I just came from the train station at Beverly & Vermont where I bought some champurrado and a tamale.  The champurrado brought back memories of growing up in my grandmother’s warm kitchen, the sweet smell of cinnamon wafting through the house.  I loved when she made champurrado or other flavored atoles.  There was just something so comforting about the hot, sweet and thick drink.  It not only warmed my belly but filled me.  My grandfather would tell me stories about a little lady in his town in Mexico that would sell tamales out of her kitchen window with the matching atole.  Strawberry tamale and a strawberry atole.  Yummy.

Atole is a traditional drink made with masa, a type of corn flour.  The word comes from the Nahuatl word “atolli” and back in Aztec/Mexica times it was a staple made with water, maize and lime which helped soften the maize.  To find out more about the foods of the pre-conquest Mexica, click here.

Atole can also be made with pinole, a toasted corn flour.  The drink is often made for breakfast and on cold days when it makes it a comforting way to keep warm.  It’s Latino comfort food.  I grew up drinking mostly the chocolate kind or champurrado, but I also had strawberry, coconut, pineapple, guayaba, the white unsweetened atole that was made special with bunelos, and atol de nuez which was made with nuts.  In the part of L.A that I live in, there’s a huge Salvadorean, Guatamalean and Honduran population and their versions of atole have made their way onto my palate, repertoire and heart.  Atol de elote, atol de chuco, chilate and more found their way into my kitchen and recipe files.  Some of the recipes are my grandmother’s and others I’ve accumulated and adapted over the years from various people who’ve shown me their favorites.

There’s nothing better on a cold morning or coming home from work on a chilly night than a steaming cup of atole and I’m lucky enough to live in L.A where its readily available at the train station on my way home.  It’s easy to make, the ingredients are usually easy to find and for the gluten-free crowd, you can find gluten-free masa on a few websites.

Atol de Elote – Corn Atole

15 ears of corn
8 cups of water
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of cinnamon
2 3/4 cups of sugar
3 tsps of salt

Cook 5 ears of corn in about 4 cups of water with teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  When they are cooked, cool them off then remove the kernels of corn from the ear and set aside in a small bowl.
Strip the other 10 ears of corn of their kernels and chop them up then add to the blender.  Liquefy them until they are very, very smooth.  Little by little add in the 4 cups of water.  Strain in a fine sieve using cheese cloth to line it so that the liquid is very smooth.
In a large pot add the strained corn liquid, 4 more cups of water, cinnamon stick, salt, sugar and heat on medium flame stirring constantly.  Keep stirring until it thickens.  Keep on heat for about ten minutes.  Once it’s thick, its done.
Serve in cups adding a little of the cooked kernels of corn on top and dusting it with powdered cinnamon.

Atol de Platano – Banana Atole
6 bananas
5 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sugar

Wash the bananas well and put them (whole, peels and all) to boil in three of the five cups of water  for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Once cooled, peel the bananas and put the pulp into a blender with the water it cooked in.  Add the other two cups of water and blend until smooth.

In a large pot, add the banana mixture, cinnamon stick and sugar and heat on the stove on low heat for 10-15 minutes.  If the mixture is too thin, heat a little longer so it thickens.  Serve hot.

Atole de Pina – Pineapple Atole

5 cups of masa harina
4 1/2 cups of water
1 ripe pineapple
12 cups of milk
1 pinch of baking soda
Sugar to taste

Mix the water and the masa, taking care that its mixed well and all the lumps are out.  Strain through a sieve to get the last of the lumps out and bring to a boil in a large stockpot then lower heat.  Stir frequently and let thicken.
Peel and cube the pineapple, then put it in a blender and blend until smooth.  Strain and add to the simmering masa mixture stirring till its mixed through.  Add the milk and baking soda and sugar to taste and simmer another 15-20 minutes, stirring often to keep from boiling over.

The atole should be served hot.

Atole de Guyaba – Guava Atole

1 can evaporated milk
5 cups of water
3 medium sized guyabas (guavas)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Dissolve the corn starch in a glass of cold water, stirring until all the lumps are gone and you have a smooth liquid.

