by Jeanne


Champurrado. Cham-purrrrr-ado. It’s sounds so fiesty. At it’s most loose it is a hot chocolate and spice drink that is thickened with corn meal. As a member of a group of Mexican corn-based drinks called atoles it is a most often compared to the Eastern-based milk tea, chai.

In it’s simplest form it is milk and piloncillo, a type of brown sugar, is brought to a boiling point while the masa harina is browned in a skillet. So simple but such a complex earthy taste. Due to it’s somewhat filling nature it can be served as a late afternoon merienda (snack) or as a simple breakfast with churros. However it is during Christmas time posadas where it is served alongside tamales that you’ll find huge pots and big crowds.

Not to wander too much here but…in 16th century Mexico, Aztecs celebrated the arrival of Huitzilopochtli, the war god, from Dec. 7 to 24. During the time of the Spanish missionaries this celebration was replaced with the European Christmas traditions to replace the pagan images with those of Mary and Joseph. Posada, a Christmas festival which plays out the search of Joseph and Mary seeking lodging, are celebrated in churches and missions with dramatic representations of the Nativity scene.

It’s probably one of the first fusion foods with the Spaniards milk and sugar marrying with the native corn of Mexico. The secret to making this comforting traditional beverage is to continually stir. The consistency should be thicker than that of hot chocolate.


Chocolate Atole

Adapted from California Rancho Cooking by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan

1/3 cup ground masa harina

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ cup water

4 cups milk

¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

Dash of cinnamon

1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 tspn vanilla extract

Instructions: Add the masa harina and cornstarch to the cold water and whisk to dissolve all the lumps. Add the mixture to the milk and brown sugar in a saucepan deep enough to allow room for whisking. Stir over low heat. Once the champurrado has begun to slightly thicken, after 10 minutes, add the chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. The tiny granules of corn should take about 20 minutes to well and thicken up. All at once it will seem, the liquid will become smooth and velvet like. Serve with the cinnamon stick. Serves 4