Q: Kris – Thanks so much for providing such a great cookbook/guide book. I have been severely lactose intolerant for the last 2 years, and have had a mild case before that for about 8 years. Do you have any ideas for dairy-free hot chocolate? It is something I just love.
A: Alisa – Winter is in full swing, the holidays are upon us, and it is about time for those hot beverage cravings. For an easy homemade version of dairy-free hot chocolate, I recommend that you use the recipe for Hot Double Chocolate on p167 in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. That recipe includes Spiced, Mocha, and Peppermint options. Plus, there is a Carob Cocoa recipe on the same page for a little variety. For an extra-rich beverage, you can even use light cashew cream (Nutty Light Cream on page 129) or half coconut milk / half water in place of the milk alternative.
But the options for dairy-free hot chocolate and hot cocoa don’t stop there. I’ve got more recipes and several convenient brands to recommend. And the following has been updated for 2016!
Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate / Cocoa Brands
Remember to consult ingredient statements (they can change!) and speak with the manufacturer directly where severe allergies are a concern. May contain warning labels for potential cross-contamination are completely voluntary for the manufacturer and do not tell the full story. The following options were at least dairy-free by ingredients at our last check.
AH!laska – They make a non-dairy cocoa mix (careful as they do have one with dairy!) that has been a mainstay in many dairy-free households for years.
Archer Farms Hot Cocoa – This popular Target brand has a few dairy-free, kosher parve flavors. We noted the Malted Milk Chocolate (yes, really!), Candy Cane, Dark Chocolate, and Pumpkin Spice. But the Caramel did contain dairy.
CAcafe Cocoa – If you’re craving a creamier instant blend, this brand uses a coconut base and has fun to-go cups of cocoa, too!
Cacoco – Touted as “superfood” drinking chocolate, you can bet that this brand makes a rich and relatively nutritious mug of hot cocoa. They are a vegan company, and at last check, they had three dairy-free hot chocolate varieties: Original, Global Warrior, and Essential Midnight. We have taste-tested this brand; see our full review here: CaCoCo Superfood Drinking Chocolate.
Cocoa Canard – Far more decadent than a mix, this chocolatier produces 64% cacao spooning chocolate that melts right in for a creamy dairy-free hot chocolate. We have taste-tested this brand; see our full review here: Cocoa Canard Spooning Chocolate.
Cocoa Cravings – I just recently discovered this brand of certified organic, gourmet hot cocoa drinks and drinking chocolates. From Cool Peppermint to Spicy Curry, all varieties appear to be both non-dairy and vegan!
Cocoa Felice – Boasted as more traditional, this vegan mix uses real European Dutch process cocoa.
Dear Coco – More of a gift-worthy delight, their hot chocolate spoons are an amazing melted chocolate experience complete with marshmallow inside. Three varieties (including Gingersnap!) and we reviewed them all: Dear Coco Hot Chocolate Spoons.
Eli’s Earth – This line of organic hot chocolate mixes even comes in a milk-style variety!
Ghirardelli – This brand keeps waffling back and forth. They started with an amazing line of canister hot chocolates that were all dairy-free. Those were available for years, until one day they decided to add milk to most of their formulas. But then, as we clamored for dairy-free options to return, they reemerged with some sweet chocolate goodies that are made without milk. At last check, the following were dairy-free by ingredients (in at least one product size; ingredients may vary in product sizes!): Chocolate Caramel Premium Hot Cocoa, Double Chocolate Premium Hot Cocoa, Mocha Premium Hot Cocoa, and Sweet Ground Chocolate & Cocoa Beverage Mix.
Nibmor – Their drinking chocolate is a great option for those who want a lower-glycemic dairy-free hot chocolate, since it is sweetened with coconut sugar. It’s also organic, fair trade, and comes in a few flavors.
Rawcholatl – My latest favorite find, this is one of the most nutritious, low sugar hot chocolate brands I’ve discovered, yet it is so full-bodied, spicy and fulfilling. See my full review here: Rawcholatl Ancient Aztec Cacao Spice Drink.
Silly Cow Farms – Don’t let the dairy image fool you. These adorable little jars of hot cocoa may well be within limits for you. All of the flavors that we checked (couldn’t access ingredients for all) are made without any milk ingredients.
Starbucks – In thair packaged line, Starbucks seems to offer a couple of hot cocoa flavors that are made without milk ingredients. We noted the Classic, Double Chocolate, Marshmallow (not vegan), and Peppermint in particular, but at least one flavor (Caramel) is made with dairy, so read carefully.
St. Claire’s – It is available in several nourishing flavors (from Vanilla to Ginger), but the Traditional has just organic molasses granules, organic cocoa powder and organic cocao nib extract. yes, it’s soy-free, and free of top allergens, too!
Whittard – Several varieties from this UK company appear to be dairy-free by ingredients, including the Caramel and Rocky Road. But avoid the white chocolate selections and read carefully as several do contain milky substances.
Zimt Drinking Chocolate Mix – This Canadian company uses only coconut sugar for sweetening their rich hot chocolate mix. Not that milk and other allergens are present in their facility. Contact them directly if you have specific allergen questions.
Please note that I’ve not yet sampled all of the above dairy-free hot chocolate mixes. Visit our dairy-free product reviews for tasting notes of products that we have sampled.
Homemade Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate / Cocoa
Aside from the easy recipes in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook, here are some more rich, chocolaty dairy-free sipping formulas:
- Healthier Hot Chocolate – uses brown rice milk powder and includes three flavor variations (pictured below).
- Nourishing Spiced Hot Chocolate – with prunes, no joke!
- Hot Chocolate Cubes – just too much fun.
- Crockpot Hot Chocolate – low and slow – keep it warm for party hot chocolate on demand.
In a pinch, when you don’t have a dairy-free hot chocolate recipe or canister in hand, keep the basic ratio in mind of roughly 1 tablespoon cocoa powder per 1 cup of liquid, and sweetener to taste. For a light hot cocoa, some prefer to use just water. For something a little richer, use anything from rice milk on up to cashew milk or coconut milk (the fatty kind!), or consider melting in some dairy-free chocolate chips for a little cocoa buttery luxury.
If you’re feeling lazy, follow my husband Tony’s lead and just heat up your favorite dairy-free chocolate milk beverage.
For topping, most marshmallows are typically dairy-free, but there are also tasty vegan brands like Dandies (the big ones pictured below) if you prefer a gelatin-free treat.