Backcountry Healthier Cocoa Recipe

Every time I wax romantic about drinking cocoa around a campfire, I get all the way to the grocery store, read the ingredients on the box, then put it back on the shelf. My daydream goes up in smoke when I see the nasty, hard-to-pronounce ingredients.

I’m not saying that my recipe is super healthy—it does have sugar in it, after all—but it’s much healthier, cheaper and wastes less packaging than the stuff you buy in the store. It’s very easy to make and mixes up, like a charm, hot or cold, to satisfy my backcountry sweet tooth.

Bonus: the protein and sugar combo work as an impromptu recovery drink mixed with cold water after a long day on the trail.

pre-mixedIngredients (makes about 6 servings):

  • 1+1/4 C instant dry milk powder and/or whey powder (I usually do about 2/3 whey to 1/3 milk, compare the health benefits here)
  • 3/4 C cocoa powder, preferably raw and dark!
  • 1/2 C raw sugar (it’s still sugar, but this amount makes it taste more chocolatey and less sugary)
  • 1 tsp. arrowroot powder or cornstarch (adds thickness and creaminess)
  • pinch salt

Optional Add-Ins

Mayan: pinch cayenne pepper + extra pinch salt

Mexican: 1/2-1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Mocha: 2-3 Tbsp. instant espresso powder




  1. Stir all ingredients together
  2. Place powder mix in food processor or spice mill/coffee grinder and whirl until it becomes a fine powder —this makes the cocoa dissolve easily and without lumps when you add water.
  3. Store in a jar (or in a ziploc bag if you’re hiking into the backcountry)
  4. To Drink: Mix 1/4 C cocoa mix with 8 oz. water (or approximately one part cocoa mix to two parts water —add more cocoa mix if you want it richer).