Is hot chocolate the same as cocoa?

Confused by your cocoa beans from your chocolate powder? Yearning for a cup of hot chocolate or is that a mug of cocoa? Surely hot chocolate and cocoa are the same thing? Isn’t hot chocolate simply what my granny used to call cocoa?

Well, no. It isn’t.

For many of us, there is nothing quite as delicious and comforting as a lovely cup of hot chocolate. But you may swear by a delicious cup of cocoa. Yet often we’re referring to the same drink which creates the impression that the two types of powder could be used interchangeably, but is this really the case?

The truth is that hot chocolate and hot cocoa are two different drinks. Cocoa powder and hot chocolate may be terms that are used interchangeably, but the big difference is that cocoa powder is created from actual cocoa beans whereas hot chocolate powder is made up from a mix of ingredients which include milk powder, chocolate, and sweeteners.

What’s the difference between hot chocolate and cocoa?

Depending on where you live in the world, hot chocolate may be made in one of several different ways. One thing we should make clear here is that we’ve already said that cocoa and hot chocolate powder are made from different ingredients but for hot chocolate lovers looking for that indulgent treat, ‘powder’ is a dirty word.

hot chocolate in cup on wooden board

Chocoholics like me make hot chocolate from chocolate. The clue is in the name after all. Whether you use chocolate flakes like those made for the Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser or chop up your favourite choccy bars there is nothing like making real hot chocolate.

You can also use cooking chocolate which is ideal for melting. In the video below I use cooking chocolate, milk and a handheld frother to make a delicious hot chocolate that works out at around 20p (28 cents) a cup. Which is as cheap as instant powder, far tastier and takes about the same time to prepare.

Hot chocolate vs hot cocoa

Back to hot chocolate and cocoa.

Hot cocoa is made using cocoa powder as well as sugar (according to taste) and hot milk. Traditionally the milk is heated on the hob and poured onto the cocoa. And, as I said earlier, you can (and probably do) buy powder for an instant way to make a hot chocolate drink, but traditional hot chocolate is made in a vastly different way.

Cooking chocolate

Hot chocolate is made using real chocolate which is typically shredded or chopped before being added to hot milk. This drink is usually far less sweet than its cocoa cousin but much fuller bodied. Depending on the recipe, you may end up with a gloriously thick, indulgent drink that resembles a dessert more than a drink. This is typical of hot chocolate from France, known locally as chocolat chaud. Similar drinks are made in Spain and Italy.

Can I use cocoa powder instead of hot chocolate powder?

Cocoa powder is created from real cocoa beans whereas hot chocolate powder is a blend of ingredients including milk powder, chocolate, and sweeteners. It is the less pure and natural out of the two.

When making a warm chocolate drink, you can use either of these powders, but the taste will differ. However, when it comes to cooking, a lot of people want to know whether they can use hot chocolate powder in place of a recipe that calls for cocoa powder.

While you can substitute hot chocolate powder for cocoa powder in say a recipe for chocolate cookies, the flavour will not be as intense. If you want a very chocolatey taste, then we would recommend sticking with cocoa powder where possible.

Cocoa vs hot chocolate

Many people confuse cocoa powder with hot chocolate, but they are not the same thing. Where warming winter drinks are concerned, cocoa is made from cocoa powder whereas hot chocolate is traditionally made using real chocolate and hot milk for a much denser and luxurious drink.

homemade hot chocolate

Cocoa powder is made from pure cocoa beans, but hot chocolate powder is a blend of different ingredients. All you need to do is add hot water and you’re good to go; it’s a far more convenient method of making this type of drink.

But of course, there is as usual a trade-off. If you’re a cocoa addict, stick to your tried and tested powder and hot milk combo. But if you’re a hot chocolate fan why not bin off the jars of instant and start making your own hot chocolate with the help of a milk frother as I did in the video. Or invest in a hot chocolate maker. It tastes far better and doesn’t take long to make.

Try it. You’ll thank me for it. Honestly.

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