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Chocolate is one of Mexico’s gastronomical gifts to the world. Oaxacan chocolate is arguably the most significant Mexican chocolate, prized by locals and part of daily life.
While exploring the local food in Oaxaca, we were struck by the importance of cacao in the food and drink culture.
Cacao beans have a long history in Mexico, starting with Olmec’s and later the Mayans and Aztec’s.
In Oaxaca’s central valleys, cacao was introduced to the Mixtec and Zapotec who reserved it for royalty and ceremonial feasts.
Chocolate in Oaxaca is eaten and used in beverages in ways that may be unfamiliar. Chocolate is added to Oaxaca’s famous mole sauces.
You’ll also find hot chocolate drinks made with water and cacao or corn and chocolate drinks like champurrado.
Not to be missed is tejate, one of the oldest Oaxacan chocolate drinks. It is made by the indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec, following traditional century old recipes.
To learn the rich history of chocolate oaxaqueño, we met the owners of Chocolate Guelaguetza, and visited several chocolate shops.
Join us for a sweet and decadent journey through chocolate in Oaxaca.
Oaxacan Chocolate History
Chocolate in Oaxaca is consumed all the time and especially at important life events like birth, marriage or death. It is known for its health properties and as a “Drink of the Gods”.
Oaxaca is at the center of chocolate production in Mexico and nowhere else in the country offers as many opportunities to sample chocolate.
In the Historic Center, street stalls and market vendors offer a wide selection of chocolate Oaxaqueño. Decadent chocolate aromas are tempting in the form of chocolate disks, bars, hot and cold cocoa-based drinks and rich mole sauces.
Interestingly, cacao does not grow in the state of Oaxaca, but in the neighboring states of Chiapas and Tabascos.
Oaxaca’s location on an ancient trading route made it an important center for chocolate.
Chocolate consumption continues to be a fundamental part of daily life. And, ancient techniques are still used to make drinks that were once believed to be sacred and divine.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are in Oaxaca and want to try the traditional flavors including Oaxaca chocolate. We recommend taking a street food tour with locals. This 2-hour tour takes you to the local markets for a taste of the local Oaxacan cuisine, including chocolate and hot chocolate.
Chocolate Guelaguetza – The First Oaxacan Chocolate Brand
It is often said that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. Add a woman’s touch and ingenuity, and you have the story of Chocolate Guelaguetza.
To understand Oaxacan chocolate and its cherished role, we had the opportunity to meet the founders of Chocolate Guelaguetza.
Through a local, who was a friend of the founders’ daughter, we were invited to their home to learn more about Oaxacan chocolate.
Maria Teresa Núñez de Gómez, an imposing and opinionated lady can be described as the creative engine behind Chocolate Guelaguetza. Whereas her husband, Hector Gómez Diaz, is the operator, with the role of making things happen.
The idea for Chocolate Guelaguetza was born from the tienda de abarrotes, or grocery store the couple owned.
An astute observer, Maria Teresa had an idea after observing what customers were buying at her store.
People would come to the store and buy cacao, cinnamon, almonds and sugar and then grind it at home to make chocolate.
“What if”, she thought to herself, “if I take the burden off my customers and grind it for them.” As she told us, “ I already have all the ingredients in the store, why not make the chocolate for them?”
Running with the idea, they started grinding the ingredients manually. Maria Teresa would first heat the cacao beans on the comal to make a paste. After that, all the ingredients would be mixed together in a metate, or stone grinder
The year was 1956 and they became the first ones to create chocolate in this manner.
At first, it took a while to get going. However, people soon realized it was easier and less time consuming for someone else to grind the chocolate for them.
Growing Guelaguetza Chocolate in Oaxaca
As more locals took advantage of the convenience of chocolate prepared for them, the business grew organically.
Hector started to look for ways to make the process faster. He created a system that would replace the metate using machine technology.
With a loan from his family, he purchased equipment and a molino or mill to grind freshly roasted cacao beans into chocolate.
