The Ultimate Hot Chocolate (paleo, vegan, dairy-free options)

Made with just three ingredients, this ridiculously thick, creamy and rich hot chocolate is truly the ultimate hot chocolate. Looking for vegan, dairy-free or paleo hot chocolate? Check out the recipes notes at the bottom!

The Ultimate Hot Chocolate {paleo, vegan, dairy-free options}

Last week, Joan of Chocolate, Chocolate and More went to sleep, complaining of stomach pain, and didn’t wake up. The autopsy revealed that Joan had had a heart attack. She left behind three children and a food blogging community who absolutely loved her.

I wasn’t close with Joan but I so appreciated her generosity. After she shared a few of my recipes on her Facebook page and I saw what a huge effect it had had on my traffic, I actually asked her if I could pay her to share more of my recipes (embarrassing, but true!) Her response?

“Sweetie, I love sharing from other bloggers, digging into archives and finding those fabulous forgotten about posts and my fans love them too. I don’t take payment for sharing. It’s just part of my giving back to the blogging community.”
Joan of Chocolate, Chocolate and More
Photo by Shanna of Pineapple & Coconut

Anytime she shared a recipe on Facebook that wasn’t on her own blog, she basically gifted that blogger with a ton of traffic. Traffic (and therefore income) that she would have received herself if she would have posted a recipe of hers instead. I always thought that was so awesome.

I wanted to make the most decadent and chocolaty thing I could think of in Joan’s honor – this ultimate hot chocolate. Four years ago, I found this thick and rich homemade hot cocoa recipe on Sing For Your Supper.

If you go and read the comments on that post, you’ll see five very enthusiastic comments from me. I was obsessed with the stuff. Then I stopped making it because I have no self-control and consuming almost 2/3 cup of chocolate (as I’d often drink from my husband’s share) in one evening wasn’t the best habit.

The recipe basically consists of evaporated milk and chocolate (though I included a paleo, vegan, and dairy-free option in the recipe notes). That’s it.

The Ultimate Hot Chocolate {paleo, vegan, dairy-free options}

Joan liked quick and simple and I’m sure she didn’t mind decadent. I thought I’d try adding some whipped cream to make it extra special but after going through a full cup of cream, trying to pipe it on just the right way, I decided Joan wouldn’t have cared. So I stopped.

And as I was going through her recipe archive the other day, I saw that Kahlua was her booze of choice. So I made the hot chocolate again and added Kahlua. I never got to meet Joan but I’m pretty sure she would have loved this hot chocolate.

I bet should would have even loved the paleo hot chocolate version! To make this hot chocolate paleo and vegan, just use coconut milk in place of the evaporated milk. So easy! And stil super decadent.

Joan was only 49 years old and seemed to be in good health. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States and the symptoms of heart attacks are different in women than in men. Please take a moment to read and share this article about heart attack symptoms in women.

The Ultimate Hot Chocolate (paleo, vegan, dairy-free options)

Rated 5.0 by 4 readers
The Ultimate Hot Chocolate (paleo, vegan, dairy-free options)
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Ready in:
  • Yield: 2 cups

Please see the notes at the bottom for the vegan / paleo version!


  • 1 12-ounce (340-gram) can evaporated milk (that's 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup (113 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional add-ins: 1-2 tablespoons Kahlua (or another liqueur such as Frangelico or Amaretto) and / or 1/2-1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • milk, optional – to thin it down a bit


  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the evaporated milk and chocolate. Continue stirring until melted – about 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve. If it's too rich and thick, add milk to taste. This can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.


  • For a paleo, vegan and dairy-free version - you can make this with coconut milk. If you use dark chocolate, you can add coconut sugar or whatever sweetener you'd like. I've made this twice with coconut milk and with one brand, you could taste the coconut flavor. With the other brand, you couldn't. Make sure to use vegan / paleo-friendly chocolate.

Adapted from thick and rich homemade hot cocoa on Sing For Your Supper

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34 comments on “The Ultimate Hot Chocolate (paleo, vegan, dairy-free options)” — Add one!

