Does hot chocolate have a lot of carbs?

Hot chocolate is a beloved winter drink enjoyed by many. With its rich chocolatey flavor and creamy texture, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular choice when the weather turns cold. However, hot chocolate is often high in sugar and calories, which leads some people to wonder – does hot chocolate have a lot of carbs?

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, often simply called “carbs,” are one of the three main macronutrients found in food, along with protein and fat. Carbs are the body’s main source of energy and play an important role in a healthy, balanced diet.

There are three main types of carbs:

  • Sugars – Found naturally in foods like fruits and milk. Added sugars are also common ingredients in processed foods.
  • Starches – Found in foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes.
  • Fiber – Found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes.

When we eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose during digestion. Glucose enters the bloodstream and provides energy for the cells in our body. Any excess glucose that isn’t immediately needed is stored in the liver and muscles as an energy reserve called glycogen.

Are all carbs created equal?

While carbs are an essential part of a healthy diet, not all carbs are created equal when it comes to nutrition and health.

Complex carbs like whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans contain important vitamins, minerals and fiber. These nutrient-dense carbs provide lasting energy. Simple or refined carbs like white flour, white rice, pasta and sugar lack nutrients and fiber. They offer quick but fleeting energy.

Overconsumption of refined carbs has been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. That’s why nutrition experts recommend focusing on whole, fiber-rich complex carbs instead of processed refined carbs.

Carb content of hot chocolate

So how many carbs are actually in a typical cup of hot chocolate? Let’s take a look:

Homemade hot chocolate

If you make homemade hot chocolate with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 8 ounces of milk, it will contain:

  • Total carbs: 15g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 12g
  • Net carbs: 14g

The carb content comes mainly from the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk.

Premade Instant Hot Chocolate Mix

Many instant hot chocolate mixes have 20-25g total carbs per 8 ounce serving. Depending on the brand, a packet may contain:

  • Total carbs: 24g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugar: 21g
  • Net carbs: 22g

The higher carb count comes from added sugar and dried milk ingredients.

Hot Chocolate from Coffee Shops

Popular coffee shop hot chocolate can range from 30-50g of carbs in a 16 ounce cup. For example:

  • Starbucks Grande (16 oz) Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream: 50g carbs
  • Dunkin Donuts Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream (16 oz): 42g carbs
  • Caribou Coffee Hot Chocolate (16 oz): 35g carbs

These high carb counts reflect generous amounts of added sugar and sugary flavor syrups or toppings.

So in summary, while a homemade cup of hot chocolate is relatively low carb, commercial premade hot cocoa mixes and coffee shop versions tend to be very high in carbs due to added sugar.

Impact on blood sugar

The carbs in hot chocolate can impact blood sugar levels. The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly foods cause blood sugar to rise after eating.

Cocoa powder is low GI, with a score of 22. Milk is moderately GI at 41. Table sugar is high GI at 68. High GI foods lead to faster, more dramatic spikes and crashes in blood sugar.

This means homemade hot chocolate made with milk, cocoa and a little sugar will have a moderately glycemic effect. But hot chocolate loaded with sugar and sugary syrups will be high GI and cause a sharp spike in blood glucose.

Keto and low carb diets

Hot chocolate may not fit into ultra low carb diets like the keto diet, which limits carbs to 50g or less per day. Just an 8 ounce cup of homemade hot cocoa can contain 15g total carbs. Premade and coffee shop versions often have at least double that amount.

However, there are some ways to enjoy lower carb hot chocolate options on a keto diet:

  • Use unsweetened cocoa powder and add non-nutritive zero calorie sweetener
  • Swap milk for lower carb nut milk like unsweetened almond or coconut milk
  • Top with whipped cream instead of sugary syrups for fewer carbs
  • Opt for a small size (8-12oz)
  • Ask for sugar-free flavor syrups if getting hot chocolate from a coffee shop

With modifications, an occasional small hot chocolate can potentially fit into a keto diet. But it’s still a high carb treat that should be limited.

Diabetes considerations

For people with diabetes, carbs directly affect blood sugar management. Hot chocolate can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diabetic diet, but portion size and ingredients are important.

Tips for diabetics to enjoy hot chocolate:

  • Stick to 8 ounce servings
  • Avoid added sugars and flavor syrups – use zero calorie sweeteners if needed
  • Choose milk or nut milk over heavy cream
  • Limit to an occasional treat – not a daily habit
  • Pair with protein, fat or fiber to help manage blood sugar response
  • Test blood sugar before and after to see individual response

Diabetics should be aware of carb counts and opt for lower sugar versions. Enjoying the occasional small hot chocolate can be reasonable but it can affect blood sugar, so care should be taken.

Weight loss and reduced calorie diets

On reduced calorie diets for weight loss, hot chocolate can be enjoyed in moderation but portion size matters. A typical cup of homemade hot cocoa contains about 100 calories, while coffee shop versions with toppings can range from 150-250+ calories.

Strategies for reducing calories from hot chocolate:

  • Opt for 8 ounce or smaller servings
  • Use skim or low fat milk
  • Avoid heavy cream and whipped cream toppings
  • Use zero calorie sweeteners or limit added sugar
  • Skip the extra flavored syrups and toppings
  • Sip it slowly to satisfy cravings for fewer calories

While hot chocolate should be limited on reduced calorie diet plans, enjoying it occasionally in small servings can satisfy sweet cravings within daily calorie limits for those managing their weight.

Nutrition tips for healthier hot chocolate

There are several ways to lighten up hot chocolate to reduce carbs, sugar, and calories while boosting nutrition:

  • Use skim or low fat milk. Provides protein without the extra calories and fat of whole milk.
  • Add cocoa powder. Provides antioxidants and fiber. Opt for unsweetened 100% cocoa powder.
  • Use nut milk. Almond, coconut or oat milk have fewer carbs than dairy milk.
  • Boost with cinnamon. Adds fiber, antioxidants and flavor with no added sugar.
  • Sweeten with zero calorie sweeteners. Like stevia or monk fruit to cut sugar and calories.
  • Top with whipped cream. Adds flavor with less carbs and sugar than flavored syrups.

Following these tips allows you to enjoy the chocolatey flavor while lightening the carb and calorie load.

The bottom line

Homemade hot chocolate made with a little milk and cocoa powder provides around 15g carbs per 8oz serving. Premade mixes and coffee shop versions often contain at least double the amount of carbs, sometimes over 50g in a large size.

The carbs come mainly from added sugar and dairy milk ingredients. This can cause blood sugar spikes, especially in premade mixes high in sugar.

While hot chocolate is high carb compared to other drinks, it can be enjoyed occasionally on most healthy eating plans with proper portion sizes. Make it at home with nutritious ingredients for the healthiest option.

Overall, hot chocolate does tend to be high in carbs, especially versions made with lots of added sugar. But with mindful ingredients and reasonable serving sizes, it can be enjoyed even as part of a healthy diet.


  • United States Department of Agriculture. “Hot Cocoa, homemade.” FoodData Central.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. “Beverages, hot chocolate, mixes, powder.” FoodData Central.
  • Starbucks. “Hot Chocolate.”
  • Dunkin Donuts. “Hot Chocolate.”
  • Caribou Coffee. “Hot Chocolate.”
  • Atkinson FS, et al. (2008). International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 31(12), 2281-3.
  • American Diabetes Association. (2022). What Can I Drink?
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar.

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