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Cioccolata Calda – Italian Hot Chocolate

Ultra CREAMY hot chocolate - If you think Swiss Miss is what hot chocolate is supposed to taste like, this recipe will rock your world!!! True Italian hot chocolate is rich, THICK, & so smooth it’s almost like drinking a liquid chocolate bar! @choccoveredkt


If you think you know real hot chocolate…

Think again.

And if you think Swiss Miss is real hot chocolate, drop whatever it is you are doing right now and immediately get to a kitchen so that you can try a thick and luxurious mug of hot chocolate that will rock your world, challenging everything you thought you knew about hot chocolate.

Italian Hot Chocolate recipe:

cioccolata calda

True Italian hot chocolate is thick, rich, and so smooth it’s almost like drinking a liquid chocolate bar.

My first encounter with Italian hot chocolate, or cioccolata calda, was nine years ago during a Christmas vacation spent in Italy. I wrote more about the trip in my post with the Healthy Tiramisu Recipe.

You couldn’t pick a better time to visit Italy than in December—it lets you avoid the summer heat and sweltering crowds; and you’re offered a fantastic excuse to warm up every afternoon by popping into a café for some real Italian hot chocolate.

healthy hot chocolate



Italian Hot Chocolate (Cioccolata Calda)

Adapted from Healthy Hot Chocolate

  • 5 oz of your favorite dark chocolate, shaved
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sweetener of choice, or to taste
  • additional 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 1/2 tsp cornstarch, such as non-gmo Rapunzel
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

(Note: If possible, use a milk with some fat for a richer result.) In a small saucepan, slowly heat the chocolate with 3 tbsp of the milk on low. As soon as the chocolate begins to melt, turn off the heat and stir until completely melted. Add salt, sweetener, and the remaining portion of the 1 cup of milk, and turn heat to low-medium, stirring. In a small dish, whisk together the 1/2 cup cold milk of choice with the cornstarch until dissolved. Slowly add this to the hot chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk for about another minute. Then turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla, and serve. This gets even thicker as it sits, and it is very rich, so you don’t need a giant cup. True Italian hot chocolate should be bittersweet; add more sweetener if a sweeter chocolate is desired.

View Nutrition Facts


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Published on February 12, 2015

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  1. Anna says

    This looks amazing!!! I’m actually not a fan of the swiss hot chocolate (too sugary for me) but I LOVED the frozen hot chocolate from your cookbook and can’t wait to try this one! oh btw, could I use arrowroot instead of cornstarch?

      • Safina says

        Arrowroot and cornstarch are pretty much interchangeable in most recipes, so you could probably use it in this recipe. I would use maybe a teensy bit less than the recipe calls for, like 2 1/4 tsp. to 2 1/2 tsp.

  2. Cat says

    I love real italian hot chocolate! It really is like you said – drinking liquid chocolate! I will definitely be doing this – I’ve made a similar version with coconut milk (full fat all the way!) but havent tried adding cornstarch… I also want to try a variation using potato starch – will report back!

  3. Karen says

    Oh my goodness! This looks amazing!!!!!!!!!! I love sipping chocolate but I can’t get it at restaurants anymore because I’m vegan and I have yet to try a recipe at home that’s really good. But this looks like it could be the one!!!!!!!! Sorry for all the exclamation points but I’m a big of a hot chocolate connoisseur so I’m really excited! Unfortunately I can’t follow your orders and make this right now because I’m at school, but I will probably make it for dessert tonight!

    • Karen says

      Also, I was wondering, what milk do recommend using? I have both almond and soy milk at home and I might have canned coconut milk but coconut milk sometimes makes my stomach hurt so I’d rather not use it. So which do you think would be better, almond or soy?

        • Karen says

          I did end up using the almond milk. And it was pretty good. However, my parents and I found we could taste the almond milk flavor a little too much and that it was somewhat overpowering the chocolate flavor. I think I will try soy milk next time as I think that flavor would better compliment rather than overpower the chocolate. If that doesn’t work, I will try homemade cashew milk as that is probably the closest to the whole milk used in real Italian hot chocolate.

  4. Jelli says

    I adore Italian hot chocolate and have actually blogged about it myself after having fallen in love with it a couple of year ago in Italy. Yum, yum, and YUM. You’re totally right about ppl who are convinced about Swiss Miss needing an immediate fix of the Italian type.

  5. Nicole says

    I haven’t had hot chocolate since becoming vegan, and I’m ashamed to admit that I was once a Swiss Miss only girl. This Italian hot chocolate sounds like it might be my first foray into vegan hot cocoa! Yum! Plus I’m Italian and it’s freezing out here so sounds perfect!

  6. Sarah says

    Katie – God bless you for finding non-GMO cornstarch! I have been wondering when that would become available… Now that you have given us a brand-name, I will pester my health food store for it! Thank you!
    The chocolate looks extremely YUMMY, too.

  7. Sabrina says

    Right now I’m sitting in Florence with my Italian family after a thick and creamy cioccolata calda. This is the best beverage I had in a long time! Thanks for the recipe, now I can make it at home as well 🙂
    grazie mille 😉

  8. Kathleen says

    I just made half the recipe, because however much I made I would drink. Half is plenty! I used rice milk and brown sugar and Trader Joe 72% dark chocolate. I also added a pinch of chili powder because I couldn’t help myself.

