The Delicious Chocolate Pinole You Won’t Believe Is Good For You

Baked Pinole BarsWhat fuels your running?

For the members of the Rarámuri, also known as the Tarahumara, a traditional dish known as pinole fuels the epic runs described in Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run (direct).

Pinole (pronounced [pee'-nolay] or [pe-ao'-lay]) is a Mexican term that refers to a large set of foods made from parched and ground corn. The meal, referred to as masa harina, is traditionally combined with sugar and water to make the beverage known as piuul or pinullo (pronounced [pe-nool'-lyo]).

The other major component of the Tarahumara diet is an astonishing little seed we’ve come to associate with terra-cotta animals. For the uninitiated, chia is a member of the mint family grown mostly in warm climates like Mexico. Whole, they look like this:Chia Seed
In addition to sporting an impressive nutrient profile, there are several great reasons to add chia to your diet. As such, we’ll be including them in this recipe.

If you want to fuel your runs like the superhuman athletes of the Sierra Madres, this pinole recipe is a good place to start. Modified to satisfy even the strongest sweets craving, this recipe is a perfect way to incorporate a healthy, whole food into your pre or post-run diet.

And, thus, I present my favorite variation of the Tarahumara pinole recipe…

Chocolate pinole!

Ingredients:Nutrition Data for Pinole
½ cup masa harina (or finely ground cornmeal)
1 ounce chia seed, ground
1½ tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract
½ to ¾ cup water
chopped almonds or other nut (optional)


  1. Before you begin, set the oven to 350° to let it preheat while you deal with the prep work. This will save you some time at the end.
  2. Toast the masa harina (or cornmeal) in a thick pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the meal is lightly browned and pungent.
  3. Put the toasted cornmeal into a medium bowl. Mix in the ground chia seed, cocoa, and sugar.
  4. Slowly stir the vanilla and water into the dry ingredients. The texture you are looking for is somewhere between a thick batter and oatmeal. The thinner the mixture, the moister (but also the more fragile) the final product.
  5. Put the pinole mixture into a 9″x5″ loaf pan, optionally top with chopped almonds or other nuts, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Makes 4 servings

As you can see, the final nutrient profile for these bars (excluding the almonds) is really quite healthy, even if it doesn’t taste like it.

Find Ingredients And Additional Recipes

NMA Pinole RecipesIf you’re having trouble finding masa harina and chia seeds, I typically order my supply through First time shoppers can use the coupon code RUF029 to knock $5.00 off your first order. And, as a bonus, orders made using the coupon code help support articles like this one.

Finally, if you’re looking for additional recipes to help you fuel your runs like the Tarahumara, you should check out No Meat Athlete’s recipe book: Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way! Matt’s vegetarian-friendly pinole recipes will definitely become some of your favorite running fuel. The pinole buckwheat pancakes alone are reason enough for me to affiliate this one.

Do you fuel like the Tarahumara? What other recipes have you found for chia seeds or pinole? Share your favorites in the comments!

Links and other promotions in this article comply with the Midpack Runner affiliation policy.

  3 Responses to The Delicious Chocolate Pinole You Won’t Believe Is Good For You
  1. The Ancient Brit

    Great site, loved the input, Im now about to make 83, (in a weeks time), I have been a long distance runner for many years, run alot in your country at various races, am hoping to fly across the Pond again next year, to take part in the Battaan Death March race, and hopefully the Strolling Jim, also hope to have another run at the Del Passatore 100km in May, am now taking Chia Seeds with granola each morning for breakfast, also re-enjoying my running, now holding around 50+ per week, slow, but sure.
    Now sir, is there any where that I can buy your Pinole Bars already made, your advice and input would greatfully accepted.

    Yours in Sport, The Ancient Brit. Lou Myers.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Thanks so much for stopping by and joining the discussion. I love your closing.

      50+ per week is fantastic!! You’ve got quite the race schedule ahead of you – I don’t know too many people who could hope to compete in even one of those races. I certainly hope that I have your stamina when I’m 83 years young.

      As to the pinole bars, I’m afraid I’m too small an operation to be mass marketing just yet (although I appreciate the encouragement). I’m also not aware of any other commercially available alternatives. The prep time on these isn’t too bad, really. I spend about 20 minutes on them each week including the baking time, and, by making them myself, I ensure they’re made with fresh ingredients and without any manner of chemical additive.

      If I come across another option (or if demand forces me to reconsider my current non-commercialism ;) ), I’ll be sure to let you know.

  2. Simon

    Just made a batch except i used honey instead of sugar and with a little butter to better keep it together tastes good but not great will continue elaborate but thanks for a great base recipe.

    Best regards from sweden

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