Hot Chocolate and Rich Mole Negro! Indulge Your Sweet Tooth on a Chocolate Lovers Holiday to Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a lively colonial-style city located in central Mexico that boasts many grand churches, trendy restaurants, and hip Mezcal bars! But it is also the producer of the best chocolate in Mexico. Rich Mole Negro, Mexican Hot Chocolate and freshly-made chocolate treats are consumed at almost every meal in Oaxaca. Chocolate lovers will be in heaven!

Oaxaca Chocolate makers!

Oaxaca Chocolate Makers!

The Birthplace of Chocolate

Not many people are aware that Oaxaca is the birthplace of Chocolate. The Aztecs believed chocolate was the food of the gods. At one point it was such a valuable commodity that they even used it as currency. The Aztecs and Mayans were the first consumers of chocolate although not in its current familiar form. A popular drink among the Aztecs was Xocolatl; a bitter chocolate concoction made from ground cacao beans, vanilla, chili peppers and spices. The famous explorer Hernan Cortes introduced chocolate to Europe in the 1500’s when he brought it back home from his journey to Mexico. The Spaniards created their own version of the Aztec’s chocolate beverage by adding sugar and removing the chilies. This creamy hot chocolate beverage became a hit that spread across Spain and then throughout the world. As it turn out the Aztecs and Spaniards were onto something in their obsession with Chocolate! Many people now believe that chocolate has proven health benefits; it is shown to be rich in antioxidants, have anti-aging properties and is a mood enhancer.

Traditional Mole and Chocolate in Oaxaca

Chocolate is a main staple of the cuisine of Oaxaca. Chocolate is not just used in beverages and desserts but to make a variety of dishes as well. Rich chocolate in its raw form is used to produce a delicious traditional dish in Oaxaca called Mole Negro. Most are familiar with Mole; a sauce typically served over pork, chicken, turkey or enchiladas, but Mole Negro is a rich sauce made from dark chocolate, garlic, sesames seeds, cloves and many other spices and ingredients.

The actual chocolate is locally produced in Oaxaca, but the seeds come from the Theobroma Cacao tree that grows in the Tabasco and Chiapas regions of Mexico. The cocoa beans are then locally produced into a variety of chunky bars, slightly different than what Americans may be used to. This pure dark chocolate has a grainier texture and is semi-sweet. Popular bars are made with Canela (cinnamon), Vanilla, Mezcal, con leche (with milk) and sin azucar (without sugar).


Calle Mina or Chocolate Street

The best place for you to sample this rich delicious chocolate is on Calle Mina; coined Chocolate Street because of the concentration of chocolate shops located on it. Within a couple block radius of Mina you will notice the scent of richly ground chocolate that fills the air. It is intoxicating! Their are three main chocolate purveyors located on the same block; Mayordomo, La Soledad, and Guelaguetza.

If the scent doesn’t lead you to this chocolate strip-here are some directions; start at the corner of Calle 20 de Noviembre and Mina at Mayordomo- the biggest chocolate producer in Mexico. They have a multitude of shops in Oaxaca including a large one in the main bus station. This large shop located on Calle Mina produces chocolate right in the front of the store. They sell a large variety of rich chocolate products including Mole Negro. People can bring in their own family recipe and wait for the chocolatiers to grind and prepare it for them. This large shop also has a chocolate bar where visitors can indulge in a frothy Mexican Hot Chocolate or other snacks.

The fun part is watching the chocolate makers make the chocolate right in the front of the shop! Groups of visitors frequently crowd to watch the production of freshly made chocolate at the first shop they come to but you can see this process at all three shops. First they grind the roasted cocoa beans in large grinders then they mix in vanilla and nuts or cinnamon. The result is a pure dark chocolate paste that can be made into bars or mole.

Chocolate Lovers Vacation

Chocolate fanatics can overdose on all things chocolate at La Soledad, located at Mina 212. This bustling Chocolatier produces chocolate on-site but also has a hotel and restaurant specializing in the decadent treat! Plan to have breakfast or lunch at the Chocolateria Restaurant de Soledad where they specialize in many chocolate-filled desserts, moles and beverages. Need a quick burst of natural energy? Soledad sells a delicious product called Choco-energetico; a fresh chocolate treat made with chocolate and honey guaranteed to kick you into high gear. Still need more chocolate immersion? Stay above La Soledad at the Chocolate Posada Hotel. This cute little bed and breakfast has 15 rooms centered around a courtyard. The best part is waking up or going to sleep to the delicious smell and taste of chocolate.

