International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Nicaraguan pinolillo gourds

(Nicaraguan, Costa Rican cocoa-cornmeal drink)

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Pinolillo, also known as pinol, is a cornmeal and cocoa beverage very popular in Nicaragua. So popular in fact, that Nicaraguans often refer to themselves as pinoleros. Costa Ricans love it too.

Rich and somewhat gritty, pinolillo is an ancient drink and is traditionally served in a dried gourd shell. While instant powder can be bought in many Latin markets, here's how you can make your own.

3 or 4 servings


  • White cornmeal -- 1/4 cup
  • Milk -- 2 cups
  • Water -- 2 cups
  • Cocoa powder -- 1/4 cup
  • Sugar -- 3 teaspoons
  • Cinnamon -- 1/2 teaspoon


  1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-flame. Spread the cornmeal evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Toast the cornmeal, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned and releases its aroma. Remove to a clean spice grinder or blender and process until it is ground to a fine powder.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a blender and process until smooth and frothy.
  3. Adjust sugar to taste and serve cold over ice. Any solids that settle to the bottom are eaten with a spoon.

Pinolillo Variations

  • For a little spice, add a big pinch of cayenne pepper or ground chile piquín. Other spices sometimes added include ground allspice or ground cloves.
  • Pinolillo can also be served hot. For a tasty pick-me-up, substitute coffee for the water.

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