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How long is hot chocolate made with milk good for?

Hot chocolate made with milk can last for varying amounts of time depending on how it is stored and the ingredients used. Properly stored, hot chocolate made with regular milk can last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Hot chocolate made with non-dairy milk like almond or coconut milk will usually last only 2-3 days. Here is a detailed look at how long hot chocolate made with milk will last refrigerated and frozen.

Refrigerated Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate made with regular dairy milk and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator will last for 3-4 days. The high fat content of the milk helps the hot chocolate last a bit longer than lower fat versions. As long as it has been continuously refrigerated, it should retain good flavor and texture for 3-4 days.

If non-dairy milk like almond or coconut milk is used to make the hot chocolate, it will last for a shorter time – just 2-3 days when properly stored in the fridge. Non-dairy milks have less fat than regular milk so they tend to spoil faster. Be sure to transfer any leftover non-dairy hot chocolate to an airtight container and refrigerate it right away after making it.

Here are some signs that refrigerated hot chocolate has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Mold is growing on the surface
  • There is a sour or off smell
  • The texture is curdled or separated
  • It tastes spoiled when you try it

As long as it looks, smells, and tastes normal, refrigerated hot chocolate is generally safe to consume up to 4 days past the preparation date. But it’s always best to err on the side of caution if in doubt.

How to Store Refrigerated Hot Chocolate

Proper storage is crucial for maximizing the shelf life of refrigerated hot chocolate. Here are some tips for storage:

  • Transfer leftover hot chocolate to an airtight container or jar immediately after making it.
  • Make sure the container has a tight fitting lid.
  • Store the container towards the back of the fridge where temperatures are cooler.
  • If storing for longer than 2 days, give it an occasional stir to redistribute ingredients.
  • Check for signs of spoilage before consuming like mold, curdling, etc.

Frozen Hot Chocolate

Freezing is a great way to significantly extend the shelf life of homemade hot chocolate. Frozen properly, it can last for 2-3 months in the freezer.

To freeze hot chocolate, transfer the cooled mixture to freezer safe containers leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal tightly and freeze. For best quality, use within 2-3 months.

Thaw frozen hot chocolate overnight in the refrigerator before reheating to serve. Reheat gently over medium low heat on the stovetop or microwave until hot, stirring frequently.

Here are some signs that frozen hot chocolate may be past its prime and should be discarded:

  • Ice crystals or freezer burn on the surface
  • Off odors when thawed
  • Change in consistency – thicker or thinner than normal
  • Strange flavor when tasted

Tips for Freezing Hot Chocolate

Follow these tips for best results freezing homemade hot chocolate:

  • Let hot chocolate cool completely before freezing.
  • Use freezer safe containers and leave headspace for expansion.
  • Seal containers tightly.
  • Label containers with name and freeze date.
  • Store in a constant 0°F freezer.
  • Avoid refreezing thawed hot chocolate.

How Long Hot Chocolate Keeps Based on Ingredients

The ingredients used to make the hot chocolate also impact its shelf life. Here is how long refrigerated hot chocolate will last with different key ingredients:

Ingredient Refrigerator Life
Regular milk 3-4 days
Non-dairy milk 2-3 days
Heavy cream 4-5 days
Chocolate syrup 1 week
Cocoa powder 1 week
Chocolate chips/bars 1 week

As you can see, the type of dairy product used is key. Heavy cream will give refrigerated hot chocolate the longest shelf life, followed by regular milk. Non-dairy milks shorten the lifespan.

Using a premade product like chocolate syrup or cocoa powder also helps homemade hot chocolate last longer in the fridge compared to melted chocolate chips or bars which firm up.

Does Adding Alcohol Change Hot Chocolate’s Shelf Life?

Alcohol can extend the shelf life of hot chocolate due to its preservative properties. Hot chocolate made with added spirits like peppermint schnapps, rum, brandy or whiskey can often last up to 1 week when properly stored in the refrigerator.

The amount of alcohol needed to have a preservative effect is relatively small. Just 1-2 tablespoons of 80 proof liquor per cup or portion of hot chocolate is enough to potentially extend its fridge life by a few days.

