Chocolate Caliente: Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate

Frothy Mexican hot chocolate with cacao nibs and a cacao pod.
Mockford & Bonetti / Getty Images
Ratings (19)
  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 0 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 3 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
534 Calories
34g Fat
42g Carbs
15g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 534
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 34g 43%
Saturated Fat 20g 99%
Cholesterol 35mg 12%
Sodium 151mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Protein 15g
Calcium 409mg 31%
*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.)

Authentic Mexican chocolate caliente is comforting, as hot chocolate should be, but it is also unexpectedly refreshing. The main ingredient is less intense than the darker chocolate often used in other versions of this beverage, and the cinnamon is nothing short of stimulating.

In Mexico, hot chocolate is most often prepared with tablets of rustic chocolate de mesa, “table chocolate,” which can be easily found in the U.S. at Mexican grocery stores and even large supermarkets. The two most common brands are Ibarra (made by a company in Jalisco, Mexico) and Abuelita (a Nestle product). These tablets contain cacao paste, of course, but also sugar and cinnamon.

People in Mexico often partake of this comforting drink for breakfast or a late supper any day of the week, as well as at Christmastime (such as the Posadas celebrations) and for special occasions such as Day of the Dead. It is often served with delicious sweet bread or basic white bread (such as bolillos), which is dunked into the hot liquid.

Ingredients

  • 2 (3-ounce) tablets Mexican table chocolate
  • 4 cups milk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. The tablets of chocolate de mesa are usually divided into 6 to 8 wedges. Place each tablet on a cutting board and cut with a sharp knife to divide the piece into the wedges. Don't worry if they don’t cut perfectly—you are going to be dissolving the chocolate.

  3. Place the milk in a saucepan over medium heat.

  4. Once the first tiny bubbles begin to appear in the milk, add the wedges of chocolate and continue heating, stirring slowly but constantly, until the chocolate has melted. Do not let the milk boil; if it looks as if it is going to start boiling, take the pan off the heat for a few minutes, continue to stir, then turn the burner down somewhat and return the pan to the heat.

  5. Drink your hot chocolate as is, or place in a blender, half of the amount at a time, and carefully blend the mixture until the desired degree of frothiness has been reached.

  6. Pour your hot chocolate into rustic clay mugs for serving.

  7. Enjoy!

Tips

  • Please note that regardless of how well your milk and chocolate are blended, some solids will settle inside the cup as the beverage is enjoyed; this has to do with the nature of the ingredients, and it is normal. For this reason, it’s a good idea to provide either a stick of cinnamon or a teaspoon with each portion so that each drinker can stir the beverage as they enjoy.
  • In Mexico, a good mug of hot chocolate has some delicious espuma, or froth, on the top. Traditionally, this is created with molinillo. These are often very beautifully made and are as decorative as they are useful. The molinillo is inserted into the hot chocolate, either while the liquid is still in the pan or after it has already been poured into a cup. The cook then takes the handle of the utensil between her palms and makes the molinillo spin quickly back and forth in the liquid until the desired amount of froth is produced. It can take several minutes to create a lot of froth; patience and persistence are key.
  • If you don’t have an official molinillo, try the same technique with a wire whisk, or use a portable electric mixer or an immersion blender. If you prefer an authentic method even older than the molinillo, try pouring the drink back and forth between two bowls or pitchers until the espuma forms.
  • Though Abuelita and Ibarra are the ubiquitous commercial brands of chocolate de mesa, they are far from the only ones in existence. If you have access to other brands and/or artisanal chocolate products, by all means, take advantage of them. Try different kinds of chocolate for different occasions, or settle on just one favorite. Feeling adventurous? You might even want to make your own blend of chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon.

Recipe Variations

  • Sure, you can always add marshmallows, but why not do something new? Consider changing up your cup of comfort by making your hot chocolate with water, instead of milk. That’s how the pre-Hispanic Mexicans did it, as they did not have cows and so had no access to dairy products. Chocolate caliente made with water will definitely have a more pronounced cacao flavor. (Or try half milk half water.)
  • If you prefer an even sweeter beverage, experiment with different sweetening agents. White sugar is fine, but a bit of brown sugar, piloncillo, or even honey will add more layers of interest. It turns out that vanilla is just as Mexican as cacao is, so you will still be authentic if you add a small amount of good quality Mexican vanilla extract to your batch of chocolate. Start with just two drops, then taste until the desired degree of vanilla flavor has been achieved.
  • You can also spice it up with a pinch of cloves, nutmeg, or allspice in your hot chocolate—either in addition to the cinnamon or in place of it. Or, make your chocolate a little “hotter” by including some powdered chile pepper in the mix—not chili powder, which has cumin and other flavors in it—but a good quality ground ancho, chipotle, or other dried pepper. Use just a little, as you are not trying to make a mouth-searing concoction but rather add a fascinating additional element to an already complex flavor profile. Revel in the knowledge that the ancient Mexicans laced their chocolate with chile, too.