This vegan hot cocoa is the perfect healthy treat to warm you up this winter and satisfy your chocolate fix. It is sweetened naturally and refined sugar-free plus it is ultra rich and creamy. It is full of wholesome ingredients and made right in your blender so you can feel good about every sip!
Whenever it snows my kids beg me for hot cocoa. We love to play in the snow and then warm our bellies with this fun treat. It is a winter tradition that I will always cherish. This is the vegan hot chocolate recipe I’ve been making for them for years and we all love it. It uses simple nutritious ingredients to create a warming, soothing, thick and satisfying hot chocolate beverage that is truly unforgettable. If you are going to have hot chocolate this winter, this is the recipe you want. It is made directly in your blender on the soup setting to warm everything up to steamy perfection.
The only ingredients you need for this vegan hot cocoa:
You most likely already have the ingredients you need for my vegan hot chocolate in your pantry:
- your favorite plant-based milk (canned light coconut milk, almond, oat or cashew milk [store bought or homemade] all work well here)
- raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder (read the full post for the difference)
- Medjool dates or maple syrup
- slivered blanched almonds or raw cashews (optional for added creaminess)
- pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt to bring out all the amazing flavor
You can also add a drop of peppermint extract OR a pinch of cinnamon for a fun flavor twist. Everything goes straight into your blender so no need for your stovetop!
This healthier hot cocoa will taste fantastic as is, but if you want bonus points for presentation, go ahead and try some of these garnish ideas:
- Homemade coconut whipped cream
- Dark chocolate shavings
- Dusting of cocoa or cacao powder
What are the health benefits of chocolate?
Oh, chocolate, what would we do without you to make everything more decadent, rich and luxurious? Plus, who doesn’t love the health claims that chocolate is actually good for us?
Years of nutrition research has shown that chocolate isn’t just junk food and may actually provide health benefits. But is all chocolate created equal? Is cacao powder the same as cocoa powder? Is Dutch-processed cocoa just as healthy as regular? How dark does chocolate really need to be to be considered healthy? With chocolate coming in so many different forms, it is difficult to know what benefit we are getting and at what cost.
The health benefits of chocolate come from antioxidants called flavanols found in the cocoa solids (as opposed to the cocoa butter). When consumed in large amounts, studies have shown that flavanols in chocolate may:
- Lower high blood pressure and decrease levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol leading to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Promote lung health and protect against asthma
- Decrease the risk of diabetes and several types of cancer
- Benefit the brain and preserve cognitive abilities to lower the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease
- Improve mood and feelings of pleasure
- Benefit the vascular system by reducing the risk of blood clots and increasing blood flow in arteries and the heart
Still, many chocolate varieties contain unhealthy additives such as milk-fat and sugar. This is why making it yourself can be so beneficial.
With store-bought chocolate, different types of chocolate have varying amounts of flavanols, making some varieties more beneficial than others. As much as 90 percent of the flavanols may be lost when processing the cocoa bean into cocoa powder and chocolate. The cocoa beans are fermented to reduce bitterness and roasted to bring out the chocolate flavor and aroma. So, although the processing of chocolate makes it taste better, the nutritional downside is that it reduces the final flavanol content.
Like most foods, eating the least processed and most pure form is the healthiest. When you start to dilute the food with added sugar and unhealthy fats, the overall health of the food is reduced.
Dark chocolate (also known as “bittersweet” or “semisweet” chocolate) has a rich and intense flavor. It contains more than 60 percent cocoa solids and typically has less added sugar than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate provides a number of important minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium. Compared with milk chocolate, you are getting more cacao solids and thus more flavanols. Flavanols provide a dark pigment, so visually you can look for darker color for more nutritional benefits. The label for store-bought chocolate will also tell you what percentage of cacao it contains. Usually, the greater percentage the better.
What is the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and unsweetened cacao powder?
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Unsweetened cocoa powder is made by roasting and grinding cocoa beans. As discussed, that processing lowers its flavanol content. It contains only cocoa solids (whereas chocolate contains cocoa solids plus cocoa butter and other additives). Always double-check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain added sugar, cocoa butter or milkfat.
Many recipes call for Dutch-processed cocoa powder which is cocoa powder that has been alkalized to remove the bitter taste. This actually substantially reduces the flavanols (about 65% of the flavanol content is lost).
Unsweetened Cacao Powder
Cacao powder is similar to unsweetened cocoa powder in that it does not contain added sugars, butter, milk or additives. It is said to be different from cocoa powder in the way it is processed, preserving more flavanols. Manufacturers of cacao powder say they use low-temperature processing to preserve the enzymes and nutrients.