Pinole: The Ultimate Bugout Food

by Erich

One of my readers (thanks Charles :)) had recently turned me on to something I haven’t heard of before — powdered corn.

Although it known by many different names, in the western world it is most commonly referred to as the Spanish word “Pinole”. This “trail food” has been the staple for indigenous cultures world-wide and as it turns out, it’s the perfect bugout/travel food.

Here’s an excerpt taken from “History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations”, written by John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder, describing how the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, prepared and used this emergency food:

Their Psindamooan or Tassmanane, as they call it, is the most nourishing- and durable food made out of the Indian corn. The blue sweetish kind is the grain which they prefer for that purpose. They parch it in clean hot ashes, until it bursts, it is then sifted and cleaned, and pounded in a mortar into a kind of flour, and when they wish to make it very good, they mix some sugar [i.e., maple sugar] with it. When wanted for use, they take about a tablespoonful of this flour in their mouths, then stooping to the river or brook, drink water to it. If, however, they have a cup or other small vessel at hand, they put the flour in it and mix it with water, in the proportion of one tablespoonful to a pint. At their camps they will put a small quantity in a kettle with water and let it boil down, and they will have a thick pottage.

With this food the traveler and warrior will set out on long journeys and expeditions, and as a little of it will serve them for a day, they have not a heavy load of provisions to carry. Persons who are unacquainted with this diet ought to be careful not to take too much at a time, and not to suffer themselves to be tempted too far by its flavor; more than one or two spoonfuls, at most, at any one time or at one meal is dangerous; for it is apt to swell in the stomach or bowels, as when heated over a fire.

Pinole is also the staple of the famous Tarahumara indians (sometimes referred to as “the running people”), a Mexican tribe of superathletes who run 50 or 100 miles at a time for pure enjoyment, seemingly without effort. Their fuel for these runs? They take with them small sacks of Pinole.

How to Make Pinole

What You’ll Need

  • frying pan (cast iron or non-stick preferred)
  • dried corn on the cob: For this you just hang some corn in a dry place in your home until the kernals are dry throughout and come off the cob without much effort. For a less auhentic but still workable solution, you can also dehydrate frozen or canned corn in your dehydrator.
  • blender, coffee grinder, or food processor: (or mortar and pestle if you want to really do it the authentic way)

How to Make Pinole

Step 1: Remove the dried corn kernals from the cobs (skip this step if you dehydrated frozen corn)
Step 2: Heat up a non-stick pan (or oiled pan if you don’t have one) to medium heat.
Step 3: Spread out the kernals on the hot pan so that none are on top of another. Heat until the majority swell up and turn round and light-brown.
Step 4: Remove from heat, place the parched corn in a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor and grind until finer than cornmeal (but not as fine as wheat flour)

I’d like to add that you can also make Pinole by taking cornmeal and cooking it over a pan in the same manner as above (don’t expect it to swell however).

Pinole Recipes

One popular method of consuming Pinole is to mix it with water (1 T to 3 cups) to make an energy drink. I personally did not like this all too much since it doesn’t dissolve completely in the water and feels like I’m drinking a glass of sand and water. The taste was good but the consistency wasn’t to my liking (and I’m someone who doesn’t mind eating bugs…go figure :))

Instead, I preferred to take the tablespoon into my mouth and chug it down with water.Since the Pinole actually tastes pretty good by itself (I used the Tarahumara Pinole Recipe found below), I found this a lot more appetizing.

As a side note, I was quite surprised at how much it made me feel full. The Pinole must of swelled inside my stomach after a bit giving me that “full” feeling — and that was only two tablespoons of it. I can see how this would sustain you on long trips. I’ll have to definitely try this out before a run and let you guys know.

Here are some recipes I found online:

Tarahumara Pinole Recipe

  • 1/2 cup pinole, ground fine
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Runner’s Recipe

  • 2 cups Pinole
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. hemp or chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • This can be quickly blended together in a hot pot or pan and cooled until dry.

All of these recipes can be added to water and drunk (1 tablespoon to 3 cups water), cooked down in a pan with water to make a gruel (oatmeal-like consitency), or just shoved in the mouth while on the run (bugout, exercise, E&E etc).


