Traditional Mexican Atoles


Champurrado (CC photo by burrodeoaxaca courtesy of Flickr)

Atole is a hot beverage native to Mexico and Central America originating before the pre-Hispanic era. Traditionally, atole is made from nixtamalized maize dough, which is sold by the kilo and available in tortilla shops and markets throughout Mexico. The nixtamalization process involves soaking and cooking corn in limewater, then hulling, washing, and grinding it into dough (fresh masa). This process not only makes the corn easier to grind but also more nutritional and flavorful. When it’s dried and powdered, it’s called masa harina. Depending on availability in your area, you can use either masa or masa harina to prepare atole. Don’t substitute regular cornmeal or corn flour because the corn used undergoes a different process, resulting in a very different flavor.


Traditionally, atole is sweetened by adding piloncillo, which is an unrefined sugar with a high molasses content that’s pressed into cones. If you can’t get piloncillo in your area, you can substitute 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar and a few teaspoons of molasses.

What was originally a combination of sweetened corn flour and hot water has evolved into a wide variety of concoctions: vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate (Champurrado), strawberry, guava, pineapple, blackberry, plum, mango, tejocote (kind of like a little apple), coconut, pecan, almond, and peanut.

We cannot fail to mention here that the custom in Mexico is to accompany your steaming hot atole with a tamal or two. And, of course, it all tastes even better when enjoyed in the company  of friends and family. We recommend you try the Champurrado (chocolate atole) first – luscious, rich, and creamy!

Posted by Magdiel

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