What is Mexican Chocolate

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Mexican chocolate is a special blend of cacao nibs, sugar and cinnamon, resulting in a bold and complex flavor profile that’s incredibly unique! If you’re wondering what makes it so special, I’m sharing why. 

Mexican chocolate tab on counter

I talk a lot about savory Mexican dishes here on the blog, and it’s not hard to see why. Who doesn’t love a good taco, enchilada, or carnitas? I know I do!

Today, I’m switching gears a bit to fill you in on Mexican chocolate. You may have seen it in your local supermarket in the specialty foods section, or you may have even tasted it in Mexican hot chocolate. Now, I know I said that I wanted to switch gears, but you can even use this tasty ingredient in savory Mexican dishes. But – I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s start with the basics, then move on to recipes.

boxes of Mexican Chocolate

What Is Mexican Chocolate?

Mexican chocolate is made with cacao, sugar, and cinnamon. It boasts a grainier texture than other types of chocolate thanks to all of the extra added sugar. While cacao nibs, sugar, and cinnamon form the base of traditional Mexican chocolate, you may also see it made with almonds, vanilla, or even chiles. 

Cacao is native to Mexico, which makes sense as it thrives in hot and humid climates. Cacao nibs are ground down and then roasted to form the base of Mexican chocolate. On its own, cacao is quite bitter. With the addition of granulated sugar and spicy cinnamon, the ingredients balance each other out to form an intense and (in my opinion) delicious flavor. 

Chocolate making in today’s Mexico can be traced back to 1900 BC. The traditions have stuck, and chocolate is still prepared today in the same way that the Aztecs of Mesoamerica once did. That is, it is still prepared this way in Mexico. European and American variations are made differently and therefore boast different flavors.

Mexican Chocolate boxes with one opened on table

Difference Between Regular and Mexican Chocolate

Mexican chocolate has a different taste and texture than other types of chocolate. It’s also often used as a food instead of candy. Meaning, you’ll see it as an ingredient in several different types of recipes. You may have seen Mexican chocolate for mole, or for more traditional Mexican hot chocolate recipes. It’s not really meant to be eaten on its own as you would a Hershey’s chocolate bar!

You also won’t see dark, milk, or white chocolate varieties when it comes to Mexican chocolate bars. In fact, it doesn’t usually come in bar form. Rather, you’ll find it in small disk shapes, and the different varieties are marked with their sugar content. Today, unique varieties that include add-ons like nuts and other spices are becoming more and more popular. 

Mexican chocolate is a lot less processed than its European or American counterparts, and its texture and taste reflect that. Many chefs describe this type of chocolate as “rustic,” and I couldn’t agree more!

homemade hot chocolate cookies
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Ways To Use Mexican Chocolate

You can use this ingredient in chocolate cookies, chocolate sauce, and even in a Mexican chocolate drink. That said, although this type of chocolate is chock full of sugar, you can use it in savory dishes. I know I mentioned switching gears from savory dishes, but this type of chocolate is so versatile. Here are the top ways to use Mexican Chocolate:

close up: mole negro on shredded braised pork shoulder

5 Great Mexican Chocolate Recipes 

Interested in even more recipes that use Mexican chocolate? You’re in luck! Here are some more of my favorite ideas, as well as some that I’ve pulled from a few other blogs I know and love:

2 glazed pottery mugs filled with dark chocolate drink

What is Mexican Hot Chocolate Called?

All of this talk about Mexican chocolate may bring to mind spicy Mexican hot chocolate drinks that you may have enjoyed in the past! A thick hot chocolate is called Champurrado in Mexico. You’ll see my recipe linked above, but in case you missed it, you can find it here.

What is a Substitute for Mexican Chocolate?

While I always suggest that you go out and try to find authentic Mexican chocolate if a recipe calls for it, I know that sometimes just isn’t possible! If you’ve checked out your local supermarket and prefer not to order online, simply combine the following ingredients:

  • Cocoa powder or semi-sweet chocolate 
  • 1 drop of both almond and vanilla extract (vanilla is optional but always recommended!)
  • ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon

You can also add in almonds for added crunch. 

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Which Mexican Chocolate is the Best?

I’ve already shared on the blog that I like working with Ibarra Mexican chocolate best. It’s a brand that I know and trust and it’s made in Mexico. There are other popular options out there as well, such as Taza Mexican chocolate, and Nestlé brand has a Mexican chocolate variety, Abuelita as well. Feel free to use your preference!

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Mexican Hot Chocolate bar on table


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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