Chocolate has a deep-rooted history in Mexico; it's believed to have originated with the ancient Olmecs in the southern part of the country. Although it began as a bitter-tasting beverage, Mexican chocolate evolved into its own style and is a popular ingredient in many food and drink recipes. Mexican chocolate is made from cacao nibs, sugar, and cinnamon, as well as other flavorings like nutmeg, almond, and vanilla. It has the texture of a granular paste, making it quite different from the chocolate familiar in the U.S.
Mexican Chocolate Is Unique
Mexican chocolate has a grainier texture than the smooth and soft chocolates that are common in baking. This means that it can be grated and melted down quite easily. The spices also give the chocolate a little kick behind the sweetness. This extra spice works well in two of its most popular uses: Mexican hot chocolate and mole poblano. Other flavors of Mexican chocolate are available, but cinnamon is a traditional ingredient. It is often sold as a hard disc or in tablet shape.
Mexican chocolate can be hard to find at times. If you cannot locate it or need a replacement because you ran out, a simple substitute can be made, and it only requires two (or three) common ingredients.
Mexican Chocolate Substitute
To make a replacement for Mexican chocolate, you will need semisweet chocolate or cocoa powder and cinnamon; for an added hint of flavor, include a drop of almond extract. If you do not have almond extract, you can either skip it or use a drop of vanilla extract instead. If your recipe already uses vanilla, there should be no need to add more.
The type of chocolate you use is going to depend on the recipe you are making. If your recipe calls for melted or chunks of Mexican chocolate, then semisweet chocolate may be the better choice. If you are making hot chocolate or something similar that requires grated or powdered Mexican chocolate, begin with cocoa powder.
Replace the Mexican chocolate called for in your recipe with an equal amount of semisweet chocolate or cocoa powder. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and, if you like, a drop of almond extract for every ounce of chocolate.
Mexican Chocolate Substitute for Mole Sauces
Mole sauces feature a small amount of chocolate, and many recipes call for Mexican chocolate. In this instance, a little cocoa powder and cinnamon make a quick substitute and should not significantly alter the taste or texture of the overall recipe.
Swap in 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder for every ounce of Mexican chocolate used. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon for each tablespoon of cocoa used.
Mexican Chocolate at the Store
You'll find Mexican chocolate in the Mexican food aisle at many grocery stores. It's typically sold in a hexagonal cardboard box and is often labeled as "drinking chocolate." Abuelita, Ibarra, and Taza are common brands to look for. If it is not shelved in the international section, check the coffee or hot cocoa aisle. You may also have luck at your local international food market or coffee shop.