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Hot chocolate review

Cheapest, lowest sugar, gluten-free? We compare hot chocolate products.

hot_chocolate_with_marshmallows
Last updated: 01 May 2020

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 a 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 compare the price, ingredients, nutrition details and country of origin of 36 supermarket hot chocolate products from brands including Lindt, Cadbury, Nestle, Jarrah and Avalanche and share our top picks for indulgence, a guilt-free experience, best value and more.

Coles_Fairtrade_Organic_Drinking_Chocolate
Nomad_Organic_Drinking_Chocolate_West_Africa_45__Dark

Most chocolate-y hot chocolate

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

For the most chocolate-y 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 36 products that we looked at.

Avalanche_Sugar_Free_Drinking_Chocolate

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, 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 11 of the 36 products we looked at. 

While products with non-nutritive sweetener ingredients are usually lower in sugars, they're not always. Woolworths Classic Hot Chocolate, for example, is 45% 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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Woolworths_Instant_Drinking_Chocolate_Powder

Cheapest hot chocolate

  • Coles Drinking 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 Coles Drinking Chocolate and Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder are the cheapest products in our review, both costing $0.75 per 100g. Aldi's NRG Maxx isn't far behind at $0.78 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 serve of powder – Jarrah Hot Choc works out to be the best value. The product itself costs $2.46 per 100g, but it makes a cup of hot choccy for just 29 cents. 

Coles Drinking Chocolate (which instructs you to add 15g to 180mL milk) and Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder (15g added to 200mL milk) make cups for 35 cents and 37 cents respectively. 

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

Lindt_Milk_Chocolate_Hot_Chocolate_Flakes

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 (as prepared) it's also the most expensive.

Nestle_Nesquik_Chocolate

Most Australian ingredients

  • Nestle Nesquik Chocolate

The product with the highest percentage of locally sourced ingredients is family favourite Nestle Nesquik, a product that's probably more commonly mixed into cold milk but can also be served hot. 

Chocolate Nesquik contains 80% Australian ingredients, closely followed by Coles Drinking Chocolate at 78%.

Is hot chocolate gluten-free?

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

Eight of the 36 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:

  • Akta-Vite
  • Aldi NRG Maxx Energy Food Drink
  • Darrell Lea Drinking Chocolate
  • Nestle Milo
  • Nestle Milo Xtra
  • Nestle Milo 30% Less Added Sugar
  • Ovaltine Lasting Energy
  • Woolworths Classic Hot Chocolate (sachets)

Is hot chocolate vegan?

The majority of the hot chocolate products we looked at contain milk solids. But if you're vegan, or have an allergy or an intolerance to milk and can't drink it, we found 10 options that don't include dairy in their ingredients list:

  • Akta-Vite
  • Avalanche Drinking Chocolate Dairy Free (sachets)
  • Avalanche Sugar Free Drinking Chocolate
  • Cadbury Drinking Chocolate
  • Coles Drinking Chocolate
  • Coles Fairtrade Organic Drinking Chocolate
  • Nestle Nesquik Chocolate
  • Nomad Organic Drinking Chocolate Ruby Bliss
  • Nomad Organic Drinking Chocolate West Africa 45% Dark
  • Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder

All but the Avalanche Drinking Chocolate Dairy Free recommend that you prepare them with milk, so if you're avoiding dairy you'll need to choose a suitable milk alternative.

How to make hot chocolate

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 – anywhere from 10 to 70mg per cup, depending on the strength and composition of the product. 

This is similar to the caffeine content of tea, but less than that of coffee (instant coffee, for example, contains about 80mg per cup).

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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