Healthy, Rich Spiced Hot Chocolate (Paleo / Vegan / GF)

Is it really Christmas without hot chocolate?

I don’t think so. Hot chocolate is an absolute staple during the holiday season.

Thinking about all of the pre-made hot chocolate packets I used to guzzle down year after year for most of my life makes my stomach flip. I don’t even know what’s in those packets, but I know it’s not good. Definitely not real food. Probably gave me gut bugs.

Hot chocolate tastes best when it’s healthy. I promise. Aaaaand this recipe has a few little twists, because you know I couldn’t just post about your average hot chocolate. First of all, the key to getting the richest chocolate flavor and a thick texture is to A) use coconut milk and B) melt actual chocolate into the mixture. Plain old powder alone doesn’t totally do the trick.

Second, you gotta spice it up! Make it interesting. Some cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of pink salt is all you need to really take your hot chocolate up a notch.

I want to talk about the “healthy” thing for a sec. If there’s a healthy version of hot chocolate, this is it. Let’s break it down. First of all, let’s start with the chocolate itself. We’re using raw cacao powder as a base. Where do I even begin when it comes to praising cacao?

Even though cacao makes me kinda crazy (as we all know), it offers a ton of health benefits. First of all, cacao contains an extremely high amount of antioxidants. We’re talking twenty times the amount of antioxidants as blueberries. Raw cacao has been linked to improved memory, a stronger immune system, better moods, reduced heart disease, and increased energy. (I can certainly attest to that last one…) The positive mood effects are due to cacao’s anandamide and phenethylamine content – both are known to increase those happy feels. Cacao also increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, which makes you happier and helps to balance out hormones. You can also find flavanols in cacao, which are anti-inflammatory and protect your heart.

Ever heard the myth that you have to cut out chocolate if you want to lose weight? Well, it’s wrong. Cacao is actually linked to weight loss because it contains MAO inhibitors, which reduce one’s appetite. Don’t go overboard though.

Cacao also contains a ton of magnesium, which most people are deficient in. Magnesium reduces the risk of osteoporosis, decreases blood pressure, fights against fatigue, and really boosts your energy. Cacao has also been shown to actually help reduce insulin resistance, contrary to what you might assume when it comes to a sweet treat.

Cacao contains lots of healthy fats and fiber, which both help to keep you full and regulate your digestion. Good digestion is the key to overall health, IMO.

Basically, cacao is a total superfood. Told you healthy food is yummy!

What you need to be aware of, however, is the difference between cocoa and cacao. They are not the same thing! You can usually use them interchangeably in baking and cooking, although cacao can be a tad more bitter and might require some additional sweetener if you can’t handle the bitterness. However, when it comes to nutrient density, cacao is clearly #1. Cacao is raw, and its the purest form of chocolate. Cocoa, however, is a processed form of chocolate and usually contains added sugar. Because cocoa is heated at a higher temperature than cacao, a lot of the nutrients are removed. It still does retain some of its nutrients though, so don’t totally discount it. Cacao is just better. When picking a chocolate bar at the store, you always want to go with the highest percentage of cocoa to get the highest nutrient density and least amount of processing.

Even though I melted cocoa disks into this mixture, they’re 100% cocoa, so the only ingredients are cocoa beans and cocoa butter. A.K.A. as pure as cocoa gets. No added sugar. You can definitely make this recipe without the chocolate discs, but it will be a slightly thinner texture.

Also, I used Madecasse Chocolate Discs, 100% Cocoa. For some reason I can’t find a link to them online, but I see them every time I’m at Whole Foods.

Who’s ready for a yummy, healthy superfood holiday drink?!

Healthy, Rich Spiced Hot Chocolate (Paleo / Vegan / GF)

Serves: 1

Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 2-3 100% cocoa chocolate discs (3 if you want it thicker and richer, but it’s slightly more bitter. I used Madecasse Chocolate Discs, 100% Cocoa, from Whole Foods. Here’s something similar. Really, you could just melt any form of a 100% cocoa or cacao bar, or just the highest percentage you can find! Melting the solid is what creates the thickness.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • dash of pink Himalayan salt
  • Optional: Gluten-free / vegan marshmallows, coconut milk whipped cream

Instructions:

  1. Add the coconut milk and chocolate discs to a small saucepan on low heat. Allow the discs to melt for about a minute.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients into the saucepan and use a whisk to stir everything together until it is all dissolved.
  3. Top with gluten-free marshmallows and coconut milk whipped cream, if you want.
  4. Enjoy!

(Optional)

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight.
  2. The next day, flip the can upside down, open it, pour out the liquid (you can save it for something else), and put the coconut cream from the bottom of the can into your mixing bowl.
  3. Beat the coconut cream, maple syrup, and vanilla until combined.
  4. Place on top of warm beverage and enjoy!

What’s your favorite holiday drink?!