How to make the original Mayan chocolate drink

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Chocolate Recipes

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Chocolate has been enjoyed for thousands of years and in many different forms. In fact, the “traditional” chocolate bar is actually a more modern invention.  Chocolate was consumed as a drink for most of its history.  The original Mayan chocolate drink, known as “chocolatl” in the Mayan language, was quite different from the modern hot chocolate or cocoa we’re familiar with today. It was a bitter and spicy beverage made from roasted cacao beans and flavored with various indigenous ingredients. This original Mayan chocolate drink offers a taste of the ancient world’s chocolate experience, combining the unique bitterness of cacao with hints of spices. It’s a rich and flavorful beverage with a hint of sweetness, perfect for those who enjoy the historical flavors of chocolate.

What was the Mayan chocolate beverage?

Chocolate has a long history that stretches back to the Mayan civilization (and beyond!). The original Mayan chocolate drink, known as “chocolatl” or “chocolha” in the Mayan language, was a spicy and bitter beverage made from roasted cacao beans. It was flavored with various indigenous ingredients such as chili peppers, spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)  and vanilla.

The original Mayan chocolate drink was an integral part of Mayan culture, and was consumed for its rich flavors and cultural significance. It went beyond being just a beverage and played an integral role in Mayan society and religious practices.

How did the Mayans make their chocolate drink?

The process began with harvesting cacao pods. After removing the beans from the pods, they were fermented and then dried. Roasted beans were ground into a thick paste using a metate (a large stone slab) and a mano (a cylindrical stone tool). This step took a lot of work because the grinding had to be done until the cacao reached a smooth consistency. The ground cacao paste was combined with spices. The cacao mixture was simmered in water and then frothed with a special wooden tool called a molinillo. The final mixture was strained to remove any solid particles or residual spices, leaving behind a smooth and frothy chocolate drink.

Transport yourself back in time and try the original hot chocolate.

Original Mayan hot chocolate drink recipe


  • 2 oz cacao nibs 
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chili peppers (achiote, cayenne or chipotle powder can substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons of spices (of your choice of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • Honey or agave nectar for sweetening (optional)


  • To roast cacao nibs, place them in a dry pan over low to medium heat or in an oven. Roast them until they become fragrant and slightly darkened, which may take around 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring or shaking them for even roasting.
  • Once the cacao nibs are roasted, grind them into a paste. You can use a mortar and pestle or a modern spice grinder. This process takes effort but results in a thick, gritty chocolate paste.
  • In a separate container, crush the spices and chili peppers. A couple of chili peppers will provide mild spice; add more if you prefer a spicier taste.
  • In a saucepan, combine the cacao paste, water and spices. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Stir consistently to ensure that everything is well combined
  • Simmer the mixture for about 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly to ensure that it does not come to a boil. During this time, the cacao will thicken and the spices will infuse into the drink. 
  • After simmering, strain the mixture to remove any solid bits of the chili peppers and spices. 
  • If you have a molinillo, froth your chocolate drink to create a bubbly head.  You’ll end up with a frothy, spiced Aztec hot chocolate. 
  • If desired, sweeten it with honey or agave nectar.
  • Enjoy!

We hope you will appreciate this recipe for its important history (although the taste may not be appealing to all!). For more great recipes, check out the rest of our CocoTerra blog

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us through our social media channels.  We are @cocoterra_co on Instagram and Pinterest and @cocoterraco on X (aka Twitter) and Facebook.

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