Hot Chocolate: Thick or Thin?

Do you prefer your hot chocolate thick or thin? David and Renee weigh in with their opinions.

Hot chocolate to suit any taste being poured from a metal saucepan into a mug.

He said:

The One (Who Brings Me Love, Joy, and Happiness) is perhaps the only person I know who can drink finger-singeing mugs of hot chocolate so thick you could upend them over your head and sing the chorus of “I Will Survive” before the contents glug out. Me, I like my hot chocolate thin, layered, subtle, surprising. So give me a Toby mug filled with hot milk and just enough chocolate swirled in to lend body and a hint of heft while still allowing the hormone- and antibiotic-free and outrageously expensive whole milk to shine through. Cream? Puh-lease. I don’t take enough Crestor for that. Marshmallows? Absolutely, but not the mini (ack!) ones. One or two big ones—homemade marshmallows, even better.

I am adamant: I have no desire to turn into a Hoover and vacuum up a mug of chocolate ganache masquerading as a drink. I like my Aztecan delight thin, so I can sip it while gazing out the window early in the morning, like people did in those old General Foods International Coffee commercials.—David Leite

David Leite's signature

She said:

Brown water. That was the hot chocolate of my childhood. It was the instant variety, whichever brand my mom found on sale, and even when she made it with milk, it was wan. Wan and one-dimensional and cloying, it tasted just as I imagined the inside of the foil envelope might taste. It smacked of soullessness. And yet it was still a tease. And I fell for it time and again.

So I did the only thing a disillusioned seven-year-old could do: I dreamt up a hot chocolate with superhero powers. It was sufficiently substantial to stand up to winters in Iowa, bullies on the school bus, and homework for social studies. It was thick, sweetly subdued, captured the fudgy essence of brownies yet hinted at life’s more elegant decadences that were yet to be known to me. It didn’t so much warm my senses as overwhelm them—an omen of far darker vices, those lingering near the 70th percentile, that I’d succumb to one day and that are best enjoyed in small doses.

The hot chocolate of my musings? It was essentially a puddle of melted chocolate with a splash of heavy cream. Well, maybe not quite. I eventually stumbled upon the proper proportions, reverse-engineering my memory. Suitable for superheros and completely worth the wait.

renee Schettler Rossi's signature

SwirlHot Chocolate — To Suit Any Taste

A single hot chocolate recipe to suit all tastes, this beauty easily adjusts to whatever your desire, whether thin and easy to down or thick and soulful.–Adapted from Francisco J. Migoya

Hot Chocolate: Thick or Thin?

Hot chocolate to suit any taste being poured from a metal saucepan into a mug.
Do you prefer your hot chocolate thick or thin? David and Renee weigh in with their opinions.
Francisco J. Migoya

Prep 5 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 20 mins
10 cups
517 kcal
5 / 4 votes
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For thin hot chocolate

  • 1 1/2 pounds finest quality dark chocolate (64%) finely chopped
  • 7 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel

For thick hot chocolate

  • 1 pound 14 ounces finest quality dark chocolate (64%) finely chopped
  • 5 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • Homemade marshmallows optional, but entirely, utterly desirable


For thin hot chocolate

  • Scrape the chocolate bits into a high-sided bowl.
  • Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil. Careful, it only takes a few distracted seconds for the milk to boil over.
  • Pour the milk over the chocolate and stir to melt. Buzz the mixture using a handheld immersion blender, add the salt, and continuing buzzing until you obtain a smooth drink.
  • Strain the hot chocolate, if you wish, and pour into warmed mugs. Serve immediately.

    TESTER TIP: Leftovers are good cold, too.

For thick hot chocolate

  • Scoop the chocolate bits into a high-sided bowl.
  • Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, 13 to 15 minutes. Be mindful, it only takes a few distracted seconds for the brew to boil over.
  • Pour the milk-cream mixture over the chocolate and stir to melt. Buzz the mixture using a handheld immersion blender, add the salt, and continuing buzzing until you obtain a smooth, luscious drink, about 30 seconds.
  • Strain the hot chocolate, if you wish, and pour into warmed mugs. Serve immediately.
Print RecipeBuy the Modern Café cookbook

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Fun Flavorings

To infuse the hot chocolate with the following flavors, put them in the milk or the milk and cream before boiling. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and steep the flavors for a few minutes. As a rule, steep the mixture for 5 minutes maximum if steeping teas and 15 to 20 for other flavors. Strain the liquid into another pot using a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to a second boil before pouring over the chocolate. The amounts are for the yields in the recipes above.
Earl Grey tea: scant 1 1/2 ounces
Jasmine tea: scant 1 1/2 ounces
Nutmeg: 7 whole nutmegs, crushed
Toasted star anise: 2
Cinnamon sticks: 1
Vanilla pods, split and scraped: 2
Toasted cloves: 1/2 ounce
Pink peppercorns, lightly toasted: 1/2 ounce
Orange zest: 1 ounce
Lemon zest: 3/4 ounce
Lime zest: 1/2 ounce
Crushed candy canes: 6 ounces

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 517kcal (26%)Carbohydrates: 40g (13%)Protein: 11g (22%)Fat: 35g (54%)Saturated Fat: 20g (125%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0.02gCholesterol: 24mg (8%)Sodium: 141mg (6%)Potassium: 761mg (22%)Fiber: 7g (29%)Sugar: 25g (28%)Vitamin A: 323IU (6%)Calcium: 275mg (28%)Iron: 8mg (44%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Super thick and rich, this hot chocolate is just the thing to cure that chocolate craving on a cold morning or to soothe the tired soul before bed. The crushed peppermint adds the perfect hint of freshness to cut through the richness of the cream as well. The consistency is so thick, it’s almost like drinking molten chocolate pudding! Delicious!

