Pulque Curado : Tecolio

It is said that pulque is “sólo le falta un grado para ser carne” (one grade shy of being meat) and that the only thing pulque lacks for being meat are bones.

Well this drink, tecolio, removes that difference.

This drink takes its name from red maguey worms (1), larvae of the moth Comadia redtenbacheri (2) which are added to pulque to create a uniquely flavoured curado. Curados are a mixture of (usually) fruit (3), pulque and a sweetener (such as honey). These drinks are made to enhance the palatability of pulque as this drink can be somewhat confronting to the uninitiated. Fresh pulque has a slightly acidic, slightly yeasty, green/vegetal flavour which quickly sours (within a few days) to become too acidic to drink. The texture of pulque is somewhat viscous (think thin egg whites) and it is this which has a tendency to turn people off this drink. Curados are a step toward enhancing the palatability of pulque.

  1. gusanos de maguey. These “worms” are called tecoles (Wilson & Pineda 1963). The larvae are also called chilocuiles or chinicuiles
  2. Syn. Zeuzera redtenbacheri Hammerschmidt, 1848, Hypopta redtenbacheri, Bombyx agavis Blasquez, 1870, Comadia agavis, Hypopta chilodora Dyar, 1910
  3. although they can contain anything. Other additives include nopal, tunas (the fruit of the cactus, not the fish), celery, tomato, oysters, walnuts/almonds/peanuts/pecans/pistachios, pine nuts, oatmeal, egg yolks, condensed milk, cajeta, coffee and even cempasuchil flower petals.
Fried chinicuiles (maguey worms)
XXXVIII Gastronomical fair of Santiago de Anaya, Hidalgo, Mexico.


Red maguey worms are one of the types of gusanos sometimes found in bottles of mezcal (1) from the State of Oaxaca in Mexico. To make tecolio these larvae are collected, toasted and reduced to dust; they are then mixed with pulque, which becomes flesh-coloured (and again removes one of the distinctions separating it from carne).

  1. These worms will never be found in tequila. It is prohibited to add anything other than agave (and only one variety at that) and perhaps other sugars or colouring in the production of tequila. Only the cheaper varieties will add other sugars and colouring to tequila and these are generally known as “Oro” or “Gold” varieties. The best are 100% pure agave. This is also true for mezcal (and raicilla, bacanora etc….)
Harvesting red maguey worms (Photo by Omeyotl Mekayotl. via Facebook)

These larvae are most commonly found in the species Agave angustifolia and A. psalmiana.

When researching this drink the most common quote I came across was that this drink that was consumed in Oaxaca at festivals and on “special occasions”. This drink has travelled further afield than Oaxaca though. Santamaria (1942) notes that tecolio is an “intoxicating drink” made in Tehuacán (Puebla).

Puebla and Oaxaca are only about 300 kilometres apart but these 300 kilometres consist of some fairly wild and mountainous landscape. This is not a problem to travel in these days of bitumen and highways but in the days of the Azteca this distance would have been considerably more difficult to traverse. Pre-Columbian Mexico was a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse society so it is just as likely that this drink was spontaneously created in separate locales as it would be that the drink was a type of fad that travelled via word of mouth (1).

  1. or that the drink itself was created as a form of “medicine” by a local healer. This has some merit as pulque (or octli) itself was considered to be health giving

It does make sense that anywhere the maguey was utilised that the gusanos would be encountered (1) and due to their edibility at some stage this drink might be created by an adventurous soul.

  1. as they live in the maguey being harvested



  • 1 litre of pulque
  • 75 grams maguey worms (more or less depending on the taste of the imbiber)


  • Toast your chinicuiles in a dry pan (or on the comal) until they are crisp and dry. Taking care not to burn them. Allow to cool
  • Grind the toasted larvae to a fine powder in a molcajete
  • Incorporate the powder into your pulque using a wooden spoon
  • Serve and enjoy


  • Escalante, A., López Soto, D. R., Velázquez Gutiérrez, J. E., Giles-Gómez, M., Bolívar, F., & López-Munguía, A. (2016). Pulque, a Traditional Mexican Alcoholic Fermented Beverage: Historical, Microbiological, and Technical Aspects. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 1026. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01026
  • Godoy, A., Herrera, T., & Ulloa, M. (2003). Más allá del pulque y el tepache: Las bebidas alcohólicas no destiladas indígenas de México. México, D.F: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas.
  • Hernández López, J &Iwadare, MA. : En Torno a Las Bebidas Alcoholicas Mexicanas “Poder, prácticas culturales y configuraciones regionals” (2015) : Centro Universitario de Los Altos de la Universidad de Guadalajara : ISBN 978-607-742-293-8
  • Mariano de Cárcer y Disdier : Apuntes para la historia de la transculturación indoespañola (1995) : Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas : ISBN 968-36-4446-5 : http://www.historicas.unam.mx/publicaciones/publicadigital/libros/apuntes/historia.html
  • Santamaria, Francisco J.: Diccionario General de Americanismos (1942) Published by editorial Pedro Robredo
  • Wilson, Iris H., and Antonio Pineda. “Pineda’s Report on the Beverages of New Spain.” Arizona and the West, vol. 5, no. 1, 1963, pp. 79–90. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40167046. Accessed 5 June 2020.

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