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
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
92 Calories
1g Fat
18g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 3
Amount per serving
Calories 92
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 83mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 32mg 2%
Iron 2mg 8%
Potassium 52mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Atole (ah-TOH-leh) is a sweet, hearty, hot corn-based drink native to Mexico and Central America. It is consumed as a breakfast drink or sipped as a comforting food during cold weather occasions such as the late-night festivities of Day of the Dead and the December holidays that precede Christmas known as Las Posadas. Our recipe for atole is made with corn masa, which is also used to make Mexican tortillas and Latin arepas. It's so simple and yet so satisfying that you'll be very happy you gave it a try.

A traditional comfort food, atole is commonly found at street vendors that offer many flavors and versions to choose from. Atole is very frequently paired with tamales to make a filling, spirit-lifting breakfast, snack, or late dinner. In its original, pre-Spanish Conquest form, this corn 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. When simply flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, like ours, it's called atole blanco (white), but anise, cacao, chocolate, fruit purees, orange peels, nuts, and almond extract make delicious atole de sabor, or flavored atole.

Although it has traditionally been made only with ground maize, nowadays it is sometimes prepared with rice, oatmeal, or wheat flour, and sweetened with piloncillo, brown sugar, or honey. Depending on your preferences or dietary needs, you have many options to choose from when making this comforting atole.


  • 3 1/4 cups water, divided; or whole milk

  • 1 cone piloncillo, or 5 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup masa harina

  • 2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 pinch salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for atole
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Heat 3 cups of the water or milk in a medium-sized saucepan and add the piloncillo or sugar. Cook and stir until the sweetener is dissolved. Piloncillo has a low burning point so if using, keep the heat on low to medium. If using milk, use low heat to avoid a quick boil and spillage.

    Heating milk
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Slightly warm up the remaining 1/4 cup of water and mix with the masa harina to make a slurry. Stir vigorously to avoid clumps of corn flour. Reserve.

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

    Add masa harina slurry to pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Bring the mixture 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 mugs or thick ceramic glasses.

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

    Atole basic recipe with dusting of cinnamon
    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 offering them to the kids and are properly cooled down to a comfortable warm temperature.

Flavored Atole

  • 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.
  • Champurrado: This is chocolate atole, and it's made by simply adding 6 1/2 ounces of Mexican chocolate into the pot once the piloncillo or sugar has dissolved. Proceed with the recipe as instructed.
  • Chileatole: Originally from central and southern Mexico, this version adds hot peppers, corn kernels, and spices or herbs, such as epazote. Some versions look more like a soup, but some others add the chile to the champurrado version. If you want to spice up your chocolate beverage, you need 1 chile ancho and 1 chile de árbol. Soak the chiles in water for 30 minutes and remove seeds and stems. Blend the liquid, water, or milk with the chiles and add the piloncillo to dissolve over medium heat. Add the chocolate and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

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