Hot Cocoa

From left to right:  Swiss Miss, Nestle's Abueltia, and Homemade hot cocoas

From left to right: Swiss Miss, Nestle's Abueltia, and Homemade hot cocoas

One of my ultimate comfort foods, especially around the holiday season, is a big bowl of buttered popcorn served alongside a mug of steaming hot cocoa.  This is the snack combo we used to munch on growing up, in front of a roaring fire, while we played games or watched a movie.  Although my current home lacks the comfort of fireplace, we still often make popcorn and hot cocoa as a winter treat with one small difference, I no longer enjoy the powdered, just-add-water hot cocoa we drank growing up.  I recently started experimenting with different recipes for homemade hot cocoa and now find powdered, packaged hot cocoa mixes to be a bit watery tasting.  In this post we’re comparing three different kinds of hot cocoa side by side to see if homemade hot cocoa really tastes better or if I’m just imagining things!

There are two methods for making hot cocoa at home that I’ve used and enjoy so I included both in this taste test.  The first, and easiest method is to buy Nestle’s Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate tablets.  These come in a yellow hexagonal box with a picture of an elderly woman on the front (pictured on the upper left hand side of this page).  I cut one tables in half, chop it into small chunks and then melt these into 2 cups of milk on the stove, stirring constantly.  I then add 1 teaspoon of vanilla before pouring the cocoa into mugs.   The resulting hot cocoa is rich and sweet with a hint of cinnamon.  During a recent snowstorm we were, obviously, in need of a hot chocolate fix and didn’t have these delightful tablets around so I developed the hot cocoa recipe found below and this is the second hot cocoa method I use frequently:

Quick Homemade Hot Cocoa

Serves 2


2 cups hot milk ( I use 1 %)

2 Tablespoons unsweetend cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  While the milk heats (either in the microwave or on the stovetop), mix together the cocoa and sugar in a small bowl.

2.  Once milk is heated, add the cocoa/sugar mixture and vanilla and whisk until well combined.  Pour into 2 mugs (or 1 very large one) and enjoy!

from left to right:  Swiss Miss powdered hot cocoa, chopped Abuelita cocoa tablet, Homemade hot cocoa mixture

In our hot cocoa taste test, we compared the two hot cocoa methods above to Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation hot cocoa mix.  I just followed the instructions on the box for the Swiss Miss cocoa which were to empty a packet of cocoa powder into a mug and add 3/4 cup hot water, mixing well.

None of these three hot cocoas took much time to make but the Swiss Miss was definitely the fastest of the group since you basically just have to wait for water to boil (about 4 minutes in my case).  Each of the other hot cocoas (homemade and Abuelita tablets) took about 7 minutes to make with the mixing/chopping/measuring that was required.

Now, about the taste!  There were 4 people taste testing the cocoas and  none of the testers said that they really preferred the Swiss Miss cocoa, but one tester did say that she found it almost as enjoyable as homemade.  I, personally, found that the Swiss Miss really did taste watery to me when compared with the other kinds side by side and a couple other testers agreed with me.  When pressed for an opinion, three of the testers preferred the homemade hot cocoa, but only by a slim margin, while one found the Abuelita most enjoyable.  Surprisingly, the Abuelita tablet made a very sweet cocoa, sweeter than either of the other two, but I think this sweetness was well balanced by the cinnamon and cocoa.  I found that I really preferred the homemade hot cocoa because it had a richer chocolate flavor than either of the other two and wasn’t too sweet.

Bottom Line: Although very convenient and cheap, hot cocoa made from packaged powder was not preferred by any of the testers.  If you prefer your hot cocoa very chocolaty, with no other obvious flavors like cinnamon, then you will probably like the homemade recipe best.  However, if you like a sweeter cocoa with the richness of cinnamon then cocoa made from the Abuelita tablets will hit the spot.  Or you could try both and let me know what you think . . .

Quick Homemade Hot Cocoa Nestle’s Abuelita Hot Cocoa’ Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation Hot Cocoa
Cost(per serving): 46 cents Cost(per serving): 25 cents Cost(per serving): 12 Cents
Time: 7 minutes Time: 7 minutes Time: about 4 minutes