Categories: Eats, Life Style

Cocoa by the Mug

Hey, What’s Cookin’?

Most of us have known the pleasure of a cup of hot, steaming cocoa on a chilly winter’s day. In fact, just reading that has got you thinking about how good a cup would be right now, hasn’t it?

But what if you check the pantry and you’re out of those little packets?  Well, that’s actually a GOOD thing! Have you read the ingredients list on a box of hot cocoa?  Something as innocent as cocoa powder, milk, and sweetener morphs into some weird chemical monster when you buy it pre-packaged. Cellulose gum, mono- and di-glycerides, disodium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate—what business do any of those chemicals have swimming around in your cocoa?

Cocoa powder itself is no gut-buster. One tablespoon has 1 gram of protein, only 3 grams of carbohydrates, and 65 mg. of sodium. It contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and K, as well as iron. One thing cocoa powder is high in are flavonoids–plant-based antioxidents. Since cocoa powder is consumed in such small amounts, it does not contribute much to daily nutrition. But that’s okay, because it does not negatively impact your nutrition, either.

A good cup of cocoa is ridiculously simple to make, so there’s no need to rely on the store-bought stuff any more. Depending on the type of milk and the sweetener you use, it does not have to wreck your eating plan, either (if you like plant-based sweeteners you’ve got it made!) And what’s super-convenient is that you make it by the mug–instant portion control! You just need:

  1. Cocoa powder.  Use an unsweetened cocoa powder that you would use for baking, such as Hershey’s, Hershey’s Special Dark, Ghirardelli, etc.
  2. Sweetener: You have so many better options than white sugar! Agave nectar, honey, maple syrup–and plant-based sweeteners such as Truvia, Stevia, and Monk Fruit. Use whatever sweetener you enjoy most, but use it sparingly to let the flavor of the cocoa shine through.
  3. Vanilla: gives a nice “marshmallowy” boost to the overall flavor
  4. Flavor enhancers: No, I’m not talking about dipotassium phosphate!  I’m talking instant coffee granules, a pinch of cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick), a drop of almond or rum extract, etc.
  5. Milk.  Use regular milk, lactose-free milk, or any of the nut milks available, such as cashew or almond.  Choose the level of fat you want (skim, reduced, or full-fat). And in the case of the nut milks, you can even choose unsweetened, lightly sweetened, or regular.

Cocoa by the Mug

Serving: 1 cup
Remember, this is just one of many possible variations! Use your favorite ingredients to make this your own!
If you’re judicious about the ingredients (for example, unsweetened vanilla almond milk and plant-based sweetener), you can enjoy a cup of cocoa for less than 45 calories!


  • 1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (add more cocoa in 1 tsp increments, if desired, for a richer flavor)
  • 1 tbs liquid sweetener; adjust if needed. (If using plant-based sweetener, add the amount you prefer)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of instant coffee (optional, but deepens the flavor of the cocoa)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk


  1. Add the cocoa powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, and instant coffee to a large mug.  Add 1 tablespoon of the milk and use a fork to whisk all the ingredients into a smooth paste. This will take a bit of effort, so keep whisking!
  2. Add half of the remaining almond milk and whisk again until smooth (mixture should be syrupy). Scrap the bottom and sides of the cup with the fork to ensure you have mixed in all the cocoa powder.
  3. Add the rest of the almond milk and whisk until smooth.
  4. Microwave for 1-1½ minutes. Stir and taste. Adjust any of the ingredients to your taste.



Photograph via Pinterest

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