Vegan Hot Chocolate
Chocolate is amazing, and now we have one more way to enjoy it with my Vegan Hot Chocolate! This is an easy, 3-ingredient recipe that combines your preferred plant-based milk, with cocoa powder and maple sugar.
The world of dairy-free milks, mylks, plant-based milk or whatever the cool kids are calling milk alternatives these days continues to gain shelf space in the grocery store. This means you have an overwhelming amount of options to choose from to make my Vegan Hot Chocolate. For the purpose of clarity I will be using the term plant-based milk.
There are many reasons consumers opt for plant-based milk, the top reasons that I have noticed in my years as a Registered Dietitian are:
- Lactose Intolerance-caused by a decreased production of lactase, the enzyme needed to breakdown milk sugar, lactose. Common symptoms of lactose intolerance are abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea. Approximately 65% of adults worldwide, to a varying degree are lactose intolerant.1
- Lower in calories-cow’s milk has about 80 calories (fat-free) to 150 calories (whole milk) per 8 oz serving.2 Dairy alternatives have as low as 30 calories (almond milk) to about 100 calories (oat milk).
- Environmental Reasons-the production of cow’s milk is linked to high greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming, along with potential contamination of fresh water and land degradation.3
Nutrition Profile of Plant-Based Milk
There is a on-going argument between the dairy and plant-based milk industries. The dairy industry has been lobbying the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to ban plant-based milks from using the word, “milk.” According to a 2018 FDA statement, “the labeling of some plant-based products may lead consumers to believe that those products have the same key nutritional attributes as dairy products.”4
The FDA makes a valid point, given the nutritional profile of some of the popular plant-based milks, like almond milk. Silk brand, unsweet almond milk has just 30 calories, and 1 gram of protein, which is comparable to other brands of almond milk as well. So, do not look to almond milk to provide a significant nutritional profile. It does make for a delicious Vegan Hot Chocolate! Keep reading to learn about some of my favorite plant-based milks.
The plant-based milk with the most similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk is soy milk. In Silk brand, unsweet soy milk there are 80 calories and 7 grams of protein. Like many other plant-based milks and cow’s milk it is also fortified with a vitamin and mineral blend of calcium carbonate, vitamin A, Vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin B12.
The drawbacks is that soy is a common allergy and the bioavailability of the protein is lower than the protein found in cow’s milk. It is the only plant-based milk recommended as nutritionally significant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.5
A newer option to the plant-based milk scene is pea milk, which has a similar nutrition profile to soy. Additionally, it is accessible to people with a soy allergy. Another benefit is that pea milk has omega-3 fatty acids. In Ripple brand Pea Milk there are 32 mg of DHA omega-3s.
It seems that oat milk is quickly replacing almond milk as the most popular plant-based milk. It is creamy and hefty like cow’s milk. But how does it compare nutritionally? Oatly brand, arguable the original oat milk has 92 calories per 200 ml (about 6.7 oz) and 2 grams of protein. Significantly less protein then cow’s milk.
If you want a full-bodied, creamy Vegan Hot Chocolate I recommend using oat milk! It will give that savory full taste you get from cow’s milk. It also froths well so if you have the right equipment you can adding some froth milk to the top of the Vegan Hot Chocolate.
It wouldn’t be Vegan Hot Chocolate without cocoa powder. It is made by removing the cocoa butter from the cacao beans, and what is left is ground down into cocoa powder. Since the fat is removed, we are left with a bitter tasting powder that goes really well with the creaminess of oat milk.
The alternative is using a store bought hot cocoa mix like Swiss Miss, which is definitely not vegan and is full of sugar and additives. Hershey’s is definitely the easiest cocoa powder to find and least expensive option. Hershey’s is a natural cocoa powder, and the folks at SeriousEats.com advocate for using Dutch process cocoa powder for hot chocolate.
Natural vs Dutch-process cocoa powder
Cocoa powder is naturally acidic, so the natural option has a tangy acidic flavor. On the other end there is Dutch-style cocoa powder, which neutralizes the acidity with an alkaline ingredient lending an earthy and deep flavor. So, if you are able to find Dutch-style cocoa powder, I highly recommend!
Let’s Get Whisking!
The recipe is for 1 serving, so adjust the recipe for however many Vegan Hot Chocolate drinkers you have. The recipe calls for adding only a ¼ of the plant-based milk at the start, then adding the cocoa powder and sugar. This is to make it easier to fully incorporate the powder with the milk before adding the rest of the plant-based milk. Manually whisking is a great workout. This will ensure you have a lump free, creamy Vegan Hot Chocolate. Enjoy!
- Lactose intolerance: MedlinePlus Genetics. Accessed October 29, 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/lactose-intolerance/
- All About Milk. Winners Drink Milk! Accessed October 29, 2020. https://winnersdrinkmilk.com/sustainable-nutrition/dairy-facts-myths/
- Dairy | Industries | WWF. World Wildlife Fund. Accessed October 29, 2020. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/dairy
- Commissioner O of the. Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on modernizing standards of identity and the use of dairy names for plant-based substitutes. FDA. Published March 24, 2020. Accessed October 30, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-modernizing-standards-identity-and-use-dairy-names
- All about the Dairy Group | ChooseMyPlate. Accessed October 30, 2020. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/dairy
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or other plant-based milk of choice, divided
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon maple sugar
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add ¼ cup almond milk, cocoa powder, and maple sugar. Whisk well to combine ingredients thoroughly. Slowly pour in remaining almond milk and whisk to combine well.
- Heat until simmering with bubbles breaking the surface. Transfer to a mug and serve.