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What's the best hot chocolate?

We review hot chocolate from Avalanche, Cadbury, Lindt, Jarrah and more.

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Last updated: 07 July 2021

Need to know

  • For the purest chocolate experience, look for a high cocoa content
  • Products that contain non-nutritive sweetener ingredients aren't always lower in sugars
  • A hot chocolate made from a store-bought pack can cost from $0.29 up to $1.39 per cup

Hot chocolate is right up there with woolly jumpers and open fires as the perfect accompaniment to cooler weather. The original comfort food, there's nothing quite like a mug of hot choccy to warm you from the inside and leave you feeling content.

So which store-bought hot chocolate is best? 

We taste tested 19 supermarket hot chocolate products from brands including Lindt, Cadbury, Nestlé, Jarrah and Avalanche. Our CHOICE Score is based on the overall taste rating (see How we test for details). We also compared price and ingredients to find the top picks for best value, cocoa content and more.

The best hot chocolate

The highest rating hot chocolates, all with a CHOICE score of 70% or more, were:

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Coles Hot Chocolate

  • CHOICE score: 78%
  • Price: $3 for 400g pack ($0.75 per 100g)
  • Cocoa solids: 21%
  • Taster comments: "Good chocolate flavour." "Sweet and indulgent, much to my liking. Lingering after-taste, but not unpleasant." "'Light' in flavour but still 'chocolatey' and very satisfying. It was sweet but just right." "My favourite so far, with a lovely luxurious mouthfeel." 
  • Need to know: This product is Rainforest Alliance certified.
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Nestlé Aero Hot Choc (sachets)

  • CHOICE score: 74%
  • Price: $6.30 for 185g pack ($3.41 per 100g)
  • Cocoa solids: 16%
  • Taster comments: "10 out of 10. I would love to know what this is so that I can buy it." "Best of the lot so far – easy to mix, lovely flavour, not too sweet. Froth is rich." "There's quite a bit of chocolate powder in a serve but the result is an enjoyable and flavoursome drink." 
  • Need to know: The powder contains milk, so isn't suitable for people who need to avoid this ingredient.
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Cadbury Instant Hot Choc Blend (sachets)

  • CHOICE score: 73%
  • Price: $5 for 150g pack ($3.33 per 100g)
  • Cocoa solids: 10%
  • Taster comments: "Very smooth, dissolved easily, pleasant." "For a chocolate drink made [with] water I found this very enjoyable. A nice lingering taste." "Nice smooth texture/mouthfeel, almost silky. Tastes nice, not too sweet, good cocoa taste with no funny aftertaste. All in all an enjoyable hot chocolate." 
  • Need to know: Just add hot water to make, but the powder contains milk, so isn't suitable for people who need to avoid this ingredient.
For the full results of all 19 products tested, see our hot chocolate review.

 Hot chocolate cocoa content, sugar and price

Features other than taste that you might want to consider when choosing hot chocolate include cocoa content, sugar content and price.

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Highest cocoa content

  • Coles Fairtrade Organic Drinking Chocolate
  • Nomad Organic Drinking Chocolate West Africa 45% Dark

For the most chocolatey experience in a hot chocolate, go for the products with the highest cocoa content. 

The organic drinking chocolates from Coles and Nomad – both with 45% cocoa solids and just one other ingredient (sugar) – are the most pure 'chocolate' offerings of all 19 products that we looked at.

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Lowest sugar hot chocolate

  • Avalanche Sugar Free Drinking Chocolate

If you're trying to avoid or reduce added sugars in your diet (but want to treat yourself to a guilt-free hot chocolate) Avalanche Sugar Free is the lowest sugar (and kilojoule) product we reviewed, closely followed by Avalanche 99% Sugar Free Drinking Chocolate (sachets), with just 0.1g and 5g sugars per 100g respectively.  

They both contain non-nutritive sweeteners – erythritol (additive number 968) and steviol glycosides (additive 960, more commonly known as Stevia) – which add a sweet taste without the kilojoules associated with added sugars.

All up, non-nutritive sweeteners erythritol and Stevia plus acesulphame potassium (950), aspartame (951) and sucralose (955) are used – either alone or two or three in combination – in seven of the 19 products we looked at. 

While products with non-nutritive sweetener ingredients are usually lower in sugars, that's not always the case. Coles Hot Chocolate (sachets), for example, is 53.5% sugar (it contains non-nutritive sweeteners aspartame and acesulphame potassium but also glucose syrup and sugar), whereas Lindt Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate Flakes is 43% sugar, and non-nutritive sweetener free.

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Cheapest hot chocolate

  • Aldi Dairy Fine Drinking Chocolate
  • Coles Hot Chocolate
  • Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder

If your household goes through hot chocolate rapidly, or you're on a tight budget, then a product that's good value for money is a priority.