  • Gill
    February 1, 2018 @ 11:18 pm

    I’m a hot chocolate addict from the UK. I have never heard of Joan or Kahlua, but I loved your story so had to try the ultimate hot choc as a tribute to Joan, who was obviously much loved. My favourite tipple is Baillies Irish Cream Liqueur, so I added a splash of this……….pure heaven!!! This will be my ‘go to’ night cap from now on.

    • Erin replies to Gill
      February 3, 2018 @ 9:17 pm

      I’ve also made this with Baileys and love it! So delicious. :) I’m so happy that you gave it a try and will be making it again. Kahlua is coffee-flavored liqueur and is super tasty – especially in this hot chocolate. Thanks for your nice comment and feedback!

  • Sunshine Stouffer says
    May 12, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

    Hi, which brand of coconut milk did you use, and if you don’t remember, is there any in particular you would recommend that don’t have a coconut-y taste? The only stuff I use coconut milk in is really strong (like curry) and I don’t use it often so I wouldn’t know.

    • Erin replies to Sunshine Stouffer
      May 12, 2016 @ 9:52 pm

      Hello! I unfortunately live in Germany so my recommendations aren’t of any help. I’ve tried about a dozen brands of coconut milk and they all taste coconut-y. I think they all do! You can taste the coconut a bit in this hot chocolate so I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like the taste of coconut.

  • Meg @ With Salt and Wit
    November 4, 2015 @ 6:21 pm

    this is such a heart-filled post, Erin! So lovely. I love our blogging community for this exact reason. Giving with not asking for anything in return.

    This hot chocolate? Perfect for my out of control sugar cravings I have going on!

  • JulieD says
    November 1, 2015 @ 6:17 pm

    Joan was such a great person! She is missed…wonderful that you paid tribute to her. This hot chocolate…looks amazing, Erin! <3 xoxo

  • Heidi @ Food Doodles says
    October 30, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

    So sad to hear about Joan! I didn’t know her at all but I’ve been reading so many amazing things about her :)

    Your hot chocolate looks incredible!

  • Heather | All Roads Lead to the Kitchen says
    October 30, 2015 @ 3:19 am

    This looks so incredibly thick, rich, and delicious. I’d say it’s the perfect tribute.

  • Becky Hardin | The Cookie Rookie
    October 30, 2015 @ 2:28 am

    This looks amazing! Such a beautiful tribute to Joan!

  • Angie | Big Bear's Wife says
    October 30, 2015 @ 1:01 am

    I’m literally trying to convince my husband to go make this for me right now. I need it in my life! ps. I KNOW joan would have loved this!

  • Cate | Chez CateyLou says
    October 29, 2015 @ 9:39 pm

    what a lovely post for Joan – she sure was an amazing woman. This hot chocolate is the perfect treat to drink all winter long!

  • Ashlyn @ Belle of the Kitchen says
    October 29, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

    I would love to kick back with a big mug of this after the kids go to bed! And what a wonderful tribute recipe, to boot.

  • Kirsten/ComfortablyDomestic says
    October 29, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

    Your Joan story completely embodies her generous heart. Love it. She will definitely be missed. I’m sure that she would have adored this hot chocolate.

  • Renee - Kudos Kitchen says
    October 29, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

    I remember Joan shared two of my recipes and my stats went through the roof for several days. To say Joan had the golden touch is an understatement. So sad that she was taken so soon. She will be missed by everyone who knew her. This hot chocolate has Joan’s name written all over it. She would have loved it. It looks amazing!

  • Sarah Walker Caron (Sarah's Cucina Bella) says
    October 29, 2015 @ 11:57 am

    Wow, that sounds like an amazing cup of cocoa. And what a nice tribute to Joan. I appreciate that you’ve shared so much info about heart attacks in women — we should all know those signs.

