Is Starbucks Hot Chocolate Vegan

In recent years, the demand for vegan options at restaurants and cafes has surged and prompted the people at the top to expand their menus to cater to a plant-based audience. Starbucks has been at the forefront of offering adaptations to the items on their menu – with most of them being easy swaps. 

With the country being well and truly into the winter season, more and more of us have a craving for the silky chocolatey goodness that is the Starbucks Hot Chocolate. But is it vegan? 

In general, ordering at Starbucks as a vegan is pretty simple. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. This article breaks down the ingredients in the hot chocolate and how to order it based on your dietary requirements. 

About Starbucks

Starbucks was founded in 1971 by Gordon Bowker, Zev Siegl, and Jerry Baldwin. When the three sold the company to Howard Schultz in the 1980s, Starbucks started to take over the world. 

Starbucks is the largest coffee shop chain in the world and offers both hot and cold drinks, micro-ground instant coffee, whole-bean coffee, espresso, juices, teas, pastries, and more! 

As of November 2022, the coffee shop has over 35,711 stores in 80 countries, 15,873 of which are located in the United States. 

Standard Starbucks Hot Chocolate 

The standard Starbucks Hot Chocolate comes with 2% dairy milk if you order it directly from the menu. On top of this, it comes with whipped cream, which contains dairy.

Unlike the UK, Starbucks US doesn’t have dairy-free whipped cream so ordering without any cream is crucial. 

Despite this, the Starbucks chocolate sauce and mocha drizzle are both vegan, so by removing the cream, changing the milk, and keeping the sauce, you can turn the hot chocolate dairy-free!

Starbucks prides itself on customization, allowing them to tailor your coffee orders to meet your dietary requirements! 

Ingredients in the Starbucks Hot Chocolate

According to the Starbucks website, four ingredients make their famous hot chocolate:

  • Milk
  • Mocha Sauce – water, sugar, cocoa processed with alkali, natural flavor 
  • Whipped Cream – cream, mono and diglycerides, carrageenan
  • Vanilla Syrup – sugar, water, natural flavors, potassium sorbate, citric acid

Milk is a common ingredient in traditional hot chocolate recipes, however, this shows how easy it is to make the hot chocolate vegan if you remove the dairy whipped cream and change the dairy milk out for a milk of your choice. 

Nutritional Facts

The nutritional facts depend on the type of milk you choose and how you customize your drink. For example, ordering your Starbucks Hot Chocolate with almond milk and no whipped cream has 180 calories, which is 190 calories less than the standard version. 

For a 16 fl oz serving of hot chocolate, the nutritional facts are:

  • Calories: 370
  • Total Fat: 16g of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Cholesterol: 50mg of the DV
  • Sodium: 160mg of the DV
  • Total Carbs: 43g of the DV
  • Protein: 14g of the DV
  • Caffeine: 25mg of the DV

The USDA’s recommended calorie intake is 2,000, although it depends on the age and gender of the individual. 

What milk options will make your Starbucks Hot Chocolate vegan-friendly? 

Unlike the United Kingdom, Starbucks still charges roughly 70 cents extra for plant-based milk in the US branches. This is something that a lot of vegans believe needs to be changed – in fact, actor James Cromwell, glued himself to the counter of a New York City Starbucks in 2022 to protest against it. 

There are several dairy-free milk options you can request at your local Starbucks such as:

  • Almond Milk – is often chosen for its sweetness, creamy, and nutty flavor
  • Soy Milk – offers a neutral flavor that seamlessly blends with any coffee, tea, or hot chocolate 
  • Coconut Milk – has a rich and indulgent texture and pairs nicely with iced drinks 
  • Oat Milk – with a creamy consistency, oat milk blends seamlessly with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate whilst being a more sustainable option than the others 

The most popular choice for hot chocolate is almond milk. Almond milk gained popularity over the years due to its low-calorie content, creamy texture and nutty flavor. This makes it the perfect substitute for dairy milk and an even better hot chocolate component! 

It’s important to note that customization options may vary by location, and not all Starbucks stores will offer the same alternatives. Please check with your local Starbucks to confirm whether they have the plant-based milk option you want. 

How to Make Starbucks Hot Chocolate Vegan

To make the standard Starbucks Hot Chocolate vegan simply remove the dairy milk and whipped cream. Just ask the barista to make your drink with the plant-based milk of your choice with the removal of whipped cream.

If you’re ordering the hot chocolate vegan because of an allergy, keep in mind that there’s a cross-contamination risk as vegan drinks are prepared in the same area and on the same equipment that processes non-vegan and dairy products. 

Other drinks at Starbucks that are or can be made vegan:

  • Americano
  • Blended Strawberry Lemonade
  • Caffé Latte
  • Flat White
  • Caramel Macchiato
  • Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino
  • Coconut Milk Latte
  • Golden Ginger Drink
  • Iced Pineapple Matcha
  • London Fog Tea Latte
  • Mango Dragonfruit Refresher
  • Mocha Frappuccino
  • Nitro Cold Brew
  • Pink Drink
  • Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher
  • Violet Drink
  • Teavana
  • Cool Lime Refresha
  • Cold Brew
  • Chocolate Smoothie
  • Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino 
  • Shaken Sweet Tea Lemonade
  • Green Tea Crème Frappuccino
  • Caffè Misto
  • Strawberry Smoothie 
  • Caramel Frappuccino

Is Starbucks Hot Chocolate Vegan Friendly?

Starbucks Hot Chocolate in the US can be vegan-friendly, thanks to plant-based milk alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and oat milk. The trick is in customization and changing the recipe depending on what you want.  It’s important to remember to check with your local Starbucks location to make sure alternative plant-based milks and other ingredients are available. By doing so, not only are you showing a demand, but you get to enjoy the warm chocolatey hug

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