Comparing unit prices on the supermarket shelves reveals that Aldi's Dairy Fine Drinking Chocolate, Coles Hot Chocolate and Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder (all tins of loose powder) are the cheapest products in our review, all costing $0.75 per 100g.

Unit prices, however, don't take into consideration the price of the milk that some products instruct you to add, which of course bumps up the cost of the end product.

We crunched the numbers and found that when prepared according to the pack instructions – in this case adding 200mL hot water to an 11.5g sachet of powder – Jarrah Hot Choc works out to be the best value. The product itself costs $2.46 per 100g, but it makes a mug of hot choccy for just 29 cents. 

The aforementioned Coles product (which instructs you to add 15g powder to 180mL milk) and the Aldi and Woolworths products (which both suggest adding 15g powder to 200mL milk) make mugs for 35 cents and 37 cents respectively. 

Is it cheaper to make your own chocolate at home using cocoa from the pantry? Our basic hot chocolate recipe works out at 44 cents a mug.

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Most indulgent hot chocolate

  • Lindt Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate Flakes

If you're after indulgence, look no further than Lindt Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate Flakes, which – as its name implies – is flakes of Lindt chocolate that you melt into hot milk. Pure decadence.

It's the most calorific hot chocolate we looked at, whether you're talking kilojoules per serve or per 100g. One cup, prepared according to pack instructions, contains 1221kJ – that's 14% of the daily kilojoule intake recommended for the average adult. 

And at $1.39 per serve (when prepared according to pack instructions – a 30g serving mixed with 250mL milk) it's also the most expensive.

Is hot chocolate gluten-free, vegan?

If you're after products to suit certain dietary requirements, we've checked the labels to see which products are suitable.

Gluten-free

Most of the hot chocolate products we looked at are gluten-free, but there are some exceptions. 

Three of the 19 products in our review list gluten or gluten-containing ingredients in their allergen statement on the pack , so if you're coeliac or gluten-intolerant you should avoid them:

  • Lindt Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate Flakes
  • Nestlé Milo
  • Woolworths Classic Hot Chocolate (sachets)

Vegan

More than half of the hot chocolate products we looked at contain milk solids, so they aren't suitable if you're vegan, or have an allergy or an intolerance to milk. 

We did find eight options that don't include dairy in their ingredients list, however it's important to note that most still say 'may contain traces':

  • Aldi Dairy Fine Drinking Chocolate
  • Avalanche Sugar Free Drinking Chocolate
  • Cadbury Drinking Chocolate
  • Coles Fairtrade Organic Drinking Chocolate
  • Coles Hot Chocolate
  • Nestlé Nesquik Chocolate
  • Nomad Drinking Chocolate
  • Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder

Hot chocolate recipe

Prefer to DIY? Here's how to make hot chocolate with cocoa powder:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (you can adjust this according to taste)
  • 1 cup (250mL) milk

Method:

  • Whisk the cocoa powder, sugar and a couple of spoonfuls of the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the rest of the milk and stir over medium heat until it simmers. Remove from heat and serve.

Cost per serve$0.44

Does hot chocolate have caffeine in it?

Cocoa (and therefore hot chocolate) does contain some caffeine. How much depends on the strength and composition of the product, but the average is about 8mg per 250mL cup, according to the Australian Food Composition Database, which is far less than that of coffee (instant coffee, for example, contains about 78mg per cup). 

The table, below, shows how hot chocolate compares with other caffeine-containing drinks.

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding it's recommended you have less than 200mg caffeine a day, but a moderate intake (around 400mg a day) poses very little risk of harm for most people.

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How we test hot chocolate

Products

We tested 19 hot chocolate products that can be prepared by adding warm/hot milk or water (as per pack instructions) and are available in major supermarket chains. We did not test white chocolate or flavoured (e.g. mint, coconut) varieties. We included Nestlé Milo (but not its other malted/fortified brand equivalents Aktavite, Aldi NRG, Ovaltine or Sustagen) for comparison purposes. 

Price per 100g is based on the pack size specified (not on special) in April 2021.

Tasting

We recruited 114 Voice Your Choice members who regularly drink hot chocolate to participate in this blind taste test. Each participant was randomly assigned seven hot chocolate samples that had been de-identified. They were instructed to prepare each sample according to the pack instructions provided and complete a short taste test survey. Each product was tasted by at least 37 testers. 

Scores

Participants were asked to give an overall taste rating for each hot chocolate sample on a seven-point scale ranging from 'excellent' to 'terrible'. We also asked them to rate the intensity of the hot chocolate flavour, and to select from a range of 10 descriptors those that best describe the hot chocolate.

The CHOICE score is based on the overall taste rating, converted to a percentage score.

We recommend hot chocolate with a CHOICE score of 70% or more.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE