Best Budget-Friendly Hot Cocoa: Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix

Let’s talk the best hot chocolate!

As long-time denizens of a state associated with long and frosty winters, we consider ourselves hot chocolate enthusiasts. So naturally, we thought it was time to share our hot cocoa insights with you, dear readers.

To be fair, we decided to do a blind taste test—we took major brands of hot chocolate and started drinking. We then compared which had the best taste . . . and the best value.

For the best budget-friendly hot cocoa, we decided Swiss Miss 30 count was the best of the bunch.

Here’s why:

What We Liked

• No artificial flavors or colors.

• No artificial preservatives or sweeteners.

• Yummy marshmallows already included.

• Good value.

What Needs Work

• More milk than dark chocolate flavor. If you want a hot cocoa with more rich (that is, darker chocolate) flavor, we’d suggest this next pick.

Best Hot Chocolate Packets: Nestle Hot Chocolate Packets

We love individual hot chocolate packets for their portability—great for travel, hot cocoa at grandma’s house and more.

We did a blind taste test with several brands of hot chocolate in packets and the winner was . . . Nestle. 

What we liked here was the rich, creamy taste—more of a dark chocolate profile than Swiss Miss, in our opinion. 

Here’s more:

What We Liked

 Good bang for the buck.

• Less sugar than others we researched.

• Rich, creamy flavor.

• 50 packets per box.

What Needs Work

• Made with sucralose. This sugar substitute, commonly known as Splenda, has its detractors. Some folks think it has a bit of aftertaste. We didn’t notice that, but we know some folks have more discriminating palates.

Best Hot Chocolate K cups: Dunkin’ Donuts Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Single Serve K-Cups

We were skeptical that a K cup hot cocoa could hold its weight against such taste heavyweights as Nestle  . . . but we were pleasantly surprised when this hot chocolate scored high on our list—and yes, it is a K cup!

Dunkin’ Donuts Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa K Cup outshone several packets of “gourmet” hot chocolate, in our tests.

Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Convenient—no measuring or mess.

• Rich, milk chocolate taste.

• Great for travel or the office.

What Needs Work

• Pricey. All that K cup convenience does come at a price—a cup of this cocoa is roughly twice or three times that of hot chocolate from a packet. 

• Sweetened with sucralose. This artificial sweetener, also known as Splenda, has its fair share of critics who don’t like the aftertaste. On the plus side, it does help lower the calorie count (70 per serving) versus Swiss Miss (150 calories).

Best Hot Cocoa Variety Flavor: Land O’ Lakes Cocoa Classics Variety Pack

Yes, we love hot chocolate . . . but sometimes variety is the spice of life.

Case in point: Land O’ Lakes Cocoa Classics Variety Pack. Yes, you have the standard chocolate flavor here (Chocolate Supreme!) . . . but also salted caramel, mint chocolate and French vanilla. 

The salted caramel hot chocolate is a particular favorite here at the home office. We dare you to try it and not be impressed—it blew away other brands in our blind taste test of other hot cocoa variety flavors.

What We Liked

• Delicious!

• Variety of flavors mixes up the hot chocolate experience! 34 packets: 9 Chocolate Supreme, 8 French Vanilla, 9 Salted Caramel, 8 Mint Chocolate

• No sucralose. This is an artificial sweetener that appears in other hot cocoas . . . and some folks don’t like the aftertaste. Good news: it isn’t here!

What Needs Work

• Pricey.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!