By Team Dirty
Dec 11, 2021,
Curling up with a mug of hot chocolate during the dark, cold months is as much a tradition as gift giving or awkward family gatherings. Can dairy-free hot cocoa made with minimally processed ingredients be as creamy, delicious, and comforting as the conventional version? Yes. Absolutely, yes.
Enter our Dairy-free Hot Chocolate.
Seriously, this hot chocolate is perfect. It checks all the boxes.
Rich and chocolatey? Yep.
Silky and creamy? You betcha.
Ingredients you can feel good about? That’s right.
Ok, ok. So it’s tasty and won’t make you feel guilty. It must have a thousand ingredients or take hours to make, right? Nope. It only has eight ingredients (two of those are water and salt), and you can whip up a batch in 15 minutes.
Ready to dive in? Let’s go.
Dates: We’re using dates in this recipe because they help cut down processed sugar while keeping the cocoa sweet. They also give us the benefit of some nutrients and fiber—fiber helps keep blood sugar regulated and our hunger satisfied. We like Medjool dates because they have a rich, caramel-like flavor that works well for hot chocolate. If you can’t find Medjool dates, other dried date varieties will work.
Plant milk: You can use almost any kind of unsweetened non-dairy milk, but we’ve found that soy milk, cashew milk, or, if you don’t mind a subtle coconut flavor, coconut milk (the kind in the carton, not the can) taste the creamiest. The fat content of your milk has a lot to do with this, so don’t skip using a higher fat variety of non-dairy milk if you don’t have to.
Date sugar: Date sugar is less processed than most cane sugar, and it retains many of its nutrients and fiber. Its complex caramel flavor also works well for dairy-free hot chocolate.
Cocoa powder: We recommend using a natural unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s less processed than Dutch process cocoa powder. However, if you only have Dutch process cocoa powder, you can use that. The final product may be a bit darker, and you may need to add more vanilla and salt to help punch up the flavor (start small if you do).
Salt: It may seem odd to add salt to hot chocolate, but it’s not enough to make it taste salty. A small amount of salt added to desserts helps you taste the sweetness better while inhibiting some of the bitter flavor of chocolate.
Let’s make Dairy-free Hot Chocolate
First, take the pits out of your dates if they’re not already pitted. Then, chop them roughly before measuring, and soak them in hot water for five minutes.
Soaking the dates ensures that they’re soft enough to blend completely. If you’re using a high-powered blender, you may not need to do this.
Once your dates are soaked, drain the water and discard. Place your dates in your blender. Add non-dairy milk and vanilla extract. Blend until completely smooth and creamy.
How long this takes will depend on your blender, but even lower-powered models can achieve the silky smooth texture we’re going for if given long enough. Check the texture after a couple of minutes, if it’s not there yet, blend some more. You can dip a spoon in and taste a bit of the mixture to test (while the blender is stopped, of course).
While your dates are blending, place the water, date sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into a saucepan over medium heat on the stove top. Using a whisk, stir until the date sugar has dissolved and the mixture is blended. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Once your mixture is simmering, allow it to continue cooking for about one minute, until it looks like melted chocolate.
Slowly stir your non-dairy milk mixture from your blender into your chocolate mixture. Once incorporated, add your chocolate chips. Continue to simmer, stirring often, until the chips are melted and the hot chocolate is heated to your desired drinking temperature. Don’t allow it to boil.
That’s it! Pour your Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate into your favorite mug and curl up with a fluffy blanket and a good book. We give you permission to ignore any laundry or dishes that need to be done. Enjoy a cozy evening and thank us later.
This recipe will make enough Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate for two 12-ounce mugs. It’s easy to double or halve if you want to make more or less. One member of Team Dirty doubles the recipe and always has some in the fridge during the cold months, ready to heat up at a moment’s notice.
If you have extra, place it in an airtight container (we like mason jars for this), label it, and chill in the fridge. It will keep up to a week (if it lasts that long!).
Like all of Clean Food Dirty Girl’s recipes, this Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate is super flexible and forgiving, so don’t sweat making substitutions as needed. We’ll walk you through some of the most common ones here.
Dried dates: If you’re out of dried dates, you can add more date sugar instead. The flavor won’t be quite as complex, but it will still be tasty. Skip the blender step and add the extra sugar directly to your chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Start with one extra tablespoon and taste your cocoa once you’ve incorporated and heated the non-dairy milk and vanilla. If it’s not sweet enough, you can add more date sugar a teaspoon at a time.
Non-dairy milk: almost any unsweetened plant based milk will work here. However, if you’re completely out of non-dairy milk, you can blend up some of your own using a 4:1 ratio of water to cashews. You’ll want to make sure the cashews are raw and unsalted and that you’ve soaked them in hot water for at least 10 minutes first. To make two cups of cashew milk, put ½ cup soaked cashews and two cups of water into your blender, along with a small pinch of salt. Blend until completely smooth (the time will vary depending on your blender). Use your homemade cashew milk just like any other non-dairy milk.
Date sugar: If you don’t have or can’t find date sugar, you can substitute coconut sugar in the same amounts.
Dairy-free chocolate chips: If you can’t find chocolate chips that specifically say “dairy-free,” you may be able to find some dark chocolate chips that don’t contain dairy. Be sure to check the ingredients label. Alternatively, you can use a bar of dairy-free dark chocolate. Just chop some off the edge into small pieces (think chocolate chip sized) and measure as you would chocolate chips.
- 2 tablespoons Medjool dates, soaked for 5 minutes in hot water and roughly chopped
- 2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup date sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons dairy-free chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips
- Drain the soaked dates (discard the soaking water) and place them into your blender, along with the non-dairy milk and vanilla extract. Blend until perfectly smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- Place the water, date sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium. Stir continuously until the mixture is well blended. Bring to a simmer, stirring often.
- Once the mixture is simmering, continue to simmer until the mixture is thickened and looks like melted chocolate, about 1 minute.
- Slowly stir in the non-dairy milk mixture from the blender, then add the chocolate chips and continue to cook, stirring often, until the chips are melted and the mixture is heated to your desired drinking temperature (don’t allow it to boil).
- Transfer some of the Hot Chocolate to your favorite mug and sip all your cares away.
Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate variations
This is a super fun and easy recipe to experiment with. Here are some ideas of how to use the base recipe to create interesting variations.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate: Add ⅛ teaspoon pure food-grade peppermint extract per serving.
Cinnamon Hot Chocolate: Add ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon per serving.
Spicy Hot Chocolate: Add a pinch of cayenne pepper per serving.
Adult Hot Chocolate: Not all of us on Team Dirty partake, but if you enjoy a warm, sweet adult beverage, add a scant ¼ cup red wine per serving after removing from the heat. A fruit-forward wine like merlot or shiraz would work best.
You now have everything you need to make the absolute best Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate out there. Have you made this hot chocolate? Was it everything we promised it would be? Let us know in the comments below.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with quiet, cozy evenings.