Pinolillo is a Cacao & Sweet Corn Drink Traditional to Nicaragua


This Pinolillo recipe was originally shared with us by Patty Villers, during her time with the website Fit Fare.

The recipe is for Pinolillo, a beverage that is indigenous to Nicaragua. According to Wikipedia, it’s so widespread in Nicaragua that it’s become one of their cultural symbols, with Nicaraguans referring to themselves as pinoleros.

To me it tasted a lot like chocolate milk, with a slight edge to it. On a hot day, it would be an interesting change from iced tea or lemonade.

We’ve recently updated this recipe and post. Many traditional Pinolillo recipes use cornmeal, but this dairy-free version uses fresh roasted corn. It adds a creamier consistency and more depth of flavor. For a smooth finish, you can strain the cacao-corn mixture through a fine mesh sieve or nut milk bag before adding it to your drink.

Pinolillo Recipe - a traditional sweet corn and cacao Nicaraguan Drink. (Dairy-Free and Vegan Version)

Special Diet Notes: Pinolillo

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The cinnamon, paprika and chili powder are optional, but recommended. You can enjoy this drink at room temperature, or served over ice for a more refreshing drink.
Recipe type: Drink
Cuisine: Nicaragua
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 or 3 cobs of corn (enough to fill 2 cups with kernels)
  • ½ cup roasted cacoa beans or ½ cup cocoa powder)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Water or dairy-free milk beverage, for serving
  • Ice, for serving (optional)
  • Sweetener, for serving
  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
  2. Cook the ears of corn, either by boiling for 10 minutes or microwaving for half that time.
  3. Cut the kernels lengthwise off the cobs. Spread the kernels on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the kernels appear lightly toasted. Make sure they don’t burn, or else the flavor will be ruined.
  4. Put the corn, cacao or cocoa, chili powder, cinnamon, and paprika in your blender. Blend for 1 minute, or until smooth.
  5. Add the mixture to a glass of water or dairy-free milk beverage and ice (if using). Sweeten with your favorite sweetener, to taste.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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