Category Archives: Beverages

Champurrado (p.34)

If you like champurrado, you may also like pinolillo, which is similar, but grittier, and (unlike the recipe below) if you make it with sugar and plant milk, it tastes kind of like the plant milk at the bottom of the cereal bowl.


Champurrado is a creamy hot chocolate that is thickened with corn flour, and traditionally sold with tamales as a breakfast-on-the-go by tamaleros in the streets of Mexican cities. Even if you don’t have a tamalero handy, champurrado is not to be missed! It can be spiced with cinnamon, anise, or vanilla. Muchas gracias to our fine illustrator, Cat Callaway, for helping us figure out the right search terms to learn about champurrado.

Makes one cupful
Takes 15 minutes

  • 8 ounces plant milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour (masa harina)

Simmer the plant milk, cocoa powder, and sugar over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar and cocoa are completely mixed in. Add the corn flour and continue to stir for about 10 minutes, making sure no corn flour sticks to the bottom of the pot. Serve warm.

Some traditional recipes call for champurrado to be frothed with a molinillo. If you want a lighter beverage but don’t have a molinillo of your own, an immersion blender will do the trick.

 

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Hot Chocolate

When it’s wet, grey, and cold outside, curling up with a cup of hot cocoa can be the most comforting experience.

Chocolate in church
In 1569, Pope Pius V decreed that cocoa was a beverage, and therefore permissible during lent. He thought it thoroughly unpleasant, and therefore not a risk of moral harm. Not everyone in the church agreed with him, though. In the mind-1650s Bishop Don Bernardino de Salazar threatened to excommunicate the ladies of his Mexican congregation because their habit of drinking chocolate in church interrupted his sermons. The ladies switched congregations, and the bishop died soon after—supposedly from a poisoned cup of chocolate.

Makes one cupful
Takes 5 minutes

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put some water on to boil. While you’re waiting, put all the ingredients in the bottom of a mug. When the water is ready, cover the mixture with hot water and mix the ingredients together into a syrup. This helps prevent little pockets of cocoa powder from floating to the surface of your drink. Then fill the mug the rest of the way. Stir and enjoy!

Here are some well-loved variations on the theme of hot cocoa:

Bulk hot cocoa: Fill a container with a 3:2 ratio of cocoa powder to sugar (or adjust it to taste). That’s really all there is to it! A 1/4 cup measure makes a good scoop for transferring it to your glass.

Chocolate orange: Add 1/4 teaspoon orange extract. It’s like drinking a chocolate orange.

Con leche: Replace water with your preferred plant milk. Heat the milk until steam is just rising off the surface. Continue with the instructions as described above.

Fruit at the bottom: Replace the sugar with 1/4 cup of jam or marmalade. The fruit at the bottom will be somewhat bland, but that’s because it gave a little complexity to your hot cocoa. Stir well!

 

black and white illustration of a cinnamon stick

Mexican hot chocolate: Add ground cinnamon or be extra-fancy and ostentatiously use a grater to grate some cinnamon fresh from the stick.

 

Mint: Carefully add mint essential oil. We use 10–20 drops. For a more natural flavor, steep mint leaves in the hot cocoa like you would to make mint tea.

Mulled cocoa: Add mulling spices.

Red cocoa: Annatto grows in the same forests as cacao and has been used in Mayan cocoa beverages as far back as 800 AD.

Subtle Tea

White tea is an extravagance because it uses only the new leaves and buds of the tea plant. Even so, this tea is just too exquisite not to share. Drink it from your favorite teacup.


In most languages, the word “tea” uses te, cha, or chai as its root word. “Etymology of tea” is a great search term if you would like to geek out about language. Now go forth and brew some tea!

Makes 1 (6-ounce) mug
Takes 10–15 minutes

1 teaspoon white tea leaves
1 teaspoon cocoa nibs, minced

Heat the water in a covered pot until it reaches about 180°F, or bubbles the size of crab eyes plus some steam. While the water is heating, put the tea leaves and nibs in a tea ball. Put the teaball in a mug, pour the hot water into the mug, and steep the tea for three minutes. Remove the teaball and serve. Share and enjoy!

Cocoa Masala Chai (p.32)

Note: We meant to keep everything to a more universal “plant milk” that works for everyone, but it looks like this one escaped our notice. Soy milk it is!


