Guatemalan Cuisine: Atol Blanco, Anyone?

Atol Blanco, Anyone?

Atol blanco is one of the most emblematic drinks of the Guatemalan Cuisine. Very few meals or drinks can define or identify a Guatemalan like atol blanco (white atole). Most Guatemalan atoles are traditional cornstarch-based thick hot drinks, yet atoles can also be made from, dried green beans (habas) rice and milk, and liquified plantains as in atol de platano or arroz con leche.

Yet it is atol blanco the drink that defines your ‘guatemalanness’; not coffee, like I have stated often (Sorry). See, some Guatemalans forget many things about Guatemala when they’ve lived abroad; sometimes they lose their accent, sometimes the lose their memories, sometimes they lose their identity and their culture.

But, sure enough, somehow they manage to take a trip to Guatemala and the first chance they order atol blanco and since this drink is served hot, very hot, they have to cool it down and Guatemalans do it by agitating the drink in a very peculiar circular motion; and that’s the dead give away of their concealed Guatemalan origins. Some of them thought that their newly acquired Ph.D.s, their beautiful French and English poetry, their new passports, their discreetness, et-cetera, could camouflaged their humble Guatemalan commencement. It is quite difficult to advance outside the box, you know! 😉

Okay Rudy, you are losing us here, you know. Instead, tell us how to make atol blanco for our newly acquired patojos!

Simple, my dear visitors. All you have to do is water down your masa (maize dough), then add some boiled whole black beans, add a watery mixture of dried ground pumpkin seeds, ground red hot chili peppers and salt. Serve it hot in ceramic terra cotta bowl, if at all possible, and don’t forget to agitate the bowl in a circular motion. Bon Appetite!

Now, do you guys think a new series about Guatemalan atoles is in order? Which atoles should I include in this particular series?

© 2008 – 2013, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • As far as the question, personally…atol de elote is my favorite with atol de platano coming in a close second. E was explaining what atol shuco is like, but I just could not get past the name..why shuco??? He explained why and I am not sure I want to taste it now. o.0

  • I realize the picture is about atol blanco, but we were talking atoles and E’s explanation of what atol shuco is left quite an impression in my head (as you can tell). I apologize…profusely. Now, speaking about atol blanco (tsk tsk Carmen) mmmm, I probably have tasted it, but can’t recall where/when since I always ask for atol de elote. Okay, now I can walk away a bit less embarrassed.

  • I can’t imagine what it tastes like. Do you drink it at any particular time of day, or with any type if food more than other food?

  • Pseudónimo

    Si me dan a escoger, prefiero el Atol Blanco sobre Plátano y Elote.

    El sabor . . . no puedo describirlo y no se bebe con ninguna comida. Se toma solo.

    Y que es eso de atol “shuco”?

  • I have never heard of this before today. I learn something each time I blog. And that is important. I like the photo you posted today. Nice work.

    Abraham Lincoln in Brookville, Ohio where you can see a tiny fly on a honey bee’s wing.

  • ale

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm atol! I had to smile when you specified that coffee is not a traditional drink. You are absolutely right! Coffee was always a cash crop, plus it’s history is only 100plus years, while atol has existed since forever. Sooo good.

  • gringa

    My opinion on atols to write about:
    – My fav. is arroz con leche & I hear they make it with choc. too although I’ve failed to discover where/when at the right time.
    – Secondly, many I know mark atol de elote as their fav.
    – Also, it would be great to learn when and where you can find it. I have a fav. little corner inside the market and la merced…but it’s taken quite some time to learn the ‘schedule’.