  9. Peggy says

    When you want something lighter, cocoa made with just cocoa powder, water and sweetener is delicious. I use a lot of cocoa, perhaps a heaping tablespoon per cup of water. Add some cornstarch and you have pudding.

  10. Lauren says

    I had to comment because I read the title and didn’t realize I wasn’t reading English. Which means the last 2 years of teaching myself Italian is really working. Also this sounds perfect for this 12F day 🙂

  11. Matea says

    I went to Italy a few summers ago and loved it! I can only imagine how wonderful it would (hopefully “will”) be to go in the winter and skip the summer heat and enjoy hot chocolate like this 🙂

  12. Gemma says

    Oh my! I love to prepare special and different coffees and hot chocolates at home and this one looks so luscious and delicious, perfect for cold days!

  13. EVA says

    “It’s almost like drinking a liquid chocolate bar”. According to the recipe, it looks like it literally is bahahaha!

    This summer I’m planning on going to either Italy or Japan for a study abroad trip. Would you be willing to give me a few tips on ’em if I emailed you? I’m so nervous dietary-wise, ESPECIALLY if I get to go to Japan. And I know you haven’t spent much time in Italy, but you’ve obviously spent way more time than me and also have the roots. Help a sistah out!

    • Daniela says

      hi Eva, where in Italy will you be? There is a lot of italian food that can be or already is vegan, but the key is asking detailed questions and giving detailed information. Saying you don’t have milk might not be necessarily be understood that you don’t have cheese or dairy products either. Saying you don’t eat meat doesn’t necessarily exclude fish and so on… So ask a lot of questions and if something isn’t clear, ask again.
      Familiarize yourself with the italian words for the products you are trying to avoid. Make a card with basic sentences, if you don’t speak any italian, that say something like “I don’t eat :” and then list the things you don’t eat. There will be plenty alternative and most restaurants, if they are not full and busy, would make a special dish or point out dishes that are vegan.
      There are a lot of vegan resources out there, in italy and on italian web sites, if you speak the language it’s not hard to find places and tips. There are italian health food stores in a lot of town and cities, and they would be able to point you to vegan resources. Basic thing to remember: enjoy yourself. You’ll be eating amazing food!
      Sorry I cannot help you with Japan.

  14. Maren says

    Instead of starch and sugar you could just blend dates with the milk. I just blend everything, heat it up and dissolve the chocolate.
    Since cashew or almond cream thickens when heated, replacing the milk with these creams is also a good idea. Just richer and so good.

  15. Mariana says

    Hi Katie!
    Just writing to say your cookbook is awesome! My husband is currently on a plane but my valentines is still great thanks to the itunes rental of the week being a chick flick and your delicious peanut butter banana popsicles in my hand. 🙂

  16. Sarah says

    THANK YOU, KATIE! I tried this and it was so good I could cry. I used potato starch instead of cornstarch (still trying to use up last year’s Passover leftovers before Passover this year…sigh…) and shared it with my sister, who loved it, despite her not being such a chocolate fan. I might have put in a little too much chocolate, as I used a combination of a chocolate bar and chocolate chips, but no complaints here!

  17. Daniela says

    Hi Katie, thanks for the recipe. I grew up with cioccolata calda, and now I make it vegan and with carob, and it’s almost as good.
    I am commenting here not for the recipe, which is fantastic, but because of the passing of Michele Ferrero, who died on saturday, Feb 14th, and who was the founder of the Ferrero company, maker of Nutella and a host of other chocolate based sweets.
    I thought it would be fitting to honor him on this chocolate covered blog, even though probably none of his products are vegan, because his products, like Nutella, the Ferrero Roches, the Pocket Coffee, the Mon Cherie, the Kit Kat and so on, have made so many people chocoholic and have sparked so many attempts at recreating those products in vegan form, making many vegan chocoholics happy!
    So… farewell Mr Ferrero, and thanks for the sweet moments. May you rest in peace.

  18. Mandie @ Mandie's Kitchen says

    This sounds magnificent! I love your hot chocolate recipe, and I’ve always wanted to try true Italian Hot Cocoa! I’m pinning for sooner, rather than for later. =D

  19. Laura says

    Hey Katie, you’ve mentioned your Italian heritage a few times.. I wonder if you’ve ever had TORTA CAPRESE? Now, THAT would be the perfect recipe for you to veganize/make a healthier version… no? YES, if you ask me anyway, hahah.
    Just throwing ideas at you.. in case you haven’t enough of them right now (yeah, right…)
    Sounds like a yummy challenge?

  20. Chiara says

    Hi katie! I’m a 12 years old girl from Italy, i know you love hot chocolate from cafes, but here most of cafes use a powder called Ciobar for hot chocolate, it is really good,but i’m sure your recipe is better. My mom used to make hot chocolate with potato starch, Milk , cocoa powder and some cane sugar.

  21. Dawn Laughlin says

    I love to use Trader Joes coconut cream when making hot chocolate……decadent! I need to try this recipe with it, I know I will love it……but not till it starts to cool off around here!

    • Unofficial CCK Helper says

      Katie’s recipes usually list serving size in the nutrition facts links. This one says it serves 6. Hope that helps! 🙂

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