Atole Blanco (Inspired by Oaxaca)

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.

atole blanco

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!

Atole Blanco

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.
Mexican atole

RECOMMENDED FOR THIS RECIPE

NYLON NUT MILK BAG

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1

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.

Atole Blanco

Step 2

In a blender, process corn with water from the pot and an additional 2 cups of water for 60 seconds.

Oaxaca corn

Step 3

Using a nut bag or piece of cheesecloth, strain the liquid cornstarch from this mixture back into the original pot.

Mexican atole recipe

Step 4

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.

Atole Blanco

Step 5

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.

How to make atole

Step 6

Once ready, serve hot in a large mug with your favorite Mexican pan dulce or tamales or any other traditional Mexican food!

atole blanco

LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION?

Atole Blanco

Atole Blanco (Inspired by Oaxaca)

by Lola Dweck
This traditional Mexican atole blanco is inspired by Oaxaca, where drinks like atole are still made with dried corn kernels and are simply the best!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Cook Time for Atole 30 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6
Calories 227 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • 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

RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
Atole might thicken or separate upon refrigeration. Simply stir it well before reheating in the microwave or on the stovetop in a small saucepan. If it’s still too thick, add more milk or water until it reaches your desired consistency.
STORAGE TIPS
If you have leftover atole, let it cool to room temperature and then transfer it to an airtight container – I like using a glass mason jar – and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 12ouncesCalories: 227kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 6gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 33mgPotassium: 212mgFiber: 3gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 196IUVitamin C: 0.05mgCalcium: 153mgIron: 2mg
227
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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.

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Recipe Rating




6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I was a little worry about using actual corn rather than corn starch. I was afraid the corn taste would be over powering but by adding different flavors you can hardly tell! This recipe is great to get warm and cozy with on a chilly night. Although it takes a little while to make, it’s worth having an authentic traditional drink to sip on!

  2. 5 stars
    I love that this atole is not too thick. I’ve gotten the ratios wrong before and it comes out like pudding. Any suggestions on what we can do with the strained corn? I’m guessing it’s compostable at least.