Photo of pinole bars

What’s Pinole?

Does your brain hit the wall in the afternoon? Do say to yourself, ” ‘I need a pick-me-up?’ “

Yep. That’s me.

My quest for a healthy solution began when my gaze fell on an old Tarahumara basket holding pens and pencils on my desk. I’m familiar with the tribe, who call themselves Rarámuri, meaning “footrunners.” They’re known for having the world’s greatest long distance runners who travel 50-100 miles without stopping while wearing huarache sandals with recycled tire tread soles. They run for the pure joy it brings. I’ve experienced their remote location in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, a group of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico.

My curiosity took over to see if maybe they had an answer.

Turns out, yes, they do. How do they fuel their runs? They take along small sacks of the superfood pinole, usually combined with chia seeds.

Pinole is a grain mixture mostly of heirloom blue and purple maize roasted with raw cacao beans, then ground into a fine mixture. Served a multitude of ways, one is combined with milk to form a thick, warm porridge.

Similar in texture to oatmeal or grits, it’s a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Two ounces provides 7 grams of fiber, 40 grams of complex carbohydrates and 100 milligrams of anthocyanins; an antioxidant that may help reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer and boost cognitive function.

Is pinole the best energy snack? Let me know what you discover.

If you’re interested in learning more about these native people, check out “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. You can also buy pinole from Ramona Farms, located on the Akimel O’Odham (Gila River Pima) Community in Sacaton. Ramona Button, along with her husband Terry, have been farming there for 40 years and carry a wonderful variety of traditional foods and is a great place for a day trip.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen,


Pinole in a containerPinole Energy Cakes

Recipe adapted from One Ingredient Chef

1 cup masa harina or finely ground cornmeal or premade pinole
¼ cup chopped dates
⅔ cup water
2 tablespoons agave nectar (raw, not processed with added high fructose corn syrup)
2 tablespoons chia seeds (may need omit if using premade pinole already has them)
½-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast cornmeal and chia seeds for 5-8 minutes. If the heat is too low, the cornmeal won’t toast. If the heat is too high, it will burn. Keep a constant eye on it and stir regularly.
3, Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until no large chunks of dates remain. If mixture is too crumbly, add a little more water until you’re left with a thick paste.
4. Form into 3 rounds, about ⅜-inch thick and 5-inches round. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick mat about 10-12 minutes or until the outside forms a solid crust and begins to show small cracks.
5. Remove from the oven and cool. They can be eaten immediately or refrigerated for several days.

Photo credit: Chasing 42


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