My definition of hot chocolate was forever changed a little over a year ago while visiting Prague. Prague is known for a lot of things, but of those things in my opinion, their hot chocolate is the most life-changing. We drank it a least once a day while we were visiting and with each sip I remember thinking "oh my god, this must be straight up heavy cream mixed with a chocolate bar" because literally it was that thick, creamy, and rich. We're not talking some weak-ass american cocoa powder mixed into milk, or worse, water, with marshmallows so stale they barely constitute as food. This stuff was the real deal, and it put every hot chocolate I'd had beforehand to shame.
Obviously I knew we had to re-create it at home, so a couple weeks ago when I discovered that the hot chocolate pellets we'd taken home as a souvenir were looking a little worse for the wear, I knew we had to use them fast. So late one night while my husband was in the shower, I whipped it out. When I looked at the directions, and saw that it recommended over a cup of chocolate per half cup of whole milk, I figured that had to be a typo and thinking it'd be best to preserve this precious chocolate I used way less. When Nate got out of the shower and found out what I had done he was pissed and preceded to make his own following the instructions exactly, despite the massive amount of chocolate and small serving size. His was better. A lot better.
A couple days later he made us the remaining chocolate but confessed that he'd combined his whole milk and my almond milk together. I don't drink milk, for a lot of reasons, so I skeptically sipped it down, determined to make my own version, completely dairy free.
I knew I wanted to keep the high percentage of chocolate, but I wanted a creamier consistency than store-bought almond milk alone would give me. It needed cream. Coconut milk! Seriously, that stuff is magic. And because I wanted dairy-free chocolate that meant it had to be dark and seriously rich. So rich it became bitter. I wanted to avoid pouring sugar in, so I went for my favorite sweetener of choice- maple syrup. Perfection. The result is chocolatey. Super chocolatey. You absolutely cannot taste the coconut or the maple and are just left with the creaminess and sweetness they each provide. I've made this what feels like a dozen times this holiday season for vegans and milk drinkers alike and everyone loves it. And best of all, it tastes just like some brilliant person melted a chocolate bar in heavy cream, poured it in a mug and called it hot chocolate. Genius.
Creamiest Vegan Hot Chocolate
Makes 5 1/2 cups; Serves 4-6
3 cups almond milk
1 can full-fat coconut milk
7.5oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped (see notes)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp pure maple syrup
For the coconut whipped cream: (optional)
1 can coconut cream, refrigerated (I use the Trader Joes brand)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp powdered sugar
pinch of salt
cocoa powder for dusting (optional)
Heat almond milk and coconut milk in a medium saucepan, I used cast iron as it retains heat well for serving. Once the liquid comes to a full boil turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate. Continue to stir until completely melted, then add in vanilla, salt, and maple syrup to taste (see notes). Depending on how warm you like your hot chocolate, you may need to reheat slightly before serving.
To make the coconut whipped cream pour cream into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, if it's started to separate that's ok - it will incorporate again, and whip on medium speed for about two minutes until fluffy. Add in vanilla extract, sugar, and salt and whisk for another minute. Adjust to taste.
Pour about 1 cup of hot chocolate into each mug - this stuff is seriously thick so a little goes a long way. Top the hot chocolate with whipped cream and dust with cocoa powder before serving.
Notes: Contrary to what I'd previously thought, just because it's not milk chocolate doesn't mean it's vegan. So if you're wanting to keep this completely dairy-free, check those labels carefully. I ended up using Trader Joe's "Pound Plus" dark chocolate bar with 55% cocoa. If you go darker than that you will most likely need to up the amount of sweetener you use to combat the bitterness. I found 4 tablespoons of maple syrup made it just right, not sweet, but also not bitter. If you're into the super dark, bitter, more "european" chocolate flavor you could totally reduce the amount of sweetener as well.
You're more than welcome to put alcohol in it too! My dad had his with Kahlua and I'm sure bourbon would be great as well.
Served cold this stuff is a whole different beast. I've inevitably had extra a couple times so I pop it in the fridge. It's shockingly as good cold as it is hot.