Atole – My Cold Weather Smoothie

In New Mexico atole is toasted blue corn flour used to make a hot drink

 

Atole (uh-TOL-ay) is little different in different countries, but in general it is a hot masa-based beverage normally served for breakfast.  In northern New Mexico atole refers to toasted blue corn flour use to make a beverage of the same name.  The atole is cooked with water and milk into a thick beverage or an even thicker porridge and then sweetened to taste.  In Mexico, atole is a similar beverage made with toasted masa (hominy corn flour), a sweetener (usually piloncillo), cinnamon and vanilla. Add chocolate and you have a drink called champurrado. Both atole and champurrado are the traditional drinks for the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos or the Day of the Dead.  However, because it is a hot beverage, atole is normally drank during cold weather, but by some people, year round.


In New Mexico atole is toasted blue corn flour used to make a hot drinkIt took me 20 years in New Mexico to discover atole and the discovery was due to one of those simple little moments in life that you remember for a very long time.  While scooping out yellow cornmeal in the bulk aisle at the co-op, I bumped into a Native American man next to me scooping out blue cornmeal.  We smiled and spoke, and then he asked me if I had ever had atole. After saying “No”, a relatively long conversation for a grocery store ensued. He talked about how atole had been drank by several generations of his family for warmth in the winter and as a energy booster – good for the body and soul. He did a great job of convincing me that it was something I needed to try, so I bought a small bag. When I got home I researched “atole”, found some basic recipes and gave it go.  Honestly, I was not a fan of the basic recipes that I found with just water, milk, atole, and sweetener. Just a little boring for my taste.  However, with a little trial and error, I have come up with a few recipes that I love and could drink almost every day during cold weather, alternately them with my other breakfast staples – grits and green chile, and steel-cut oats.

Nutritional value of blue corn – After reading the following paper, I can see why atole is used as an energy drink.  According to a paper by George W. Dickerson @ the New Mexico State University, “blue corns are a more complete protein source than either white or yellow dent corns”.  In addition, they are higher in zinc, iron and potassium.

 

In New Mexico atole is toasted blue corn flour used to make a hot drink

 

 

In New Mexico atole is toasted blue corn flour used to make a hot drink

 

 

Here is a very simple atole that you can make in the just a few minutes with hardly any effort.

 

Kitchen Notes

The Cornmeal – Both of these drinks can be made with blue, yellow, or white cornmeal flour.  The finer the grind the better.  Coarser grain cornmeals can be used, but the texture of the resulting atole will not be as pleasant (in my opinion).  For sources of atole (blue corn flour), check out Chimayo Chile Brothers and Southwest Heritage Mill.

The Fruit – Apple and banana are the only fruits I’ve tried with atole because those are the fruits most accessible during the cold months of the year.  However, like oatmeal, I’m sure other fruits would work.  Let me know if you try another fruit.

The Jam (Atole with Jam Recipe) – My favorite jams to use in the third recipe are Strawberry Jam and a choke cherry jelly.  However, just about any jam or jelly would work.

The Spices – Because atole is cornmeal, it lends itself to a lot of variety for the spices used.  I personally love cinnamon, cardamom and a touch of nutmeg at times.  If you are a licorice lover like me, the star anise is wonderful with apple, but no so much with banana.  However, if you don’t like licorice, cinnamon and cardamom work great.  Other ingredients that you could use include chocolate or chocolate blends (like Mayan chocolate), chile powder of choice, nutmeg, cloves, or combinations of two or more.

The Sweetener – Maple syrup is my choice of sweetener, but honey and sugar also work.  I would assume an artificial sweetener would work, but I’m not a fan, so I haven’t tried.

Atole as a Porridge If you are a Cream of Wheat lover, then you would probably enjoy a thicker atole that is very much like Cream of Wheat.  For porridge, increase the amount of atole to 1/2 cup for 2 cups of liquid.  The atole will be much thicker, so serve in a bowl and eat with a spoon.  Also, there is probably no need to blend the fruit. Just chop it up and cook it with the atole.

Atole and Nursing Mothers  – During my research I found that not only is atole used as an energy drink, but it is also used by nursing mothers to increase milk production; however, I found no studies that proved either of these.

 

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78 Responses to “Atole – My Cold Weather Smoothie”

  1. Gintare @Gourmantine November 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I’ve never heard of Atole, but would be so interesting to try! By the way, I absolutely love that photo with steaming cup, it’s gorgeous!

    • mj November 10, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      Thanks so much Gintare!

  2. Yi @ Yi Reservation November 10, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    This is my first time learning about Atole and I already love it! I love the story behind it. It just reminded me of a flour/soy/lard based “tea” I had in a remotely area in China. It was really wonderful. Thanks again for sharing this recipe and i can’t wait to try it!

    • mj November 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

      Thanks Yi! A flour/soy/lard based tea? Now that sounds quite strange but very interesting. Need to check out that tea.