Boil the guyabas in 5 cups of water, the cinnamon stick and sugar until the guyabas are fully cooked.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Once cooled, remove the cinnamon stick and pour the mixture into a blender and liquify until smooth.  Strain and pour back into the pot and turn on the heat to low.

Slowly add in the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly until it is all incorporated.  Continue stirring while the atole simmers and thickens.  Once the atole is thickened, slowly pour in the evaporated milk and simmer another 10-15 minutes before serving.

Atole de Galletas de Maria – Atole made from Maria Cookies

7 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp. Almond extract
1 packet of Maria cookies (galletas Marias)
1 pinch of baking soda

In a food processor grind the cookies until they are powder and set aside.

In a large stockpot bring the milk to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer.  Add the baking soda, almond extract, powdered cookies and sugar.  Stir constantly until the atole thickens.

Serve hot.

Atol de Coco – Coconut Atole

5 cups of milk
2 cups of masa
1 cup shredded coconut
1 stick of cinnamon
1 cup of finely ground almonds
1 cup of sugar
Powdered cinnamon to taste

In a large stockpot, bring the milk, shredded coconut and cinnamon stick to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer.

Dissolve the 2 cups of masa with water (about 3 cups) till it is smooth with no lumps.  Slowly add the masa mixture into the simmering milk mixture.  Stir constantly until thickened then add the sugar.  Simmer another 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot with a little powdered cinnamon sprinkled on the top of each cupful.

Atol de Tamarindo – Tamarind Atole

1/2 cup of masa
5 cups of water
2 tamarind pods
1 cone of piloncillo
1 peppercorn
Pinch salt

Soak the tamarind pods in a bowl of warm water for about two hours before starting the atole.  Once they are well softened, you can knead them until all it is all pulpy and pick out the seeds and shells.  Blend the pulp in a blender until smooth.  Strain well and set aside.

Dissolve the masa in 2 cups of the water, making sure its smooth with no lumps.

Bring to boil the remaining water with the cone of piloncillo and peppercorn then lower the heat.  Stir in the masa mixture, the tamarind pulp and pinch of salt.  Keep stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Fish out the peppercorn and simmer for another 10-15 minutes before serving.

Atole de Arro
z – Rice Atole

1 cup of long grain rice
1 can of condensed milk
10 cups of milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 cup of sugar

Bring the rice to boil in 4 cups of water with the two cinnamon sticks, lower heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

In a large stockpot add the condensed milk, the regular milk, sugar and vanilla.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and let simmer.
Remove the cinnamon sticks from the rice and add the rice to the cooking milk.  Stir constantly and cook for about 20 minutes until the rice is almost dissolved.  Serve hot.  The rice will still have its shape but will be incredibly soft and melt in your mouth.

Atole Negro – Black Atole

2 cups of cacao shells
1 stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of anise
Piloncillo to taste
10 cups of water

In a frying pan toast the cacao shells until they are very dark.

In a food processor, grind the cinnamon, anise and cacao shells until they form a powder.

Bring the 10 cups of water to boil then lower the flame and add the powder.  Add the sugar and piloncillo and stir until thickened.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring constantly.  Serve hot.

Atole de Cacahuate – Peanut Atole

5 cups of peanuts, shelled and cleaned
6 cups of water
2 cans condensed milk
2 cups of masa
2 discs of Mexican chocolate (like Abuelita)
3 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups of sugar

Bring the water to boil with the cinnamon sticks and milk.  Once it has brought to a boil, lower the flame and simmer adding the two discs of chocolate.  Stir.

In a blender pulverize the peanuts with about enough water to facilitate the blending.  Add the sugar and blend more, adding more water if it gets too sticky and hard to blend.

In a bowl mix the masa with water until it is smooth with no lumps.  Mix into the peanut mixture and blend more until it is well mixed.

Slowly pour the peanut/masa mix into the simmering chocolate mixture, stirring constantly.  Keep on the heat for about 15 minutes.

Serve hot.

Atole de Ciruela – Plum Atole

5 cups fresh plums
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 clove
2 cones of piloncillo
1 cup of masa
10 cups of water
Pinch salt

In a large saucepan add the plums, 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for a 1/2 hour.  Set aside and let cool.  Once cooled, break the plums apart with your hands, removing the seeds.  Blend the plums and water until smooth.

