I’ll never forget a trip to Puerto Vallarta – I was in line for a dinner buffet and I could see and smell atole de vainilla in a beautiful Mexican olla de barro (clay pot). My mouth was watering and I couldn’t wait to serve myself a mug.
Once I made and tasted this atole at home it catapulted me right back to Mexico. The flavor is similar to horchata with the consistency of a thin cream of wheat. It is warm, smooth, rich, creamy, flavorful, and satisfying to enjoy for breakfast or an after dinner drink.
This dish is a traditional Mexican beverage made with corn and served warm. Warm atole is synonymous with tamales and cold mornings, especially on Las Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, and Navidad. There are all types of atole de leche (milk) — by adding chocolate it is then called champurrado, in this case vanilla bean is added and is atole de vainilla. Atoles can be flavored with fruits, spices, and even chiles.
I encourage you to use real vanilla bean to make this drink. There are pretty black specks that let you know this is something extra special and it makes a world of difference in the flavor of this recipe and is worth the splurge. The exotic flavor of vanilla combined with cinnamon is so comforting. This atole steeped and garnished with cinnamon gives this atole an added dimension of spice.
When my son took a drink he said, “It tastes like Mexico.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. It has all the aromatic and comforting ingredients of Mexico that is so soothing.
Atole de Vainilla
- In a large saucepan bring water to a boil with the cinnamon stick and piloncillo. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the cinnamon stick steep and sugar dissolve for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, return water to low heat, and slowly add the masa harina, whisking until combined. Add milk and vanilla bean with seeds.
- Heat over medium heat just until boiling.
- Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, whisking occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve immediately.
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