Chicha morada is a traditional Peruvian beverage that has been consumed for centuries in the Andean regions of Peru. It is a non-alcoholic drink made from purple corn (maíz morado) and flavored with spices and fruit.
The primary ingredients in chicha morada are:
- Purple corn (maíz morado) – This special variety of corn gives chicha morada its distinctive deep purple color. The corn kernels are boiled to extract their color and flavor.
- Pineapple – Pineapple juice and slices provide sweetness and additional flavor.
- Lemon/lime – Lime or lemon juice adds tartness and helps balance the sweetness.
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon give warmth and spice notes.
- Cloves – Cloves complement the cinnamon and give a subtle complexity.
- Sugar – Sugar balances out the tartness and makes chicha morada sweeter.
In addition to these core ingredients, some recipes may also include other fruits like apple or pear for additional flavor and sweetness. The key components though are the purple corn, pineapple, spices, and sugar.
The use of Peruvian purple corn (maíz morado) is what distinguishes chicha morada from other fruit juices or drinks. This antique variety of corn has been cultivated in the Andean regions of Peru for thousands of years. It gets its distinctive dark purple hue from high concentrations of anthocyanins, which are antioxidant pigments in the corn kernels’ pericarp or outer layer.
To make chicha morada, the purple corn kernels are boiled in water, which extracts their vibrant color and subtle corn flavor. Usually the boiled purple corn is then strained out, leaving behind a richly purple colored “chicha” liquid, which is then mixed with the other ingredients.
Some recipes may also blend or process the boiled corn kernels before straining to thicken the beverage and include more of the corn’s nutrients and flavor compounds. The anthocyanins that give the purple corn its color have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Pineapple is the other key ingredient in chicha morada, providing sweetness and tropical fruit flavor. Pineapple juice or slices of fresh pineapple are combined with the purple corn chicha liquid as a sweetening agent.
Pineapples grow well in tropical regions and have long been cultivated in Peru. The pineapple’s juice and natural sugars balance out the tartness of the lemon/lime juice used in chicha morada. Pineapple also contains bromelain enzymes that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Lemon or Lime Juice
Lemon or lime juice, along with sugar, helps provide a balanced sweet-tart flavor in chicha morada. The citrus juice brings acidity to balance the sweetness from the pineapple and sugar.
Lemons and limes grow abundantly in Peru’s coastal regions. The tartness of the lemon or lime also enhances the refreshing qualities of the beverage.
Cinnamon adds warmth, spice, and complexity to chicha morada’s flavor profile. Cinnamon sticks are often simmered in the purple corn as it boils to infuse the liquid with cinnamon flavor. More cinnamon can be added for aroma by steeping cinnamon sticks in the finished beverage.
Ground cinnamon may also be stirred into the chicha morada to make the cinnamon flavor stronger. Cinnamon has also been prized for its medicinal properties in Peru for centuries.
Cloves complement the cinnamon and add another layer of spice flavor along with a subtle sweetness. Like cinnamon, cloves may be simmered with the purple corn, added to the finished drink, or used in ground form for a stronger flavor.
Indigenous communities have chewed on cloves and used them to treat toothaches and other ailments. The spice was later embraced for Peruvian drinks like chicha morada.
Sugar is added to chicha morada to balance out any tartness from the citrus juice and make the drink sweeter overall. White sugar is most commonly used. Panela, unrefined cane sugar, is sometimes used as a more natural alternative.
The amount of sugar added depends on personal taste preferences for sweetness. More or less sugar can be used to adjust chicha morada’s sweetness as desired.
Other Potential Ingredients
Some chicha morada recipes may also call for additional fruits or flavorings, such as:
- Apple – For extra sweetness
- Pear – Also provides sweetness
- Star anise – A licorice-like spice
- Vanilla extract – For added depth
- Allspice – For warmth
However, these ingredients are optional and not found in all traditional recipes. The essential components are purple corn, pineapple, spices, and sugar.
There are some regional differences in how chicha morada is made throughout Peru:
- In southern Peru, more lemon juice is often used.
- In northern Peru, lime juice is preferred over lemon.
- Some regions add more spices like star anise or allspice berries.
- The consistency can range from thin to thick like a juice.
- Panela may be used instead of white sugar in some areas.
But the basic recipe remains the same – the iconic purple color and flavor comes from the Peruvian purple corn.
History of Chicha Morada
Chicha morada has ancient roots in Peru, dating back to the Inca Empire:
- The Incas revered purple corn for its beauty and used it to make ceremonial drinks.
- Versions of chicha morada were consumed during religious festivals and rituals.
- The purple color had sacred symbolism for honoring the dead and the gods.
- Corn and pineapple, both native to South America, were abundant.
- The Incas controlled large cornfields to produce chicha in significant quantities.
