Depression Cocoa

Depression Cocoa

Depression Cocoa is a recipe I’ve been very excited to make and write about, and with temperatures dropping into the 20’s here in SC, the timing is right. This is the hot cocoa that our family grew up drinking. One whiff of it on my stove takes me back to being home on a snow day, coming into the house after sledding, putting my boots, mittens, and socks in front of the vent of our refrigerator, and climbing up on a chair to ladle myself some hot cocoa (I was quite short until the middle of high school). 

Depression cocoa is so named because Granny’s mom created this mixture during the Great Depression. I imagine one whiff would take Granny back to the 7 members of her family living in a 2 room apartment in Philadelphia after selling off all of their wares and making do with whatever they could. Even though this drink was concocted during a very sad time, to me, it fills me with warm and happy (and also cold and snowy) memories. 

True, there are many delicious quick cocoas out there. Pop a mug into the microwave for 90 seconds with some Swiss Miss and you’ll have a piping hot cup of yummy cocoa. This is a great solution in an office setting or in a pinch, but if you want to make an old-fashioned pot of cocoa that you can leave on the stove all day and enjoy at your leisure, this recipe is everything. At first it seems odd – mix together the cocoa, water and sugar and heat to cook the cocoa, then add a can of evaporated milk (um, ew). But trust me, it’s so worth it. 


Final Thoughts: 

  • Granny’s recipe calls for 4T sugar, whereas my dad always uses 5T. I like it a little less sweet so 4 is perfect for me. But if you are making this for kids or like your cocoa on the sweeter side I would use 5 T or top it with whipped cream for some added sweetness. 
  • I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa because that was all my grocer had to offer. I happen to love dark chocolate and thought this was great, but the recipe calls for regular cocoa. Again, if you’re making for kids, I probably wouldn’t use dark chocolate.
  • I hope that you will make this and that it fills your house and your children’s little minds with happy and warm feelings. I doubt my kids will ever have a chance to go sledding here in SC, but I will do my best to stir up some positive and cozy feelings by making this cocoa. 

Here is everything I used: 



Depression Cocoa
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins

This classic recipe for Depression Cocoa was developed during the Great Depression, when milk was not readily available. It is a recipe we have enjoyed in our family for many years, and will continue to enjoy for generations.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Chocolate, Comfort Food
Servings: 6 people
  • 4 T cocoa powder
  • 4 T sugar 5T for a slightly sweeter cocoa
  • 4 c water
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1.5 t vanilla
  1. Measure cocoa and sugar into a medium sized saucepan. Add water stirring to mix.

  2. Cook, stirring until sugar and cocoa have melted. Once mixture has boiled, reduce heat and simmer for several minutes.

  3. Turn off heat and slowly, stirring constantly, add evaporated milk and vanilla. Serve.

3 thoughts on “Depression Cocoa”

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