In Los Angeles, champurrado makes its way into the bellies of Angelenos morning and night via street vendors, selling the warm, pudding-like beverage out of Igloo containers and into steaming Styrofoam cups. Mexican restaurants around the city also ladle it into mugs often served with tamales. A serving of champurrado is like a comfy fleece sweater on a cold winter day - poured in a cup.
Champurrado is made of masa (nixtamalized corn) chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, and other spices. There are champurrado makers that will also add the rich spice of cloves, the zesty aroma of orange peel, or the licorice taste of star anise. To sweeten it, Mexican piloncillo, a raw form of pure cane sugar, is also an alternative to regular sugar. Some versions can be made using milk, evaporated milk, water, or a mix of all.
This chocolate-based atole is thin and porridge-like, popular during the cold weather months and seasons. It’s an excellent way to take the chill off and feel cozy at home or comforted on your way to work. Beyond being a popular traditional drink, champurrado is an experience. Here are LA favorites to add to your champurrado rotation.
Cena Vegan (242 N Ave 25, Los Angeles 90031) pops up at Smorgasburg on Sundays and offers authentic vegan street food at its Lincoln Heights kitchen, including the famed Nacho Boat and vegan tacos, burritos and tortas.
The Holiday Menu features a large 32 oz container of champurrado for $16, along with handmade Mexicali Style Chile Colorado Beef-less Tamales and Chile Verde Chicken-less Tamales - filled with gluten-free Plant Ranch protein, available by the half-dozen ($24) or a la carte ($4 each).
One of LA’s oldest Mexican establishments, Cielito Lindo (E-23 Olvera St, Los Angeles 90012) was founded in 1934 and is renowned for their Taquitos in Avocado Sauce.
Their seasonal champurrado is served in a to-go cup with a plastic spoon - it's thick enough to rest the spoon on the drink’s surface. Scrape every delicious bit clinging inside the cup, leave nothing to waste. Pro-tip: pan dulce makes an excellent vessel to sop up all the remnants left inside.
El Aguila Bakery
Located in El Sereno, El Aguila Bakery (5028 Huntington Dr. S, Los Angeles 90032) is a colorful neighborhood panaderia that serves freshly made pan dulce and a variety of other sweet breads, tarts, and custom cakes. Champurrado is available in small, medium, large and a 96 oz box to-go for your holiday gatherings.
Guatemalan Night Market
This champurrado will be made and served by Guatemalan vendors who are skilled atole makers. It won’t be as sweet but it will definitely fill the champurrado craving perfectly. The atole vendors at the Guatemalan Night Market in Westlake (6th Street and Bonnie Brae) will be standing on the corner with street carts holding several hot beverage containers. Support the vendors, enjoy Guatemalan street food, and sip a hot champurrado in LA’s only Central American night market. As is customary with street vendors, bring cash.
One of the most celebrated Oaxacan restaurants in the country, the James Beard Award-winning Guelaguetza (3014 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles 90006) serves a dairy-free champurrado ($7.50) made with 100% organic corn and chocolate from Oaxaca. There's also atole (blanco or panela), traditional Mexican hot chocolate (water-based or whole milk base) and café de olla - black coffee, infused with cinnamon and piloncillo (dark brown sugar).
La Luz del Dia
Opened in 1959, La Luz del Dia restaurant (W-1 Olvera St, Los Angeles 90012) serves Michoacan Mexican food on historic Olvera Street in Downtown LA. An enormous pot of thick and traditional champurrado is simmering on the back burner of the stove. Served in a warm ceramic mug, its sweet aroma is telling of how pleasant the champurrado will be. Their champurrado has survived decades worth of taste testers who keep coming back for more. Longtime customer, Christy Olmos said, "The flavor and texture are what I love. I don’t make it at home. It’s very few places that make it with good flavor and thickness. Since I was a little girl, I’ve been coming here and it’s always been the same."
La Monarca Bakery
Inspired by the pan dulce and pastries they grew up with in Mexico, Ricardo Cervantes and Alfredo Livas opened the first La Monarca Bakery in 2006. They've since expanded to a dozen locations from the Eastside to Santa Monica. La Monarca uses only all-natural fresh ingredients, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. Proceeds from sales of its packaged goods are donated to Ecolife in support of monarch butterfly conservation.
La Monarca's champurrado starts with organic cacao nibs, which are ground in-house with a signature blend of spices and sugar. Pre-order a tray of Pan Dulce or Rosca Conchas, add a 96 oz Champurrado to-go container, and you'll have the makings of a sweet holiday party.
Come to Northgate Market (40+ locations in LA, OC and San Diego counties) for the fresh produce, tortilleria, baked goods and meat selection. Stay for their extensive hot-food prepared menu, including the famous carnitas, marinated carne asada, fire-roasted split chicken and tamales by the dozen. Champurrado is always available (S, M, L and 96 oz) and always hits the spot.
Tacos 5 de Mayo
Located on the second floor of the grand El Mercadito in Boyle Heights, Tacos 5 de Mayo (3425 E. 1st St #108, Los Angeles 90063) is nestled in a corner next to the Mexican candy stalls, pinata vendors, and fresh masa deli counter. Tacos 5 de Mayo serves its champurrado from a dedicated station - it's made using both milk and water, and instead of a cinnamon speckled appearance it has a uniform cafe latte-color. It’s sweet, a touch grainy and has scalding pockets of heat trapped in the dense liquid. Enjoy the sweet corn, cinnamon, chocolate flavors and roam through the mall that has catered to the Mexican community since 1968.
Taqueria Vista Hermosa
Located in Mercado la Paloma, a South LA revitalization project, Taqueria Vista Hermosa (3655 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90007) serves up a wide range of Mexican staples. With a big focus on cooking from scratch with the freshest ingredients, Taqueria Vista Hermosa makes small batches of champurrado several times a day and always sells out by end of day. Their secret sauce ingredient is a touch of La Lechera (sweetened condensed milk).