Karha Masala, or chai, is a blend of tea and other spices. There is so much variation in chai spices. We use several variations on karha masala that work well with cocoa. Here’s one simple recipe that uses ingredients you may already have on hand. Plain black tea is the most commonly used tea, but you can also use Earl Grey (the bergamot in Earl Grey is a citrus oil, and citrus goes well both with chocolate and in chai) or even green tea or rooibos.

  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon tea leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • Soy milk (optional)
  • Sweetener (optional)

Heat water in a kettle or saucepan.

Meanwhile, put your tea in a tea ball and drop it into a mug. In the same mug, combine the cocoa powder, allspice, anise, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

When the water has reached your desired temperature, add enough to fill the bottom quarter of the mug and stir it into the cocoa powder and spices. Add more water and steep for three to five minutes.

Remove the tea ball and add soy milk and sweetener if you want them.

Simple method: For a simple cocoa chai, add cocoa to a plain tea or premixed chai. Either way, it’s taste-tea!

Brewed Chocolate (p.29)

Update: You can also use a mortar & pestle to crush the nibs.


Brewed chocolate is a must-try in the world of cocoa beverages. It’s similar to a cup of coffee, except that it tastes like chocolate. If you have access to a grinder that won’t blend so fast that it melts your nibs, you can grind your beans to maximize flavor by exposing more surface area during the brewing process, but mincing with a knife works great, too. If you’re using cocoa beans, wash them well or remove the papery outer husk. This beverage is simple, easy to make, and a new classic in our household.

Makes 1 mug
Takes 10–20 minutes

1 mug water
2 tablespoons minced cocoa beans or nibs

Put water on to boil. Put the nibs in a tea ball, and steep them in freshly-boiled water for 5–15 minutes. Enjoy!

Brewed chocolate with cardamom: Chop up a pod’s worth of cardamom and steep it along with the cocoa beans.

Bonus Beverages (page 46)

A Basic Chocolate Drink: Cocoa powder + fruit + spice + water/plant milk is a formula that will take you far. Serve hot or cold.

Caffè Mocha: A friend of mine once had a dog named Mocha. Mocha was a wonderful dog, and this is a tasty beverage. You can think of it as a latte plus chocolate, or as a hot chocolate plus espresso. Make a mocha.

Chocolate Banana Drink: Add cocoa powder, banana, and cardamom to coconut and other plant milk. Freeze the banana before blending for a cool beverage, or blend and then simmer on the stove for a hot beverage.

Cocoa Chicha: There are lots of different kinds of chicha, but here we mean corn beer. Cocoa corn beer.

Kombucha: If you like making kombucha, experiment with steeping cocoa nibs and other herbs and spices in with the kombucha for a day or so before straining them out.

Tejate: According to Cat Callaway, our illustrator, “TEJATE IS DELICIOUS”! Furthermore, she says that “tejate is a drink that apparently only exists in Oaxaca City and its surroundings. Not coastal Oaxaca, not in the Oaxacan Sierra, just in the valley where Oaxaca City is situated. This is what I’ve been told by some Oaxacans.” We had no luck finding some of the ingredients, so keep an eye out for this non-alcoholic beverage if you’re ever in Oaxaca City!

[Bonus bonus beverages from Nicaragua.  Pinole is extremely popular, and it tastes like the bottom of a bowl of sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal.]

Wine: Serve chocolate with a dessert wine, flavor wine with cocoa, or make wine from cocoa pulp.

Thick Chocolate Banana Drink (page 42)

This drink makes a delicious breakfast treat. It’s just like a milkshake, but without the dairy or refined sugar!

Makes one glass
Takes 10 minutes

1 frozen banana
1 cup plant milk
1/4 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons grated unsweetened baking chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cardamom

Break the banana up into a few chunks. Dump all the ingredients into the blender. Blend everything. Pour the drink into a glass and drink it while it’s cold.

Cherry Chocolate Milk (p.36)

Hey! If you don’t have cherry flavoring, you could probably substitute almond flavoring.  They smell similar, just be extra-sure you don’t skip the step where you color the milk!


If at all possible, this beautiful pink beverage should be served in a clear glass.

