Thick and Creamy Italian Hot Chocolate

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Italian Hot Chocolate is an incredibly rich and thick hot chocolate drink that is sure to warm you up from your toes to your nose! Forget about that thin, powdery boxed stuff — this is a gourmet hot chocolate that is both dark and decadent with a luxurious creaminess that just can’t be compared.

titled: Italian Hot Chocolate


The Italians really know their way around a kitchen, and that certainly extends to their hot drinks and desserts.

Once you try this gourmet hot chocolate recipe on for size, you’ll know what I mean!

measured ingredients for thick hot chocolate

Italian Hot Chocolate

A classic cioccolata calda isn’t what you’re used to. It’s an incredibly creamy, thick hot chocolate that actually isn’t at all complicated to prepare.

With a deep, dark chocolate flavor, it isn’t anything like what you may be used to!

Not everyone likes hot drinks — if you’re one of them, no judgment here! You might prefer my frozen hot chocolate.

And maybe you don’t like to drink your desserts. Again, no worries! Check out these hot chocolate cupcakes to get your cocoa fix. 

milk and cocoa powder in large pot

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Whole Milk – This drink is already pretty thick, but you can substitute some of the milk with heavy cream or half and half to make it even silkier and thicker.

    I don’t recommend using more than ½ to 1 cup of heavy cream.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – Start with a base of unsweetened cocoa to gradually sweeten to your liking.

    You can add more sugar, but you can’t take it away!

    For a deeper flavor and color, you can use dark cocoa powder in this gourmet hot chocolate recipe.
  • Dark Chocolate – Find a brand that has at least 60% cocoa. You want a sweetened candy bar – otherwise, you’ll need additional sugar.

    There are some brands, such as Vivani and Pacar, that are up to 100% cocoa. If you want a deep, rich flavor, try to find those!
  • CornstarchThis is where the thickness comes from. Start with a smaller amount and work your way up from there.

    If you prefer a thinner drink, you can leave it out… But then it wouldn’t be an Italian hot chocolate! 
sliding chopped chocolate into pot with knife

Tips and Variations for Gourmet Hot Chocolate

  • Don’t be afraid to play with the recipe!

Follow the directions as written first, then make some changes to suit your tastes. You can always add more sugar for sweetness or more dark chocolate for richness.

Rather than adding the cornstarch directly to the mixture, create the slurry as described in the recipe — added to the milk and stirred to dissolve.

Otherwise, you’ll get unappetizing clumps in your drink!

  • Add some spice or flavor.

Cinnamon and nutmeg both add a lovely warmth that complements the cocoa, while a pinch of cayenne pepper creates a lovely heat.

Swap vanilla extract with peppermint for a holiday treat, or add a swirl of caramel sauce before serving!

  • Make it boozy.

Brandy, whiskey, or spiced rum are cozy, comforting additions to this sweet drink.

Just keep in mind that the extra liquid will thin out the consistency.

whisking cream into pot of cocoa

Storing and Reheating Thick Hot Chocolate

Many people don’t realize just how rich and thick this hot chocolate is — a little goes a long way!

You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. 

To reheat, add it to a saucepan and reheat over low to medium heat until warmed through. Give it a good stir, and it’s as good as fresh!

closeup: pouring thick hot chocolate from ladle

Gourmet Hot Chocolate Recipe FAQ

Why is Italian hot chocolate different?

There are a couple of things that set this Italian masterpiece apart from what we’re used to drinking in the United States.

For starters, the American version is very milky. It also tends to be rather thin. 
Alternatively, the gourmet hot chocolate drink is more of a dessert than a sippable beverage — sometimes it’s even served with a spoon! 

It includes cornstarch as a thickening agent and utilizes dark cocoa, as pure as you can get it.

The texture incredibly thick, almost like melted ice cream, and it generally comes in a much smaller serving. 

Can you make Italian hot chocolate without milk?

You can comfortably use a lactose-free or dairy-free alternative for gourmet hot cocoa recipes.