After chocolate street, head over to Oaxaca’s central fresh food market; 20 de Noviembre Market. This is a lively market to shop and have an authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate beverage. Mexican Hot Chocolate can be made with aqua or leche (water or milk) and is served in a small bowl with a side or pan or bread for dipping. Vendors sample and sell a variety of traditional Moles such as Rojo or Negro to try or to prepare at home.

Chocolate Vendors at the Market

How to Make Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate

If you can’t make it to Mexico try this recipe for authentic Mexican Hot chocolate at home. You will need a Mexican molinillo; a whisk used to froth hot chocolate. In a medium sauce pan melt 2-4 squares of dark chocolate such a Mayordomo or Abuelita. Slowly mix in 4 cups milk (almond milk or water). Stir constantly using the molinillo or wire whisk until the mixture is frothy and the chocolate is melted. Add sugar, cinnamon or vanilla to taste; serves four.

For a thicker and creamier hot chocolate try a traditional Champurrado. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix 1/4 cup masa flour (light corn meal) and 1 cup hot water. Stir with whisk constantly to remove all lumps. Slowly add 4 cups milk and 2 squares of Mexican chocolate (or amount desired). Stir with a wire Wisk until all chocolate is melted and allow it to reach a boil. Reduce heat until it reaches desired consistency. If it is too thick add more water or strain. Serve immediately.

Visitors to Oaxaca fall in love with this charming colonial-style city rich in culture and tradition, but its the prevalence of rich chocolate treats that will draw them back time and time again!

Yummy Hot Chocolate!

Yummy Hot Chocolate!

Sugar Skulls, Chocolate and Mezcal

Surrounded by dimly lit candles I kneel down beside an old grave to pay my respects, the site is marked with carefully placed bright orange Marigold flowers, candy offerings, and fruit. A young man leans in out of the darkness and offers me a shot of Mezcal in a plastic shot glass, I smile and accept. Salud!

 Normally I wouldn’t suggest drinking shots with a stranger at night in a cemetery but this isn’t just any cemetery; I am in the old section of the Xoxocotlan cemetery celebrating the Day of the Dead festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The carnival-like atmosphere is contagious at Xoxo (pronounced ho-ho)! The streets outside the cemetery are filled with live bands, vendors selling mexican favorites, sand art displays and costumed party-goers. I join in by ordering a massive foot-long tortilla stuffed with queso, grilled vegetables, beans and guacamole. To wash it down- I order a cervasa fria!

Every year during the period between October 31st -November 2nd, visitors and locals alike flock to Oaxaca Mexico to attend the colorful Dia de los Muertos festival.  The events range from lively parades (comparsa’s), construction of massive altars for the dead, shopping for decorations at the local markets, to of course the all-night graveyard vigil in xoxo cemetery.

Although this holiday emphasizes remembering and honoring the dead, don’t expect this to be a sad or somber event. This is a fun festive celebration meant to remember the dead, and also to invite them back into our lives once again before they sadly have to depart.

Giant altars for the deceased are constructed using traditional items (ofrendas) that the dead may have enjoyed while alive. Mezcal, cigarettes, chocolate, fruit, and candies are some of the items typically placed on the altar for the dead to enjoy.

Cempasuchitl or bright orange marigold flowers; coined flor de muerto or flower of the dead, can be seen on every altar and grave not to mention spilling out from many table and carts at the markets.   

Fragrant Copal incense is commonly burned in homes and businesses to welcome and purify the souls of the dead. 

Pan de muerto is placed on altars and also eaten during the week of and after the festival. Pan de muerto (bread for the dead) are big round loaves of freshly baked bread decorated with the faces of skulls or jesus and flower designs.

These colorful and delicious holiday treats are seen lining the shelves and stands of the local markets.

 For a delicious treat visit the Benito Juarez market, near the main square (zocalo) for a hot chocolate and a side of mini pan de muerto.  

Also at the market, you will find dozens of colorful and decorative sugar and chocolate skull candies.

These candies are meant to be placed on altars and graves rather than as snacks. They make great inexpensive souvenirs to take home for friends and family.  

Visit the  to 20 de Noviembre to watch the kids get ready for the kids parade. Most of the parades, live music, and activities take part in the main Zocalo.   

Locals gather in the main square to construct massive sand art displays that depict various scenes and images of Dia de los Muertos.  Vistors can join in the festivities or relax and watch from one of the surrounding cafes and restaurants that line the perimeter of the Zocalo. 

The most fascinating event is by far the all night vigil at the xoxo cemtery on October 31st.

To read my full travel guide for Oaxaca’s Dia de los Muertos festival- please visit my published article at: 

Sugar skulls, marigolds, and mezcal; a guide to navigating the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Read more at Suite101: A Guide to the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.