14 Jul Traditional Mexican Sweets
Mexico is known for its abundance of traditional candies, differing from one region to the next. While your average foreigner may be aware of some of them, the variety is astounding, often using fruits and combinations we otherwise wouldn’t be able to imagine. I’m not going to lie to you – some of the sweets are downright magical and others …well, I’m not sure what they were thinking.
I’m going to take you on a whirlwind tour of a handful of these surprising, strange and often delicious Mexican treats.
Dulce de Leche
This amazing and delectable sweet treat is akin to caramel, however it comes in a variety of consistencies: often crumbly, sometimes creamy, and also lighter in color. It is pretty much the greatest thing I’ve ever consumed.
Milk candy also comes in a more traditional caramel like form, but infused with a number of other flavors such as nutty walnut, delightful coconut, and pure piney goodness of pine nut. It may also be mixed with crunchy amaranth or sesame seeds.
Glorias are a type of dulce de leche made from goat’s milk that has more of a traditional caramel texture. Sweet, stretchy, ooey-gooey and often topped with nuts.
Oblejas are essentially a wafer-caramel sandwich. The wafer is paper thin and quite bland, a near perfect offset for the over-the-top sweetness of the caramel filling. This is one of my personal favorites, but who am I kidding – any version of dulce de leche is on that list.
This one takes some getting used to, but if you’re anything like me it will become an addiction. Mexico is famous for pairing fruit with salt and chili, whether fresh or dried. Many non-Mexicans first reaction is one of confusion, but it quickly turns to pleasure and often uncontrolled binging. Okay …maybe that was just me. The most common examples of this are pineapple, tamarind and mango. For me personally, it’s mango or bust.
Surprisingly chewy, rubbery little sugar-coated things, these “gummy squares” come in the most unusual flavors, including: pickled fruit called chamoy (usually apricot or mango), pine nut, caramel, herbs, guava, and rompope (akin to egg nog.) Just take a moment to realize that we are, in fact, talking about the Mexican equivalent to gummy bears and you’ll realize how unexpected and sometimes strange these flavors can be. There are more common fruit flavors like cherry, mango, orange pineapple and lime too, though I’m pretty sure none of those were in the batch I tried.
While reading the flavors aloud to Sean, who was trying them with me, he said, “That’s nothing like what we ate. Where’s the pine air freshener?”
Similar to the Gomita Tradicionales (aforementioned traditional gummy objects), these chewy, fruit squares come in really odd flavors. In this case, it’s not the unlikeliness of the flavor, but the fact that most foreigners won’t have tried these fruits before: crabapple, quince, peron and guava. The texture is more like a dehydrated fruit chew with a sugar coating. They were okay. Not love at first bite.
Cacahuate de la Rosa
Most of you will be familiar with marzipan, a sweetened almond paste used to make everything from candies to wedding cakes. Cacahuate de la Rosa is a peanut version of this, albeit crumblier. As a peanut butter lover, I enjoyed this super sweet, obscenely messy disc of yumminess. In general, I tap out pretty early when it comes to sweet stuff, preferring sour or salty flavors, but the nuttiness of this candy offset the sugar to make a yummy combo.
Palenqueta de Cacahuate
The Palenqueta de cacahuate is a large (approx. coaster-sized) disc of cracker jacks. Atleast, that’s what it tastes like. It translates as peanut brittle, but it’s much thicker and crunchier …like if a rice cake mated with peanut brittle. Very, very good.
Paraiso – alfajore, jamoncillo
The next one is very, very bad unfortunately. Paraiso is a brand that makes a variety of flavored, saccharin-sweet, bars. I tried two flavors and couldn’t get through either one of them (even splitting with Sean.) The jamoncilllo was particularly nasty, made from pine nut and almost tasted like coffee …if coffee wasn’t so delicious …and you dropped the whole sugar shaker in your cup.
These almost got left of the list because I’m a coconut purist, that is, really enjoy the fruit au naturel, but my dear friend Elsanne insisted I give them a try …and man was I glad I did. Wow. These golden-brown, toasted coconut confections are phenomenal. Soft and chewy at room-temperature, sweet but not offendingly-so, I’m a fan. Just to put the disclaimer out there, I didn’t try any of the wacky, food-coloring “flavors.” Just classic for me, thanks.
So that’s my review of Mexican sweets. Is there something you didn’t see on the list? Something you’re curious about and want me to try? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll go out and taste it!