The Umami-Rich Ingredient To Give Hot Chocolate A Subtle Flavor Boost

Hot chocolate isn't just a drink — it's a moment. A rich, velvety interlude when you take time out to comfort and indulge yourself: A time for lighting a candle and curling up with a book, or sitting in your favorite cafe watching rain pound on the window. And luckily, hot chocolate hacks are everywhere, meaning maximum deliciousness can be achieved with just the right ingredients. 

You can level up your usual marshmallows for flavored ones, add a bit of fire to the mix with chili, or include Nutella, mint, or cinnamon. Spiking hot chocolate with red wine has even become popular in recent years. Wholefully suggests using a fruit wine like strawberry for a sweeter taste, and Merlot, Shiraz, or Cabernet Sauvingon for a drier one. Other boozy options include rum, whiskey, Baileys, Kahlúa, and Malibu.

And let's not forget the chocolate itself. Because to make a truly luxurious drink, you need a quality brand to chop or grate. Fifteen Spatulas recommends Guittard or Vahlrona, while Kitchn suggests dark chocolate is best, ideally with at least 60% cocoa solids.

And if you'd like to go even further down the hot chocolate rabbit hole, there is one surprising ingredient to try.

You need this secret flavor weapon for your hot chocolate

Ideally, hot chocolate should be rich, smooth, and sweet. That said, if you want to avoid creating a drink that's so sugary it tastes sickly or one-dimensional, why not add a contrasting element? As Kitchn explains, ingredients that are strongly umami can bring out the flavors in chocolate. Although people tend to equate umaminess with savoriness, it also brings a depth of complexity, roundedness, and balance to recipes (via Kikkoman).

With this in mind, Kitchn's go-to choice for hot chocolate is miso paste. Miso is a highly umami ingredient made from fermented soybeans, koji, salt, and water. Kitchn prefers white miso as it is the mildest and sweetest, and suggests adding a teaspoon per mug of hot chocolate, then whisking until it's dissolved for a subtly nuanced hot chocolate.

But beyond miso, what about the overall method? The Guardian recommends finely chopping or grating your chocolate, before melting and mixing it into a smooth paste with your choice of milk (add some single cream to make it thicker). Stir continuously, then heat gently without bringing it to the boil — you don't want to burn your chocolate. Finally, whisk before pouring to make your drink extra frothy.