Chilate is a Salvadoran hot beverage made from corn and flavored with ginger and allspice. The corn is cooked in water, with the ginger and allspice slowly steeped in the mixture.
Chilate is made from nixtamalized corn, known in stores as maseca. This is different from cornmeal and other ground corn products. Nixtamalized corn are dried corn kernels which have been boiled and soaked or treated in an alkaline substance like lime.
The corn becomes easier to process and more pliable for making foods like tortillas since corn does not contain gluten which is what gives wheat flour its elasticity. This also imparts a particular flavor and texture to chilate that other corn flours do not. Nixtamalizing corn is easy enough that many households do it at home instead of buying maseca.
Chilate is sometimes eaten with meals however it is mostly consumed as an afternoon refreshment. Since the it is unsweetened, it’s usually accompanied by a sweet dish such as fried sweet plantains or nuegados. Nuegados are small round pastries which are coated in honey. One variation to making chilate is adding cinnamon sticks in addition to the other spices.
Mexico also has a chilate beverage but with several differences from El Salvadoran chilate. Mexican Chilate is made from cocoa, has a thicker consistency, contains sugar and is served cold. Other countries such as Guatemala, Costa Rica and Hondauras all regularly consume their versions of chilate.
Chilate is sometimes called atol de chilate. Atol is used to describe a sweet hot beverage made from corn, of which there are many types in Central and South America.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Salvadoran legends describe chilate as the drink of indigenous warriors as it is believed to be nutritious and energizing. The tradition of drinking atol dates back to the Mayan civilization and has been passed down through generations. In El Salvador chilaterias can be found everywhere. These are small shops dedicated to serving chilates in the afternoon.
- Corn dough (toasted and ground) or Maseca – 1 cup
- Ginger root, medium – 1
- Allspice, whole - 8
- In a pot dilute the corn dough with 2 liters of water.
- Simmer over low heat until slightly thickened.
- Slice the ginger and add it to the mixture.
- Add the whole allspice.
- Simmer for another half an hour, stirring constantly.
- Add more water if the bottom of the mixture begins to stick to the pot and let it cook for a few more minutes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 69Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g