Monday, February 10, 2014

Blue Corn Atole

I felt inspired Friday morning to make myself a breakfast of blue corn atole in preparation for a long day of work after reading of it’s use in Rudolfo Anaya’s classic novel Bless Me, Ultima.  

Atole, from the Nahuatl word atolli, is a maize porridge which has been eaten in Mexico for thousands of years.  According to Daily Life of the Aztecs, breakfast for the Aztecs “nearly always consisted of a bowl of atolli… thick or thin as the case might be, and either sweetened with honey or seasoned with pimento.”

In Anaya’s novel, the curandera Ultima uses blue atole to heal:

“’Ay,’ Ultima said, ‘we have begun our cure.’ She turned and looked at me and I could tell she was tired. ‘Are you hungry?’ she smiled.

‘No,’ I replied. I had not eaten since breakfast, but the things that had happened had made me forget my hunger.‘Still, we had better eat,’ she said, ‘it might be the last meal we will have for a few days… Lay your blankets there and make yourself a bed while I fix us some atole.’

I spread the blankets close to the wall and near the stove while Ultima prepared the atole… 

‘This is good,’ I said. I looked at my uncle. He was sleeping peacefully. The fever had not lasted long.

‘There is much good in blue corn meal,’ she smiled. ‘The Indians hold it sacred, and why not, on the day that we can get Lucas to eat a bowl of atole then he shall be cured. Is that not sacred?’"

Blue Corn Atole

1 cup water
1 cup milk or milk substitute (hemp, rice, soy)
1/4 cup roasted blue corn meal
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
Generous dash of cinnamon 
Maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey to taste


1.  In a saucepan, whisk water, milk, cornmeal, and cinnamon until there are no lumps.  

2.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken.  

3.  Bring to boil, then add sweetener to taste and reduce heat to a simmer.  Continue to stir and prevent lumps from forming for a minute or two.

4.  Turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes.  Serve in a bowl or hot mug.


  1. Interesting addition of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. When I was growing up in Santa Fe, atole was a staple for us, but it consisted of the addition of a bit of salt and heated milk added after the atole was in the bowl! I will definitely try this recipe.

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  3. I am sure that there are health benefits in atole. Why is it blue (I know the corn is blue), is there something that makes it blue an added health benefit?

  4. Grew up eating this on cold mornings at my great Grandma's. She would usually add a splash of milk and a small bit of butter to the bowl after serving. Mmmmm. Takes me back! ❤️