Atole blanco is a hot Mexican beverage typically thickened with dried corn kernels, masa harina (corn flour), masa (corn dough), or corn starch. It can be flavored with just about anything, but the base of most Mexican atole is maíz (in some form), water, and sugar or piloncillo. Its consistency can range from thick and rich, to runny and light. This version of atole blanco is inspired by Oaxaca, where drinks like atole are still made with dried corn kernels and are better than any recipes I’ve tried here in the U.S.
WHAT IS ATOLE?
Atole is a popular cold-weather drink that dates back to the Aztecs, as corn was a vital part of their food system and diet. Before Spanish colonization, the Aztecs flavored their atole with chiles and sweetened it with honey. Since then, new ingredients such as sugar, piloncillo (raw Mexican cone sugar, somewhat similar in flavor to brown sugar), and cinnamon have been introduced and this corn-based beverage now ranges in flavors from Mexican chocolate (champurrado) and guava, to pumpkin, strawberry, pineapple, and hibiscus, to name a few. The process has been simplified and most people make it with corn flour, but I love maintaining the traditional method for this recipe!
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Inspired by Oaxaca: In many parts of Oaxaca, women still make atole using dried corn kernels. The señoras in Oaxaca wouldn’t hear of using masa harina! If they don’t have time to grind their own corn, they’ll buy freshly ground masa to make it with masa that day.
- Traditional recipe: I make my recipe by boiling dry corn kernels and then blending and straining them to use their natural liquid corn starch. I learned this recipe from a señora in the town of El Tule, Oaxaca and perfected it with Señora Conchita and Rosie at La Casa de Mis Recuerdos.
- Great texture and versatile: Using dry corn results in a smooth, non-grainy texture with subtle corn flavor. It’s the perfect base to make other flavored atoles.
- Holiday favorite: beginning November, with Day of the Dead, through December’s posadas, tamaleadas, and Christmas, and then January’s Three Kings’ celebrations, Mexicans love to drink atole in their homes, churches, and plazas.
INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED
- Dry corn: I used Masienda’s White Ocotillo corn for this recipe.
- Sugar: I prefer pure cane sugar for all of my recipes, but any granulated sugar works.
- Cinnamon stick: I always opt for whole Mexican cinnamon sticks, but powdered cinnamon will work if you’re in a pinch.
- Vanilla extract: Optional, but adds another layer of flavor; make sure it’s pure vanilla extract, not an artificial version.
- White rice: The señora in El Tule added a few tablespoons of rice to her atole blanco, which we loved.
- Milk: Milk adds richness. I use whole milk, but feel free to substitute it for your favorite diary-free alternative or additional water.
RECOMMENDED FOR THIS RECIPE
NYLON NUT MILK BAG
Begin by bringing corn to a boil over medium heat in a medium sized pot for 45-60 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it plumps up and is no longer crunchy when you bite into it. It shouldn’t be mushy and soft nor should it feel like dry crunchy corn. Think, “if corn could be al dente, this would be the texture.” Be sure to add water if necessary throughout this process just incase it absorbs when boiling.
In a blender, process corn with water from the pot and an additional 2 cups of water for 60 seconds.
Using a nut bag or piece of cheesecloth, strain the liquid cornstarch from this mixture back into the original pot.
Repeat step 2. Add the blended corn back into the blender and process with 4 more cups of water. Then strain the liquids back into the pot again. This time the leftover corn will be a bit finer.
Add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla (optional), rice, and milk to the pot and bring to a light boil over medium heat. Once boiling, lower to low-medium and stir constantly to prevent the bottom from sticking or burning. This process should take anywhere from 30-45 minutes.
Once ready, serve hot in a large mug with your favorite Mexican pan dulce or tamales or any other traditional Mexican food!
LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION?
- Atole de Guayaba (Pink Guava Atole)
- Be sure to check out my library of Mexican Drinks and Aguas Frescas and Mexican Cocktails!
- For more Oaxaca inspiration, check out Lola’s Guide to Oaxaca!
Atole Blanco (Inspired by Oaxaca)
- Bring corn to a boil over medium heat in a medium pot for 45-60 minutes until it plumps up and is no longer crunchy when you bite into it. It shouldn’t be mushy and soft nor should it feel like dry crunchy corn – think, “if corn could be al dente, this would be the texture.” Be sure to add water if necessary throughout this process just incase it absorbs when boiling.
- In a blender, process corn with water from the pot and an additional 2 cups of water for 60 seconds.
- Using a nut bag or piece of cheesecloth, strain the liquids from this mixture (this is the cornstarch) back into the original pot.
- Repeat step 2 by adding the blended corn back into the blender and processing with 4 more cups of water and then straining the liquids back into the pot again.
- Add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla (optional), rice, and milk to the pot and bring to a light boil over medium heat. Once boiling, lower to low-medium and stir constantly to prevent the bottom from sticking or burning. This process should take anywhere from 30-45 minutes.
- Once ready, serve hot in a large mug with your favorite Mexican pan dulce or tamales!
A Note from Lola
Lola’s Cocina is a small business that earns various revenue streams. This includes sponsored posts and affiliate commissions from linked products, which I use and love. This commission is an agreement between Lola’s Cocina and retailers, with no extra cost to readers. This income helps sustains the site.
Lola Wiarco Dweck
Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.