Italian Hot Chocolate

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Italian Hot Chocolate is an incredibly rich and thick 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. Save it for snow days, rainy days, or days when you just need to treat yourself with a delicious drink!

cioccolata calda recipe.

The Italians really know their way around a kitchen, and that certainly extends to their hot drinks and desserts. Once you try this thick hot chocolate recipe on for size, you’ll know what I mean!

ingredients for gourmet 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. Or for something different this Italian Rainbow Cake.

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 Italian thick 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.

It’s incredibly thick, almost like melted ice cream, and it generally comes in a much smaller serving. 

ingredients in saucepan for italian hot chocolate.

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 – Definitely go with unsweetened. You can add more sugar, but you can’t take it away!

    So have a base of unsweetened cocoa to gradually sweeten to your liking. For a deeper flavor and color, you can use dark cocoa powder.
  • 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! 
adding chopped chocolate to saucepan.

Tips for Perfect Homemade 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!

adding milk to saucepan of melted chocolate.

Storing and Reheating Italian Hot Chocolate

Many people don’t realize just how thick and rich classic cioccolata calda 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!

pouring thick hot chocolate.

Italian Hot Chocolate FAQ.

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 recipes include brown sugar for a complex, deep sweetness, and some contain only milk and chocolate!

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

Can you make Italian hot chocolate without milk?

You can comfortably use a lactose-free or dairy-free alternative to make a perfectly thick hot chocolate recipe. Either oat milk or almond milk would be delicious and may even add additional flavor to the recipe!

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

thick hot chocolate in white mug.

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cioccolata calda in mug.

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 5 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!
Italian hot chocolate.

Originally published October 2022

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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.

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