Either oat milk or almond milk would be delicious and may even add additional flavor to the drink!

Keep in mind, though, that you may need to add more cornstarch to get the same thickness.

What is the difference between French and Italian hot chocolate?

French hot chocolate, or chocolat chaud, is similar to the Italian version in that it has a very strong cocoa flavor.

Several gourmet hot cocoa recipes include brown sugar for a complex, deep sweetness, while some contain only milk and chocolate!

In comparison, ciocolatta calda stands out in its richness and thickness.

listing teaspoon out of mug of cocoa

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mug of italian hot chocolate topped with whipped cream

thick hot chocolate in mug with whipped cream

Thick and Creamy Italian Hot Chocolate

Donna Elick
Italian Hot Chocolate is so rich, thick and luxuriously creamy, it seems indulgent! My gourmet hot chocolate recipe takes 15 mins. to make!
5 stars from 8 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Drink
Cuisine Italian
Method Stovetop
Servings 4


  • 4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3.5 ounces dark chocolate, (at least 60% cocoa), chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Set aside 1/2 cup of the whole milk.
  • To a medium saucepan, over medium heat, add remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
  • Add the dark chocolate and stir until melted.
  • To the reserved ½ cup milk, add cornstarch and stir until fully dissolved.
  • With the chocolate mixture still simmering, whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Continue cooking, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
  • Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract, and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Donna’s Notes

This makes a moderately rich and thick hot chocolate. For an even richer hot chocolate, use dark cocoa powder and/or add a darker (up to 80%) chocolate. You can also substitute heavy cream for a portion of the milk (½ to 1 cup recommended)
The chocolate bar should be high quality and sweetened. If you use unsweetened chocolate, you will need to use additional sugar in this recipe.
You can taste the hot chocolate after it has thickened and adjust the flavor by adding additional sugar or semi-sweet/dark chocolate.
Making the cornstarch slurry helps prevent lumps from forming in the hot chocolate. Lumps will form when cornstarch is added directly to a hot mixture.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 362cal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 244mg | Sugar: 30g | Fiber: 4g | Calcium: 323mg | Iron: 3mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): Italian hot chocolate

Originally published October 2022, updated and republished November 2023

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    1. Hi Jill,
      It is dusted with a bit of cocoa powder. Hope this helps, have a great day!
      TSRI Team Member,

  1. 5 stars
    Ok, it is certainly not cold here (yet) but I had to try this because it looked so dang good! It did not disappoint, it was creamy and absolutely amazing! This will be a staple for winter! Thank you!

  2. Could you make a batch of this and serve it in a crockpot at a party? I’m considering making it for my employees over the holidays, but not sure how well it would hold up in the crockpot.

  3. 5 stars
    I used evaporated milk and bar chocolate made for hot chocolate. I use from Spain, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or France. It is very creamy and my grandchildren love it.

  4. 5 stars
    Wonderful “adult” hot chocolate. I made the recipe as written but I do think it would be great with additions. I plan to try it next with cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne. I think coffee or orange liquor would be great too. Thank you ❤️

  5. 5 stars
    Some people ring in the New Year with champagne. I’m doing it with this. Deliziosa! Best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

  6. 5 stars
    First time making this Italian hot chocolate. Recipe works beautifully and the result is delicious. Looking forward to trying some of the commenters’ suggested additions of orange liquor or coffee liquor or cinnamon.

  7. Turned out very good but since I’m the only one in the house who likes this sort of thing I decided to pour it into tiny Tupperware containers and freeze it that way. Hope it turns out okay

  8. 5 stars
    Absolutely loved making this Italian hot chocolate! Donna and Chad’s are always a hit in my kitchen. This one was no exception. So creamy and delicious!

  9. 5 stars
    Donna’s Italian hot chocolate recipe is a winner! I added a pinch of cinnamon for some extra warmth and it turned out amazing. So easy and delicious!

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