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Italian Hot Chocolate

With this Italian Hot Chocolate recipe, you’ll learn to make the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had!

It’s smooth, thick and decadent but so easy to make a home in just 10 minutes. Plus using non wheaten cornflour means you’ve got a gluten free indulgence.

Italian Hot Chocolate being poured from a jug into a cup.
So thick and rich – almost pudding-like!

Italian hot chocolate (known as cioccolata calda) is certainly very different from regular hot chocolate in a very good way! This is a thick, almost pudding-like drink that is enjoyed in bars all over Italy. It’s more like a dessert than a drink. At home, most people use hot chocolate sachets.

During a trip to Italy, on a cold day in a house tucked up in the hills near Turin, our cousins made a some using the sachets. Later, we enjoyed ordering this thick hot chocolate in Italian bars as an alternative to coffee.

Italian Hot Chocolate pairs so well with maritozzi—Italian cream buns! Yes, they’re totally indulgent but totally Italian! But if you’re still looking for a coffee boost, then serve a cup of this hot chocolate with a generous wedge of Cappuccino Cake.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Great taste – This recipe has a superior flavor than many other recipes because it uses real chocolate and not cocoa powder. It tastes decadent, rich and luxurious.
  • Thick and Creamy – Italian Hot Chocolate is thicker than traditional hot chocolate. This is because it’s thickened with corn starch which gives it a luscious, velvety texture. It has an almost pudding-like texture unlike thinner hot chocolates you may have had elsewhere.
  • Easy – Despite its decadent taste, this recipe is super easy to make. Using just 4 simple ingredients, this delicious drink will take less than 15 minutes of your time.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

Ingredient for this recipe as in the recipe card.

On my return to home, we were straight into winter so I really wanted a cup of cioccolata calda. I came across this recipe and decided to try my own version of it.

  • Chocolate – I prefer dark chocolate with 70% cacao but substitute milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate.
  • Milk – whole dairy milk is great but this will still be delicious using 2% milk. 
  • Sugar – granulated white sugar is the more common choice but 
  • Corn starch – Italian style hot chocolate is thickened with corn starch also known as cornflour in some countries. 

Instructions

Blocks of chocolate partly floating in a saucepan of milk.

Place the chocolate and 1 cup of milk into a small saucepan and melt the chocolate over low heat.

Adding a spoonful of sugar to chocolate mixture.

When the chocolate has melted add granulated sugar.

Stirring white liquid in a small bowl with a teaspoon.

In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ½ cup of milk and the corn starch.

Adding white liquid to chocolate mixture.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the corn starch mixture. Return the saucepan to medium heat and stir until the mixture thickens.

Italian style hot chocolate shouldn’t be too sweet. However, taste before serving and adjust the sugar if desired.

Serve in small cups with a spoon for scooping up this thick, rich, pudding-like drink.

Marcellina’s Hint: Whisk the corn starch mixture before adding to the hot chocolate milk. Corn starch has a tendency to sink to the bottom when mixed with water.

Substitutions

  • Chocolate – instead of dark chocolate use 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • Milk – Non-dairy or plant-based milks are also suitable for this cioccolata calda recipe.
  • Sugar – brown or raw sugar would work fine.

Variations

  • Peppermint Hot Chocolate – add ⅛ teaspoon of peppermint extract for a festive, minty hot chocolate.
  • Vanilla Hot Chocolate – substitute white chocolate for the dark chocolate and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
  • Boozy Hot Chocolate – add a splash of your favorite holiday booze like Amaretto, rum, or Frangelico liqueur.

Equipment

Using a wire whisk is essential to keep this hot chocolate smooth and lump free!

Storage

Leftover hot chocolate can be stored in the fridge for a day or two. Reheat it gently in a saucepan over low heat.

Tips for Success

Dark creamy chocolate mixture being poured into a cup with two other cups filled to the side.
  1. Use real chocolate, not cocoa, and 70% cocoa or higher is best. Be sure to use quality chocolate. Of course, if you prefer a milder taste, use chocolate with 60% cocoa or less.
  2. I like to use whole milk, but you can use reduce fat milk if you prefer.
  3. There is just a little bit of sugar in this rich hot chocolate recipe because it’s not meant to be very sweet. Add more if you like sweetness.
  4. Cornstarch thickens this recipe. Cornstarch is also known as corn flour. Don’t confuse it with corn flour, which is a very finely ground corn meal.

FAQ

What is the difference between American hot chocolate and Italian hot chocolate?

American hot chocolate is usually thinner and milkier while Italian Hot Chocolate is thicker and creamier. Often the Italian version is thickened with corn starch and, like mine, uses real chocolate not cocoa powder.

Does Italy have hot chocolate?

Yes, Italy does have hot chocolate. To order it, ask for “cioccolata calda”. Don’t expect the thin version that you might be used to at home. In Italy, as in other European countries like Spain and France, what you get will be thick and nowhere near as sweet as what you may be used to.

Why is Italian hot chocolate so good?

