This easy hot cocoa recipe for a crowd is sweet without being overpowering and has just the right amount of decadence. This creamy slow cooker hot chocolate recipe is one you’ll want to enjoy over again when it’s chilly outside!
Have you ever made hot chocolate from scratch? It’s pretty fabulous, and there’s nothing that quite compares in terms of creamy texture and chocolate flavor. But what if it turns out you live with a bunch of hot chocolate aficionados and need to make a lot at once?
Or do you want hot cocoa immediately after an event and don’t want to wait to make it? Or what if you’re hosting a holiday party and want to set up the most epic hot cocoa bar ever?
Well, then you need this creamy slow cooker hot chocolate. It’s literally the answer to all of the above questions. Three cheers for easy solutions.
Or maybe just one cheer. We can “cheers” with hot chocolate, right? The Godfather and I “cheers” our sandwiches at delis before the first bite. Cocoa has to be a thing. Don’t correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t care. It’s fun.
Anyway, the number of times I’ve had the chance to make this recipe so far this winter warms my heart. It’s also spoiled me for all other hot cocoa ever except the fancy ones. Water and a powder mix just aren’t as creamy and satisfying!
Of course, it’s also good thing I worked to scale this recipe a long time ago to make my hot chocolate for two. Otherwise, I think I’d be a little distraught when I’m the only one with a cocoa craving. Can you believe that there are people who will turn down hot chocolate in cold weather? Craziness! Anyway, I just thought I’d include the link for the smaller recipe in case you want cocoa, but not a slow-cooker full.
Why use a slow cooker for hot chocolate?
The primary advantage to using a slow cooker for hot chocolate is convenience. You start the chocolate early, and with the heat of the slow cooker, keep it hot for a really long time, safely.
If you’re setting up a hot cocoa bar, this is basically a must if you don’t have a fancy carafe to store your prepared cocoa!
The slow melting point also allows you to use real chocolate in your cocoa recipe and create a creamy drinking chocolate that rivals any gourmet drinking chocolate bought at a shop.
Ingredients for the Creamist Hot Chocolate…
This isn’t a complicated recipe, obviously, but I want to give you a breakdown of the ingredients and what I’ve tried and haven’t in terms of alternatives.
Milk – You’ll get the creamiest results with whole milk. That being said, in my opinion, whole milk can almost feel too creamy. It depends on how big your mugs are, I suppose. If you’re looking to cut the richness of this recipe a bit, you can absolutely use 1% or 2% milk and not one person will notice. I only see more people getting seconds when I use lowfat milk instead of whole.
Heavy Cream – If you’re using whole milk, you could probably skip the heavy cream or halve it. Otherwise, it’s definitely a worthwhile indulgence! The cream really makes a huge difference in giving this hot chocolate recipe a texture almost like drinking chocolate.
Condensed Milk – I’ve tried substituting with sugar, but keep coming back to condensed milk when making a large batch of hot chocolate and here’s why. When you add sugar to the recipe, you really have to pay attention and stir frequently until it dissolves. With condensed milk, the sugar is already dissolved for you!
Being that condensed milk is syrupy, it mixes with the other liquids in a similar way that simple syrup does with lemonade or cocktails. A quick stir ensures a consistent level of sweetness throughout the pot.
Chocolate Chips and Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – We’ll start with the cocoa powder. Don’t skip it. Whisk it in and you’ll get a perfect boost of cocoa to the chocolate chip flavor. It’s similar to what I do with my decadent chocolate buttercream recipe.
Now let’s talk about the chocolate chips. I use chocolate chips because they are easy to measure. If you’d rather use a chopped baking chocolate bar or couverture baking chocolate wafers, go for it. I’ve used all three options and had great results.
Milk chocolate will give you the sweetest hot cocoa and that throwback “what I drank as a kid” flavor. Semisweet chocolate chips still give that classic flavor, but with a little less sweetness, which means more room for marshmallows. Bittersweet and dark chocolate will give you the deepest cocoa flavor and temper the sweetness level.
