The 4 Best Hot Chocolate Mixes

We evaluated instant cocoas and found the tastiest products for your sipping pleasure

If you automatically pick up the same brand of hot chocolate mix time after time, you might just want to switch things up a bit. That's because Consumer Reports recently evaluated eight popular hot chocolate products, and we found significant differences among them when it comes to nutrition, ingredients, and price per cup. The four standouts are Ghirardelli Double Chocolate, Hershey's Cocoa Natural Unsweetened, Starbucks Hot Cocoa Double Chocolate, and Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa Milk Chocolate.

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Surprising Ingredients in Your Hot Chocolate

If you compare the Nutrition Facts panels of dry mix cocoa packets and canisters at the grocery store, at first glance, it may seem like a serving of each product is pretty much the same. But take a closer look at the ingredients list and it will reveal that some hot chocolate mixes include substances that you probably want to minimize or avoid, such as:

  • Partially hydrogenated oils. These contain trans fats, which may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. We found them in two Land O’Lakes products: Classics Chocolate Supreme and Classics Caramel.
  • Artificial sweeteners and hidden sugars. We found artificial sweeteners in Swiss Miss Classics Milk Chocolate and Nestlé Rich Milk Chocolate mixes, even though they weren’t marketed as low sugar or low calorie. We also found ingredients that don't sound like sugar, but are—including corn syrup and corn-syrup solids—in those and other brands.
  • Gums and artificial flavors. Both are used to boost texture and taste.

Hot Chocolate Calories—and More

Hot chocolate mixes can also differ significantly when it comes to calories, fat, and sodium. Among the eight we tested, calories per serving ranged from 80 to 140 and fat per serving from 0 to 3 grams (both fat and calories increase if cocoa is made with milk containing fat instead of water). Sodium counts ranged from 0 to 270 milligrams. The bottom line: Read the labels carefully to see what you're getting.

Based on our tests, these are the four smart picks of brands (in alphabetical order) with the best hot chocolate ingredients and taste.

4 Smart Picks for Hot Chocolate Mixes

BrandCalories*Fat (g)
Sugar (g)
Sodium (mg)
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate1201.5
Hershey's Cocoa Natural Unsweetened***1201
Starbucks Hot Cocoa Double Chocolate1202.5
Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa Milk Chocolate1000

* All nutrition info per dry mix only (no water or milk added).
*** Nutrition information is based on package recipe, which calls for added ingredients.

Diane Umansky

I cover medical privacy and a variety of other health and nutrition topics for Consumer Reports, where I feel fortunate to spend my time reading, writing, thinking, talking, and tweeting about health—and doing my little bit to help make the world a better place. I’m also a mother/homework-wrangler, beach-lover, collector of vintage Pyrex, insatiable reader, energetic but untalented gardener, and fixer-upper-er of a very old house.