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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Chilly Weather Calls for Some Hot Beverages: Making Instant Cocoa Mix

The weather is turning, we're all wearing sweatshirts and fleece jackets indoors, and cups of hot cocoa have been on all of our minds lately. This last week it was apparent that now was the time to start up the instant cocoa jar for the season. I make instant cocoa by the quart for everyone to help themselves whenever they wish.

Sure, I could buy instant cocoa packets and for less than homemade instant cocoa costs. However, commercial instant cocoa has very little nutritional value. For example, Swiss Miss packets make an 8-oz mug of cocoa and provide 1 gram of protein. 1 gram! 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of liquid milk have 1 gram of protein. That's how little actual milk is in each packet of Swiss Miss. Sugar and corn syrup are the number one and two ingredients in Swiss Miss instant cocoa. According to the box's label, there are 23 grams of added sugar in each serving of SM. That's about double what my homemade mix contains. So, by making my own instant cocoa mix, I boost the protein content and cut the added sugar content in each cup.

I used to mix this in a bowl, but I've gotten lazy and have discovered that I can mix it up in a quart canning jar and save myself from having to wash a bowl. I don't often follow an exact recipe, but follow loose proportions and taste the dry powder as I go. One quart of instant cocoa mix reconstitutes into about 8 mug-size servings.

My ingredients:

  • instant powdered milk
  • baking cocoa powder
  • powdered (confectioner's) sugar
  • salt
  • mini chocolate chips
For each mug's worth of cocoa mix, I use about 1/4 cup of instant milk, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1. 1/2 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt. So -- about as much instant milk as cocoa powder, sugar, and salt combined (maybe slightly less on the sugar). 

I layer these ingredients in the canning jar in half-jar batches and stir the first half-jar batch before adding the second half-jar batch and stirring. I taste the dry powder and when it tastes "right", my mix is about done. At the very end, I toss in a handful of mini chocolate chips then stir and shake the jar to distribute.

To make a mug of cocoa, use a scant 1/2 cup of mix to 8-9 ounces of hot water. 

The chocolate chips are definitely an extra ingredient. But I know one daughter especially enjoys their addition. She tells me that the cocoa tastes like truffle cocoa with the chocolate chips.

Pricing of ingredients

My best local price these days on instant powdered milk is at a Kroger affiliate, lower than Walmart. I buy cocoa powder at either WinCo ($4.48/lb) from the bulk bins or Walmart ($3.96/lb) in 8-oz canisters. I think the WinCo cocoa powder is slightly better and has a slightly richer flavor than the Walmart cocoa powder. By the way, Kroger cocoa powder costs between $4.58 (on sale) and $5.18 (regular price) in my area. I pick up confectioner's sugar when I find a good price, and I buy several bags as it keeps for years. Currently, Walmart's confectioner's sugar is 2 cents cheaper per pound than Kroger brand. Walmart and Kroger's house brand of mini chocolate chips cost $1.98 to $1.99, respectively, for 12 ounces. If I didn't have mini chocolate chips on hand, I would use regular chocolate chips and hand chop them into smaller pieces. The smaller chips melt better in a mug of hot water. As always, it pays to shop around, stock up when you find a good price, and work from the perspective of the Pantry Principle (Tightwad Gazette).


  1. We don't drink much cocoa around here, but we usually add milk to the mix instead of water. It's too thin with just water. We mostly use cocoa mix packets on camping and backpacking trips where it is mixed with oatmeal for a tasty breakfast. According to my kids anyway. I'd rather have my oatmeal with just a bit of brown sugar.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Cocoa and oatmeal mixed together -- I'm going to have to suggest that one to my daughters. I think they'd enjoy that!
      I agree, those packets mixed with just water are so thin tasting. Good plan to add milk instead of water.

  2. I have a recipe that I found somewhere and doctored it up but it has you add a box of cook and serve chocolate pudding mix into the batch. That seems to help a lot with thickening. I found a bag of this pudding mix at an Amish store and it had mini mini chocolate chips in the pudding mix.

    1. Hi Alice,
      Hmm, cocoa mix with pudding mix added. That sounds interesting. I'm going to have to look that up online. I don't buy pudding mix, but it's possible I could add a bit of cornstarch to my cocoa mix. I'll have to try that out with a small batch and see if the starchy taste "cooks" out with just adding boiling water. I like experiments.


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