Peppermint Hot Chocolate (Starbucks Copycat)
This Starbucks-inspired peppermint hot chocolate recipe tastes like Christmas in a cup! Made with cocoa powder, real milk chocolate, peppermint extract, and your choice of milk. Or add a shot of espresso to make it a peppermint mocha! Sweet & creamy, robust & chocolaty, refreshingly minty—it’s the ultimate holiday hot cocoa.
What is Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate made of?
The Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate is made with steamed milk, mocha sauce, and peppermint syrup, with whipped cream and dark chocolate curls on top. It’s only available seasonally on their holiday menu, but you can enjoy it year-round by ordering a classic Starbucks hot chocolate with peppermint syrup added! Of course, the drink has plenty of sugar—but Starbucks’ syrups also contain additives like sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and “natural flavors.” As tasty as Starbucks can be, making your own peppermint hot cocoa at home lets you choose the ingredients, and it’s super simple to do.
Starbucks vs. Homemade Peppermint Hot Cocoa
- Ingredients & Additives. Unlike the Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate recipe, you don’t need any sugary flavor syrups to make your own at home. This DIY version uses cocoa powder, sugar, real chocolate, and peppermint extract. No preservatives or “natural flavors”—just real ingredients you recognize.
- Flavor. Thanks to those real ingredients, this homemade peppermint hot cocoa is even tastier and more flavorful than at Starbucks! It honestly tastes like a sippable Thin Mint cookie.
- Sugar Content. My intention here wasn’t to create a health-ified hot chocolate, so this is a sweet treat that contains sugar—but less sugar than at Starbucks. Made with 2% milk & whipped cream, a tall (12oz) Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate contains 41g of sugar, whereas this homemade recipe has only 33g of sugar. (Or as low as 21g when made with unsweetened almond milk.)
Does peppermint hot chocolate have caffeine?
This copycat Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate has around 7-10mg of caffeine, and the Starbucks version has 20mg of caffeine in a tall (12oz) drink. Although there’s no coffee or tea in it, cocoa powder and chocolate both contain small amounts of caffeine. It’s a relatively negligible amount—compared to the 75mg of caffeine in a single shot of espresso—but hot cocoa does contain some caffeine.
Copycat Starbucks Peppermint Hot Chocolate Ingredients
- Milk of Choice. I like to make my peppermint hot chocolate with 2% or whole milk because the rich, creamy texture of dairy milk adds so much to my enjoyment! Ultimately, you can use any milk you want, dairy or nondairy. Just know that using almond or oat milk won’t make this recipe totally dairy-free because it’s made with real chocolate.
- Cocoa Powder. Just 1 tsp of cocoa powder is enough robust, cocoa-y flavor here for me, but feel free to use 1½-2 tsp of cocoa powder if you like a richer flavor in your homemade hot cocoa.
- Sugar. Made with milk chocolate, just 1 Tbsp of sugar was plenty to sweeten this drink for me! Use more sugar if you want a sweeter drink, or if you use dark chocolate in this recipe.
- Salt. A dash of salt enhances and brightens all of the sweet flavors in this cozy beverage.
- Chocolate. I’ve made a tasty hot chocolate with Nutella before, but I think melting in some real chocolate makes the sweetest, creamiest, most satisfying cup of cocoa. I used Cadbury milk chocolate because it’s so buttery and tasty, but you can use any brand of chocolate or chocolate chips—milk, semisweet, or dark. (Or, use dairy-free chocolate if needed.)
- Peppermint Extract. To infuse some crave-able real peppermint flavor, make your hot chocolate with pure peppermint extract—NOT “mint extract.” Mint extract contains both peppermint and spearmint, which can make your drink taste like toothpaste or chewing gum.
- Vanilla Extract. To tie all of these sweet, comforting flavors together, don’t forget a dash of vanilla.
Additions for a Peppermint Mocha
If you’re a DIY Starbucks lover, you can transform this peppermint hot chocolate into a homemade peppermint mocha just by adding a shot of espresso! (Or, if you don’t have an espresso machine or a Nespresso like me, you could add some cold brew concentrate instead.) I also recommend adding an additional tablespoon of milk chocolate, since the espresso will add more bitterness and robust flavor.
How to Make Peppermint Hot Chocolate
- Froth Milk on the Stove. For the tastiest copycat peppermint hot chocolate that tastes like Starbucks’, start by frothing your milk. Whether you use dairy or nondairy milk, you can froth it up by heating the milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat and whisking vigorously, using a back-and-forth motion. Heating the milk will make it easier for the cocoa to dissolve, and frothing the milk will make your hot cocoa lighter and creamier!
- Stir in Cocoa, Sugar, & Salt. Once the milk is frothy and simmering, whisk in unsweetened cocoa powder, granulated sugar, and salt. It’s important to add these ingredients first, so they can fully dissolve into the heated milk before trying to melt the chocolate in it.
- Add Chocolate & Extracts. When the mixture is integrated, reduce the heat to low and stir in your chocolate of choice, pure peppermint extract, and vanilla extract. (If you want to make a peppermint mocha, now is also the time to add espresso!) Continue whisking your hot chocolate mixture for 1-2 minutes, until it’s glossy and the chocolate has melted.
- Serve with Toppings. All that’s left to do is pour your peppermint hot cocoa into a mug, add your favorite toppings, and cozy up to enjoy!
Check out my 3 Homemade Starbucks Holiday Drinks video to see how I make the best peppermint hot chocolate at home!
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- small pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp milk chocolate, chopped, (or chocolate chips)
- ¼ tsp peppermint extract
- ⅛ tsp vanilla extract
Optional: For a Peppermint Mocha
- 1 oz espresso
- 1 Tbsp additional chopped chocolate
- whipped cream
- mini marshmallows
- chocolate shavings or sprinkles
- starlight mints, crushed
- In a saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat, whisking vigorously to help froth the milk. (Whisking with a back-and-forth motion works better than a circular motion.)
- Once simmering, add cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, whisking until dissolved.
- Reduce heat to low and add chopped chocolate, peppermint extract, and vanilla extract. (Option: If desired, add espresso and additional chocolate to make a peppermint mocha.) Whisk until melted and glossy, about 1-2 minutes.
- Serve in a mug with marshmallows, whipped cream & sprinkles, or your favorite toppings!
Nutrition Notes:The nutrition for your peppermint hot cocoa will vary based on the type of milk you use. Nutrition for Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix only, without milk: 126 calories | 4.2g fat | 21g carbs | 0.6g fiber | 20g sugars | 1.1g protein
157mg sodium | 2mg cholesterol Nutrition for Peppermint Hot Chocolate made with 2% milk & topped with whipped cream: 286 calories | 11.2g fat | 36g carbs | 0.6g fiber | 33g sugars | 9.1g protein
292mg sodium | 22mg cholesterol Nutrition provided below for peppermint hot chocolate made with unsweetened almond milk & topped with whipped cream.