The wonderful combination of chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, vanilla and a chile spice, is known as a Mocha Chile Coffee, a Chipotle Mocha, or a Spicy Mexican Coffee. The cocoa-chile spice combination is also wonderful as a hot chocolate drink without the coffee. Best known as a warming drink in Winter, this combination is remarkable as an iced coffee or iced mocha in the heat of Summer!
How Spicy is it?
Low Carb Substitutions
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How Spicy is Mexican Coffee or Mexican Hot Chocolate
When I heard that Starbucks was offering a Chile Mocha Coffee, I rushed down to try one out, only to be sorely disappointed. No heat!
I was anticipating a spicy, cinnamon, chocolaty rich coffee topped with a fluffy whipped cream with soft peaks I asked the barista why I couldn’t taste any spice in my coffee and they said really there was just a little spice on the top, but mostly it was a coffee mocha. Harrumph!
To the drawing board I went to try and meet my flavor expectations. After a lot of trial and error I came up with the recipe below for a blend that works with coffee or as a Mexican hot chocolate drink and I’m quite pleased with it.
It’s easy to customize to your own preference of heat and sweetness, and it is infinitely better than what you can buy pre-made.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Mexican Mocha Coffee
The best Mexican coffee I’ve ever had was on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Sadly, I won’t be going back any time soon, so I tried to copy it below. Most of the coffee I had in Mexico didn’t include much sugar but if you are used to Starbucks, you’ll probably want to add more sugar.
While not a “mocha” coffee, this Oaxacan coffee did have rich notes of cinnamon and orange.
Here are the key ingredients to play around with:
- Powdered chile peppers
- Orange zest
The ratios are up to you and your preferences. I like a pretty spicy pepper and enough orange zest that the flavor comes through the more robust chocolate. You can start with my recipe below and then customize.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
An “authentic” Mexican hot chocolate would involve heating milk and Mexican chocolate in a pot and vigorously beating the chocolate with a wooden molinillo until the chocolate was fully dissolved.
The recipe below uses powdered ingredients for a mocha-chile blend that you can keep in your pantry and use when you want a spicy, rich, complex mocha coffee or hot chocolate.
I have added it to just plain hot water and also to steamed milk (coconut or almond milk works well also). Whipped cream on top is always a nice option, especially for celebrations.
For an everyday drink to take the chill off, I add 2 teaspoons of the blend, a little more sugar and about 6 ounces of steaming hot water and then top it off with a little heavy cream. In fact I’m having one right now as we speak as I just came in from Spring gardening.
Best Chile Peppers to Use
The powdered chile pepper is the most important variable to get right. It needs to be spicy enough to compete with the rich flavor of cocoa, yet not be overpowering.
If you are a true chile-head you’ll want to add the hotter chile powders like serrano or habanero.
If you want more complexity with a smoky chile powder, go for the Chipotle powder or the Ancho. Smoked peppers don’t work with everything. For example smoked peppers were great in Mexican moles and in a drink syrup for Old Fashions, but they did not work well at all in a Mexican ceviche. That required the brighter spice of chile peppers that were not smoked ( i.e., aji, habanero, serranos).
I tried smoked and unsmoked peppers in the Mexican coffee. In the end I preferred a combination of both. You can get my preferred mix of ingredients of the mocha-chile blend at our online store, or you can modify the homemade spice blend recipe below to your own tastes.
Can this Drink be Low Carb?
Cocoa and chile spice are both low carb ingredients, but the sugar will have to be a sugar substitute if you want to make it a low carb beverage. Either way, the chile spice and rich cocoa powder should shine through as the star ingredients.
Many (most) recipes can be modified to be low sugar if you are amenable to sugar substitutes. Lowering the sugar content of recipes is the most effective way to reach a low carb lifestyle in my experience.
Truvia is my choice of a sugar substitute, but there are alternatives. Check out this detailed post on sugar alternatives for a deeper dive into the pros and cons.
The 100% cocoa powder, the chile spice, the cinnamon, the vanilla, the coffee or almond milk and the whipped cream are all low carb ingredients.
Just know that low carb does not necessarily equal low calorie. The whipped cream may take you over your calorie goals if you have too many of this wonderful concoction.
**Tip: a shot of brandy added to the Mocha Hot Chocolate takes the chill off of cold Winter nights!
Yes, you can but it will take heating it up first with the coffee, water or milk to dissolve the sugar and chocolate and spices together. After it cools, you can add ice and enjoy.
Recipe for Mexican Mocha Coffee/Hot Chocolate
Mexican Mocha Coffee/Hot Chocolate
- Measuring cups and spoons
- medium bowl or covered tupperware
- stirring spoon
The Powdered Cocoa-Spice Blend
- ⅓ Cup 100% cocoa powder
- ⅓ Cup sugar
- 1 ¼ Teaspoons chipotle powder or other smoked chile pepper
- ¼ – ½ Teaspoon hot pepper powder cayenne, aji, habanero, etc. (not smoked)
- ½ Teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ Teaspoon vanilla powder if available
- ½ Teaspoon orange zest dried
- 1 ¼ Teaspoons cinnamon
For the Coffee or Hot Chocolate
- 6 Ounces hot coffee, hot water, or hot milk use hot water or hot milk for the hot chocolate
- 2 Teaspoons cocoa-spice blend
- 2 Teaspoons sugar optional for coffee, but hot chocolate needs a little more
- ½ Cup whipped cream optional
- Add all 8 cocoa-chile dry ingredients to a bowl or a covered tupperware type of container. Stir together thoroughly or cover and shake if in covered container. Set aside in your preferred covered container for future use.1/3 Cup 100% cocoa powder, 1 1/4 Teaspoons chipotle powder, 1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoon hot pepper powder, 1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt, 3/4 Teaspoon vanilla powder, 1/2 Teaspoon orange zest, 1 1/4 Teaspoons cinnamon, 1/3 Cup sugar
- Make coffee or heat up water or milk to boiling. Add 2 teaspoons of cocoa-spice blend to the hot liquid and 2 teaspoons or more sugar if making hot chocolate. Stir or whisk until dissolved.6 Ounces hot coffee, hot water, or hot milk, 2 Teaspoons cocoa-spice blend, 2 Teaspoons sugar, 1/2 Cup whipped cream
- Add cream or serve topped with whipped cream if desired, sprinkled with chocolate shavings or cinnamon.
- The nutritional/calorie analysis is only for 1 serving of the spice blend. It does not include any additional sugar or cream that you add to the drink.
- If you want to make this drink low carb, you will need to switch out the sugar with a sugar alternative. Truvia is my choice of a sugar substitute, but there are other options. Check out this detailed post on sugar alternatives for a deeper dive into the pros and cons.
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