the holiday season all year long!
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 40
Calories: 43kcal




Making the Bulk Mix

  • Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix
  • Store in an airtight container

Making Hot Cocoa

  • Place 2 heaping tablespoons of Mom's Hot Cocoa Mix into a mug
  • Add 2 oz of water or hot milk and thoroughly mix with a whisk or fork
  • Fill the rest of the mug with water or hot milk

Darcy’s Tips

  • To use heavy cream powder, substitute it for malted milk powder if you’d like. You can also substitute 1/2 cup of dry milk with it.
  • You can use natural cocoa powder instead of Dutch-process cocoa powder if that’s what you have in your pantry. But the Dutch process is a deeper, richer flavor than natural cocoa powder, but you really can use either.
  • The inclusion of arrowroot powder serves two purposes. It helps make the cocoa mix less prone to caking or clumping in storage and adds a little creamier texture to the final product.
Non-dairy alternatives:
  • Coconut milk powder
  • Soy Milk Powder
  • Non-dairy creamer – while not the cleanest substitute, it can be used for those who need to stay away from dairy, but don’t want the cost of alternative milk substitutes.


Serving: 2TB | Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 89mg | Potassium: 120mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 52IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutritional information is an estimation only. Nutrient information for dehydrated foods is based on fresh. Use 1/4 of the servicing size for the same nutrient information. Thus 1 Cup of fresh fruit has the same sugars as 1/4 dried.

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  1. This looks yummy! The almond milk powder link you gave says it’s unavailable. Is there a different brand that you know will work? Thanks

    1. any one you choose will work fine. Anthony’s brand is good for just about everything they do (https://amzn.to/4auMc9k – this is am Amazon affiliate link), but sometimes more expensive. You can even dehydrate your own!

  2. 5 stars
    This is the best hot cocoa I have ever tasted!

  3. Avatar for Jessica C Jessica C says:

    If you leave out the malted milk powder (due to a dairy allergy), should another cup of non-dairy milk powder be added in it’s place?

    1. The ratios can be whatever you’d like. This is a very forgiving recipe, but yes, replace volume with volume.

  4. Avatar for Karen Plante Karen Plante says:

    Is there a substitute for arrowroot?


  5. Is there a substitute for the malted milk powder?

    1. No – it’s a unique flavor. You can leave it out, but it won’t taste as the recipe intended. Still good, just not the well-rounded flavor this brings.

  6. Can you use dry whole milk in this recipe? If you’ve already discussed this, I apologize in advance. Thank you 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    I need to make some for Christmas gifts.

  8. Cute! Where did you get the Hot Cocoa black tray thing?!!

  9. Hi! I made this and just noticed the nf milk powder was not listed in the recipe below but lists it in the written text. Is it a deal breaker that I forgot it?!

    1. Thanks for catching that – It has already been corrected.

  10. Avatar for Ellen Huff Ellen Huff says:

    this looks very fun and I love hot cocoa. thank you!

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