3 Homemade Hot Cocoa Flavors for the Holidays

For the past few years, I’ve gifted homemade hot cocoa mix to my friends and family for Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone yet that didn’t appreciate my mugs of chocolatey goodness.  I like to use Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe to which I add flavors I’ve made myself in the kitchen.  This year I’m making Salted Caramel, Peppermint, and Aztec Style (with chili powder) cocoa mixes.  Here is how I create each flavor.

*The amounts of flavoring to add per batch of Hot Cocoa Mix are at the end of this post after the recipes.

Salted Caramel Powder

Melting the sugar to make caramel and grinding it into a powder.


2 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoon finely ground sea salt

In a saucepan, heat 2 1/2 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract on the stove at medium-high until it melts into an opaque caramel colored syrup. Pour the hot syrup onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and set it aside to cool.  For an easy cleanup, submerge your pan and any tools in a stock pot full of boiling water.

After your candy is cool, take it from the cookie sheet, parchment attached, and place it on the counter.  Put another piece of parchment on top; sandwitching the candy between pieces of parchment paper.  Use a sturdy rolling pen or the back of a heavy spoon to smack it a few times, breaking it into pieces.  Now, you should be able to gently loosen the candy bits from the bottom paper.  Leave your caramel on the paper and get a mixing bowl. Grab the the paper’s corners, using it to pick up the caramel, and dump it all off into the bowl.

Next, put the caramel into your food processor, grinding it into a powder.  Return it to the bowl and stir in 3 tablespoons sea salt.  *By itself, this mixture is very salty.*  When added to the already sweetened hot cocoa mix, the flavor balances out nicely.

This recipe makes about 4 cups of powder.  I use 1 tablespoon of salted caramel per serving of hot cocoa.


Peppermint is by far the easiest flavor to make. The most time consuming part is opening all those individually wrapped candies.

1> Grind 3 to 4 (10 oz.) packages Starlight Mints peppermint candy in your food processor.

2> Pour the peppermint powder into a small bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.

This makes about 4 cups of powder.  I use 1 tablespoon of Peppermint powder for a serving of Hot Cocoa.

De Arbol Chili Powder

Grinding De Arbol chilies to make spicy chili powder.

I like my Aztec Style Cocoa spicy. Ordinary Ancho Chilies aren’t hot enough for my cocoa.  To give you an idea, Ancho chilies have a rating of 3 on the Scoville scale. That’s mild by most standards.  Therefore, I make my own chili powder from dried De Arbol chilies.  De Arbols have a more powerful Scoville rating of 8.  They leave a nice lingering warmth in my mouth after sipping cocoa. If your not a fan of hot chilies, feel free to substitute something milder such as Jalapeno or Seranno.  Finding the right amount of heat may take some experimentation.

*If you’re sensitive to the spicy oils found in chili peppers, I suggest you wear disposable gloves and a dust mask while preparing the chilies.*

To make the powder, I grind a 4 oz. bag of dried chilies in my food processor and sift the result thru a fine mesh strainer. I return what’s left in the strainer to the food processer and grind and sift one more time.  Ater twice grinding and sifting, whats still in the strainer goes into the compost. This dosen’t make very much powder, but it’s enough for the cocoa.

I’ve found that grinding De Arbols in my food processor tends to taint whatever I put in afterwards with spicy heat – even after a thorough, hot water and soap washing.  To better remove the chili pepper residue from your food processor; pour 1-2 cups whole milk in (depending on the size of your machine) and blend it for 2 minutes.  The fat in the milk will bind with the chili oils, making it easier to wash the heat out.

I use a pinch of chili powder per serving of hot cocoa.

How much flavor to use?

Serving Size:  Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix recipe makes slightly more than 5 1/2 cups of mix.  The recipe doesn’t give the number of servings, but it does say to add 2 tablespoons of mix for every mug of water or milk. Because I like rich hot cocoa, my tablespoons are generous and rounded.  Below the math for the servings per batch if you use exactly 2 tablespoons per cup. If you’re like me, and you like to heap in the powder, you will probably get about half of what it shows below.

Hot Cocoa Mix = 5 1/2 Cups = 88 tablespoons / 2 tablespoons (mix per 8 to 10 ounce serving)

= 44 servings of Cocoa in the recipe (or 22 servings for rich cocoa)

Now here’s how much of each flavor to add to one batch of Hot Cocoa Mix:

Salted Caramel

3 3/4 cups Salted Caramel Powder per batch


2 3/4 cups Peppermint Powder per batch

De Arbol Chili Powder

1 to 2 teaspoons Chili Powder per batch

*this is SPICY stuff, start small and more if you feel like you need it.

I hope you enjoy these cocoa recipes as much as I do!

Merry Christmas!


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