Makes one pint
Takes 30 minutes

  • 1 red beet (for beet water)
  • 2 cups of plant milk
  • 5 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 5 teaspoons cherry jam or other sweetener
  • 1/2 teaspoon cherry flavoring

Cube the beet for another recipe, such as “Hummus of the Gods” (page 88). Boil the beet for the boiled beet water. When the beet is cooked, reserve 2 tablespoons of the beet water for immediate use, and pour the rest off into an ice cube tray for coloring future cherry chocolate milk or turning pretty much everything you cook red for a while.

Simmer the milk on low heat in a small pot, stirring, until you start to see steam rising from the surface. Remove the milk from the heat and add the cocoa powder, jam, beet water, and cherry flavoring. Whisk until everything except the cherry from the jam is well-dissolved. To enjoy the delights of delayed gratification, put your cherry chocolate milk in the fridge, wait, and drink it cold.

Fast & simple cherry chocolate milk: The full recipe above gives a more nuanced blend of flavors, but here’s the 5-minute version. In a pint glass, combine 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 1 cup plant milk, and 1/2 teaspoon cherry flavoring. Drop in a few shreds of fresh red beet if you have a beet handy and stir everything well with a dessert spoon. Stir in the remaining cup of plant milk and serve.

Fresh cherry chocolate milk: What?! Cherries are in season! Forget about that beet! Bust out the red cherries! Blend together a glass of plant milk, a handful of pitted red cherries, and 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder. Serve in a glass with a dessert spoon.

Chocolate Smoothie (p.30)

We love this recipe for its simplicity and reliable tastiness. Stick to the more intense fruits for flavor, and use bland fruits such as apples, bananas, and pears for substance and sweetness. Avoid using citrus; it’s too pulpy. If the fruit doesn’t come out sweet enough on its own, substitute 1/4 cup of chocolate chips for the cocoa powder. Now is the time to use up any ugly, abandoned, or forgotten fruit; it still tastes delicious in a smoothie!

Makes about 2 cups
Takes about 10 minutes

  • 10 ounces frozen local fruits (blueberries, strawberries, mango, etc.)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and/or 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Plant milk (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter or seeds (optional)
  • Spices (optional)

Drop the fruit into the blender, and add the cocoa powder. If you’re using chocolate chips, don’t add them yet. Add any nut butter and spices. Pour in enough plant milk into the blender to just cover the berries.

Blend until smooth, which is usually when you start to see a consistent funnel shape swirling at the top of the smoothie. Depending on the blender, you may need to turn it off briefly and use a utensil to jab at the fruit a little to break it up, or add a little more plant milk to help it blend.

After the smoothie is smooth, drop the chocolate chips into the blender and blend them until they reach the size you’d prefer. They turn into micro-chips very quickly, so this may only take a few seconds.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape every last drop of smoothie from the blender into a glass.

Dad’s Strawberries, Chocolate Style (p. 84)

Strawberry season would come around when I was a kid, and I’d wake up one morning to sugared strawberries, which was the best surprise ever, and which my dad would make by sprinkling sugar over strawberries and putting it all in the fridge. I can even remember which container he would use. The sugar pulls the liquid out of the strawberries and you end up with syrupy strawberry goodness.

This year, when strawberry season came around, I realized that we had no choice but to reinvent it. We eat this with pancakes, but it also goes well on peanut buttered toast.

Makes about 4 cups of strawberry topping (plus one mug of strawberry drink)
Takes all night (plus 2–4 hours baking the optional caramelized sugar)

Caramelized Sugar
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Pour a bag of sugar into a glass baking pan and shake the pan so it’s evenly distributed. Do not use a metal pan—that will melt the sugar instead of caramelizing it. Cook the sugar for 2–4 hours. Crush any chunks. Caramelization makes the sugar a little less sweet and more flavorful, which will result in a more complex strawberry dish. This will make a subtle difference for those with discerning taste buds.

6 tablespoons white sugar or caramelized sugar
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Plant milk (optional)

In a large container, combine the strawberries, mint, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Put the lid on and put the container in the fridge. In the morning, it’s ready! Use a fork to serve these strawberries over pancakes or toast.

Fresh, rich strawberry drink: Drain the syrupy by-product from the bowl of strawberries into a cup and add 1–2 times as much plant milk as there is syrup. Stir it, then sip it. This is objectively amazing and might be the best part of the whole “Dad’s Strawberries” recipe.

Strawberry salsa: If you want something you can eat straight, decrease the sugar to 1/4 cup and replace the cocoa powder with 1/4 cup of cocoa nibs, and let it all sit for an hour instead of overnight.