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Atole de Pinole y Vainilla #EattheWorld

Here we are in October for another installment of our #EattheWorld project, being spearheaded by Evelyne of CulturEatz. Here's her challenge.

In February we kicked off the project with Cuba; in March we celebrated St. Patrick's Day with a tabletop trip to IrelandThailand was our April destination. May had us headed to Kenya. You get the idea. In any case for this month, she invites us to a special edition - Halloween around the World. She asked us to "choose a Halloween (or similar celebration) or scary recipe from a country of your choice and explain why you chose it or talk about the country a little bit." What spooky, delicious fun.

The Halloween-y #EattheWorld Posts

Día de los Muertos

I decided to focus on Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that is less about scary ghouls and more about friendly ghosts. And, despite the painted faces and ubiquitous skulls, this is a celebration of remembrance. It's believed that at midnight on October 31st, the souls of all deceased children come down from heaven and reunite with their loved ones on November 1st; it's November 2nd for the souls of deceased adults. The holiday is a joyful one, filled with the hope that they can connect with the loved ones they have lost.

According to the Aztec mythology, Mictlan, the world of the dead, is a beautiful place to be. The animated movie Coco depicted this holiday in a visually appealing way with bridges of marigold petals and vibrant colors. As in Coco, the Día de los Muertos festivities include a trip to the cemetery where families pack picnics and play music to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer on this Earth.

While I considered making Calavera de Azúcar (Sugar Skulls) - or any of the Coco-inspired dishes that friends shared for a past Food'N'Flix, especially my Pastel de Caléndulas
 - I wanted to use some Pinole Azul that I've had in my cupboard, unused, for far too long. This one from Rancho Gordo comes pre-mixed with sugar and cinnamon though I added in more cinnamon and simmered it all with a whole vanilla bean. The recipe I will share below, though, will allow you to make the atole without the mix. And feel free to substitute regular masa harina if you can't find the blue masa.

Atole de Pinole y Vainilla

Atole (pronounced ah-TOH-leh) is a traditional Mexican drink - dating back to the time of the Aztecs and Mayans - made from masa harina, the type of corn flour used to make corn tortillas. This one is warm, spicy, and oh so tasty!

Ingredients makes 4 servings

  • 3-4 ounces piloncillo (substitute brown sugar needed) - if using Pinole Azul, skip the piloncillo
  • 1/2 C water
  • 3 C milk (I use whole milk)
  • 1/2 C masa harina (blue is preferred) or Pinole Azul, if you have it
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, sliced and scraped
  • 1 cinnamon stick + more for serving, if desired
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cardamom
  • pinch of ground sweet paprika
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 t pure vanilla extract, if you want a more pronounced vanilla flavor

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine piloncillo and water. Warm slowing, stirring occasionally, until piloncillo is completely melted. Whisk in milk, masa harina, vanilla bean seeds, and spices until masa is dissolved and well-incorporated into the piloncillo mixture.

Stir in the split vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. If using, whisk in the vanilla extract at this point. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue stirring frequently for 20 minutes or so. The mixture will be thickened. You can strain it through a sieve, but I usually just whisk it really well.

Pour into serving mugs. I usually use espresso cups and offer multiple refills. If desired, add a cinnamon stick so diners can keep stirring the lumps out as they drink.


  1. A tasty way to celebrate Day of the Dead. Coco would approve.

  2. That looks amazing! I love warm beverages that aren't hot chocolate. I can't wait to taste it.

  3. great mask! I have never heard of Pinole Azul but wow the ddrink sounds really amazing. Two skeleton thumbs up for creativity!

  4. Your recipe and historical summary are really intriguing. I think it’s neat to bring the Aztecs into the story!

    best... mae at


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