How To Make Chai Spiced Cacao || Great Cold Weather Beverage

A velvety cup of chai spiced cacao is the perfect way to treat yourself well on a chilly evening at home. It’s even tastier than traditional hot chocolate, and it’s loaded with nutrients.

an overhead view of a cup of freshly made chai spiced cacao

I love to make this indulgent beverage, snuggle up under a big fluffy blanket, and lose myself in a really good movie. It’s like giving myself a warm hug.

It doesn’t take very long to make this delicious treat. But I will warn you that it does take more time and effort than tossing a packet of hot chocolate mix in a cup and adding some water.

However, if you consider the exponential difference in the taste and nutritional value of the two, you’ll find the minor time investment is well worth the pay off.

What Is Chai?

Chai is a spice blend that is earthy and ever so slightly sweet. It is the perfect compliment to the flavor of the cacao bean.

spices to make a hot beverage in a dish

I always understood it to come from India. And I thought that there was a standard recipe for the blend as well.

But, while researching for this post, I discovered that chai spice blend is actually available across many continents. There are traditional ingredients, but the recipes for it vary greatly. They are different across cultures, towns, and even families.

It is the chai spiced tea blends made with milk and plenty of sweetener, that are so common in India, that have given this beverage a worldwide popularlity.

Ingredients Needed To Make This Recipe

For this chai spiced cacao recipe I am going to skip the black tea in the brew and replace it with cacao powder. I’ll use plant milk instead of cow’s milk, and I’ll use honey as the sweetener.

ingredients to make chai spiced cacao laid out on a table

Honey is my preferred sweetener. But, if you want to keep your beverage vegan, you can substitute it with the sweetener of your choice.

Here’s a list of the ingredients for you …

  • PLANT MILK – Any plant milk can be used for this recipe. I like to use cashew milk, as it’s thicker and creamier than other plant milks. If you want to make your own plant milk, for optimal purity, there is a recipe for oat milk on the blog.
  • CINNAMON, CARDAMOM, GINGER, CLOVES, AND BLACK PEPPER – Ground spices are used to provide this recipe with optimal flavor. High quality spices are always the best choice.
  • ANISE STARS – You will need 3 anise stars to make this beverage. Unless, of course, you want one to garnish the top of your cup.
  • CACAO POWDER – Cacao powder is becoming more widely available in grocery stores. However, if you have a natural health food store in your area it is available there. And buying it from them provides you with the opportunity to put money in the pocket of a small business owner.
  • HONEY – I lean toward honey as my sweetener for many things, particularly beverages. But, if you want this beverage to be vegan, you can substitute the sweetener of your choice.
  • VANILLA – Use a high quality vanilla extract if you can. The vanilla extract is an important ingredient in this beverage, as it enhances the flavor of the cacao.

Why Use Cacao instead of Cocoa

I am a big fan of cocoa, I use it in many recipes. It has a very rich, deep chocolate flavor and it works perfectly in baked goods.

ingredients for a hot beverage in dishes on a table

Cacao is made from the exact same bean as cocoa. But while that bean is processed at very high temperatures to produce cocoa, it is not processed that same way to make cacao.

To make cacao it is processed at temperatures so low that cacao is still considered a raw food.

Raw food, as you may know, contains more minerals and nutrients than cooked foods. So cacao is much better for the human body than cocoa.

For this reason, it is best to use cacao powder in lieu of cocoa whenever you can. But, do note that, if you choose to use it in a recipe, that uses high temperature to prepare the food, those temperatures may destroy the nutritional benefits of the cacao.

And considering the price difference between the two, it may be best to stick to using cacao in recipes that are not prepared with high heat.

For this reason, I will not be bringing this beverage to more than a very low simmer, if that, while preparing it.

How To Make Chai Spiced Cacao

To make chai spiced cacao you will need to first steep the spices in lightly steaming plant milk. You’ll want to use ground spices for this, apart from the anise stars of course.

spices for chai spiced cacao in a pan on the stove with plant milk

Ground spices have more surface area. Therefore, they impart more flavor into the beverage.

Next, you’ll strain the spices from the plant milk.

straining spices from plant milk to make a hot beverage

And then whisk in the rest of the ingredients.

whisking ingredients into plant milk to make chai spiced cacao

At this point, you’ll want to reheat the beverage just enough to make it a pleasantly warm drink that you can enjoy without allowing it to become so hot that it affects the nutritional value of the cacao.

The only thing left to do after that, is to snuggle into your favorite spot and ENJOY!

Variations For This Recipe

I know I’ve been plugging using cacao in this recipe, and I stand behind that plug. But, you can make it with cocoa if you choose.

freshly made hot cacao beverage in a cup

You can also switch out the sweetener and plant milk used in this chai spiced cacao recipe for other choices.

I would suggest maple syrup, date syrup, or sucanat for the honey. But there are endless choices to be had. So, pick your favorite sweetener and carry on.

The plant milk is very much the same way as the sweetener. It’s all about your preferred choice, or maybe even what you have on hand.

I love cashew milk for this recipe. However, there was none to be found at any of the three grocery stores in the town I’m staying in right now when I was shopping for the ingredients to make it.

So, I chose a toasted coconut and almond milk blend. It was terrific. But, the fact is, I’ve used every kind of plant milk I know of to make this recipe and it’s good no matter which one you choose.

It’s also great made with cow’s milk. Organic raw cow’s milk is my preferred choice, as I believe that raw and organic are the best way to go when choosing dairy products.

Make Your Chai Spiced Cacao Boozy

Boozy chai spiced cacao can be a really great treat. When I was tending bar in northern CA, it was a beverage that I made around the holiday for very special patrons.

overhead view of a cup of chai spiced cacao

Kind of a ‘if you know enough to ask for it, you can get it’ offering that just a few locals knew about.

Most of them chose to add rum to their cup, and that’s a great way to go. But you can add anything you like. Brandy is a particularly good choice as well.

I liked to add a half and half shot of irish cream and chambord to my cup. I found this to be a particularly festive option for the holidays.

pinnable image for chai spiced cacao

If you try this recipe and love it, please give it 5 stars! It supports my work more than you may realize, and I appreciate that a great deal!

You can also show your support by tagging me on Facebook @sustainableslowliving and/or Instagram @slowlivingbydianegail when you post a pic of your finished dish.

an overhead view of a cup of freshly made chai spiced cacao


Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A velvety cup of chai spiced cacao is the perfect way to treat yourself well on a chilly evening at home. It's even tastier than traditional hot chocolate, and it's loaded with nutrients.


  • 2 c plant milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, medium coarse grind
  • 3 anise stars
  • 3 tbls cacao powder
  • 2 tbls honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Place the plant milk, ground spices, and anise stars in a small saucepan and warm it just until it starts to steam. Avoid bringing it to an actual simmer.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to sit and steep for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Strain the spices from the milk using a fine mesh sieve.
  4. Rinse the pot and return the spiced milk to it.
  5. Add the cacao powder, honey, and vanilla.
  6. Whisk until blended. You will need to whisk vigorously.
  7. Place the pan back on the heat and bring to a light steam again.
  8. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 257Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 118mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 4gSugar: 30gProtein: 11g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 12/10/2022. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

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