Atole With Masa Harina

Atole basic recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 0 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 2 to 3 servings

Atole (ah-TOH-leh) is a sweet, thick, hearty, maize-based hot drink native to Mexico and Central America, where it is consumed as a breakfast drink or sipped as a comforting warm-up food during cold weather occasions such as the late-night festivities of Day of the Dead, the December holidays, and at funeral wakes.

In its original, pre-Spanish Conquest form, this maize beverage was prepared with water, but nowadays it's prepared with water, milk, or a combination of both, and it's still made and served in the traditional way. Atole is very frequently paired with tamales to make a filling, spirit-lifting breakfast, snack, or late dinner.

Although it has traditionally been made only with ground maize, nowadays it is sometimes prepared with rice or wheat flour, and sweetened with piloncillo (but sugar or honey can also be used). The drink is often seasoned with aromatic elements such as cinnamon, vanilla, anise, cacao, or chocolate, or mixed with a fruit puree to make atole de sabor (flavored atole).


  • 3 cups water

  • 1 cone piloncillo, or 5 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup masa harina

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 pinch salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for atole
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Heat water or milk in a medium-sized saucepan and add the piloncillo or sugar; cook and stir until sweetener is dissolved. If using piloncillo, keep the heat on low to medium because this cane sugar-based sweetener tends to burn fast, giving your atole a burnt taste. If using milk, use low heat to avoid a quick boil and spillage.

    Heat water or milk
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Create the masa harina slurry by blending the masa harina with the 1/4 cup warm water. Stir vigorously to avoid clumps of cornflour.

    Create the masa harina slurry
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Add the masa harina slurry, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to the pot. Stir for 1 minute.

    Add masa harina slurry to pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes until thickened to the preferred consistency. Atole should be thick, creamy, and velvety, without lumps.

    Bring to a simmer
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean, if using.

    Remove cinnamon stick
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  7. Pour into rustic clay mugs if you have them, or use thick ceramic glasses.

    Pour into mugs
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  8. Enjoy hot!

    Atole basic recipe
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Cool Down Before Sipping

  • Although you can sip atole from a mug, some people serve it in a bowl with a spoon, as it tends to stay very hot when not stirred. Either way, sip it carefully, stirring often with a spoon.
  • Make sure children’s portions have been poured 20 minutes before serving them to the kids and are cooled down to a comfortable warm temperature.

Flavored Atole

  • To make fruit-flavored atole, stir 1/2 cup of pureed fruit into the mixture while cooking. Fruits commonly used for this purpose in Mexico include strawberries, guava, pineapple, blackberries, plums, and mangoes.
  • The drink is sometimes made with cacao. This Mexican chocolate-flavored atole is known as champurrado.
  • Cooks in some areas of central and southern Mexico prepare savory atole known as chileatole. Instead of piloncillo and fruit, it contains hot peppers, spices or herbs such as epazote, and corn kernels, and it is more a soup than a beverage.

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