Thick hot chocolate Italian style

Hot chocolate in Italy is a beloved winter beverage. What makes Italian hot chocolate special is the fact that it’s thick. Much thicker than most hot chocolates you find elsewhere in the world. If you want to try a new hot chocolate recipe this winter, here’s how to make thick hot chocolate – Italian style.

Hot chocolate in Italy is serious business. As serious as coffee, I’d dare to say. Every café has it on the menu – it’s called cioccolata calda – and it’s always thick. Even instant hot chocolate that you get at the grocery store, the one from a bag. You make it at home and it’s lusciously thick. Italian hot chocolate is always thick.

The level of thickness may vary, generally it is runny enough to drink. But even so, I always prefer to eat it with a spoon. Some Italian hot chocolates are almost pudding-like and the use of a spoon is a necessity. But never so thick that the spoon will stand in it. Never, chocolate is still classified as a beverage, after all.

Thick chocolate in a fine china mug.

How to make thick hot chocolate

To make Italian hot chocolate you need to add a thickening agent to the chocolate when you are making it. The most common would be cornstarch or potato starch. Then you bring the mixture to a boil and the thickener will do its job delivering a lovely texture.

Many hot chocolate recipes use cocoa powder as main flavouring. I like to use actual chocolate. It adds to the thick texture. I also use a mix of milk and cream, again for both flavour and texture. Although the addition of starch would thicken even a simple cocoa and milk base, in my world the richer the base the better.

Italian hot chocolate topped with whipped cream or crushed cookies.

Italian hot chocolate recipe

To make this delightful chocolate drink you just need a small saucepan, measuring cups and spoons (or a kitchen scale) and a hand whisk. Here’s the ingredient list:

  • Dark chocolate (50% cocoa or more)
  • Milk
  • Cream (30% fat)
  • Brown sugar
  • Cornstarch (or potato starch)
  • Vanilla extract

A quick explanation of the method follows. Please refer to the recipe card below for exact quantities.

Thick hot chocolate with crushed amaretti cookies on top.

  • Combine part of the milk with the cream and sugar in a saucepan. Set on medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • In a small bowl aside, combine the rest of the milk with the cornstarch and stir to dissolve.
  • When the mixture has warmed up lower the heat to low. Add the chocolate (chopped, or chips) and lightly whisk to help the chocolate melt.
  • When the mixture is homogeneous, pour in the vanilla extract and the cornstarch mixture. Increase the heat to medium and keep whisking until the mixture reaches boiling temperature and thickens.

Two cups of hot chocolate on a dark table.

Serving suggestions

Hot chocolate in Italy often comes two ways: plain or with whipped cream. I’ve always preferred having it with the cream. Cream contrasts with the sweetness of the chocolate, giving it a very delicate flavour.

Marshmallows are not a common topping for hot chocolate in Italy. Some cafés have caught up with the trend and may keep them for customers who ask, especially in more touristy cities. But they never come as a standard.

Cookies are a lovely side to chocolate. Nothing beats dipping a cookie in this glorious thick goodness. I like to top my chocolate with crushed cookies, too. To up the Italian factor here I have served my thick hot chocolate with crushed amaretti. The one topped with cream just got a dusting of cocoa powder, but whipped cream and crushed amaretti sound like a delicious idea, too!

Overhead view of chocolate beverage and cookies.

Can I make this ahead?

Surprisingly, this chocolate drink works very well as a make-ahead recipe. Being basically a liquid chocolate ganache, this drink hardens as it cools. If you place it in the fridge, it will harden even more. But place it on a source of heat and it will magically revert to its creamy texture.

If you have a microwave oven I would recommend to portion it out into the serving cups that you will use, cover with cling film and store in the fridge. Then you can directly proceed to microwave the chocolate when you want to serve it. I recommend to use a lower wattage power and stir from time to time to distribute the heat.

If you don’t have a microvawe, keep it in the saucepan, cover with the lid and store in the fridge. When you want to serve it, reheat it on low heat, stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. You can store this chocolate for up to 4 days in the fridge. For best results add any toppings just before serving.

Thick hot chocolate with whipped cream and cocoa powder.

Pair this thick hot chocolate with some classic vanilla butter biscuits, semisweet cardamom buns or top it with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce for the ultimate afternoon treat!

Did you ever try Italian thick hot chocolate? Let me know in the comments!

5 from 9 votes
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Thick hot chocolate

Italian hot chocolate: a delicious thick chocolate beverage made with dark chocolate, cream and cornstarch. Top it with cream and enjoy it by the spoonfuls!

Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword cioccolata calda, italian chocolate, thick hot chocolate
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 2 people
Calories 834 kcal
Author Eva | Electric Blue Food

Ingredients

  • 330 ml milk divided
  • 250 ml cream 30% fat
  • 100 g dark chocolate 50% chopped, or chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine 250 ml milk (1 cup) with the cream and sugar in a saucepan. Set on medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.

  2. In a small bowl aside, combine the rest of the milk with the cornstarch and stir to dissolve.

  3. Lower the heat to low. Add the chocolate and lightly whisk to melt.

  4. When the mixture is homogeneous, pour in the vanilla extract and the cornstarch mixture. Increase the heat to medium and keep whisking until the mixture reaches boiling temperature and thickens.

