In pre-Hispanic and modern Mexico, corn, or maíz, is present in daily life. It was a gift from the god Quetzalcóatl to the Aztecs and a legacy for the world. According to the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Mayans, corn is the matter with which man was made. A wide variety of foods emerged from corn: tortillas, tamales, stews, sweets, pinole, but also drinks that have been part of rituals and complement our diet, such as atoles. In fact, introducing corn to a diet can be a high source of nutrients, which has caused many communities to survive thanks to this delicious ingredient. That is why we consider maíz to be the greatest gift our ancestors left us with; it is our essence as Mexicans.
We then also have delicious chocolate, what we consider the second gift our ancestors left us with, right after corn. Atole is the quintessential drink of pre-Hispanic Mexico. It is a drink made with masa and finely ground corn flour. There are atoles that are mixed with different fruits, grains, and spices. However, only when chocolate is added to atole does it become the delicious and healthy drink we will be highlighting in this piece: champurrado
Champurrado is a chocolate-based atole, a warm and thick Mexican beverage, prepared with either masa de maíz (lime-treated corn dough), masa harina (a dried version of this dough), or corn flour (simply very finely ground dried corn, especially local varieties grown for atole); piloncillo; water; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla.
Many Latin Americans, especially Mexicans, love to enjoy a nice cup of champurrado around the holidays when the weather tends to get colder around the time of year. According to most of us who drink champurrado, it is a delicious beverage and highly differs from hot chocolate according to its taste and texture. The taste of the beverage also varies based on how it was made and what it accompanies it. Champurrado is traditionally served with churros in the morning or as a late afternoon snack. Champurrado is also very popular during Day of the Dead and at Las Posadas (during the Christmas season), where it is served alongside tamales.
Origin of Atole and Champurrado
Atole has its origin in the Aztecs. This civilization took advantage of the corn it cultivated to prepare all kinds of drinks and meals. Specifically, atole, which is a mixture of corn and water that is served hot and that was used as a sacred drink in some rituals and ceremonies. Later, to give it a sweeter flavor, they added some spices or seasonings. In this case, to prepare the champurrado the Aztecs used to add cocoa beans, since at that time they were not familiar with sugar. In this way, champurrado spread throughout much of Central America, due to its sweet and energetic flavor.
Great figures throughout history have publicized the drink when they discovered and tasted it. This is the case of Hernán Cortés who, after tasting it, added it to the Letters of Relationship that he wrote to the Royal Crown in Spain. Also Francisco Hernández, a doctor of the court of Felipe II, dedicated a period of his life to study the rich nutritional properties that this drink provides, which he included in his Natural History of New Spain (Historia Natural de Nueva España).
This is how champurrado, a word whose origin is unknown, became a representative drink of Mexico, partly because it is prepared with corn, a staple food in the Mexican diet, but also because of the unique flavor that cocoa gives it.
Many consider champurrado a derivative of atole.
In fact, champurrado is a type of atole with its own personality, which is prepared with either masa de maíz, masa harina, or corn flour; piloncillo; water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla, and then boiled until thick. The main difference between traditional hot chocolate and champurrado is the use of masa harina (corn flour).
Champurrado Recipe: Ingredients and Preparation
To prepare champurrado we will need water, piloncillo (an unrefined whole cane sugar sweetner), cinnamonand the two main ingredients, chocolate and masa harina, or corn flour.
- 5 oz. of piloncillo or ½ cup of sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 Mexican Chocolate tablets
- ¾ cup of masa harina, corn flour
To start, we will simmer water along with the piloncillos and a cinnamon stick, heating water until it boils and then reducing the heat, letting it simmer until the piloncillo dissolve, which should take 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, pour 2 cups of water and mix in the masa harina. Make sure to mix well and avoid leaving any clumps (you can use an egg beater for this). Mix until you achieve a creamy texture.
Next we will add three bars of chocolate to our saucepan, allowing it to simmer about 5 minutes until it dissolves, stirring from time to time.
When the chocolate has dissolved, pour the masa harina mixture into the saucepan while stirring, making sure there are no clumps in the mixture. If you want, use you can use a strainer to pour the mixture to be safe and avoid any masa harina clumps.
Turn the heat to medium-high until the Champurrado starts boiling, and then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring constantly. After 6-8 minutes the mixture will thicken. Allow cooking for 5 more minutes.
-If we do not have piloncillos there is no problem in using brown sugar instead.
-We can also add a little milk to thicken the mixture, if we like it better this way. The mixture can be strained through a fine sieve before serving if a smoother champurrado is desired.
-On the other hand, champurrado is usually served with a little foam, an effect that is typically achieved with a molinillo (a traditional turned wood whisk), but we can achieve this foam with the use of an electric mixer.
If we were to travel to Mexico and have the possibility of visiting Oaxaca we would discover that it is the city where the champurrado is best served, although in the states of Veracruz or Michoacán they also make amazing varieties of this delicious drink. However, to find out which is our favorite champurrado, we would have no choice but to try them all, until we find our favorite one, although with the multitude of stalls that prepare it in Mexico, we will have no time for tasting and savoring them all. Dare we tell you our favorite champurrado? We love the champurrado with a little bit of anise to increase the flavor. Delicious!
So, what do you think? Have you ever had champurrado? Which do you prefer between champurrado and hot cocoa? Will you be making this recipe anytime soon? Is there any other recipe you would like for us to share with you all? Let us know, we would love to hear from you!
If you are looking for hot drinks, don't forget we have a wide variety of Mexican coffee from Café Punta del Cielo and you can check them out here. Also, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter where we make sure to share this and many more recipes and make sure to give our familia of subscribers exclusive promotions, gifts, first-hand look at all new products and, of course, these articles that we love to write for you all!
Recipe inspired from Mely Martínez's version, Mexico in my Kitchen.