When the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they tried to suppress chicha production, but the tradition continued:
- Spanish colonists replaced some native ingredients with European ones.
- Catholic influences shifted chicha consumption towards religious holidays.
- Chicha morada was mainly produced in homes rather than state-run facilities.
- The drink became an everyday refreshment in the Andean highlands.
Over the centuries, chicha morada transitioned from an elite ceremonial drink to a staple beverage in Peruvian culture:
- Women play a central role in making chicha morada for their families today.
- Each family has their own recipe passed down through generations.
- It is most popular in southern Andean regions like Cusco.
- Peruvians drink it year-round as a refreshing everyday beverage.
Chicha Morada as a Non-Alcoholic Drink
While chicha morada is non-alcoholic, some key differences between it and chicha (a Peruvian corn beer) are:
|Chicha Morada||Chicha (Corn Beer)|
|– Made from boiled purple corn||– Made from germinated yellow corn|
|– Naturally non-alcoholic||– Contains alcohol from fermentation|
|– Sweetened with fruit and sugar||– Usually not sweetened|
|– Consumed daily by all ages||– Mostly consumed by adults|
So while both drinks come from corn, only chicha goes through an alcoholic fermentation process. Chicha morada is simply sweet purple corn juice flavored with fruit and spices.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Chicha morada has some excellent nutrition and health benefits:
- Vitamin C – From the pineapple, lemon/lime juice
- Fiber – From the corn and pineapple
- Antioxidants – Mainly anthocyanins in the purple corn
- Anti-inflammatory – Bromelain from pineapple may reduce inflammation
- Vision health – Anthocyanins support eye health
- Heart health – Purple corn anthocyanins help blood circulation
It contains lower sugar than sodas and provides more nutrients. The purple corn makes it a vibrant, antioxidant-rich beverage.
Making Chicha Morada
While recipes vary, a traditional technique for making chicha morada includes:
- Boiling dried or fresh purple corn with spices like cinnamon and cloves.
- Straining the liquid into a pitcher and discarding the solids.
- Adding freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice and sliced pineapple.
- Sweetening with white sugar to taste.
- Leaving in the refrigerator to infuse flavors.
- Serving garnished with more pineapple slices, lime wedges, and cinnamon.
This produces a refreshing purple juice that is sweet, tart, and full of spice flavors. The purple corn kernels are essential for the vibrant hue and antioxidant content.
Quick Chicha Morada
Some quick ways to make chicha morada include:
- Using purple corn flour instead of corn kernels
- Using canned or jarred pineapple instead of fresh
- Using citrus juice instead of fresh squeezed
- Simmering cinnamon sticks in water instead of purple corn
- Shaking ingredients in a jar instead of boiling
While quick, these shortcuts produce a less authentic version. Boiling the purple corn and using fresh pineapple makes the best, most flavorful chicha morada.
Where to Buy Chicha Morada
There are a few options for buying chicha morada:
- Peruvian restaurants or food trucks – Many serve fresh chicha morada with Peruvian meals.
- Latin/Hispanic grocery stores – May carry bottled or shelf-stable versions.
- Online – Can be shipped if not available locally. Check seller’s reputation.
- Made fresh at home – Use traditional boiled purple corn recipe for best quality.
Dried purple corn can be found at health food stores or online if not at local Latin groceries. For maximum freshness and flavor, making it yourself is ideal.
How to Serve Chicha Morada
Chicha morada is quite versatile and can be enjoyed:
- As a beverage by itself, served over ice.
- With Peruvian meals or ceviche.
- Diluted with water or soda water for lighter option.
- Poured over ice cream for a unique dessert.
- Blended with fruit for a natural juice smoothie.
- As a refreshing punch bowl drink at gatherings.
Garnish with pineapple slices, cinnamon sticks, lime wedges, or mint sprigs. Sweeten to taste with sugar if needed. Keep in mind it stains easily, so pour carefully.
Chicha Morada in Peruvian Culture
Chicha morada remains an important part of Peruvian culture today:
- It accompanies special meals for birthdays, weddings, holidays.
- Making and sharing chicha morada is a cultural tradition.
- Many families have their own recipes passed down for generations.
- It is connected to Peru’s Inca heritage and the sacredness of purple corn.
- Drinking chicha morada is a way to celebrate Peruvian identity.
Offering a guest chicha morada is a sign of hospitality and friendship. It quenches thirst, cools the body in hot climates, and adds a unique touch to any gathering.
Chicha morada is a refreshing and flavorful beverage that provides a taste of Peru’s culture and history. Its brilliant purple color comes from Peruvian purple corn, which has been cultivated in the Andes for thousands of years. By combining the boiled purple corn with pineapple, spices, and citrus juices, generations of Peruvians have created a drink that honors the land’s indigenous roots while also adapting to modern tastes. The tropical twist on ancient knowledge makes chicha morada truly unique.