Why Everyone’s Talking About South America’s Chicha Drink
Chicha drink is a Latin American recipe that consists mainly of maize. Many Latin American countries prepare and enjoy it differently.
In this post I will review why Chicha is popular, and list the many Latin American countries that make it, not necessarily out of maize.
What Is the Meaning of chicha?
In the Real Academia Española’s website you can find more than 10 definitions for the word chicha! The etymology of this word is broad, but RAE states it comes from an indigenous Panamanian word meaning corn (chichab).
We consider the chicha drink a strong beverage and consider lemonade a soft one, so the common phrase among Latin American people, “neither chicha nor lemonade” (ni chicha ni limonada) is used to express a halfway point when defining someone or something.
FUN FACT! In some countries you can find actual places dedicated to selling chicha called chicherías.
How to Make Chicha
You can find different chicha drink recipes according to the country.
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
Chicha in Southern Argentina and Chile
Southern Argentines and native Chileans—Mapuches—call their chicha drink muday. Mapuche women prepare it for their parties and religious ceremonies. The ingredients are wheat, honey, and water.
To prepare muday, follow these nine simple steps.
- Put the wheat in a pot and cover it with water.
- Cook it under a low flame for an hour.
- Separate the wheat from the liquid.
- Grind the wheat (or blend it).
- Add the ground wheat into another pot and pour the previously reserved water.
- Add 9 additional liters of water.
- Cook it under a low flame for ten minutes and add honey until it dissolves completely.
- Cool it down in the fridge for about a day.
- Serve it cold.
Bolivian and Peruvian Peanut Chicha
Bolivians consume peanut Chicha, especially in eastern Bolivia Chiquitania—especially for religious festivities and traditional fests.
If you want to prepare this peanut chicha, you’ll need around 2 and a half hours. Here are the ingredients.
- 7 oz (200 g) of peanuts
- 7 oz (200 g) of almonds
- 7 oz (200 g) of quinoa
- 5 oz (150 g) of grated coconut
- Sugar (2 cups)
- 1 gallon (4 L) of water
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
Prepare the recipe at home!
- Grind the peanut, almonds, and quinoa.
- Pour the water, sugar, and cinnamon in a pot until it boils.
- Add the ground mixture and let it boil under a slow flame.
- Strain the remaining water and add sugar.
- Let it cool down and enjoy!
Colombian and Panamanian Rice and Pineapple Chicha
Caribbean Colombian coast and Panama natives use the word chicha in order to refer to any kind of fruit juice. Their preferred drink is rice and pineapple chicha.
These are the ingredients.
- Cinnamon (optional)
You can prepare this Colombian chicha at home with this recipe!
- Remove the skin off the pineapple and mix it with the rice and water in the pot.
- Add sugar.
- Cook for 40 minutes until the rice softens enough.
- Cool it down.
- Blend the mixture.
- Strain the rice and add water if the mixture is too thick.
- Serve it cold.
Mexican Bittersweet Chicha
Mexicans prepare their own chicha as well. They consume it in Jalisco, especially in Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Mascota. Mexicans also call their chicha tejuino, which has a nahuatl meaning “to beat.” They consider tejuino a sacred beverage. In the Wixárika town, people used it for sacred rituals back in the day.
They use maize and candy cane as their base to prepare it. Here are all of the ingredients.
- Corn dough
- Sugar cane (piloncillo)
- Crushed ice
- Lemon shaved ice (optional)
Here is the recipe for the Mexican chicha drink.
- Boil the water and add piloncillo until it dissolves.
- Grind the dough with a little bit of water in a blender, and put it into boiling water.
- When the mixture is cold, add the lemons.
- Cool down for 4 hours.
- Mix it well and add shaved ice, salt, and lemon
- Add the lemon shaved ice.
Nicaraguans consume chicha after any meal, and especially during Holy Week and Christmas.
This chicha takes a little bit longer to prepare. Here are the ingredients you’ll need.
- White maize
- Rapadura (a product of sugar cane)
Here is the recipe.
- Soak the corn in water for 12 hours.
- Grind it.
- Wash it again and take out the pulp and skin.