  • heather @french press says
    October 29, 2015 @ 4:06 am

    this hot coco with Kahlua would be PERFECT for Joan! and man those days she shared are the BEST traffic days ever

  • Isabelle @ Crumb says
    October 29, 2015 @ 4:06 am

    Love this tribute to Joan. She really was so generous and supportive of other bloggers, especially when it came to sharing on Facebook. I affectionately called that crazy spike in traffic the “Joan Effect”.
    I think she’d have very much approved of adding a splash of Kahlua to this hot chocolate. After all, the only thing better than decadently creamy hot chocolate is decadently creamy hot chocolate with booze!

  • Kim Beaulieu says
    October 29, 2015 @ 3:02 am

    Don’t ever be embarrassed by that story. She loved helping others and seeing people get a boost in traffic. Made her as happy as the people she did it for. She would love this tribute. It’s just so sweet. And that hot chocolate is perfect.

  • Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts says
    October 29, 2015 @ 2:43 am

    Kindly referred to as “The Joan Effect” It was a real thing, and had crazy powers! Love when she shared something on her page. This hot chocolate looks insanely creamy, wish I had a cup!

  • Amy @ Amy's Healthy Baking says
    October 29, 2015 @ 2:21 am

    I never met Joan either, but I was always amazed by how much she gave to the food blogging community, whether through sharing other’s content on Facebook or Pinterest, answering questions in various Facebook groups, or sharing her insightful wisdom. I’m sure she would’ve been touched by this recipe. It looks so decadent, and I think you piped on the cream just beautifully!

  • Lora @cakeduchess says
    October 29, 2015 @ 2:08 am

    What an endearing story about Joan and how generous she was on her FB page and sharing. How I would love to enjoy a cup of this lovely hot chocolate right now with a good book. :)

  • Carrie @Frugal Foodie Mama says
    October 29, 2015 @ 1:52 am

    This hot chocolate looks so creamy and decadent! :) Joan would have LOVED this- especially with the addition of a little Kahlua. ;)

  • Kayle (The Cooking Actress)
    October 28, 2015 @ 11:22 pm

    Joan was seriously the most giving, wonderful person. She is going to be so terribly missed–but I know she would’ve loved all the support AND this decadent hot chocolate!

  • Lauren Kelly Nutrition says
    October 28, 2015 @ 10:45 pm

    I love what Joan said, she was so thoughtful and generous. I love this post and this amazing hot chocolate!

  • The Food Hunter says
    October 28, 2015 @ 10:45 pm

    this is a nice tribute to Joan

  • sue|theviewfromgreatisland says
    October 28, 2015 @ 10:19 pm

    Isn’t it funny that we both came up with Ultimate Hot Chocolates today? Your post is so great, I love that message from Joan, that just says it all…

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes says
    October 28, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to Joan. I never met her but she shared for me once on Facebook, and like you said, so much traffic! I felt like crying when I wrote her a thank you note. I love this hot chocolate and so would she!

  • Aimee @ ShugarySweets says
    October 28, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

    She had a generous kind heart!! This hot chocolate would be fantastic with Kahlua :)

  • Lauren @ Hall Nesting says
    October 28, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

    I didn’t know Joan but knew of her deep love of chocolate and this will definitely hit the spot at our house!

  • Mary says
    October 28, 2015 @ 3:25 pm

    Joan would’ve loved to be remembered this way. She also would’ve adored this hot chocolate. Her love and support for the food blogging community will be felt for years to come. She was one in a million.

  • Rachel @ Baked by Rachel says
    October 28, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

    I adore that you added chocolate chips to the top! Such a fun topping for a classic treat. Joan would have approved for sure!

  • Becca from says
    October 28, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

    My love for Joan runs hard and fast, and baby oh baby, so does my love for rich and creamy hot chocolate. This was a great choice for a recipe. Joan is smiling down upon us… and probably wishing you had added just a drop more booze. ;)

  • Kacey @ The Cookie Writer says
    October 28, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

    It is really wonderful all the support that is going around for Joan. This ultimate hot chocolate recipe is definitely chocolate-worthy, and true to anyone’s love of chocolate :)


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