  • I am with Rudy and with Ale about the real deal about atol. If there is a national drink (drinks?) has to be atol. I am with Carmen with the atol blanco, though, for me it is atol de elote with the kernels on the bottom.. mmmmmm. Add one to the list: atol de INCAPARINA (R), that is something I am always pointing out to people when I take them to the Latin food store and explain to them what INCAPARINA is (yes we can find it in Toronto, but is it still found in public schools down there?). Moreover, there is a chapin way of saying things, like tamal not tamale, guacamol not guacamole, and atol, not atole. Yeah yeah yeah chapimex shmapimex.
    Ah, and it doesn’t matter how long I stay out of the country I will still do the little circular shaky thing, even for my hot chocolate, but in this case it is not only to cool it down, but the get the good stuff (aka sediment) to mix again on the liquid. No hidden Guatemalan here *anymore*.
    (Rudy… learn from the masters of LACA 🙂 )

  • Herber

    atol de Suchile!!!

    • Gabby

      Hey Herber, estoy contigo el Atol de Suchile, es re-rico!! Creo que ese solo se toma en la Costa Sur!! De donde eres Herber?
      Todos los atoles son ricos de mi bella Guatemala!!!!

  • Wonderful commentary. Fabulous picture. Truly. Love the texture (?) of the pink nail, the brown knee, the ground sprinkled with flowers. And the white / brown “vortex” (?) of the drink just hypnotizes me. (Okay, maybe I went overboard — but it is REALLY a good picture.)

  • Geoffrey


  • I vote for Arroz Con Leche as my favorite type of atol. There is even a song about it (can you tell I work with Guatemalan kids?) which makes it automatically great.

  • PS- they definitely still serve Incaparina and other forms of atol every day for refaccion in most of the schools. I love it.

  • About the song of Arroz con leche… I actually married a “señorita de la Capital” and it wasn’t that fun, just don’t tell your students… 😉

  • Good call Rudy! Now, let’s see…atol de haba, arroz con chocolate, arroz con leche, corazón de trigo, incaparina, mosh (avena), atol blanco, and atol de elote, all these are my favorites. The best you can have to recoup from a hangover is atol blanco. Trust me on this one.

    Now, with the infamous atol shuco I had a really bad experience when I was a kid living in Guastatoya, before moving to Antigua. So, from there on, I can tell you with much assurance that I hate it! Anyways, it is, smells and tastes “shuco”.

  • ale

    mmm, There’s a common joke around this places, you know how to identified a Guatemalan person from the rest? check if she/he’s shaking his cup of coffee (or whatever she/he’s drinking) like a “vaso de atol”. It works.

  • Maria

    Me encanta el contenido de este blog, pero sinceramente me veo un tanto insultada, porque el hecho de ser guatemalteco no tiene nada de “humble commencement”(lo escribo asi para no perder el contexto). Soy guatemalteca y muy orgullosa de decir que en mi pais tambien hay “Ph,d,s” aunque no se les diga de esa manera, se puede llegar a ser bilingue, trilingue y todos los lingues” que se le quieran agregar, vivo fuera de mi pais pero estoy mas que orgullosa de mi educacion universitaria(que se puede comparar con la de cualquier otro pais).

    Asi que de cualquier manera le agradeceria muchisimo que no se refirieran con esos terminos un tanto denigrantes al pais de la eterna primavera.


  • María, muchas gracias por sus comentarios; los tendré en cuenta la próxima vez que escriba una peculiaridad de los guatemaltec@s. 😉 Por cierto, le recomiendo que lea la entrada The Land of the Eternal Spring.

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  • alicia

    my chapin husband tells me atole blanco is the poor man’s drink. i have adapted well to the food changes and learned to cook many of his favs., and mine. atole blanco has become our week-end ritual. every sat. & sun. we drive downtown to our favorite truck where a family business serves us our hot atoles. YUM

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  • mmmmmmmm

    the best atol is atol blanco ……………………………………..

  • my daughter used to drink this for lunch when she was in school in Guatemala… the lunch ladies in the courtyard would serve it up.  Here in Maine she’s asking me for it, but nothing like that in the land of Lobster. lol.  And she is rather impatiently waiting for another trip to visit Grandma 🙂

  • Valencia Jne

    Could you tell us de direction on aking atol blanco. How much of each thing. Thanks

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