Keep in mind that as with any perishable food, refrigerated alcoholic hot chocolate should still be consumed within 5-7 days and checked for signs of spoilage. Don’t rely on the alcohol to make it last indefinitely.

Can Hot Chocolate Be Frozen and Reheated?

Yes, absolutely! Freezing leftover hot chocolate is a great way to preserve it and extend the shelf life. It can safely be frozen for 2-3 months and reheated later with very good results.

To freeze hot chocolate:

  1. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
  2. Transfer to a freezer safe container, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  3. Seal tightly and label with the date.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 months.

To reheat frozen hot chocolate:

  1. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Transfer to a saucepan or microwave safe container.
  3. Gently reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, stirring often.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

The reheated hot chocolate will have a very similar taste and texture to freshly made as long as it was frozen and thawed properly. Just be sure not to boil or overheat it.

Does Reheating Change Hot Chocolate’s Shelf Life?

Reheating hot chocolate that has already been refrigerated or frozen does not “reset” its shelf life. The original shelf life timeframe still applies.

So if you have refrigerated hot chocolate that is already 3 days old, reheating it does not give you another 3-4 days of fridge life. It should still be consumed within the original 4 day window for greatest safety and quality.

The same applies to frozen hot chocolate. Thawing and reheating frozen hot chocolate does not restart the clock – the original recommended storage time of 2-3 months in the freezer still holds whether it’s reheated along the way or not.

The bottom line is to stick to the original shelf life recommendations for refrigerated or frozen hot chocolate even after reheating.

Does Hot Chocolate Go Bad?

Yes, hot chocolate can go bad if left for too long at room temperature or if improperly stored. Signs that hot chocolate has gone bad include:

  • Mold growing on the surface
  • Curdled texture
  • Separated liquid
  • Sour, rotten, or off smells
  • Strange flavor when tasted

Hot chocolate can also degrade in quality over time without necessarily being unsafe. Older refrigerated or frozen hot chocolate may taste more bland, thin, or just not as good.

As long as homemade hot chocolate is promptly refrigerated or frozen and stored properly, it can stay fresh for days to months. But eventually it will reach the end of its shelf life and need to be discarded.

How to Store Hot Chocolate to Maximize Freshness

Storing hot chocolate properly is key to keeping it fresh and preventing it from going bad prematurely. Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life:

  • Refrigerate promptly – Let hot chocolate cool slightly before transferring to an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Store in freezer – For long term storage, freeze hot chocolate in freezer bags or airtight containers.
  • Use airtight containers – Prevent air exposure by using containers with tight fitting lids.
  • Keep cold – Store refrigerated or frozen hot chocolate towards the back of the fridge or bottom of the freezer.
  • Stir occasionally – Give refrigerated hot chocolate a stir every other day to redistribute ingredients.
  • Avoid temperature fluctuations – Don’t let it sit at room temperature or repeatedly thaw and refreeze.

Following proper storage methods helps maximize the freshness and shelf life of homemade hot chocolate. But remember it will still have a limited lifespan in the fridge or freezer.

Can You Make Hot Chocolate in Advance?

Yes, hot chocolate can absolutely be made ahead of time. In fact, there are several benefits to make-ahead hot chocolate:

  • Saves time before special events or gatherings
  • Allows flavors to blend and develop
  • Can be portioned for multiple servings
  • Easy to reheat later

To make hot chocolate in advance:

  1. Prepare the hot chocolate as usual and let cool.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container(s) and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  3. To freeze, pour into freezer bags or containers and freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. Thaw refrigerated or frozen hot chocolate in the fridge before reheating to serve.

One tip for make-ahead hot chocolate is to slightly under-sweeten it, then adjust with extra sweetener after reheating if needed. This allows for any condensed sweetness after chilling.


Properly stored homemade hot chocolate made with milk can stay fresh for about 3-4 days refrigerated, or 2-3 months in the freezer. Non-dairy versions may last only 2-3 days refrigerated. Pay attention for any signs of spoilage like mold, curdling, or off smells and flavors. Freezing extends the shelf life significantly for months of enjoyment. With proper storage and handling, homemade hot chocolate can be made ahead and saved to reheat anytime.