Fall Is in the Mix
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We Tried 11 Hot Cocoa Mixes and This is the Best

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Fall Is in the Mix
fcafotodigital/istockphoto

Warm Up In a Sweet Way

It's National Hot Chocolate Day. That means it's the perfect excuse to get snuggly and warm with a cup of cocoa. Which cocoa to choose? There are a lot of brands out there — so we decided to research this very question. The winner may surprise you.


Related: We Tried 13 Kinds of Chocolate and These Are the Best

Swiss Miss with Marshmallows
Amazon

Most Reliable


Swiss Miss with Marshmallows


Available from Amazon, Walmart, and Target.
Price: $5 for 30 at time of publishing


Swiss Miss is the go-to brand for most people, and there's a reason for that. Even after all this time, it doesn't just taste like chocolate syrup; we're talking about a very distinct sweet, malty, and chocolatey taste. The marshmallows are tragically small, but they are very welcome.

Signature Select Rich Milk Chocolate
Safeway

Best for the Price


Signature Select Rich Milk Chocolate


Available from Safeway and Instacart.
Price: $3 at time of publishing


This is exactly what you'd expect: a grocery store knockoff of Swiss Miss. It definitely doesn't taste as good as Swiss Miss, but at a dollar cheaper (this will run you $2.99 at Safeway), it's a steal. Truly not bad, though each package is strangely hard to open, and will undoubtedly leave your kitchen counter with a dusting of cocoa mix.

Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Hot Cocoa
Instacart

Most Overpriced


Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce


Available from Instacart.
Price: $8 at time of publishing


This is a $7.99 box of overly thick chocolate powder packets that taste like somebody dumped some cinnamon into them but didn't mix them up. How it's possible that only some of the sips taste like cinnamon and others don't, we have no idea; it's truly a marvel of modern science. Cinnamon definitely works in hot chocolate, but this just isn't worth the money.


Related: 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Starbucks

Droste Cocoa Powder
Amazon

Best Box to Read Thoroughly Before Purchasing


Droste


Available from Amazon, Instacart, and Cost Plus World Market.
Price: $17 for 3 pack at time of publishing


Droste hot cocoa is actually not hot cocoa at all, but rather pure cacao powder that was for some reason placed on the shelf in the hot cocoa section of the Albertson's where we bought it. We're not quitters though, so we mixed it with sugar and tried to create a hot cocoa mix out of it. It was still horribly bitter and essentially undrinkable. This one's on us.

Nestle Hot Cocoa Mini Marshmallows Mix
Amazon

Best Hot Cocoa to Throw Directly Into the Trash


Nestlé with Marshmallows


Available from Amazon and Instacart.
Price: $23 for pack of 12 at time of publishing


This was unquestionably the worst hot chocolate we had. If you stuck some NesQuik in the microwave and threw some deconstructed bits of Lucky Charms marshmallows on top, you'd have an identical match, flavor-wise. We're not sure what it is with the Nestlé mix, but it has a weird aftertaste that you just can't shake. Even at 16 cents a packet, it's not worth it.

O Organics Hot Cocoa Mix
Safeway

Best Hot Cocoa to Splurge On


O Organics


Available from Safeway and Instacart.
Price: $4 at time of publishing


You'll spend almost $6 on this, but the container is big enough to warrant it. The flavor is undeniably solid, and tastes like something you might get at a cafe. It's extremely chocolatey in a good way; even more chocolatey, in fact, than the Ghirardelli mix.

Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa
Walmart

Biggest Flavor Fail


Starbucks Salted Caramel


Available from Walmart, Amazon, and Instacart.
Price: $5 at time of publishing


This creature of Starbucks' design is intended to be salted caramel-flavored, but it truly doesn't taste any different. We had three different cups. No dice. Unless you enjoy an $11 box of hot chocolate packets that don't actually taste like salted caramel, look elsewhere.

Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa Envelopes, Rich Chocolate
Amazon

Biggest Let Down


Ghirardelli


Available from Amazon, Walmart, and Instacart.
Price: $25 for a pack of 15 at time of publishing


You'd expect a hot cocoa mix from a company like Ghirardelli to display the deepest, boldest, chocolate-iest flavors. While the Ghirardelli mix is decently tasty, it's just not what we expected. It should have been so much more powerful.

Starbucks Classic Hot Cocoa Mix
Amazon

Best Hot Cocoa for Chocoholics


Starbucks Classic


Available from Amazon and Instacart.
Price: $27 for 3 pack at time of publishing


If the Ghirardelli mix let you down, look to classic Starbucks flavor. This was easily the richest, most decadent chocolate flavor of any brand that we tried. It tastes like a big cup of melted dark chocolate — we filled our mugs to the brim with milk, and the stuff was still insanely thick. This guy right here is for the true chocolate lover.

Silly Cow Farms Chocolate Chocolate
Amazon

Best Overall Hot Cocoa


Silly Cow Farms Chocolate Chocolate


Available from Amazon and Instacart.
Price: $40 for 4 pack at time of publishing


What a truly pleasant experience this was, from start to finish. It's sold, first and foremost, in a very pleasant glass bottle, offering you a look at exactly what product you're getting. The mix itself is stellar — full-flavor taste without being too rich, and not at all clumpy when you mix it up. These geniuses have the foresight to tell you to use milk only, and don't even give you the option for water. After a dizzying array of mediocre mixes, Sillycow was a real breath of fresh air.