A quick recipe for rich, creamy, and slightly spicy Mexican hot chocolate. One sip and you’ll never go back to those packets again.
*This post was originally published on 12/8/2011. The pictures and recipe have been updated. This recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate might take a few minutes longer than a pre-made hot chocolate mix but it’s worth every second. A rich, creamy, perfectly spicy and fragrant mug will warm you up even on the coldest winter day. Don’t forget the marshmallows or whipped cream topping!
Last year I was in New York City meeting a friend for lunch in Chelsea market. After stuffing our faces, we were walking around trying our best to resist the urge to buy all the amazing gourmet items from cheeses to every kind of olive oil you can imagine to spices and salts when we came face to face with a little shop selling hot chocolate.
I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place but it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they had Mexican hot chocolate on their menu and I was sold in about .3 seconds.
It was thick, dark, smooth and just slightly spicy.
In other words, perfection.
Lately, on nights when tea doesn’t cut it, hot chocolate has been my go to treat.
So, I took a stab at recreating that amazing chocolaty goodness since Chelsea market is a bit too far of a hike when the craving strikes.
How To Make Mexican Hot Chocolate
Just like regular hot chocolate the main ingredients in Mexican hot chocolate are:
- any sort of milk (or non-dairy alternative)
What makes it “Mexican” is that third ingredient, the addition of spice! Let’s talk about all three ingredients though because when the ingredient list is short, the quality matters a little more than usual.
The milk I use depends on my mood. If I want an indulgent, creamy and thicker Mexican hot chocolate, I use whole milk or at minimum, 2% milk.
If I want to keep things a little lighter, I’ll usually choose a non-dairy alternative milk like an unsweetened almond/coconut milk. I always choose unsweetened when I use non-dairy milks because I prefer to control the sweetness level myself by adding the sweetener of my choosing and the amounts I like.
I love using dark chocolate in Mexican hot chocolate. The slight bitterness goes really well with the spice in a way that milk chocolate just can’t replicate.
I suggest using 70%-75% dark chocolate or 80% if you really love dark chocolate!
Ah, the fun part – spice!
Some recipes for Mexican hot chocolate will just use ground spices like cayenne pepper but what I think makes this Mexican hot chocolate recipe special is the addition of a dried chile pepper to the simmering hot chocolate.
The spice permeates the milk and chocolate as it simmers on the stove-top and imparts the perfect level of heat throughout. You can of course adjust the heat to your preference by adding more dried chiles or using a small one, or using just the dried chile and not adding the cayenne pepper as the recipe instructs.
A cinnamon stick, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt are also used to help balance out the spiciness of this drink.
So put down the instant Swiss Miss packets away (do people seriously still buy that stuff these days?!) and get the saucepan out.
When you can have a mug of this Mexican hot chocolate in under 20 minutes you’ll never even consider a packet hot chocolate again!
Mexican Hot Chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups of milk *see note
- 1 dried chile pepper
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 ounces chopped dark chocolate 70% or higher
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- pinch of salt
- Combine milk, chile pepper and cinnamon stick in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat. Bring to a low simmer for about 10 minutes until cinnamon is fragrant, stirring occasionally so milk doesn’t burn or boil.
- Add chocolate, sugar, vanilla and spices and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and chile pepper from the pot.
- Pour into a mug and top with dash of cinnamon, cocoa powder, red pepper flakes, marshmallows and/or whipped cream.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.