The Best Hot Chocolates You Can Buy At The Supermarket, Ranked

From Swiss Miss to Trader Joe's, find out what this panel of experts liked best.

Hot chocolate season is upon us. It’s the perfect time of year to sit in front of a fireplace wearing a cozy knit sweater, sipping from a mug of hot cocoa. But what brands of store-bought hot cocoa are worth your cold hard cash?

We visited prominent, national supermarket chains and picked up some of the most popular hot cocoas, and then enlisted a tasting panel full of people who know a thing or two about sugary treats: employees at Hammond’s, a 99-year-old Denver candy manufacturer.

We know there are tons of flavored hot cocoas out there, but we wanted to find the best no-nonsense classic variety. So the employees blindly taste-tested six cups of plain hot cocoa mixed into hot water, and then assigned each one a score. (We know you can opt to mix your hot cocoa with milk ― which is usually a better option ― but we wanted to give the formulas a true test by mixing them with unadulterated water.)

Let’s see which hot cocoa mix the tasters liked! And stay tuned for the end, when we highlight two bonus flavored chocolate drinks the crew enjoyed.

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavored Hot Cocoa Mix
Lee Breslouer
Tasting notes: “Very rich. Definitely not one of my favorites.” “I’d add milk to this.” “I don’t like this one. It’s dark chocolate, but it’s watery.” “It tastes like you’re drinking brown water.” “It has a weird aftertaste. It’s burnt or old, I can’t decide.”

Main ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, modified whey, cocoa (processed with alkali)
Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix
Lee Breslouer
Tasting notes: “This tastes like water.” “It’s chalky water.” “You have to add coffee creamer to this.” “There’s a little fudginess to it.” “This tastes like Swiss Miss.” “Swiss Miss is better than this.”

Main ingredients: Organic cane syrup solids, organic nonfat dry milk, organic cocoa (processed with alkali)
Nestlé Classic Rich Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix
Lee Breslouer
Tasting notes: “It tastes like it has a creamer in it already.” “This is the Nestlé one.” “Chocolatey, but not dark chocolate.” “Tastes like a milk chocolate, not a dark chocolate.”

Main ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup solids, hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut and/or palm kernel and/or soybean), dairy product solids, cocoa processed with alkali
Kroger Dutch Hot Cocoa Mix Milk Chocolate
Lee Breslouer
Tasting notes: “This is the most balanced.” “It’s rich, but I wouldn’t say it’s dark chocolate.” “This might be the best one.” “It tastes a bit bitter, and has a weird aftertaste.” “It’s heavier than the other chocolates, and when you put it on your tongue, it doesn’t all completely dissolve. It’s pretty good!”

Main ingredients: Sugar, whey, corn syrup solids, cocoa processed with alkali, fructose, hydrogenated coconut and palm oil
Equal Exchange Organic Hot Cocoa Mix
Lee Breslouer
Tasting notes: “This is too chocolatey.” “I don’t like this one.” “This is a little bitter ― bitter all the way through.” “I don’t mind the bitterness.” “Mmm, finally, hot chocolate!”

Main ingredients: Organic cane sugar, organic nonfat dry milk powder, organic cocoa processed with alkali
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Organic Hot Cocoa
Lee Breslouer
Tasting notes: “Smells like dark chocolate.” “It’s not bad.” “Really rich.” “It tastes like you took a Hershey’s bar and melted it.” “It literally tastes like someone put a spoonful of sugar in it.” “I don’t enjoy this one, the flavor is overwhelming.” “It’s too sugary.” “This is the most chocolatey one to me. Hot chocolate should be sweet, shouldn’t it?” “I thought this was pretty good ― wasn’t too heavy, but wasn’t too weak, either.” “This one is tasty!”

Main ingredients: Organic cane syrup solids, organic nonfat dry milk, organic cocoa (processed with alkali)

Bonus: Two Worthy Flavored Hot Cocoa And Chocolate Drinks

After tasting round after round of plain hot cocoa, we gave the Hammond’s folks’ taste buds something to get excited about by having them weigh in on one unique, flavored cocoa and one popular hot chocolate. They weren’t included in the main ranking because that’d be comparing apples to oranges, but were worth mentioning nonetheless.

Nestlé Abuelita Mexican Style Instant Hot Chocolate Mix

Lee Breslouer

“I like this one a lot!” “There’s cinnamon in here!” “It’s rich and creamy, and I love the cinnamon.” “It reminds me of cinnamon gum! Big Red, that’s what it is!” “I like it, but I can’t drink a lot of it.”

Main ingredients: sugar, nonfat milk, dairy product solids, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated coconut or palm kernel and hydrogenated soybean), corn syrup solids, cocoa

Trader Joe’s Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Lee Breslouer

“It’s so minty, I can smell it from here!” “It almost reminds me of mouthwash!” “I think it’s too strong.” “I think it’s a wintergreen.” “The mint’s not overwhelming.” “It feels like your mouth is clean afterwards.”

Main ingredients: Bittersweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, natural vanilla flavor, soy lecithin [emulsifier]), cane sugar, coconut oil, non fat milk powder, cocoa, maltodextrin (corn), natural mint flavor

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