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Can you substitute hot coco for cocoa powder?

Substituting hot cocoa mix for cocoa powder in baking recipes is possible, but there are some important differences to consider. While they both contain cocoa and sugar, the ratios are different, and hot cocoa mixes have other ingredients added. With some adjustments, you may be able to successfully use hot cocoa mix in place of cocoa powder. Here is an in-depth look at whether and how to substitute hot cocoa for cocoa powder.

The Main Differences Between Cocoa Powder and Hot Cocoa Mix

Cocoa powder and hot cocoa mix are similar but have some key differences:

  • Cocoa powder is 100% cacao powder made from roasted, ground cocoa beans. It has a strong chocolate flavor and is bitter.
  • Hot cocoa mix contains cocoa powder, but also has added sugar, dried milk or milk powder, extra flavorings like vanilla, and stabilizers. It is sweeter and has a milder chocolate taste.
  • The ratio of cocoa to sugar is higher in cocoa powder. Hot cocoa mix has more added sugar to make it sweet.
  • Cocoa powder is treated with alkali to neutralize acidity. Hot cocoa mix is usually made with natural cocoa powder.
  • Cocoa powder dissolves easily into liquids. Hot cocoa mix contains ingredients like dried milk that don’t dissolve as well.

Due to the differences in ingredients and ratios of cocoa to sugar, adjustments are needed when substituting one for the other in recipes.

Substituting Hot Cocoa for Cocoa Powder

When substituting hot cocoa mix for cocoa powder, here are some tips:

  • Use 1/3 cup hot cocoa mix for every 1/4 cup cocoa powder called for. This accounts for the extra sugar in hot cocoa.
  • Reduce any added sugar in the recipe by about 2 tbsp. Since hot cocoa is sweeter, you won’t need as much extra sugar.
  • Add a little extra liquid to get a smooth consistency. Dry milk ingredients may need more liquid to dissolve.
  • Consider adding a touch of extra vanilla to enhance chocolate flavor, as hot cocoa often has extra vanilla added.
  • Stir the hot cocoa mix into liquids thoroughly to prevent clumping.

Example Substitution

Here is an example of how to substitute hot cocoa mix in a recipe calling for cocoa powder:

Original Recipe

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

With Hot Cocoa Substitution

  • 1/3 cup hot cocoa mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar (reduced by 2 tbsp)
  • 2 1/4 cups milk (add 2-4 tbsp extra)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Tips for Baking with Hot Cocoa Mix

When baking recipes like cakes, cookies and quick breads, keep these tips in mind:

  • Always sift the hot cocoa mix first to remove lumps before adding to batter or dough.
  • Mix the hot cocoa with the wet ingredients first to help dissolve before adding dry ingredients.
  • If batter seems dry, add a little extra milk or water as the powder may absorb more liquid.
  • Underbake slightly, as the starch from the dry milk may make baked goods drier.
  • Add a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to enhance chocolate flavor if needed.

Disadvantages of Using Hot Cocoa Mix

While it can work in a pinch, there are some downsides to using hot cocoa mix instead of cocoa powder:

  • Flavor is milder and less rich than cocoa powder alone.
  • Texture may be gritty rather than smooth.
  • Color is lighter brown rather than deep chocolate color.
  • Dried milk ingredients can turn baked goods dry or crumbly.
  • Sweetness is harder to control and balance with other ingredients.

For best results, use hot cocoa mix in simple recipes like cookies rather than more complex cakes. And reduce any other sugars called for in the recipe.

Types of Hot Cocoa Mix

There are a few main types of hot cocoa mix:

Powdered Mix

  • Sold as powder in packets or canisters
  • Contains cocoa, sugar, dried milk, extra flavorings
  • Popular brands like Swiss Miss and Nestle
  • Mixes well into liquids

Concentrated Syrup

  • Thick, syrupy concentrate
  • May contain corn syrup for thickness
  • Brands like Hershey’s and Ovaltine
  • Usually needs diluted with milk or water before drinking

Single-Serve Liquid Pods

  • Individual plastic pods of liquid mix
  • Just needs hot water added to make one serving
  • Easy for kids to make themselves
  • Generates plastic waste from pods

The powdered mix dissolves and incorporates into baked goods the best. Liquid pods are not suitable for baking.