Recipe Notes

Serve with your favourite topping. Classic Italian hot chocolate is served with whipped cream.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, microwave on low or set on low heat and stir to prevent burning.

Nutrition Facts
Thick hot chocolate
Amount Per Serving
Calories 834 Calories from Fat 603
% Daily Value*
Fat 67g103%
Saturated Fat 46g288%
Cholesterol 188mg63%
Sodium 173mg8%
Potassium 628mg18%
Carbohydrates 45g15%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 29g32%
Protein 12g24%
Vitamin A 2105IU42%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 419mg42%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated with new pictures and a recipe card in December 2020.

Italian style thick hot chocolate. A delicious winter drink to enjoy with whipped cream or your favourite topping. Italian hot chooclate has a lovely creamy texture perfect to eat with a spoon!

 

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28 Comments

  1. Zara February 8, 2018 at 20:32

    OH my goodness, this looks like the most delicious thing ever! Have to try this…LOVE Italian hot chocolate.

    Reply
    1. Eva February 9, 2018 at 19:43

      Thank you! As much as I love all kinds of hot chocolate I think that the way it’s made in Italy is the best! Give it a try and enjoy!!

      Reply
  2. Jorge April 12, 2018 at 06:31

    I love hot chocolate more than all the other people in this world! It made me want to make one now. Too bad I do not have the ingredients … But I’ll buy tomorrow!

    Reply
    1. Eva April 12, 2018 at 19:46

      I know the feeling, chocolate is awesome! I hope you enjoy it!

      Reply
  3. Lori | The Kitchen Whisperer December 14, 2020 at 21:17

    5 stars
    I’m in LOVE! This is pure bliss on a spoon! This looks so decadent and luxurious! Almost dessert-ish! I cannot wait to make this for the family this weekend!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 17, 2020 at 22:55

      Hi Lori! I’m happy to hear this, and you are definitely right: this leans more towards dessert than just hot drink!

      Reply
  4. Gloria December 14, 2020 at 21:40

    5 stars
    Oh man, does this look delicious or what? The cold weather is starting tomorrow. I know this would warm things up in a hurry. Perfect for sitting beside the fire with a good book.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 17, 2020 at 22:56

      Hi Gloria! Oh yes a cup of this, a good book and the fireplace is definitely a magical combination!

      Reply
  5. Kathryn Donangelo December 15, 2020 at 17:39

    5 stars
    Hot chocolate is a must during the winter and this recipe is so good! Love all of the flavors and the thickness makes this cocoa extra rich and delicious. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 17, 2020 at 22:56

      Thank you Kathryn! Glad to read that you appreciated the texture of this drink!

      Reply
  6. Linda December 16, 2020 at 18:26

    5 stars
    OMG! I am ready to take a nose dive into that cup of chocolate! I’ve never seen cocoa that thick but it sounds divine. I can’t wait to give it a try.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 17, 2020 at 22:57

      Hi Linda! Thick hot chocolate definitely needs to be tried once in a lifetime. The texture adds so much! Hope you’ll love it!

      Reply
  7. Denise December 17, 2020 at 02:11

    5 stars
    Wow, this thick Hot Chocolate looks decadent and delicious! Especially with that dollop of whipped cream. I can’t wait to try this.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 17, 2020 at 22:57

      Thank you Denise. If you are a whipped cream fan like I am you’ll sure love that finishing touch.

      Reply
  8. Marta December 18, 2020 at 05:05

    5 stars
    This was one of my favorite drinks to order at the trattorias when we lived in Europe. Paired with some cannoli… Heavenly! Thanks for helping me take a stroll down memory lane!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 19, 2020 at 11:26

      Aww I’m happy this brought back good memories, Marta!

      Reply
  9. Elaine December 21, 2020 at 00:59

    5 stars
    The perfect recipe for this time of the year. I was looking to experiment with a new hot chocolate recipe and so glad to have stumbled upon yours!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 21, 2020 at 17:36

      Thank you Elaine! Hope it will not disappoint.

      Reply
  10. Jenny December 21, 2020 at 01:22

    5 stars
    This chocolate is like chocolate pudding heaven, SO good and decadent! I loved it, and my husband keeps asking when I will make some again. Such a hit! Thanks so much for this amazing recipe.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 21, 2020 at 17:34

      Thank you Jenny! Glad to hear that!

      Reply
  11. Veronika Sykorova December 21, 2020 at 09:28

    This looks amazing! I love drinking chocolate, so much better than regular thin hot chocolate!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 21, 2020 at 17:34

      Thank you Veronika!

      Reply
  12. Jo December 21, 2020 at 11:10

    5 stars
    We have been devoring hot chocolate atleast twice a week off late. It’s time to try this rich delicious Italian version of hot chocolate next. Looks very inviting.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 21, 2020 at 17:33

      Hi Jo! Hope it will not disappoint!

      Reply
  13. Melanie C December 22, 2020 at 04:16

    This sounds so amazing. I always end up making my hot chocolate more on the rich side… so I bet this will really kick it up a notch! Have to make it this weekend!!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 22, 2020 at 10:34

      Hi Melanie! If you like a rich chocolate I’m sure you will appreciate the texture of Italian hot chocolate.

      Reply

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