  3. Sawsan@ Chef in disguise November 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    I am in love!
    How did I not know about this!
    I need to buy some blue corn flour as soon as possible!

    Your blog is a always a source of inspiration, thank you

  4. Hotly Spiced November 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I love your cup. I’ve never heard of atole before and didn’t know there was such a thing as blue cornflower. I’ll have to google to see if it’s available here xx

  5. Gomo | cHowDivine November 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    What a lovely post! It was so informative. I’ve never heard of atole, but reading your post is making me want to go out and grab some blue corn flour. This drink sounds so comforting. It would be just perfect for this cold weather here. Thanks for sharing the story and, of course, the recipe. :))

  6. Sissi November 9, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    One more exotic recipe I have read about with big pleasure and interest. I cannot even imagine how it tastes, but I believe it must be perfect for cold weather. The steam looks so homely and inviting…
    (By the way, the first cup looks strangely familiar… isn’t it made in Poland? I think I have already seen something similar on your photos of the kitchen I think…).

    • mj November 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

      Thanks Sissi! Yes, the cup is part of a small set of Polish dinnerware that I have collected through the years, I love it.

      • Sissi November 10, 2013 at 11:25 am #

        I knew it! It’s very characteristic.

  7. Dess November 8, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Hi, I am mexican, I don`t know exactly how to make atole, corn atole, I alway buy it, you can find it in many streets in mexico city, usually with tamales. I do it with rice flour, that’s another kind, but is common too, you put milk, cinammon, sugar and five tablespoons of rice flour 1 lt this way is very nice too.

    • mj November 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

      Thanks Dees for your comment! I have some rice flour in the pantry and I like the idea of using it with atole. I can see how atole would make a great street food.

      • Dess November 12, 2013 at 11:17 am #

        hope you enjoy it, it’s a commoon breakfast here, you can find it rice atole, chocolate, strawberry, cookies, caramel (we call it cajeta, is very sweet and made with milk). When you make it with rice flour, remember to boil de milk with the sugar and cinammon, the flour is the last one, you must stir it for a while :)

        • mj November 13, 2013 at 10:06 am #

          Dess, thanks so much for the instructions for using rice flour! I would have made it the same way as I do with the blue corn flour which is opposite. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I love the idea of chocolate and cinnamon.

  8. cquek November 8, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    yes 2 cups please

  9. Sanjeeta kk November 8, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    We have one another thing in common, MJ…Cornmeal. Yes, its a staple to the place I belong to, in Rajasthan India. But have never heard of blue corn flour…what a wonderful list of ingredients you have in store!

  10. minnie@thelady8home November 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    This is such an interesting recipe, never heard of it. I love the sound of it and clicks are beautiful. I always love recipe with history behind them. Such a cute story :)

  11. Nami | Just One Cookbook November 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    I love the story behind Atole. I love those unique moments in life that could change life such as your encounter with this native American man. I also realized that I don’t know a lot of food in America – such a big country and what I know about America is really California. I’d love to try and taste this drink! And the steamy drink image simply worth 1000 words!

  12. Asmita November 6, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Hi MJ,
    This is such an interesting and unique drink. I haven’t heard of it before but now I am so curious to taste it. Looks awesome!

    • mj November 6, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Thanks Asmita! It’s hard to describe the flavor. Without the fruit, it’s relatively bland, but once you add the fruit, it takes on the flavor of the fruit and spices.

  13. Shannon | JustAsDelish November 6, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    oh i would love a cold winter smoothie when i was in Netherlands 2 weeks ago, freezing my ass off. Atole sounds very comforting indeed.

    • mj November 6, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Thanks Shannon! Oh yea – definitely would have warmed you up! :)

  14. Bam's Kitchen November 6, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    I would love to have a cup of that now as a snack hot drink before going to bed. Thank you for sharing this unique recipe and loving your steamy cup in that first photo.

    • mj November 6, 2013 at 9:40 am #

      Thanks so much Bam! I think drinking this right before bed would be like drinking a cup of coffee. :) I get a real energy kick from it. But it’s definitely the drink for cold weather.

  15. easyfoodsmith November 6, 2013 at 1:46 am #

    The atole smoothi sounds fantastic. Being from Punjabi community, where corn is a staple diet during winters, I can imagine how delicious this must be. However, blue corn is something I have only seen on blogs and it has always capture my imagination :-)

    • mj November 6, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      Thanks! I think blue corn is just found in the southwestern U.S., but not sure. I can find it easily here. However, as I mentioned to Deby previously, this can be made with white or yellow corn flour which you probably have access to.

  16. Dedy@Dentist Chef November 6, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Nice smoothies within the rainy days lately in Indonesia!
    great job my friend!
    btw, can i replace the atole with regular yellow corn flour???

