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Savory Cacao: Xocolatl Recipe

Not many people have done much research on the history of chocolate - something so delicious doesn’t often call for learning the history about it when you can just enjoy it in the moment. However, if you are among those who have not done your history of chocolate studies, you may be surprised to learn that the chocolate you may know and love had a very different start. Read on to learn more about where our well loved chocolate had its start and how to enjoy it the traditional way.

Chocolate gets its deep rich flavor from cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao indicated, the more bitter the flavor. Originating from several Mesoamerican civilizations, cacao was used in ceremonial and medicinal practices in the regions in what we now know as South America. Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations used cacao to make a special drink - called “xocolatl” (pronounced sho-kho-lah-tuhl) by the Aztecs, meaning “bitter water” and is the origin for the word chocolate. This drink, however, wasn't as sweet as the chocolate we know and love today. It was a spicy, savory drink seasoned with local spices, including chili peppers, vanilla and annatto and often used to honor royalty.

Eventually cacao was introduced as a drink to Spanish royalty once brought to the Europeans where they changed the spices to the more common flavors of their palette - nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise - and eventually added sugar to sweeten the bitter drink.

While you are able to find a fair share of sweetened hot chocolate recipes that eventually made their way to America around 1682, this recipe is one from the more traditional ancient start intended for health purposes and useful for ceremonial rituals - especially around a women’ bleed.

Xocolatl Recipe


1 ½ cups water (divided)

1 green chile pepper, sliced

5 - 12 discs ceremonial grade cacao (*or ⅛ cup unsweetened cocoa powder)

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Place the slices of chile pepper - seeds and all - in the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes. Strain the peppers and seeds out of the water and set aside to cool to around 175℉ (cacao can lose nutrients, so you want to avoid mixing with water that is too hot)

  2. While the water cools slightly, add your cacao and vanilla to a high speed blender, add the chile infused water, and blend gently making a frothy mixture.

  3. Divide between two (2) mugs and enjoy!

*Ceremonial grade cacao sourced ethically can’t be compared to cocoa powder. If you are not able to try the recipe with the high quality cacao the first time, definitely try it at some point!

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