If you have read the book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall then you are well aware of the Tarahumara and their magical Pinole recipe that enables them to run 50 to 100 miles each day with little to no exhaustion or injury. However, most of us are not long distance runners and Pinole is a complete mystery. Pinole is simply roasted corn, ground into flour and combined with water, some spices and usually some form of sweetener such as honey or sugar. Pinole can be made into a drink, a paste much like oatmeal, or baked into a cake or cookie shape so that it is portable. (1)
How to Make Pinole
What you will need:
Frying Pan – cast iron is preferred but non-stick is acceptable
Dried corn on the cob: You can simply hang some fresh corn in a dry place in your home until all of the kernels are completely dry throughout and come off of the cob without any effort. If you prefer a less timely solution simply dehydrate frozen corn in a dehydrator or an oven at the lowest setting until completely dry.
Blender, coffee grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle
Step one: Remove the dried out corn kernels from the cob. Skip this step if you are using frozen corn that has been dehydrated.
Step two: Heat a cast iron or non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Step three: Spread out all of the corn kernels on the hot frying pan so that none are laying on top of one another. You want all of the kernels to be touching the pan. Heat until they become swollen and turn round and are a light brown color.
Step four: Remove the corn kernels from the frying pan and place them into your grinder whether it be a blender, coffee grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle. Grind until the corn is finer than cornmeal but not as fine as wheat flour.
You can also make Pinole by taking cornmeal or Masa Harina and cooking it in a pan if you do not want to be bothered with this whole process, but making it from scratch is far better.
Tarahumara Pinole Recipe
- ½ cup Pinole, finely ground
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1-tablespoon brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, or coconut sugar (your preference)
- 1-tablespoon chia seeds
- Runner’s Pinole Recipe
- 2 cups Pinole, finely ground
- 1/3-cup honey, brown rice syrup, agave nectar (your preference)
- 2-tablespoons hemp or chia seeds
- 1-teaspoon pink salt
- 1-tablespoon ground cinnamon
Either of these recipes can be blended together in a warm pan and cooled until dry. They can both be added to water and made into a drink by adding one-tablespoon Pinole mixture into three cups of filtered water. These recipes can also be used to make oatmeal-like type gruel by cooking it in a pot with water until it becomes a paste. Start by adding equal parts of Pinole to water or plant milk and adjust according to how thick you like it.
Tarahumara Pinole Recipe for Energy Bars
These energy bars are the most natural and easily digestible source of energy for your workout! These bars are hard to describe as they are not quite cornbread, not quite a cookie but they make an amazing portable snack that is something of a combination of the two. They are delicious, nutritious and energizing. Try them the next time you head out for a workout and see how they work for you.
Pinole Recipe for Energy Bar Ingredients:
- 1-cup masa harina (cornmeal that has been treated with lime), or plain cornmeal
- ¼ cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped fine
- 2/3 cup filtered water
- 3-tablespoons brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar
- 2-tablespoons chia seeds
- 1-teaspoon ground cinnamon, or pumpkin spice
Step one: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, begin toasting both the cornmeal and the chia seeds. Add both of these ingredients into a skillet and toast them over medium-high heat for approximately five to ten minutes. This step is crucial but it can be a bit tricky. If the heat is too low the cornmeal will not fully toast. If the heat is too high, it will scorch and have a burnt flavor. Make sure not to walk away from the pan. Keep a constant watch and stir it continuously.
Step two: Add all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until no large chunks of dates remain. If the mixture is too crumbly you can add in a little more water until it becomes a thickened paste. The sweetener is truly up to you. Agave is the most traditional as it comes from the Mexican region but it seems that the brown rice syrup performs the best. It seems to bind the mixture together quite nicely.
Step three: Form this mixture into three separate round cookie-like shapes approximately 3/8 inch and 5 inches in diameter. Bake these rounds on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat for approximately 10-12 minutes just until the outside of the cake begins to form a solid crust and shows tiny cracks. Remove the cakes from the oven immediately and allow them to cool completely. They can be eaten immediately or stored inside of the refrigerator for up to one week.
You can cut these in half and eat half before your workout and half afterwards. If you like you can top these with any nut butter of your choice. I prefer cashew butter but you can use peanut, almond, macadamia, or sunflower. I also love to sprinkle some hemp or chia seeds on top for a bit of crunch and added protein.
Chocolate Pinole Recipe
- 1.2-cup masa harina (or finely ground cornmeal)
- 1-ounce chia seeds, ground
- 1.5 tablespoons agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, or brown sugar
- 2-tablespoons cacao powder
- 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ to ¾ cups water
- Chopped nuts of your choice for topping (optional) – almonds, macadamia, pecan, walnuts
Step one: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step two: Toast the masa harina (or cornmeal) in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is lightly browned and smells fragrant.
Step three: Place the toasted cornmeal in to a medium sized bowl. Mix in the ground chia seeds, cacao powder and sweetener of your choice.
Step four: Slowly stir in the vanilla and water into the dry mixture ingredients. You want the mixture to look like thickened batter/ oatmeal. If the mixture is too thin it will be moister but much more fragile.
Step five: Put the Pinole mixture into a 9” x 5” loaf pan and top it with nuts of your choice if you so choose. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
This Pinole recipe makes 4 servings.