He adapted the equipment to include a special volcanic stone that would melt and not burn the ingredients. The idea was to preserve the quality and artisanal production methods with technology to speed up the process.
In addition to improved technology, Maria Teresa, a pianist, also created the first advertising jingles to promote Guelaguetza Chocolate.
After about 7 years of selling chocolate, Maria Teresa and Hector decided to create their own brand of chocolate in Oaxaca.
They chose the name Guelaguetza, which in Zapotec means “offering” or “gift.” This represents the way chocolate is shared and consumed.
And, it is also a nod to the famous Guelaguetza Festival that celebrates the diverse communities from the different regions within Oaxaca.
Making Guelaguetza Chocolate
Before meeting the founders of Guelaguetza Chocolate, we visited their store in the Historic Center of Oaxaca.
Guelaguetza Oaxacan chocolate is made using high quality natural ingredients. At the store, we were given a demonstration of the chocolate making process.
The process for making Guelaguetza chocolate involves two traditional stone mills called molinos. In the first molino, the main ingredients of cacao, almonds and cinnamon are ground together to form a dark paste.
In the second molino, sugar is added to the mixture. Grinding and friction from the stones in the molino yields in a sweetened chocolate paste.
The proportion of cacao to the rest of the ingredients depends on the type of chocolate desired. Chocolate almendrado or almond chocolate is the most traditional chocolate Oaxaqueño .
Semi-amargo or semi-sweet Oaxacan chocolate has the same ingredients as almond chocolate but with reduced sugar.
And amargo which is dark chocolate made without any sugar. In addition, Chocolate Guelaguetza, also makes mole sauces with chocolate, coffee and hot and cold chocolate based drinks.
Oaxacan Hot Chocolate
Most frequently, hot chocolate in Oaxaca is generally consumed with water. Though you can find it made with milk.
Before leaving Maria Teresa and Hector’s home, we shared an Oaxacan hot chocolate made in a traditional manner.
We enjoyed Oaxacan hot chocolate made with water using the traditional utensils.
Hot chocolate in Oaxaca is prepared in clay pots known as olla de barro. A wooden whisk or molinillo is used to make it frothy.
The Oaxacan hot chocolate disk is dissolved in hot water and made frothy using the molinillo.
Some people say if a young woman makes hot chocolate that is not frothy, it is indicative of her lack of kitchen skills.
The Guelaguetza hot chocolate was luscious, rich and very tasty. It was the perfect sweet finish to an inspiring conversation. See the video below for Guelaguetza chocolate in Oaxaca.
Check Out Our Video About Guelaguetza Chocolate in Oaxaca
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Best Chocolate in Oaxaca
While walking in Oaxaca, a chocolate shop is never far away. Here are some of the main chocolate shops where you can buy and taste Oaxacan chocolate.
You will find classic chocolate brands that have been prevalent in Oaxaca since the 1950s.
Beyond the traditional shops, they are newcomers spreading the love for Oaxaca chocolate. These artisanal shops are definitely worth discovering.
Map Of Oaxacan Chocolate Stores
The Classics For Oaxacan Chocolate
Mayordomo chocolate is the largest producer of Oaxacan chocolate. Founded in 1956, they now have several locations in Oaxaca as well as a few stores in Mexico City.
They make chocolate bars for hot chocolate along with mole paste to make mole sauce.
It is the most industrial chocolate in Oaxaca. In addition, to the traditional ingredients, cacao, sugar, almonds and cinnamon, they add soy lecithin to bind the ingredients.
In their stores, you’ll find nice displays of the cacao and traditional utensils. They offer a full range of their chocolate products to sample or order taste from hot chocolate to mole. Several of their locations are located near Mercado 20 de Noviembre market.
We personally prefer the location on Calle Morelos. This location has a comfortable seating area, and a nice display of the molinos and selection of chocolate.
La Soledad Chocolate y Mole
La Soledad is one of the oldest chocolate makers in Oaxaca. We first went to La Soledad and tried their drink, ChocoPombo, a delicious cold chocolate drink made with milk.
