Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on December 6, 2010

Can you tell I was never on any sports team in high school? Any time the word “competition” is mentioned, I start to get the cold sweats. I’d rather just be a participant, a team player, not a contestant to be judged. Maybe I’m still smarting from the humiliation of all-class kickball games in fourth grade, or maybe I’m just a wuss.

But I’m also easily persuaded. So when my fellow food writers bully me into doing a hot cocoa cook-off, I must reluctantly pull out my dueling pistols and defend my honor.

salted caramel hot cocoa
Back in October, I reunited with Food Blogger Camp besties Stephanie Stiavetti, Sarah Olson and Garrett McCord at BlogHer Food in San Francisco. Once again, the minute we got together, it was like sleepover camp run amok, complete with late-night pillow giggle sessions, in-jokes repeated ad infinitum and lots of snacky overeating.

In between viewings of Dr. Tran videos, copious consumption of Hi-Chew candies, epic drunken photo sessions at parties, and actual conference attending, our conversations kept returning to the salted caramel hot chocolate we’d sampled from Oakland’s Bittersweet on our first night in town.

The four of us had split a huge cup of the hot chocolate like an appetizer on our way to dinner and were all impressed by its distinctly savory caramel notes. “How would you make it?” became a constant refrain over the next five days, and we couldn’t help but brainstorm other hot chocolate variations.

The challenge was on. I’m not calling it a competition because of the aforementioned sweats, but you’re certainly encouraged to make all of the cocoa varieties we’ve invented:

And my entry below, of course, a fairly faithful replication of the Bittersweet salted caramel hot chocolate. My preference runs to a less-rich cocoa powder-based drink rather than the intense hot chocolates flavored with chocolate shavings, but feel free to add an ounce of semisweet chocolate chips if you’re into a thicker drink.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

MyKidsEatSquid December 14, 2010 at 7:06 am

I love the idea of salty flavor mixed with caramel and chocolate–and all in a cup. I really want to try this recipe, but then I think I might want it all the time. Yum. Have you tried Trader Joe’s salted caramels? They only come out this time of year and the store’s often run out, but your recipe reminds me of them. So tasty.


Casey Barber December 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm

I don’t make it to Trader Joe’s too often (I know, shameful) so I’m already probably too late to sample them! Rats!


NoPotCoooking December 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Wow! Such great ideas! The salty caramel one sounds amazing.


debbie December 22, 2010 at 7:16 am

Wow, I coulda sworn I wrote a comment here but it looks like I didn’t… I love this idea, but like Stephanie wrote over at Wasabimon, the whole dry caramel thing kinda scares me. OTOH, her version uses more heavy cream, which doesn’t help my waistline much… Guess I’ll have to try both!


Casey Barber December 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Debbie, try a small batch of dry caramel – like a half cup of sugar – first. You’ll be able to see the process happen fairly quickly and it’s not so intimidating. I’ve made huuuuuuge batches multiple times this past month, and like I wrote on Wasabimon, repetition pretty much pounds the fear right out of you.


Amber December 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Made this last night, delicious!! I’d use a little less sugar and salt next time, and yes, there definately will be a next time.

Thanks for the recipe!


here be dragons January 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Sounds delicious. You know that starbucks now has a salted caramel hot choc, too.


Cassandra January 5, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Thank you for this recipe. I made these for Christmas while we opened gifts and they were truly a hit! We had gone to Co.Co Sala in DC and had a version of this and they were DELICIOUS, so much so that we tried the Starbucks version which in my opinion, tastes like the bottom of a cardboard box…lol
So I was scouring the ‘net for a quality recipe and hit the motherload here. :-) Your directions were clear, to the point and worked like a charm. My family still mentions the cocoa almost two weeks later. Thanks again!


Casey Barber January 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

Cassandra, so glad to hear you loved the cocoa! Maybe it’s a new Christmas tradition for your family? (and yes, I sadly agree about the Starbucks version.)


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