Warming drinks for winter in Mexico #4 - Champurrado

February 2nd in Mexico is el Día de la Candelaria – Candlemas Day – which means something very important – tamales!  You can eat tamales all year round, of course, and on various other special occasions, but this is the day when it is traditional to eat tamales, accompanied by atole or champurrado.

Warming Drinks For Winter In Mexico - Champurrado

What are tamales, atole and champurrado?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, tamales are made from corn dough, kind of lozenge-shaped, wrapped in corn husks (or sometimes banana leaves) and can be savoury or sweet. The savoury ones have different fillings like chicken or pork in salsa, the sweet ones are usually pink and strawberry-flavoured, or have dried fruit and nuts in.

Atole is a traditional drink made with cornmeal and flavoured either with vanilla, chocolate, fruit, nuts, or whatever you like.  It's kind of like a drinkable custard.  Champurrado is a chocolate atole, traditionally made from corn dough, flavoured with chocolate, sometimes cinnamon too and sweetened with piloncillo (a product of sugar cane, resembling muscovado sugar in a solid cone form).

The origins of the celebration

El Día de la Candelaria is actually the absolute last day of the Christmas festivities, if you want to really drag it out.  If you set up a nacimiento, a nativity scene, in your house at Christmas, this is the day when you dress the baby Jesus – in the Bible the Virgin Mary went to the temple to be purified exactly 40 days after the birth of Jesus and also presented the baby Jesus in the temple.  Which reminds me it’s now also been 40 days since my baby was born (in the early hours of December 26th).

When the Spanish brought the Catholic religion to Mexico, the tradition of the Candelaria got mixed up with the Aztec celebration of the beginning of the crop-planting season, which happened to be on the same date. The principal crop for the prehispanic people was, of course, corn, and they would take the corn that would later be sown to be blessed by the gods in order to ensure a good harvest.  When these two customs fused, somehow the blessing of the corn transformed into the eating of the tamales.  Notice that both tamales and atole are made with corn.

Modern-day tradition

Who has to make the tamales (or buy them at least) is decided well beforehand on Dia de Reyes on January 6th.  On that day families or friends get together to eat Rosca de Reyes, a ring shaped sweet bread.  You can read more about Dia de Reyes traditions in a previous post in this series about Hot Chocolate (which usually accompanies the Rosca).

On cutting your slice (each person has to cut their own) you may discover a little figure of a baby hidden inside the bread.  That means you will have to bring the tamales on 2nd February.

Here I'm going to give you a recipe for champurrado - the tamales I'll save for another day as they're much more complicated to make and I've never tried making them.

What are the origins of Champurrado?

Champurrado was a drink first made by the prehispanic people, principally the Aztecs.  They made it with corn, cacao and water and it was unsweetened.  It was considered a sacred drink and was used in certain rituals and ceremonies.  The Spanish Conquistadores were fascinated by this drink and acknowledged its nutritional and energetic properties.

So the drink evolved and was sweetened, as sugar cane began to be used.  Now it can be found all over Mexico, any time of year, often with slightly different variations of the same basic recipe.

How to make Champurrado


1 ½ cups corn flour
3 cups water
3 cups milk
1 piloncillo cone
90g cooking chocolate
1 cinnamon stick

Dissolve the corn flour in cold water, sieve it into a pan, add the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil.  Keep stirring constantly as it simmers on a low heat until the consistency is thick but still drinkable.

Add the milk, the chocolate and the piloncillo and keep simmering and stirring until the chocolate and piloncillo have dissolved.  Serve immediately.

This is one way to make it; other recipes call for corn dough instead of corn flour, which has to be mixed and dissolved into the water - this is the more traditional version.  It can also be made without milk, just with water.

Warming Drinks For Winter In Mexico - Champurrado - Image Shows A Cup Of Champurrado With Tamales Behind

Have you ever tried atole or champurrado?  Almost always where tamales are sold - most commonly from a street cart or market stall - you'll also find atole.  What's your favourite flavour?  Let me know if you try out this recipe, or if you have another version - I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

If you're interested in reading about some other Mexican winter drinks, here are the previous posts in this series:

Teas and Infusions as Natural Remedies

Hot Chocolate

Ponche Navideño (Christmas Punch)

Cuddle Fairy

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger


  1. Lovely to hear the history, the chocolate and cinnamon sound lovely #KCACOLS

  2. I have never heard of this before! I love tamales, but I haven't heard of the drink. It sounds wonderful though. I love chocolate and cinnamon. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time!

  3. I have never heard of this, but I am all in! It sounds delectable! Both in food and drink! Yum! #kcacols xoxo

  4. I'm so envious of all your food traditions !! I want a turn to find a baby in the bread!! This looks so yummy #blogcrush

  5. I hadn't heard of any of these before, so loved finding out what they are and the story behind all the traditions! x #KCACOLS

  6. The history being these foods is amazing! I have to admit I never wonder about the history behind my meals. I will do from now on! Who knows what I've missed out on. #kcacols

  7. I've never heard of these drinks before but it's so nice to discover new blogs and discover new things too. These sound lovely x #KCACOLS

  8. This sounds absolutely delicious! #kcacols

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