Their store is located on Calle Mina at the back of Mercado 20 de Noviembre market. There, you can sample their different varieties of chocolate.
Another store is located inside the main market, Central de Abastos.
In the back of the stores, you can see the chocolate making process with the molinos used to grind the cacao.
This chocolate is made with only four ingredients: Cacao, sugar, almonds and cinnamon.
As we mentioned previously, the founders use natural ingredients to make the highest quality chocolate Oaxaqueño.
In addition to traditional chocolate bars, they also make mole, Chocopunch – their version of cold chocolate drink, and mocha bars.
Amongst, the range of Chocolate Guelaguetza products, our favorite was coffee and chocolate nibs. Perfect for a taste of Oaxaca chocolate in a bite.
The Newcomers For Chocolate Oaxaqueño
Chocolate de La Villa Real
We discovered La Villa Real, a small shop on Calle Vigil while strolling through the streets of Oaxaca. The store is located inside a building where you can also find traditional pottery, handicrafts, mezcal, coffee and more.
We had the chance to meet with one of the family members, owners of Villa Real. She explained that Villa Real is located in the town of Zaachila, where they have been making chocolate since 2008.
They also offer tours in Zaachila where you can see how artisanal chocolate is made with the comal and the metate. Zaachila, known for its large open air market, is only a few kilometers from Oaxaca city.
What we liked most about Villa Real chocolate was the decreased amount of sugar in the chocolate. While the chocolate is made traditionally, using natural ingredients, having less sugar was a plus.
We tried the 70% cacao and really enjoyed it. You can buy La Villa Real chocolate at different locations in Oaxaca. Villa Real Chocolate is also sold by a few distributors in the US and Germany.
Texier was founded by a French man from the food industry who relocated to Oaxaca in 1995. A chocolate lover, he created Texier in 2015 with the goal of maintaining the traditional Oaxacan process of making chocolate.
The particularity of Texier is that they create new and exotic flavors of chocolate by adding unique local ingredients.
We tasted the chocolate with chapulines or grasshoppers and the chocolate with chile pasilla. Both chapulines and chile pasilla are traditional ingredients endemic to Oaxacan cuisine.
We found these exotic chocolates very refined and some of the most unique we ever tasted. We found the sugar content to be too high for our tastes. We look forward to a future collection with 70% to 85% cacao.
You can buy chocolate tablets at the Texier store in Oaxaca center. And, the inviting cozy space is perfect to sip on a hot drink while tasting this unique chocolate.
We stumbled onto Rito chocolate while visiting the Mercado Sanchez de Pascuas located across the chocolate store.
This small Oaxacan chocolate store offers artisanal Oaxacan chocolate in traditional discs or bars. They also offer chocolate tablets at different cacao percentages from 60% to 80% making it very palatable to us.
Their cold chocolate drink made with milk was definitely our favorite. We also had their chocolate cookie, one of the best Claire ever had, with low sugar and superior quality.
Additionally, Rito chocolate offers chocolate making class. Unfortunately, at the time we were in Oaxaca it was not available due to the pandemic.
Mamá Pacha Chocolate
This small artisanal boutique located in Oaxaca center dedicates its craft to making gourmet chocolate in bars.
Mamá Pacha’s unique point is making chocolate bars with a high concentration of premium cacao.
In addition to using premium cacao, they also use low glycemic sugar from coconut. The variety of bars also include nuts and other dry fruits mixed with the chocolate.
Intrigued by the smell of roasting cacao, we stopped in this tiny store, though we didn’t get the chance to try their product. You can buy their chocolate bars at the store ranging from 65% to 75% of cacao.
Their chocolate is also available in other stores in Oaxaca as well as in Mexico City.
Where to Buy Mexican Chocolate
If your travels take you to Oaxaca, make your way to one of the stores mentioned above. We recommend any of the artisanal and craft chocolates we mentioned.
They use molinos with hand-carve granite mill stones to make the chocolate with premium cacao directly with the producers.
Their products range from traditional chocolate discs to tablets and chocolate snacks. Try it for yourself here.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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