Atol or atole is a classic creamy Central American beverage made from a range of ingredients and consumed with corn. The most popular variety is prepared by simmering cornstarch, milk, cinnamon, sugar and a range of ingredients together.
How to Make Atol?
Traditionally, atol is made by pureeing fresh corn. The pureed corn is then strained and simmered with water, sugar, cornstarch, milk and cinnamon. Whole kernels of corn may be added to the drink. This drink may also be prepared with hominy or alkalinized corn flour. The hominy flour is boiled with water and milk and served warm. The atol can vary in texture from a thick porridge to a thin soup. Both versions are commonly prepared and are referred to as Atole De Elote, Atole De Maiz or Atole Blanco. However, a whole range of atoles or creamy drinks can be made from green beans and plantains and other ingredients too in other parts of Central America.
Atol is usually served as a breakfast drink or a midday meal. The drink is served in a natural bowl made from carved out gourds or in small glasses with a spoon to scoop out whole corn kernels that may be present in the drink
- Rice flour or oatmeal atol is also very common in Mexico. The rice flour or ground oatmeal is simmered with milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and served hot or cold.
- Another version popularly prepared in Mexico uses toasted corn meal or pinole. This drink is commonly served during the Mexican holiday The Day of the Dead.
- Blue corn atole is common in New Mexico and it is made by simmering finely ground blue cornmeal with milk or water. It forms a thick grey-blue porridge that is consumed as a breakfast dish.
- Salvadorean Atole Shuco or dirty atol is prepared by simmering black corn, milled pumpkin seed, salt and beans together to form a thick porridge. In Salvadore, this drink is served in natural bowls called as guacales which are carved out of the fruit of the morro tree. Ground pumpkin seed is added to the porridge and it is served with bread as a snack, breakfast dish or a light summer meal. This drink is particularly famous in the Cabanas region of Salvadore.
- Atol de plantano is a Guatemalan drink that is prepared by simmering milk, corn meal, and cinnamon, bananas, honey and lemon juice together.
- Atole habas is another Guatemalan version that uses green beans in a milk and sugar mixture to make a thick sweet drink.
- A Nicaraguan version of the atol is referred to as pinolillo. It is prepared by simmering a mixture of cornmeal and cocoa in milk, or sugar. A sugarless version is also prepared in some parts of the country.
- Champurrado is a chocolate based Mexican atol made with masa, piloncillo, milk, cinnamon, anise and vanilla bean. A special whisk called the molinillo is used to prepare the frothy texture of the drink. The champurrado is served at breakfast with churros.
- The corn that is used in Central American to prepare atole is starchier and heavier in texture. In large cities, canned corn may be used. To achieve the same texture as the original dish, additional cornstarch is used to thicken the drink.
- Atole de maiz was the popular treatment for hangovers. When a husband had consumed too much alcohol, wives used to prepare the drink as a cure for the next day.
- The drink was also commonly prepared as a treatment for non-lactating women. Drinking the atol, produced abundant milk for the child. One side effect of the woman’s lactation was that it stopped menstruation at the same time, resulting in a natural method of conception control.