    • mj November 6, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      Thanks Dedy! Even though I’ve never tried it with white or yellow corn flour, I have seen it used in other places. So yes, you can use yellow corn flour! Please let me know how it works out.

  17. Angie@Angie's Recipes November 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Amazing clicks, MJ. Love both the drink and the photos.

    • mj November 6, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks so much Angie!

  18. fati's recipes November 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Wow. It’s so exciting to hear all this new stuff. Atole – yes I read it wrong until hood pronunciation guide – seems like this amazing mix of aromas poured into a mug and just ready for being indulged in!

  19. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles November 5, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Your cold weather smoothie — :) — love it!! I’ve never come across atole before and so excited to make the discovery. I am always amazed by the energizing foods and ingredients native to Mexico (the history of chia seed and its use by Aztec warriors and the super-runner tribe indigenous to the Copper Canyons of Mexico come to mind). So if I’m understanding your description, this is a beverage (not a oatmeal cereal consistency) — do you still get some grainy sensation from the corn flour or does it stay mixed smooth throughout as you drink it? It sounds wonderful and I really like how you’ve flavoured it. Great discovery! Thanks MJ.

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      Great questions Kelly! The banana atole has a very smooth consistency very much like that of a smoothie, but the beverage does get thicker as it sits, so it’s best to drink it while it’s still warm. If any of the blue corn flour lumps during the cooking process, it will settle to the bottom of the cup. That’s why it’s good to blend before serving if it’s lumping. The apple doesn’t puree as well as the banana, so it’s a little thicker consistency. I found the 2 cups liquid to 1/4 cup bc flour to yield a nice, smooth drinkable beverage. Thanks!

  20. ChgoJohn November 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    A recipe and a lesson. A two-fer! Thanks, MJ. I’ve not heard of atole before but it does sound like a great drink for cold mornings. Sometimes, coffee just isn’t enough. :)

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      Thanks John! Talk about energy – a couple of cups of coffee and cup of atole and you’re set for the day!

  21. Viviane Bauquet Farre - Food and Style November 5, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    This looks like such a great winter warmer, MJ. Kudos to you on powering through the bland recipes you found at first, and creating your own magic! It seems it was well worth it :)

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      Thanks Viviane! My initial taste atole told me there were possibilities, so it made it easy to find a way to enjoy it. We’ve probably all done that with one thing or another. :)

  22. Liz November 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    What an intriguing drink! And your steaming mug photos are incredible!

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks so much Liz!

  23. wok with ray November 5, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Never had atole before and it’s totally new to me. Love the steam smoke coming from the drink. Good shot, MJ! It feels really homey my friend. :)

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      Thanks Ray! You got a little view of my winter corner there in the pictures with two of my blankets. :)

  24. Renee @ Tortillas and Honey November 5, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    I grew up on atole and have been wanting to post my grandma’s recipe, but it is a more basic recipe! I love the color, it’s so fun! Your version sounds really good, I’ll have to give it a try… I have some atole in the cupboard!

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

      Thanks Renee! I hope you do post your grandma’s recipe! I’d love to see it. Let me know if you like it with fruit.

  25. Reese November 5, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    How fascinating! Love the story you told about Atole. I am trying to imagine the flavors in my mind. The mix of flavors from masa with milk, spices & the steam coming from the mug…I feel like I can finally easing into this winter already.

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Thanks Reese! It’s an interesting flavor and texture. When I first tried it I thought it would be grainy, but it wasn’t. It’s actually very smooth and soothing. We’re hitting into the 20s tonight, so winter is headed this way. :(

  26. Soni November 5, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Oh this seems perfect for me on cold days like today! Love the cardamom and cinnamon together with the vanilla and although I’ve never had Atole, I’m sure I’ll love it :)

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:21 am #

      Thanks so much Soni! When it comes to hot comfort breakfast like oatmeal and atole, cardamom and cinnamon is my favorite combination. :)

  27. Ramona November 5, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    I love hearing about recipes and remedies that the generations before us used… this is a very unique and interesting drink. We have many herbal drinks that we use when we are sick too in Sri Lanka. My mother drinks coriander seeds boiled with water, ginger and some sugar or honey when she is sick. Trust me…when you are a kid… it’s not that great. But now I appreciate it.

    I like your versions of the atole because I think I would need the extra flavor boost. Thanks for sharing this story and recipe with us. :)

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Thanks Ramona! What an interesting drink that you mother made. I can see how, as a kid, it didn’t quite fit your tastebuds, but when you older and desperate for some relief from being sick, I wouldn’t hesitate to prepare it. I’m going to have to remember this. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Katerina November 5, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    I have never heard of atole, but then again I live so far away from its place of birth! It looks very comforting and warm. A perfect way to warm up on a cold winter day!

