Atole and Pinole



Sunrise at the Sand Point Cabin.



IMG_4368 .


Warmth on a sled.




Corn.  Soaked in the mineral lime.  Dried.  Ground.  Mixed with a sweetener and cinnamon.


Atole is generally made from toasted masa (corn hominy flour soaked in lime) or ground rice grains and mixed with hot water or milk, cinnamon and sugar. It is often served at celebrations like Day of the Dead and Christmas.

Pinole comes from the Nahuatl word pinolli for cornmeal. Sometimes it is mixed with cinnamon, chia, achiote, mustard seeds, or other herbs.  This pinole mixture can be toasted, eaten dry, or mixed with hot or cold water for porridge or a beverage, or even baked into a little ‘cake’.  Masa dissolves in water better than cornmeal, so if you are wanting a beverage I would suggest using the finer ground masa.


Here is a pinole ‘cake recipe, and a little book with energy-snack pinole recipes geared towards athletes and hikers.




There has been much attention given to pinole since the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall came out in 2009 describing the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico and their culture of long-distance running—either barefoot or with minimal sandals called huaraches.  Pinole and chia seeds were two holy staples of these Copper Canyon endurance runners.


Barefoot running.  I grew up mostly barefoot but didn’t recognize the power of it until a few years ago when Scott shed the shoes and began his journey of physical transformation and rehabilitation from a 20-year-old toe injury by waking up his feet and re-learning how to walk and run.

The topic of barefoot running is quite controversial and stirs up heated debates of Support vs. No Support, and if you follow the conversation it takes you down a very deep rabbit hole of how we meddle with the body.  All I can say is that I have witnessed the healing of decades-old wounds in a person’s feet, legs, back and neck after removing heel and arch support and re-learning how to move on this earth.  Here is more on ‘injury-free running’ from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and the Natural Running Center.

But enough preaching…as with everything, we have to figure the answers out for ourselves.





Regardless of all that… these masa treats are tasty.  Used as an energy supplement in Mexico, and used as an energy supplement by cross country skiers in Northern Wisconsin in subzero temperatures!



Pinole as a beverage

Toast 15-20 minutes in the oven on a cookie sheet or toast in a skillet on the stove:

Masa or fine ground cornmeal

When it’s toasty-yellow, remove from heat. 

Mix together:

1/2 cup toasted Masa Cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

Whisk 2-3 Tablespoons of mixture with hot water in a cup.

Or whisk with Milk in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes.


Sweetener to taste—sugar, honey, maple syrup

Enjoy as is, or adjust with one or more of your favorite additions:

Chia seeds

Vanilla—fresh bean if you can get it


Chile powder


Here’s another atole recipe from David Lebovitz.



Dinner lighting at the Sand Point Cabin.  Everything tastes better by candlelight.


 Most of these lovely photos are by Scott.



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