What do you get when you combine purple corn, fruit, and spices? Chicha morada, a refreshing Peruvian punch that just might become your new summer beverage staple!
Gloriously-hued chicha morada is an Andean drink made from purple corn, or maíz morado. Maize-based beverages have existed in the region since Pre-Columbian times, and this one has a fruity, tangy, spiced note from the addition of ingredients like pineapple, apple, lime, cinnamon, and cloves. Served cold, it makes a delicious non-alcoholic punch — or spike it with pisco for a boozy, grapey version. Packed with antioxidants and anthocyanins, purple corn also has lots of potential health benefits.
→ Find it: Dried purple corn or maíz morado is generally available at well-stocked Latin American markets, or online at La Tienda.
Recipes for chicha morada vary between places and individuals. This one is based on a recipe generously shared by Los Angeles resident Marina Hayes, who grew up frequenting a Peruvian restaurant where she fell in love with the big glasses of punch. "The cinnamon and cloves lightly scented that deep purple juice and the result was an entirely unique drink that I was just crazy about," Marina says. As she got older, Marina developed her own recipe based on researching foreign food blogs and gleaning hints from friends.
I love her version, which is intensely flavored — perfect for that shot of pisco — and completely customizable in the sweetness department. (Marina likes palm sugar; I use honey.) I also like how her method uses just the pineapple rinds and cores, parts that would normally go to waste. You can eat the rest of the pineapple separately, or do I do: cut it into chunks, freeze, and use as "ice cubes" for the chicha morada.
Marina makes two or three gallons of chicha morada each week in summer, and with many hot days ahead, I won't be surprised if I start doing the same. This recipe makes a lot, and though it can certainly be halved, boiling the chicha morada does heat up the kitchen, so I find it worth it to make a larger batch at once.
Makes about 2 gallons
(15-ounce) bags dried purple corn (maíz morado)
Rind and core from one large, ripe pineapple (see How to Cut Up a Whole Pineapple)
tart Granny Smith apples, quartered
heaping tablespoon whole cloves
Ceylon cinnamon sticks, broken (also called Mexican cinnamon or canela; can substitute 2 to 3 Cassia cinnamon sticks)
plus 1 cup water
Juice of 5 limes
Juice of 3 lemons
Sweetener of your choice: palm sugar, white sugar, simple syrup, agave nectar, honey, etc.
Combine purple corn, pineapple scraps, apples, cloves, cinnamon, and water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes and then uncover the pot and continue simmering for 30 more minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature (or let sit overnight for a more intense flavor). Strain and discard the solids.
Stir in lime and lemon juice. Sweeten to taste. Put in the fridge until completely chilled and serve over ice. Garnish with lime or chopped apple and pineapple, if desired.
To give the chicha morada a more complex flavor, you might add spices like star anise, allspice, or nutmeg, as well as fruits like prunes, dried cherries, apricots, fresh quince, or membrillo paste.
The punch can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Based on a recipe from Marina Hayes. Thanks, Marina!
(Images: Emily Han)