    • mj November 5, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Thanks Katerina! In my research of the differences in atole in different places I didn’t find it’s use in Greece or anywhere around you for that matter. However, apparently you can make this with a fine yellow or white cornmeal. I’ll be trying that next.

  29. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef November 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    I love the story! Isn’t it great when you meet someone like that and it starts you on a quest for something special like this.

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      I totally agree Maureen! Thanks!

  30. Bill November 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Is Atole simply blue corn flour or is it blue corn masa? I don’t know that it would make a difference in flavor or texture, but it might make a difference in nutrition. It does sound very interesting. I hope to try some soon.

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Bill, it’s actually blue corn flour, not masa. It’s not soaked in an alkaline solution. It’s just dried blue corn toasted and ground fine into flour. Thanks for the great question and I hope you find some. I’m going to be adding a couple of sources to the post.

      • Bill November 10, 2013 at 8:12 am #

        I ordered some blue corn flour through Los Chileros de Nuevo Mexico and made a batch of banana atole this morning. The flavor was good, but the texture was unusual to us. This isn’t a bad thing, just different. We followed that with a batch of grits and green chile. My wife and I enjoyed both. The grits were a new experience for me, but could become a regular. Our biggest problem will be the scarcity of roasted green chiles around here. I usually grow chiles and put some away, but not too many. I roast mine over a wood fire and it’s pretty time consuming. Thanks for the recipes.

        • mj November 10, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

          Bill, thanks so much for your comments! It’s always good to hear from another grits and green chile lover! They’re good aren’t they? :) I know when you don’t live in the southwest, green chiles are hard to find. It’s good to order A LOT in September and freeze. Some growers will ship frozen chile in the winter. You can also buy canned chile, but I don’t find them quite as tasty. As far as atole is concerned, yes, it is a different texture. If you find it too thick, cut back on the amount of corn flour. Next time try just 2 Tbsp. corn flour. You might like that better. This morning I made a single serving with 1 cup almond milk (no water), 1 Tbsp. atole, and then 1 scant Tbsp. of raspberry jam. It was as good as the banana atole, which is my favorite. Thanks again Bill! Have a great week!

          • Bill November 11, 2013 at 6:25 am #

            I think that the recipe was pretty good as it was. The only thing that I might want to do is to scale it back to make two mugs. The atole that is left in the pan cools too quickly.

          • mj November 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

            SO GLAD you liked it Bill!

  31. Debra November 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Very interesting. I have never heard of atole but am intrigued. If it is a traditional dish, I am all in to try it. Thanks for the two variations.

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      You’re most welcome Debra! Thanks for the comment!

  32. Tessa November 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I’ve never heard of atole before. Sounds and looks deliciuous MJ!

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks Tessa!

  33. Choc Chip Uru November 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Atole is a new one for me but it looks fantastic :D
    Definitely warming!

    Cheers
    CCU

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Definitely warming! Thanks Uru!

  34. Evelyne@cheapethniceatz November 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    Atole is totally new to me. Sounds like it was a great chance meeting with this gentleman. Very curious to give this a try, now to find this main ingredient where I live, hmm.

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks Evelyne! If you can’t find it locally, you can find it online. It’s really good!

  35. Jodee Weiland November 4, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    I’ve never heard of this until now. It sounds interesting, and I love the story behind it because I was born on Nov. 2nd, All Soul’s Day, or for some the Day of the Dead. I need to try this. Interesting as well because it came to you first through a Native American gentleman. Thanks for sharing!

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks Jodee! I bet Halloween is your favorite holiday. :) The young man was very nice and I really enjoyed hearing his story. What we can learn from complete strangers. :)

  36. Marta @ What Should I eat for breakfast today November 4, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    It is something new for me as well. Need to try it. I like learning new recipes and flavours .

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Thanks Marta! I’ve learned a lot from your blog as well! It’s fun, isn’t it? :)

  37. john@kitchenriffs November 4, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Atole is new to me – never even heard of it before. I lead such a sheltered life! ;-) Sounds really good, though. Excellent post – thanks!

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Thanks John! It’s not surprising that you’ve never heard of it. It’s very regional even in New Mexico and then when you go south to Mexico, it’s completely different. What’s crazy it that I walked by the atole bulk bend for years and never paid any attention to it. :)

  38. Giulietta | Alterkitchen November 4, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Never heard of or tasted atole before in my life, but it seems a delicious and comforting beverage.
    I always find out something new, here.

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      Thanks Guilia! It’s kind of similar to the masa you would looking for last week, but not quite. Masa is treated in a solution of slaked lime or wood ash, whereas New Mexico atole is just a finely ground blue corn. It’s quite good and I know I’ll be using it in other things.

  39. Nisa Homey November 4, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    OMG!! MJ, what an awesome click!! Each recipe of yours has something new in it…so much learning from you :)

    • mj November 4, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      Thanks Nisa!! I figured Atole would be a new time to most people.

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