In place of packing Cliff Bars or MREs into your bug out bags, how about some Pinole instead? If it can fuel the Tarahumara indians for a 100+ miles of running on a regular basis I’m sure it can benefit the prepper’s bug-out to a safe location. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Btw, if you’re interested in reading about the Tarahumara (as well as some info on Pinole), let me suggest a great book entitled, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

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Comment by Kelly
2010-08-25 07:48:21

Very interesting! I have heard of parched corn before (stopping after the frying until it is browned and puffed up stage) and carrying that as an energy food, but not grinding it up.
There are some varieties of corn that seed companies advertise as being excellent for parched corn. I bought a packet to try next year.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2010-08-25 11:28:37


Thanks for the great comment and link. Like you mentioned there are probably better options for making parched corn than our local sweet corn. Some of the indian varieties that they sell are excellent for this.

Comment by Kandi
2010-08-25 09:27:34

Just curious, is this made from sweet corn (what most people are familiar with) or what we call in Iowa ‘field corn’? Field corn is drier and tougher and generally used for livestock food. I always thought sweet corn was too soft to be used for anything but on the cob or canned. That would be a really neat way to save our sweet corn for future use.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2010-08-25 11:27:42


Yes, I made this from our local farm-fresh sweet corn variety. I’ve also tried it with frozen sweet corn and both have come out with good results. If you want a more authentic Pinole, try Indian Blue Corn. This is what the Tarahumara indians would use.

Comment by Charles
2010-08-25 11:53:03

Thanks Eric you did a great job getting this out and demonstrating the “how to”. I had the opportunity to live among the Tarahumara for a couple of years. This brought out some very practical lessons on living a simple life.
Queston about what kind of corn is something to give some thought. One suggestion I picked up was using the ornamental corn that surfaces at Thanksgiving or the other types. One point to consider is that older heirloom varieties have greater protein than the newer hybrids and gmo altered varieties which have been bred for massive cabohydrate capacity to be used for making Corn Syrup and its dirivites.
so if you can’t grow your own, check out your fall decoration stores or local Farmers markets for the multicolored varieties.
Thanks again for the article it is a great addition to your very practical site.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2010-08-25 13:19:18


Thanks again for the great info. Funny you said that, I was just looking into the ornamental corns on Amazon as well as the Blue Corn (Organic Non-GMO): Organic Hopi Blue Flour Corn – 100 Seeds.

Besides the protein benefits you mentioned, I read that these varieties are much more drought resistant. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a number of seeds on hand for an emergency crop in the future.

Comment by Katherine
2010-09-04 13:08:51

when we make Pinole we grind it in the meet grinder by hand, and also we get dried purple corn at a mexican food market.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2010-09-04 14:01:14


what type of meat grinder is it? One of those hand-crank varieties? this would clearly be beneficial for off-the-grid situations. thanks!

Comment by B.Laetitia
2011-06-16 16:36:08

I grew up in Chihuahua and Tarahumara’s were a common site in the city. And of course, if you travelled to the mountains. I was used to eating pinole growing up and I never remember it being dangerous to eat or “swelling in the stomach.” The flavor was excellent, Tarahumara’s add dried orange peel, cinnamon and some kind of sugar, probably “piloncillo.” There might be more in it. However, I never heard of this type of pinole having chia seeds. I am trying to find the original Tarahumara recipe for pinole.

Comment by B.Laetitia
2011-06-16 16:41:46

By the way, the corn that Tarahumara’s use is a white “meaty” corn with large grains that is easily grown, definitely not gmo. Definitely not sweet tasting on its own, but full of flavor.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-06-16 23:02:44


I’d love to get the original recipe if you ever come across it.

Thanks for visiting!

Comment by BMAN212
2011-07-29 18:23:12

Chia is an excellent source of Omega 3 fats. Likely the best source you will ever find in such a small package. I take about 3 tablespoons of chia daily in my drinking water. Chia soaks up abot 10 times it weight in water in is mucilagenous gel that surounds the seeds. It’s kind of an odd texture but the swollen seeds hold onto that water as tey pass through your intestines where the fluids are more easily absorbed than in the stomach. This effects a higher yeild of hydration than gulping water directly. That said, eating dry chia can have an adverse effect on your system by pulling water from your system as it passes through. My suggestion for the pinole recipe would be to grind the chia in with the pinole flour and reap the benefits of the Omega 3 fats that the chia provides along with the corn’s proteins and carbohydrates.

I’m going to have to give this a try as it sounds kind of like a superfood to me. Proteins, carbs and healthy fats all in one compact meal…

Comment by dk
2011-09-11 02:26:36

Instead of using ordinary corn meal, you might want to try using a product like Maseca.
It’s my understanding that for the “corn meal” traditionally used, the (field) corn kernels are actually treated with lime (mineral), which makes some of the corn’s nutrients (eg. Niacin) more bioavailable.
(See the Wikipedia page on Masa for more details; and in particular, the explanation of the Nixtamalization process.)