In a large stockpot, bring to boil 10 cups of water with the cinnamon sticks, the clove and piloncillo.  Once it is boiling, add the plum mixture and stir.

Mix the masa with water until it is smooth with no lumps and slowly stir into the stockpot with the plum mixture.  Lower the flame and simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring constantly.

Atole de Naranja – Orange Atole

12 cups of milk
12 cups of water
7 cups of orange juice (fresh squeezed)
4 cups of masa
2 cups sugar
Sugar to taste

Wash and squeeze enough oranges to yield 7 cups of juice.  Strain out seeds.

In a large stockpot add the orange juice with 2 cups of sugar and heat till it comes to a boil.  Lower the flame and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile dissolve the masa in the 12 cups water until it is smooth and with no lumps.  Strain and pour into the simmering orange juice.  Stir constantly until thickened, then add in the milk little by little still stirring constantly.  Let cook another 10-15 minutes before serving.

I like to garnish this with fresh orange blossoms when in season and a little orange zest.

Atol de Nuez – Walnut Atole

3 cups of milk
4 tablespoons of Maizena
1 cup of ground walnuts
2 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar

Bring the milk to the boil, then lower the flame and simmer.  Add the ground nuts and sugar and stir.

Dissolve the Maizena in water until it is smooth without any lumps and slowly pour into the simmering milk, stirring constantly and not allowing the mixture to lump up.  Keep simmering for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts on top.

Atol de Habas – Fava bean Atol

1 pound of toasted habas
3 sticks of cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
Sugar to taste
5 cups of water

Toast the habas on a griddle then soak them in a few cups of water for about 3-4 hours.  Once they are softened, put into a blender with the water they soaked in and blend until smooth.

In a large stockpot add 5 cups of water, the cinnamon sticks and pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer.  Add the habas mixture and keep stirring until it thickens.  If it is too thick add in more hot water and stir well.  Serve hot.

Atole de Pinole – Pinole Atole

10 cups of milk
5 cups of pinole
2 sticks of cinnamon
Sugar to taste

Heat the milk with the cinnamon sticks and just as it begins to boil add the pinole, stirring fast to avoid lumping.  Lower the flame and simmer, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Add sugar to taste and serve hot.

Atole de Piñón – Pine nut Atole

1 can of evaporated milk
8 cups of water
1 cup of pine nuts (pinones)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of maizena

In a large stockpot bring 6 cups of the water to a boil.

In a blender pulverize the pinenuts with a cup of water until smooth.  Strain through a sieve.

Add the milk to the boiling water and lower heat.  Stir in the maizena swiftly so that no lumps form.  Add the pinenut mixture and stir.  Cook for another 10-15 minutes on simmer, stirring constantly.

Champurrado – Chocolate Atole

12 cups of milk
2 cups of masa
1 cup of sugar
1 stick of cinnamon
1 disc of Mexican chocolate

Bring to a boil the milk with cinnamon sticks, then lower heat and simmer stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t boil over.

Mix the masa with a cup of water until smooth and without lumps.  Strain and add slowly to the hot milk, stirring quickly to keep it from lumping up.  Add the chocolate and sugar stirring the mixture the whole while.  Simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Serve hot.

Atole de Nopal – Cactus Atole

12 cups of milk
2 cones of piloncillo
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of masa
1 1/2 cups of water
10 nopales (cactus paddles), cooked and washed

Bring the milk to a boil with the piloncillo, vanilla and cinnamon sticks.  Lower the heat and simmer stirring constantly.

Dissolve the masa in the water until smooth with no lumps.  Strain.

Add the masa mixture to the milk mixture and stir constantly until the mixture thickens.

Blend the cooked nopales in a blender with a little water until smooth.  Mix the nopale puree into the milk mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Atole de Fresa – Strawberry Atole

1 pound of fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 cup of masa
2 cups of water
Sugar to taste
1 stick of cinnamon

In a blender, blend the strawberries with a little water until smooth.

In a large pot boil the two cups of water with the cinnamon stick, lower heat and simmer.

Mix the masa with water until smooth then strain and add to the simmering water little by little, stirring constantly.  Add the strawberry mixture.  Simmer for another ten minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for another ten minutes.  Serve.

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