Chicha Morada: Peru's Traditional Cold Beverage

Chicha morada recipe

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Chill: 3 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
188 Calories
1g Fat
47g Carbs
3g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 188
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 165mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 30g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 43mg 216%
Calcium 37mg 3%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 384mg 8%
*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.)

Deep purple in color and made from dried corn, nonalcoholic chicha morada—"purple beverage"—is undisputed as Peru's iconic refreshing drink. Of humble Andean origins and rich in antioxidants, it is consumed nowadays by people of all social classes and in almost all contexts in that country, from a quick drink-on-the-run at a market stall to an elegant state dinner. The flavor of this purple corn drink is slightly rustic, mildly sweet, and surprisingly invigorating due to the spices used in its preparation.

Nowadays, it is easy to find bottled chicha morada or powdered mixes in U.S. supermarkets, particularly in areas with a substantial population of people of Peruvian descent—if not, you might find it online. Making it from scratch, however, is much more satisfying—not to mention economical—and will make your house smell heavenly. Prepare it plain from this basic recipe, then change it up next time with one of the variations mentioned below. You'll be glad you did.

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"I'm always looking for a new refreshing drink I can serve to adults and children. This one is perfect for summer barbecues or a festive holiday. It's a tasty drink with a slightly spicy kick. The unique ingredient is the dried Peruvian purple corn, but it's easy to find online and in specialty grocery stores." —Carrie Parente

Chicha Morada: Peru's Traditional Cold Beverage Test Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 grams) dried Peruvian purple corn on the cob (about 4 medium ears)

  • 1 gallon (4 liters) water

  • 1 large stick cinnamon, about 4 to 5 inches long

  • 6 whole cloves

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 3 green apples, or yellow apples, or crisp pears

  • 4 key limes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for chicha morada

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck 

  2. Rinse the ears of purple corn under the faucet to remove any dust or foreign matter. Place the ears, plus any stray grains that may have fallen off, in a large pot together with the water, cinnamon, and cloves. Put the pot over high heat on the stove; once the water reaches the boiling point, reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow this to boil for about 50 minutes.

    Rinse ears of corn

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool down until safe to handle. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer into a pitcher, setting aside (not discarding) the solids. Add the sugar to the liquid and stir until it is completely dissolved. Taste, adding more sugar if desired, though this beverage is most refreshing when it is not overly sweet.

    Strain liquid

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Chill the chicha for 3 hours in the fridge. At this point, you can make another batch of the beverage, if desired, by adding more water to the pot with the reserved solids and repeating the entire process. When you see that nearly all of the grains of corn have broken open slightly, you will know that the corn has given up all of its flavors; until then, it can be reused in this way.

    Pot with chicha

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Right before serving, chop the apples or pears into small cubes and juice the limes. Add diced fruit and lime juice to the chicha in the pitcher and stir. Serve as is or over ice, with a straw and a long spoon (for eating the fruit), if desired. Store any leftover chicha morada in the refrigerator.

    Chop apples and float them

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Where to Buy Peruvian Purple Corn

Ears of dried Peruvian purple corn, usually sold bagged, are available in many Latin American markets in the United States. If you cannot find them at a brick-and-mortar store, they can be ordered online. Substitutions of other types of corn are not recommended.

Recipe Variations

  • Add the rind of a fresh pineapple (the part you normally would throw away after cutting up the fruit) to the water with corn and spices, then proceed as usual. Alternatively, add the rind of a couple of navel oranges (pith removed), or a couple of apples or pears (peeled or not, as desired, and cut into chunks or slices).
  • Don't hesitate to switch out the sweeteners in your chicha morada. Make it a little more rustic by using brown sugar instead of white, or go full Peruvian and use chancaca (unprocessed cane sugar known as piloncillo, tapa de dulce, rapadura, or panela in some other Spanish-speaking countries). Need fewer calories? Try your favorite artificial sweetener.
  • Get a little fancier with the floating fruit, if you like. In place of or in addition to the diced apple/pear, add small cubes of pineapple or fresh guava fruit to your chicha.

How to Store

Chicha morada is best consumed freshly made but can be kept in the refrigerator for two to four days. If stored, do not add the diced fresh fruit and lime juice until you're ready to serve and drink. 

What can you make with purple corn?

Besides the traditional and popular drink, chicha morada, purple corn is used in many other dishes. Two other popular ones are mazamorra morada, a Peruvian pudding, and also api, aka Inca's dessert, a smoothie that is served warm or chilled. It can also be used in salads, grilled on the cob, or in baked goods in place of other corn.