- Add water and cook again.
- Once it’s cold add the rapadura and water (1 part of rapadura and 8 of water)
- Mix the sugar, vanilla, and raspberry on the next day.
- Serve it cold.
Peruvian Purple Chicha
Purple chicha (la chicha morada) is one of the many Peruvian varieties of chicha. Peruvians have been making this chicha drink before the Inca empire existed. They prepared it to cure diseases and used it in ceremonies.
The main ingredient is the Peruvian purple maize, which you can only find in the Andes. Here are all the ingredients Peruvians use to prepare la chicha morada.
- Dried purple maize
Here is the recipe to how Peruvians prepare the purple chicha drink.
- Peel the pineapple and apples.
- Pour water in a pot and add the pineapple and apples.
- Add the purple maize, the cinnamon, and the clove.
- Cook under a high flame until it boils.
- Cook under a low flame for 50 minutes.
- Strain the mixture and set it apart.
- Add water into a pot with the skins from the fruit, and add more purple maize.
- Cook under a high flame until it boils.
- Cook under a low flame for 45 minutes.
- Strain the liquid and mix it with the other one.
- Cool the mixture down in the fridge for two hours.
- Dice up the fruit.
- Add the lemon juice, sugar, and fruit to the cold beverage before serving it.
Venezuelan Creole Chicha
Venezuelans prepare the creole chicha (la chicha criolla), and they have many different versions. Rice chicha, pasta chicha, and sesame chicha.
Spanish colonizers discovered creole chicha around the 16th century, but it is likely that Venezuelan indigenous tribes knew it and prepared it many years before, because like many other indigenous Latin American tribes they used to chew some of the ingredients before preparing them.
The most popular chicha in Venezuela is the rice chicha. You can find it anywhere in the country.
Here are the ingredients Venezuelan street vendors use.
- White rice
- Evaporated milk
- Condensed milk
Here is how to prepare creole rice chicha.
- Soak the rice for 24 hours.
- Drain the rice.
- Add water in a pot and let it boil.
- Add the rice and the cinnamon, and let it cook for between 30 and 40 minutes.
- Let it cool down.
- Blend the rice, cinnamon, vanilla, milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt.
- Put it in the fridge until it’s cold.
The Benefits of Drinking Chicha
Out of these 7 types of chicha, the one with the most benefits is la chicha morada. Purple chicha uses purple maize as a base.
Purple maize has many antioxidants that help prevent heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes. Some sources also claim that purple chicha is good to lower the blood pressure and cholesterol levels on it. The anthocyanin present in the purple chicha can reduce the feeling of hunger, hence controlling weight loss better.
Additionally, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory substance and helps to the secretion of insulin keeping the sugar levels in your blood stable. Several sources claim that it slows down the aging process and that it enhances your vision.
Consuming the Bolivian peanut chicha will give you some of the benefits of peanuts. Peanuts help to prevent stomach and colon cancer, minimizes the possibility of having kidney stones, regulates blood sugar, helps absorbing calcium, and helps metabolize carbohydrates and fats. It’s also a great source of protein, and it helps produce serotonin and slows down the aging process too.
When drinking the rice and pineapple chicha from Panama and Colombia, you’ll get the skin benefits of pineapples—which will help your digestion since it contains vast amounts of fiber. It will also help clean up your kidneys and will help you strengthen your bone system too.
Prepare To Drink Your Favorite Chicha in Spanish
I hope you get to try all of these different and exotic types of chicha drinks. My personal favorite is the Venezuelan creole chicha, closely competing with the Peruvian creole chicha!
You can easily make any of these chicha drink recipes at home. However, there is no comparison to the original flavor you get to experience in its country of origin. Sign up for a free Spanish class with one of our native, certified Spanish teachers to prepare for your visit to Latin America. Get the best out of your travels by learning how to break the language barrier with the locals.
Spanish will not only help you travel more easily to Spanish-speaking countries and try their traditional drinks and dishes but it can also grant you an amazing job opportunity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the interpreter and translator occupation will increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022, making it one of the fastest learning occupations in the market!
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