This simple coconut milk hot chocolate is rich, creamy, and pretty much divine. And it contains none of the nasty preservatives or refined sweeteners in those packets of instant hot cocoa powder. It calls for just a touch of natural sweetener, whether you prefer honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup, which means it’s not only dairy-free and vegan but paleo. (We can almost hear you paleo folks whoop and holler!)Renee Schettler Rossi

What’s The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa Powder?

This coconut milk hot chocolate recipe lists cacao powder or cocoa powder as ingredients. What’s the difference? Cacao powder is made from raw or very minimally processed cocoa beans whereas cocoa powder is essentially cacao powder that’s been roasted. Anyone looking to justify a hot chocolate fix should be aware that more antioxidants and beneficial enzymes remain intact in cacao powder whereas in cocoa powder the high temperatures in the processing can destroy these to an extent. You can swap cacao powder for natural processed cocoa powder in almost any recipe.

A pot and a mug filled with hot cocoa and a sifter of cocoa powder on the side.
A pot and a mug filled with hot cocoa and a sifter of cocoa powder on the side.

Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate

5 from 1 vote
This coconut milk hot chocolate recipe is rich, creamy, delicious, paleo, dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kid-friendly, adult-approved, and as simple to make as it is soothing to sip.
David Leite
Servings2 servings
Calories519 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time3 hours 45 minutes
Total Time4 hours


  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup raw cashews (optional)
  • Filtered water (if using cashews)
  • 1 3/4 cups full-fat canned coconut milk, (from a 13 1/2-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder or natural processed cocoa powder, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup, or more to taste


  • If using the cashews, place them in a bowl and add enough filtered water to cover for a few hours. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews.
  • Toss all the ingredients in a blender and process until you have a smooth liquid.
  • Strain the liquid into a saucepan and place over gentle heat until it’s completely warmed through. If using cashews, the hot chocolate will become quite thick as it warms. If desired, add a little water until you reach the desired consistency.)
  • Remove the pan from the heat, taste, and, if desired, add a smidgen more honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup. Divvy the coconut milk hot chocolate between a couple mugs or cups. You can sprinkle it with a little cacao or cocoa just before serving if you want to be all fancy about things.


Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate Variation

How to Fancy Up Your Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate
If straight hot chocolate isn’t fancy enough for you, toss any of the following into the blender along with everything else: Pinch ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract Pinch of chile powder and a pinch of cinnamon

Adapted From

Nourish: Mind, Body & Soul

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Serving: 1 mugCalories: 519 kcalCarbohydrates: 21 gProtein: 8 gFat: 50 gSaturated Fat: 39 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gSodium: 29 mgPotassium: 604 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 10 gVitamin C: 2 mgCalcium: 47 mgIron: 8 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 Amber Rose | Sadie Frost | Holly Davidson. Photo © 2015 David Loftus. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a rich and delicious hot chocolate that has such a creamy and fluffy character to it, you won’t even consider adding a marshmallow. It’s not low-calorie by any means, but if you’re avoiding certain ingredients (dairy!), then this might be the answer to your prayers. To make this vegan, substitute an equal amount of light agave nectar for the honey (I did this). The amount of sweetener in the recipe was perfect, but I’d consider the amount of cacao to be a minimum. If you want a more intense hot chocolate, you’ll need to use more. Keep in mind that cashew cream thickens when heated even more than dairy cream does, so don’t overdo the cashews—1/4 cup is plenty. The mixture will thicken on the stove. I opted to add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne. After having a cup like that, I played around a little more by adding a tiny splash of brandy and coffee liqueur. Just sayin’, if you want to spike it, it’s even better!

I think this is the new go-to recipe for hot chocolate! The coconut milk gives the hot cocoa a semisweet taste to begin with, so I suspect that the honey could be reduced or eliminated if you don’t want a lot of sweetness. I’ve been wanting to try the soup setting on my Vitamix, and I decided, what the heck, it’s all in there anyhow, so go ahead and just let it do its magic. And it did! This is a great method for making hot chocolate. And since I have a lot of it, I will heat it on the cooktop next time to see if there is any difference (I can’t imagine that there will be). I used 1/2 cup cashews soaked for 2 hours. It took 5 minutes to get it all into the Vitamix and 5 minutes to blend and heat it. I used black cocoa powder, which is something I’ve been waiting to use. It has a dark chocolate flavor that isn’t bitter and has more dimension than other cocoa powders. I used only 1 tablespoon honey, and that was just enough for me. All in all, this is a definite winner. And the best part is that with it making 2 2/3 cups, I have some to play around with and add in some of the variations each time I warm up a cup.

If you’re a follower of the paleo diet or don’t eat dairy for other reasons, then this is a good way to get a hot chocolate fix. It’s rich, creamy, and not too sweet. It didn’t hold a candle to traditional hot chocolate for me, but when milk is not an option, this is a solid substitute. I had never soaked cashews before and was really pleased by how quickly they blended up—it’s definitely worth the extra step to add them. I used 45 grams cashews for 4 small servings. The hot cocoa was pretty thick, but not so thick I felt the need to water it down. I added vanilla extract and sprinkled the top with cinnamon—nice touch!

This is good. Iʻm not sure it’s the best hot chocolate, mostly because it could use a bigger chocolate taste, and it was hard to get all the cashews to grind down even after soaking. It does have a rich and creamy texture. I soaked the cashews for 2 hours and strained them before using. It was close to 1/2 cup for a generous handful. I gave them a whirl in my very powerful blender until the mixture looked smooth, but it still came out a little bit chunky. So I put it back in for longer, which worked for the most part. I think I’d strain after heating next time. Also, you need to like coconut to like this recipe because the cashew and chocolate do not cover the coconut flavor. (I happen to like coconut.) Lower fat coconut milk simply has additional water, so using full-fat saves money. However, I thought it made the hot chocolate a bit too rich and needed a little thinning. It also had less chocolate flavor than I would’ve liked. If I make this again, I’d probably use some water. Whatʻs nice is that you can adjust the amount of water, so Iʻd suggest using full-fat coconut milk but adjusting to your taste. I used Droste cocoa.

This is, indeed, VERY delicious and a good option for our family and friends who do not eat dairy. As long as you remember to soak the cashews ahead of time, this comes together in a matter of a few minutes and the result is thick, rich, delicious, and satisfying. Along the lines of Mexican champurrado, but less sweet, which we prefer. We made a batch for breakfast, served in 3 ample mugs, with bread. YUM. Another time, we made it as a late-night snack and served it in five small Moroccan tea glasses, a presentation which delights young people. I made one batch with honey, then the next batch we opted for Sucanat, which adds a carmel flavor that we like. I added a cinnamon stick one time and a splash of peppermint oil another. Vanilla and orange zest will be next. We have made this so many times now, we feel a bit bashful!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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