When Not to Substitute Cocoa Powder with Hot Cocoa

There are some instances when hot cocoa mix will not work as well as cocoa powder:

  • Icing or Frosting – Hot cocoa can make icing gritty or thin; best to use regular cocoa powder.
  • Ganache – Ganache made with hot cocoa may seize up or not set up properly.
  • Dark Chocolate Cake – Won’t achieve the same deep chocolate color or flavor.
  • Chocolate Buttercream – Hot cocoa alters the texture and won’t be as smooth.
  • Pi??ata or Effort Treats – Dried milk can make candy or fudge oily; cocoa powder is better.

For recipes where an intensely chocolate flavor is needed, hot cocoa mix will provide unsatisfactory results. Stick to using real cocoa powder for these.

Hot Cocoa vs. Cocoa Powder Nutrition

Both cocoa powder and hot cocoa mix provide some nutritional value:

Nutrient Cocoa Powder Hot Cocoa Mix
Calories 12 per tbsp 60 per packet
Fat 1g per tbsp 2g per packet
Carbs 3g per tbsp 14g per packet
Protein 1g per tbsp 1g per packet
Fiber 1g per tbsp 1g per packet
Sugar 0g per tbsp 12g per packet

Cocoa powder has very little sugar compared to hot cocoa mixes. Cocoa powder also has a higher concentration of nutrients like iron and antioxidants from the cocoa bean.

Best Recipes to Use Hot Cocoa Mix

These recipes work well with hot cocoa mix substituted for cocoa powder:


  • Chocolate chip
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Biscotti


  • Chocolate sheet cake
  • Texas hot chocolate cake
  • Chocolate snacking cake
  • Molten lava cakes

Quick Breads

  • Pumpkin chocolate chip bread
  • Zucchini chocolate bread
  • Banana chocolate bread

Frostings & Glazes

  • Chocolate glaze for donuts
  • Simple chocolate buttercream
  • Chocolate ganache (add less cream)

Avoid fine-tuned recipes like layered cakes or complex icings. And reduce sugar in any recipe to balance sweetness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use hot cocoa instead of cocoa powder when baking?

Yes, you can substitute hot cocoa mix for cocoa powder in baking recipes like cookies, quick breads, and simple cakes. Reduce any other sugars by a couple tablespoons and add a bit more liquid to account for the extra sugars and dried milk in the cocoa mix.

Is hot chocolate the same as hot cocoa?

Hot chocolate and hot cocoa are very similar. The main difference is that hot cocoa specifically refers to hot chocolate made with cocoa powder and hot milk or water. Hot chocolate can be made with chocolate bars, chocolate syrup or melted chocolate.

Does hot cocoa have the same health benefits as cocoa powder?

No, cocoa powder is more nutritious and has higher concentrations of antioxidants and minerals like iron and magnesium. Hot cocoa has added sugars and ingredients that reduce the overall nutritional value.

What can you use instead of cocoa powder?

In place of cocoa powder, you can substitute hot cocoa mix, Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate syrup, melted dark chocolate, or instant coffee granules. Each will result in a slightly different taste and texture than real cocoa powder.

Does hot cocoa mix expire?

Properly stored, unopened hot cocoa mix lasts 12-18 months past the printed expiration date. Opened hot cocoa lasts 6-8 months. If stored in hot, humid conditions, it may expire sooner. Expired mix loses flavor and clumps up.


While it takes some ingredient adjustments, hot cocoa mix can work as a substitute for cocoa powder in recipes that aren’t overly complex. Reduce other sugars, add extra liquid, and sift clumps for best results. Cocoa powder still provides superior chocolate flavor and nutrition compared to sugary hot cocoa mixes.