Personally, I like to mix dark and semisweet for a deep cocoa flavor that’s still got enough “classic” hot chocolate flavor that the littles love it too. I’ve also been known to gather all my bags of chocolate chips in different varieties (milk, bittersweet, dark, semisweet, white) that have just a little left in the bag, and dump all of them into the slow cooker. You really can’t go wrong here!
Vanilla extract – This one isn’t a must, I suppose, but a little vanilla extract does add to the flavor profile. It helps bring out the flavor of the chocolate. In fact, if you look at the ingredients on some brands of chocolate chips, vanilla is in there. This acts like coffee in chocolate cake.
Salt – Wait, what? Yes! Just a little pinch of salt makes a huge difference in this recipe! The salt, like the vanilla help not only bring out the cocoa flavor in the creamy slow cooker hot chocolate, but keeps the sweetness levels in check. A pinch, about 1/8 teaspoon, really isn’t a lot when split over the recipe, but it makes the difference between “really good” and “phenomenal”.
How to serve hot chocolate?
Once your hot cocoa is ready, give it a quick whisk to make sure everything is smooth (especially if you used chocolate chips), and then just leave your crock pot on the “warm” setting.
I place a soup ladle on a dish next to the slow cooker and some mugs. Then everyone can serve themselves. Be sure to help any children though. This isn’t easy for kids to serve themselves.
Be sure to keep your favorite hot cocoa toppings nearby. While this is delicious on its own, adding topping is just fun! Classics include mini marshmallows, big homemade vanilla marshmallows, caramel sauce, cinnamon, peppermint sticks, chocolate curls, or whipped cream. I recommend using my easy stabilized whipped cream recipe since it won’t fall flat quickly. Just keep the bowl or piping bag in the fridge until serving time.
If you have any leftovers, transfer to a pitcher, mason jar, or covered mug, and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat slowly in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat and enjoy!
What if I don’t have a slow cooker?
Bless you for reading this far, and I’m so glad to have good news for you! You can absolutely make this recipe without a slow cooker. Just place all your hot chocolate ingredients in a large enough pot and set over medium-low heat. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Remove the pot from the heat and serve!
You won’t have the ability to be hands-off during the 5-10 minute cooking process, but the final results are worthwhile! If you’d like to keep the cocoa warm for a little bit, transfer it to an insulated carafe to stay warm.
I hope you love this recipe darlings! Stay cozy!
Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
- 6 cups milk (see notes)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 8 ounces chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Whipped cream
- chocolate shavings
- peppermint sticks
- cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon
- Place all the hot chocolate ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover.
- Set the slow cooker to low for 4-5 hours or high for 3-4 hours. If you have the opportunity, give the hot cocoa a stir every hour or so to encourage even melting.
- When the cook time is up and the slow cooker has switched to the "keep warm" setting, stir the cocoa one more time to make sure all the chocolate has melted.
- Serve the hot cocoa with your favorite toppings.
- If you have any leftovers, transfer to another container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. You can reheat what you'd like on-demand using the microwave or a saucepan set over low heat. Enjoy your creamy, rich, homemade hot cocoa!
- Whole milk will give you a very rich hot chocolate, almost like a drinking ganache. We typically use low-fat milk and no one notices the swap!
- The exact chocolate mix is up to you. You may use chocolate chips, chopped chocolate bars, or baking chocolate wafers. Because of the slow cooking time, all melt beautifully.
- If you don't have heavy cream, you can substitute with an equal amount of milk, or half-and-half.
- You can make a single batch of this recipe in a 3 or 5-quart slow cooker or an Instant Pot using the slow cooker setting. If you'd like to double the recipe, you'll need the 6-quart slow cooker. In the video, I doubled the recipe for an upcoming event, and as you can see, it was full!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 448Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 172mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 2gSugar: 50gProtein: 11g
These nutrition values are estimates. Exact values will vary depending on the ingredients, brands, and quantities used.