Having said that, I see that my carton of ordinary corn meal is fortified with extra Niacin.. 🙂

2 thumbs up on the Chia! When rehydrated in a glass of water, it has a consistency that makes you think you’re drinking frog’s eggs from the pond, or bubble tea. I like to mix 1c water, 1T chia seeds, 1T Tang sugared instant orange drink powder. It’s not quite authentic “chia fresca”, but I find it to be a tasty and stomach-friendlier alternative.

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2011-09-12 00:04:14

Thanks for the tip dk. I’ll have to look for Maseca. Do you know a good place to purchase it from?

Comment by dk
2011-09-27 20:24:14

Do this google search on Maseca and you’ll see what I mean. It’s in every grocery store, right next to the sacks of flour and sugar. It’s just rough-ground (and limed) corn flour, like they use for tortillas, “chi chi’s scoopable corn cake”, etc; I think it was around $4 for a 4-lb bag.

After making several batches of pinole, I decided I like using 1/2 packed cup dark brown sugar (per 2c cornflour) in place of the honey, and orange zest / cinnamon to jazz it up. In a big cereal bowl, put 1/2 cup pinole, add about 1.5 cups boiling water, stir well; makes a good breakfast that keeps me filled up til lunchtime. I’m an incorrigible snacker, so I find it interesting that I don’t have nearly the same snack urges during this time, nor do I feel stuffed full.

2011-09-28 08:06:18


Thanks again for the great comments and recipes. I’ll definitely be trying it out with Maseca.

Comment by A. Kilby
2013-01-12 19:11:33

Thank you for the good information.
There is one aspect of your recipe that I find VERY ALARMING, but EASILY AMENDED. What I’m getting at is that you recommend NONSTICK cookware, then prescribe HEATING the EMPTY PAN thing. This procedure will result in releasing gases from the nonstick. For most of us Homo saps these gases will not even cause discomfort, but BIRDS ARE EXTREMELY VULNERABLE TO CHEMICALS IN EXTREMELY SMALL AMOUNTS, so this procedure could leave pet birds (even in another room or on another floor of the house) dead in seconds. Other pets can also take harm, especially small ones, but birds of all sizes are the most likely to succumb. Most bird keepers I know have stopped having nonstick in the home at all, to avoid any accidents of this sort. Adapting your good recipe only requires focusing on cast-iron instead of the hi-tech utensils.
Sincerely, Ann Kilby

Comment by Peggy
2013-09-05 22:51:21

I’ve eaten Pinole since I was a child. But only remember it being made of wheat. I still make it today by roasting the kernels in the oven then grinding. I enjoy it as a drink or as a thick mush.

Comment by Richard Melgosa
2013-12-22 21:22:44

Both my folks came to this country from Mexico and pinole is for sure made from corn not wheat.I grew up in the 50s eating wonderful pinole made from scratch and ground on a stone Metate just as it was done in the old country.

Comment by Alan
2014-02-08 17:33:54

Actually pinole is made by simply grinding popcorn into a powder like consitancy and adding water or milk with sugar to drink. my family makes it. I actually recommended buying big packs of popcorn kernels at your grocery store, pop your corn ,grind down the popcorn and you’re set, the powdered popcorn is great to carry on a hike as it weighs nearly nothing and is nutritious.

Comment by Emily Thornton
2014-04-18 15:31:39

Ok this is an odd question. How would you package it for long term storage? I want to put this into my bug out bag and in my regular food storage for long term. What would you recommend?
I seriously love your site btw. It has been amazingly helpful.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-05-15 10:42:15

Hi Emily,

I would vacuum seal it using something like a FoodSaver (can be found at walmart). Also, putting it in a small Mylar bag with an O2 absorber will also do the trick.

Comment by Greg
2016-03-23 01:08:44

It sounds like you may be referring to hominy. Which is essentially corn processed with lime (alkaline mineral) to make the nutrients more bio-available.

Comment by Greg
2016-03-23 01:17:50

This “hominy” post was in response to the post describing large white kernals of corn. 🙂

Comment by DA
2019-02-18 23:59:29

I originally found out about this super food in Horace Kephart’s “Camping and Woodcraft” from 1906. It has similar recommendations and even mentions some woodsmen using roasted rolled oats. HK was a meticulous documenter of “campaigning” provisions and pinole was among his most highly regarded food stuffs.

Comment by Old Ways
2020-05-04 00:53:32

Revolutionary War soldiers ate like natives, with parched corn being the MRE of the 18th century. Parched corn helped win our Independence from England.

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