Basic Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa with Gingerbread, Mayan, and Nutty Variations


The wind is howling and you realize your most vital appendages–your fingers–have gone numb. The solution? Hot cocoa, of course! But you’ve given up dairy, so how should you make it? Don’t worry, dairy-free hot cocoa is easy and delicious. In fact, I have five variations to tempt your taste buds, and the main recipe is made with water! Yes, it’s not only dairy-free, it’s also vegan and top allergen-free.

Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa Recipe - Basic Recipe made with Water! Includes Creamier and Milkier options, plus favor variations: Gingerbread, Mayan, and Nutty

Basic Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa made with Water

Have you noticed that many hot cocoa mixes have “just add hot water” instructions? Dairy-free hot cocoa made purely with hot water lets the complex flavors of the chocolate shine through. You might think this sounds like a grown-up method, but many kids actually prefer hot chocolate made with water over dairy – seriously!

This simple preparation also helps to ensure that you get maximum antioxidant benefits. At least one study has shown that flavanols in cocoa, like tea, aren’t absorbed as well when paired with dairy. And the antioxidant concentration in cocoa is almost 2 times stronger than red wine, 2 to 3 times stronger than green tea, and 4 to 5 times stronger than that of black tea.

Are you feeling better about enjoying a mug of dairy-free hot cocoa now? And don’t worry. If you do prefer a creamier finish, I’ve got you covered with some richer options.

Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa Recipe - Basic Recipe made with Water! Includes Creamier and Milkier options, plus favor variations: Gingerbread, Mayan, and Nutty

Special Diet Notes: Basic Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free,  nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. You can even make it paleo or keto with approved sweeteners.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Basic Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa with Gingerbread, Aztec, and Nutty Variations
Prep time
Total time
This simple recipe is meant to be customized to your tastes, and it includes several variations! Be sure to pick a good quality cocoa powder since it is the star of the show!
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 serving
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (can sub your sweetener of choice), or to taste
  • Pinch salt
  • Boiling water to fill your mug (about 1 to 1½ cups)
  1. Put the cocoa, sugar, and salt in your favorite mug and stir to combine.
  2. Add enough of the boiling water to make a paste. Stir until the paste is smooth.
  3. Stir in more boiling water and stir until the paste is dissolved.
Mayan Variation: Add ⅛ teaspoon each of chili or cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract.
Nutty Variation: Whisk 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter into the dairy-free hot cocoa until dissolved. Optionally add a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Gingerbread Variation: Substitute 1 tablespoon molasses and 1 tablespoon brown sugar for the sugar in your cocoa base. Add ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves.
Creamier Variation: Use just 1 cup boiling water, and add 2 tablespoons or more of dairy-free creamer or coconut milk.
Milky Variation: Use boiling water to make the paste, but then whisk in unsweetened vanilla or plain dairy-free milk beverage (about 1 cup). Warm the milky hot cocoa in the microwave until very warm, but not boiling.

For More of My Easy Recipes, Get Go Dairy Free!

Go Dairy Free - The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein-Free Living

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. You know, I tried this with 30 g of peanut butter, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and 2 tsp of sugar, and it really hit the spot, nice creamy, tasty, and just all around perfect!

    Thx for the simple instructions <3

  2. Thank you for this! It was great to see a simple hot chocolate recipe that doesn’t require milk.

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