Food & Nutrition

We Tried 6 Fast Food Hot Chocolates. Here’s the Winner.

If you thought Starbucks was king of seasonal drinks, you might want to think again! Find out which chain has the best hot chocolate.

Be in the know for hot chocolate season

Handle hot cup of chocolate.; Shutterstock ID 575054329; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Homefeelartfeelant/Shutterstock

You could say that I’m pretty serious about my hot chocolate. I like a classic cup of cocoa, but I’m always open to new variations (hello, frozen hot chocolate!). And if I’m tight on time, I’ll even opt for a packet—I don’t mind! If you prefer homemade hot chocolate, try these delicious hacks to make it as scrumptious as can be.

But if I’m being truthful, the best hot chocolate is one that I don’t have to make at all. I’m talking about a steaming cup of cocoa from a cafe. There’s just something extra special about a fancy version topped with fresh whipped cream and maybe a nice chocolate drizzle.  That’s why I put six fast-food restaurants to the test to find the best cocoa for when you’re on the run or when you just don’t feel like making a cup from scratch. I visited these chains:

  • Caribou Coffee
  • Corner Bakery Cafe
  • Dunkin’
  • McDonald’s
  • Panera
  • Starbucks

Ready to see how they stacked up? 

6. McDonald’s

McDonald's McCafeTaste of Home

When it comes to McDonald’s, I have to say I’m a sucker for a Coke (seriously, it’s better there!) and a hot order of French fries. However, the chain’s hot chocolate doesn’t live up to those high standards.

The McCafé hot chocolate wasn’t as satisfying as other brands. I found it to taste pretty artificial—something about it reminded me of candy coating. While I appreciated the nice swirl of whipped cream and chocolate sauce, I just didn’t find this hot chocolate to be very chocolatey.

5. Panera

Panera hot chocolateTaste of Home

When I ordered a hot chocolate at Panera, I got pretty excited. The clerk asked me if I wanted whipped cream, chocolate chip marshmallows, and a salted caramel drizzle. As a fan of everything sweet, I said yes to all three. When I opened up the lid on this drink, I was pretty stunned. The toppings looked gorgeous!

When I took my first sip, I was very happy—but that first sip was 100 percent whipped cream and salted caramel. Who doesn’t love salted caramel? Once I got past all the tasty toppings, I felt let down. Panera’s hot chocolate wasn’t very chocolatey at all. In fact, it tasted a lot more like warm milk than anything.

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