Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa

Looking for the perfect snow day activity? Make Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa! Learn how to make hot cocoa that heats up quickly and tastes perfectly sweet. Great for sharing, this 4-ingredient hot cocoa recipe is simple to make and easy to enjoy!

Close up of a mug of slow cooker hot cocoa topped with mini marshmallows on a pink plate

Hot cocoa vs. hot chocolate

Do you know the difference between these two wintery drinks?

It came as news to me that they’re not the same since lots of people use them interchangeably.

Hot chocolate tends is a thicker, more chocolatey drink. It’s made with actual chocolate melted into the liquid. (So technically, this is not a Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate recipe.)

Hot cocoa is a thinner, lighter drink but it doesn’t skimp on the chocolate flavor. It gets its flavor from a combination of cocoa powder and granulated sugar.

No matter what you want to call this recipe, it’s a solid one and oh-so-fun to make with kids on a chilly day!

Why I love this recipe:

My girls and I have been making this recipe for a few years now. (Looking at you, Snowpocalypse ’21.)

There’s something so comforting about mixing a few basic ingredients and turning it into a magical drink.

There’s also something really lovely about being able to throw ingredients into the slow cooker and let them do their thing while you and your people do something else for a while.

This Homemade Hot Cocoa recipe comes together while you’re playing outside and serves as a warming and comforting hug once you’re back indoors.

More warm drink recipes to enjoy this season: Baileys Coffee | Pomegranate Hot Buttered Rum | Easy Spiced Apple Cider | Instant Pot Mulled Wine | How to Make Irish Coffee

Need more drink inspiration? Check out my Drink Recipe Index for some ideas!

Ingredients to make homemade hot cocoa in bowls on a textured gray countertop

What you’ll need to make this recipe:

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Let’s talk ingredients!

In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

Since we don’t need many ingredients, I suggest using the highest quality ones you have. Here’s what you need:

  • Milk — we keep whole milk in our house, and it makes for the most decadent cocoa. You may make this recipe with a lower fat milk if that’s what you have, but I love the silky texture of the whole milk.
  • Cocoa powder — you can use your favorite cocoa powder here. I used natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder.
  • Granulated sugar — also known as white sugar, this is our sweetener for the hot cocoa. There is no substitute.
  • Vanilla extract — if you can afford it, the real deal kind is where it’s at! This brings all the flavors together and lets them shine.

Hot cocoa toppings

The world is your oyster when it comes to hot cocoa and hot chocolate toppings!

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Crushed peppermints or candy canes
  • Chocolate drizzle
  • Caramel drizzle
  • Chocolate chips

Variations on this cocoa recipe

  • Make it dairy free by using your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk. We’ve made this in our house with unsweetened almond milk, and it’s divine!
  • Use Dutch process or black cocoa powder for a drink with a deeper, stronger cocoa flavor.
Collage showing how to make homemade hot cocoa in the slow cooker

How to make Hot Cocoa in a Crock Pot

Pour the milk into the basin of a slow cooker.

Measure in the sugar and cocoa powder. Give the ingredients a whisk to combine.

It might take a little effort, as it will not easily incorporate into the cold milk.

Add the vanilla extract, and give it a stir.

Place the cover on the slow cooker and turn on to low.

Cook for 1-2 hours, or until the cocoa and sugar have melded into the milk.

Pro tip!

You’ll need to whisk every so often to help your cocoa come together!

As the cocoa cooks, the ingredients will look a little “foamy” on top. (Look at image #4 above.)

This is OK… and you can easily whisk them in to incorporate them.

Serve warm with your favorite cocoa toppings and enjoy!

A ladle holds a serving of slow cooker hot cocoa above the slow cooker

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

There’s nothing like homemade hot cocoa for the holidays… or any kind of winter gathering, especially any that involves children.

This Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa recipe is especially lovely because you can set it and forget it.

Here are some tips and tricks to making the best hot cocoa for any type of gathering: 

  • Offer lots of favorite toppings for guests to add to their mugs. (Ideas are listed for you above!)
  • Make a hot cocoa board. Use this as your cocoa recipe and build a fun dessert board of toppings to serve alongside it.
  • Make a hot cocoa bar and use the slow cooker as the centerpiece to it!

Hot cocoa bar ideas

If you want to have a DIY hot chocolate bar at your gathering, I think that’s a brilliant idea!

Here are some things I would do:

  • Make a double batch of the cocoa to ensure you have enough. You will need a larger slow cooker or two of them. This is great for a cookie exchange and perfect to have on hand for snacking at a cookie decorating party.
  • Add your favorite toppings to bowls or mason jars. Set those out and surround the slow cooker with them. You may also make labels for them!
  • Set out your favorite mugs so guests don’t have to go rifling through your cabinets. Alternatively, you could offer to-go coffee cups* (affiliate link) with lids for guests.
  • Don’t forget a ladle or another serving utensil to help guests get their cocoa from the slow cooker into their mug.
Two clear mugs of homemade Hot Cocoa on wooden coasters

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep a large amount of hot chocolate warm?

The slow cooker is a great place to keep it warm without scalding!

How do you keep hot chocolate hot at a party?

We love to put it into the slow cooker because the hot cocoa will stay warm without overcooking.

Should hot cocoa be made with water or milk?

If you want a creamier, more decadent hot cocoa, I recommend using whole milk.

What makes hot cocoa taste better?

Using the highest quality ingredients you can get your hands on, as well as milk, will make your cocoa taste excellent. 

Two clear mugs of Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa topped with mini marshmallows on pink plates

Quick tips and tricks for making the best homemade hot cocoa

  • Use high-quality ingredients. Since this is a 4-ingredient recipe, the quality matters!
  • Turn it into a hot cocoa bar or dessert board. Since the slow cooker will keep the cocoa warm, you can serve this from the countertop in whatever way you feel appropriate!
  • How to store: Let cool and store in an airtight liquid container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second bursts.

More hot cocoa and hot chocolate recipes to try:

Close up of a mug of slow cooker hot cocoa topped with mini marshmallows on a pink plate
Yield: 8 servings

Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Looking for the perfect snow day activity? Make Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa! Learn how to make hot cocoa that heats up quickly and tastes perfectly sweet. Great for sharing, this 4-ingredient hot cocoa recipe is simple to make and easy to enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder (100g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toppings

  • Mini marshmallows
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk directly into the basin of a slow cooker.
  2. Measure in the sugar and cocoa powder. to combine with the milk. It might take a little effort, as it will not easily combine in cold milk, and it will not completely dissolve into the liquid at this point. That's OK!
  3. Add the vanilla extract, and give it a stir.
  4. Place the cover on the slow cooker and turn on to low.
  5. Cook for 1-2 hours, or until the cocoa and sugar have melded into the milk. You’ll need to whisk every so often to aid this process.
  6. Serve warm with your favorite cocoa toppings and enjoy!

Notes

How to store: Let cool and store in an airtight liquid container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second bursts.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 278Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 105mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 2gSugar: 37gProtein: 9g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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