Ancient Recipe: Mayan Chile Chocolate Elixir. A Drink Made Fit For Gods

When people hear the word elixir, very few would think of one be concocted out of chocolate.  However, the ancient Mayan’s were not like the masses.  They created a “chocolate elixir” beverage that was a sacred and powerful beverage served only to the elite.  Chocolate played a major role in Mayan society.  They worshiped a cacao god and would drink chocolate during many religious ceremonies, marriage ceremonies and even in baptisms. Mayans were known to lightly sweeten their chocolate and mix it with herbs, spices and chili. Today, many recipes have been created that replicate how Mayans made their chocolate drinks.  The Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe, New Mexico has a famous “Mayan Chile Chocolate Elixir” recipe that perfectly resembles the type of drink the Mayans made. The recipe and name of this drink is significant due to the important of chocolate in Mayan society and how they made their chocolate drinks based on ingredients they had available.

Here is the recipe for Kakawa Chocolate House’s “Mayan Chile Chocolate Elixir found on “Food Network’s” website:

  • 3 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped into chunks, such as Vairhona
  • 4 tablespoons agave or honey
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Annatto (Achiote/Bija) seed extract

(Mayan Chile Chocolate Elixir- Food

This drink is not sweet like traditional hot chocolate is today. Instead, the Mayans liked to mix unsweetened chocolate with spices, herbs, and chilies. They would lightly sweeten it but the mixture of herbs and spices certainly dominated the taste. The resulting mixture creates a chocolate that is “extremely dark, powerful, and complex” (Kakawa).  When creating their chocolate elixir, the Mayans would ground the cacao beans into a paste. Next, they would mix the paste with hot water, spices such as chili, vanilla, annatto, allspice, honey and flower.  Finally, getting poured back and forth between two containers frothed the mixture.  This tradition can still be seen today as almost any kind of “Mayan chocolate” made today usually is a type of dark chocolate that is mixed with chili powders and other kinds of spices. Very different compared to the typical Hersey or Milky Way bar.  That is a testament to how chocolate was prepared by the Mayans. Here is a video of how a chocolate drink was made by the Mayans:

Chocolate played a very significant role in Mayan Society. The chocolate drinks were mainly consumed by the rich and powerful. Drinks, such as the elixirs, were considered highly prestigious and were considered fit only for the most powerful people in society like the emperor. The Mayans worshipped a cacao god and some Mayan emperors were buried with jars of chocolate on either side of them (Klein, 2014). We have been able to determine this by looking at hieroglyphics that were painted unto ancient artifacts that were discovered by archaeologists. Also, by scraping the residue off of the inside, labs were able to determine that some of the artifacts they had discovered were used to store cacao (Martin, 2014) . Chocolate was also used during various religious ceremonies and marriage ceremonies as people substituted it for blood or used it to liven up the party. The hieroglyphics depicted various scenes or people worshiping the cacao gods and using chocolate during ceremonies. Here is what the ancient Mayan cacao god looked like:

Chocolate was even used as a form of currency! Cacao beans could be traded for other goods and services (LaShelle). Chocolate was thought to give people energy and could be used to heal the sick. In all, chocolate played a unique role in Mayan society. The way in which they prepared their chocolate drinks and the different ingredients they used compared to how current chocolate is made is best reflected in recipes such as the Kakawa Chocolate House’s Mayan Chile Chocolate Elixir.


LaShelle. “Chocolate History: Who Invented Chocolate?” Facts About Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

Klein, Christoper. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” A&E Television Networks, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

Martin, Dr. Carla “African American Studies 119x: Chocolate” Lecture, 2014

“Mesoamerican Elixirs.” Kakawa Chocolate House. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

“Kakawa’s Mayan Chile Chocolate Elixir.” Recipe : Food Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

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