I did 1/2 batch and used 61% dark chocolate chips (Hershey’s Artisan; 10 oz) plus 70% chopped dark chocolate (Guittard; 5 oz).

I added the peppermint pieces after buzzing (and then buzzed a few seconds more) so we could taste before and after adding. Prefer with the peppermint as it cuts the richness a bit.

This is a luxury hot chocolate. Even made “thin,” it’s closer to a European or Mexican hot chocolate experience and will make a chocolate lover happy. I tried a scaled-down (one third, the math is easy) version for two, but really could have shared it for 3 to 4 servings and it would have been plenty.

This is “slow chocolate,” as all the work is in chopping! You need to hand chop because most food processors really aren’t capable of chopping chocolate very well. I used a mezzaluna (curved chopping knife and bowl) chopping in several batches so that chocolate didn’t fly all over the kitchen counter.

Heat the milk gently. While it it takes about 7 to 8 minutes, a skin starts to form at about 6 1/2 minutes (170℉), and bubbles start to form around the edges at 7 minutes (185℉, and quickly reach 200 at 8 minutes and must immediately remove from the heat. If you are steeping tea (which was really nice to give some depth to the flavou, strain it after 4 to 5 minutes, and gently reheat the infused milk before pouring over the chopped chocolate in a large bowl, giving yourself plenty of room as an immersion blender will also increase the volume a few ounces. Just 15 to 20 seconds and you have a thoroughly creamy drink to serve. I used 105 g Rancho Gordo stone-ground cocoa tablet (70%) and 120 g Guittard 70% Bittersweet baking bar and a pinch of French grey sea salt.

Even though this was the thin version (I had to approximate 4% whole milk with a mixture of nonfat and half-and-half), this is a high percentage of chocolate and the mixture is thicker than I normally would prepare for hot cocoa. I think this could be served in small quantities (or even with less chocolate) in place of dessert. I can’t really imagine the “thick version.” That said, for a serious chocolate fix, especially if you use tea or another secondary flavor, this is a special drink or dessert for chocolate lovers. The time is mostly spent in the chocolate prep (hand chopping is the only practical solution) and you must pay attention when heating the milk, as it can go from barely bubbling at the edges to foaming in seconds.

Delicious but very very rich. And on the edge of too sweet even though I used a less sweet level of cocoa. In the future, I would cut the cocoa to 170 g (for 1/3 recipe) when trying this again and I think all non-fat or 2% is plenty rich.

This is a thick, creamy hot chocolate that feels very decadent. I could sip slowly for enjoyment but to drink even 1/2 cup became too rich for me. I prefer my hot chocolate to be thinner than this thin hot chocolate recipe, but others might like it as is. For my palette, I ended up diluting the final recipe 2 parts milk to 1 part thin hot chocolate and liked drinking it that way better. The leftovers I put in the fridge and found it’s good cold, too.

Originally published February 04, 2010


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  1. My choice: THICC!

    So I guess I would go by the “thick” recipe, and halving the milk plus going extra on the cream. This will be great to come next wintertime if it is a cold snap. You got an Australian here, Queenslander specifically. Don’t get that “stew” sort of weather too much here.

    Places that do hot chocolate ought to give you those options, you ask for your desired density – thick or thin – along with whether it would be dark, milk, or *shudder* white chocolate. It would be awesome.

    I will take the 90% dark please, and have it as thick at Nutella.

    ….. That gives me even more ideas.

  2. 5 stars
    I like mine thick. So warming and delicious. Now I want to make Hot Chocolate! Wish I had heavy cream to make some.

  3. Learning how to make hot cocoa, pour in the cocoa first, slowly add in milk, stir was one of the first things I perfected at 12. I tend to make mine right in the middle between thick and thin. Is there a name for that? I tried “real” thick hot cocoa from a French café in Montreal a few years back, famous for its hot chocolate menu, (wish I could remember the name of it now). Wow! I think once in a while, that’s a nice treat to share, but even I, who balk at anything below 60%, thought it was a bit too intense for a regular winter splurge.

  4. 5 stars
    Love the He Says/She Says take on this. David, I laughed out loud imagining the chorus of “I Will Survive”; Renee, a hot chocolate with super powers: don’t we all want that? For me, it’s dark chocolate; thick, but not sludgy–I don’t want the chocolate to hold the spoon upright in the mug! Mostly I use milk (whole), but often half and half and sometimes full-on cream. Marshmallows I save for my son, but homemade might convince me. As for flavors… earl grey, star anise, cayenne get my vote. If I’m going to spike it, it’s usually with chartreuse.

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