Few winter libations feel quite as ceremonial as a piping hot, decadent cup of cocoa. The only issue? Making hot chocolate never feels as dreamy as drinking it does. Most of the time, you’re merely pouring a cup of powder into a glass of water, and popping that concoction into your microwave. The ritual is entirely lacking in romance. And winter—a season characterized by frigid temperatures, dry air, and horrifyingly covert patches of ice—is in dire need of romance.
In order to make our start-to-finish hot chocolate experience a little more idyllic, we need to rethink the way we make it. We need to imbue our hot chocolate recipes with at least some of the seasonal charm we associate with the drink. At the same time, though, we don’t want to go over-the-top. Packets of powder are still preferable to hours spent in the kitchen, heating chocolate in a double-boiler on the stove, constantly afraid our precious sweets are going to burn. The entire experience should still be low-maintenance—just not borderline clinical in its lack of effort.
But how can we possibly whip up hot cocoa in a way that feels at once easy and idyllic? Low-maintenance and romantic? The secret to achieving this seemingly impossible balance lies in our slow cookers.
Slow-cooker hot chocolate is incredibly low-effort, but it still feels more exciting than a powdered microwave drink. Not only does it call for fresher ingredients, but it also gives you the chance to explore less conventional flavor combinations. And since it takes a few hours (rather than a few seconds), it forces you to let some real anticipation build as you wait for your drink to come together. It invites you to count down the minutes, to imagine the decadent flavor that awaits you, to dream about—and drool about—how great that drink is going to taste the moment you finally get your hands on it.
Undoubtedly more romantic than hitting a couple buttons on your microwave, no?
Thick and Creamy Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
The Recipe: Thick and Creamy Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
The Hero Ingredient: Chopped dark chocolate will lend your slow-cooker hot chocolate a decadence you haven’t experienced if you’ve thus far relied on the powdered stuff. Diethood’s Katerina recommends using 71% cocoa, but you can go darker or lighter as you see fit.
Pro Tip: This recipe recommends shaving a little dark chocolate over the top of your drink once you’re finished. While it may be tempting to omit this step, remember: You’ve already come this far. You’ve already whipped up genuinely homemade hot chocolate, and you already have the dark chocolate on-hand. Why not take an extra minute to shave a little over your whipped cream? You’ll thank yourself once you see the final result.
Why We Love It: This slow-cooker hot chocolate recipe feels gourmet, without asking you to do much. It invites you to indulge in a truly decadent drink without expending a ton of extra effort—and that is a beautiful thing.
Baileys Irish Cream Hot Chocolate
The Recipe: Slow-Cooker Baileys Irish Cream Hot Chocolate
The Hero Ingredient: Baileys Irish Cream takes this delightful drink to new levels of rich decadence—and it definitely lends it a little wintry romance.
Pro Tip: If you’re not a Baileys fan, you can easily swap in another liquor. Your swap doesn’t even have to be as sugary-sweet as Baileys, as long as you don’t mind a little bite.
Why We Love It: This boozy spin on classic slow-cooker hot chocolate will become a favorite in your rotation, whether you’re whipping it up for parties or simply for yourself. What’s delicious, easy to make, and tons of fun? This recipe.
Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
The Recipe: Slow-Cooker Hot Chocolate
The Hero Ingredient: Cayenne pepper adds a surprising dose of spice to this recipe. The result is a drink that’s dynamic, enticing, and indulgent all at once.
Pro Tip: If you prefer your sweet with a side of salty, up the “pinch of sea salt” this recipe calls for to taste.
Why We Love It: Spice is a thing that all too rarely makes its way into chocolate treats, and every time it does, it’s delightful. This recipe makes the most of that no-fail combination—and tops it off with sea salt and cinnamon.
Crockpot Hot Chocolate
The Recipe: Crockpot Hot Chocolate
The Hero Ingredient: Half and half thickens this hot chocolate so it’s even richer than it would be if you just used milk.
Pro Tip: This recipe tells you to top your hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, but we recommend throwing them in a little earlier. So long as you don’t mind a bit of a gooey-delicious mess, they’ll add texture and flavor to your slow-cooker hot chocolate in equal measure.
Why We Love It: This slow-cooker hot chocolate recipe is an absolute classic. Chocolate, whole milk, cream, marshmallows—really, what more could you ask for?
Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate
The Hero Ingredient: Pumpkin pie spice adds a little complexity to the drink, without moving it too thoroughly in the pumpkin direction. Paired only with traditional hot chocolate ingredients, your pumpkin spice won’t change the texture of your drink the same way it would if you combined it with canned pumpkin.
Pro Tip: Though pumpkin spice may feel a little fall-exclusive, this drink is too delicious to confine to a couple months each year. Whip it up whenever you want to, and call it cinnamon-nutmeg hot chocolate if you can’t bear to do the pumpkin thing after November.
Why We Love It: We love an out-of-the-box twist on a classic hot chocolate recipe—especially when that twist enhances, rather than overwhelms. This drink combines tried-and-true hot cocoa flavors with trendy pumpkin spice to create a masterpiece that will prove irresistible, even to those who quietly resent the “PSL” movement.
Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
The Hero Ingredient: Vanilla extract rounds out the sweetness of this classic drink, making sure sugar isn’t the only thing offering its sweet flavor.
Pro Tip: For a lighter hot chocolate, opt for the recipe’s recommended evaporated milk. For a thicker, more indulgent hot chocolate, try swapping it for heavy cream, instead.
Why We Love It: If you’re looking for a tried-and-true slow-cooker hot chocolate recipe in its most classic iteration, you’ve found it. This drink combines milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla with two kinds of chocolate in a combination that promises to please.