It’s so very good because it’s made with less milk and less sugar. It’s thick and rich, almost like a melted chocolate bar pudding. What I love is that it’s available anywhere in Italy however only during the cooler months. You won’t find hot chocolate in Italy in summer.

Serving suggestions

A spoonful of thick chocolate mixture held above a cupful of the mixture.

While I think that there really isn’t anything you need to add to this drink, a topping of whipped cream is how it’s often served in Italy. However, a biscotto or cookie on the side for dunking is certainly welcome! My Coffee Biscotti or pizzelle would be perfectly indulgent. Or keep it gluten free with these Almond Flour Peanut Butter Cookies.

Italian Hot Chocolate is dark, rich, and indulgent, ideal for cold days on the sofa, tucked up with a blanket and some Almond Flour Cookies. Head to the kitchen now to make this cioccolata calda! If you are looking for a more adult drink, be sure to try my delicious Baileys Hot Chocolate as well!

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Italian Hot Chocolate being poured from a jug into a cup.

Italian Hot Chocolate Recipe

Indulge in the ultimate cup of hot chocolate with this easy-to-make Italian recipe! Crafted with smooth, decadent dark chocolate and a touch of corn starch for a delightful gluten-free treat, this rich and creamy beverage is ready in just 10 minutes.
5 from 37 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings:4 servings
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup (4oz/115 grams) dark bittersweet chocolate (coarsely chopped) See Note 1 and 2
  • 1 ½ cups (350ml) whole milk See Note 2
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar See Note 3
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch See Note 4

Instructions

  • Into a small saucepan place the chocolate and 1 cup of milk.
  • Place over low heat and allow the chocolate to melt stirring from time to time.
  • Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  • In a small bowl, put the remaining ½ cup of milk and the corn starch. Whisk to combine, ensuring all the lumps are dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the corn starch mixture. Be sure that the corn starch is still mixed through the milk as it has a tendency to settle to the bottom so give it a little stir before adding to the chocolate milk mixture.
  • Return the saucepan to a low to medium heat and stir until the mixture thickens. Some bubbles will start to form around the edges and it will start to come to a simmer. However you don’t need to let it come to a boil it will thicken anyway.
  • Taste for sweetness. Add more sugar if you prefer. Or serve with sugar so that each can add sugar to their liking.
  • Pour into small cups or espresso cups to serve with a spoon on the side for scooping.

Notes

  1. I prefer to use chocolate with 70% cocoa however if you like a sweeter hot chocolate use milk chocolate or even white chocolate. For a mild chocolate taste, use chocolate with 60% cocoa or less.
  2. Chopping the chocolate helps it dissolve faster.
  3. Use 2% milk, or whole milk for a richer taste.
  4. This recipe is not very sweet, so only a little sugar is added. Adjust to your preference.
  5. Corn starch (also known as cornflour in some countries) thickens this hot chocolate. Don’t confuse it with corn flour, which is finely ground cornmeal.
Variations 
  • For added flavor, try including a few drops of vanilla, peppermint oil or a splash of rum or your favourite liqueur like Amaretto.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 255kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 45mg | Potassium: 326mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 148IU | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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5 from 37 votes (30 ratings without comment)

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21 Comments

  1. It’s not quite hot chocolate weather here in the northern hemisphere, but this post had me hankering for some anyway! Nothing can beat it on a chilly autumn or winter afternoon. Never done it but I do like the idea of a few drops of rum and definitely just a little sugar. The slight bitterness of pure chocolate is part of the delight!

    1. Ooooh, I love the idea of a couple of drops of rum in this hot chocolate. Definitly going to try that before our winter in the southern hemisphere ends!

  2. 5 stars
    This looks so good, it brings back many very happy memories of holidays and drinking a lot of this hot chocolate as dessert! 🙂

      1. I honestly can’t thank you enough Marcellina! I enjoyed this about 10 years ago at cafes throughout Serbia, served with and without a sweet dessert cream we call šlag. Back then nobody could tell me how to easily make it back home in Australia!
        Tucked away safely in my memory bank until now!

        You’re a gem!!!! 💗💗💗

        1. Wow, Branka! That’s great! I’m so thrilled to be able to share this with you. I adored it in Italy and love making it at home too. The dessert cream sounds like a wonderful addition! Thanks for your lovely comment. Marcellina xx

  3. 5 stars
    I remember having this type of hot chocolate in Italy a few years ago – so thick and delicious, it’s almost like a chocolate pudding. Yum!!

  4. Great photos, Marcelina! Your hot chocolate looks rich like chocolate pudding and could even be served as a dessert!

  5. 5 stars
    Marcellina, this Italian hot chocolate looks irresistible! Love how it’s so thick and dreamy! That would really hit the spot!

  6. 5 stars
    I want a cup of this right now – so delicious 🙂 Can’t wait to enjoy soon!

  7. Looks fantastic! Makes me want a.) to make it, and b.) to get on a plane to Italy!

  8. 5 stars
    It’s still too warm out here for hot chocolate but that silky smooth texture is seriously making me crave for a cup right now.