Mexican Desserts

Postres! That’s how you say desserts in Spanish. Remember that next time you are visiting Mexico and want to order an authentic Mexican dessert that is sure to please your sweet tooth. Forget the Flan and churros that you may already be familiar with, experience more complex flavors and authentic recipes.

Don’t be intimidated by the names of some of the tastiest Mexican desserts. Mexico is a fascinating country with a rich culture that developed from the native indigenous people of Mexico, and influenced by the Spanish conquistadors.

History

Before the Spaniards stepped foot into Mexico, traditional Mexican desserts were made out of simple ingredients. These ingredients included milk, honey, coconut, fruits, nuts and chocolate. After the Spanish influence in the country, Mexican desserts evolved into more creative combinations and new methods of baking them.

One of the most important elements brought over by the Spaniards was the use of oil. Learning how to use oil in Mexican cuisine was the turning point for Mexico’s most delicious recipes, including desserts.

A lesson on Mexican Desserts

Champurrado

© Kimberly Vardeman - Champurrado

Ever heard of champurrado? If you said no, then you must get familiar with this delicious warm drink. Champurrado, also known as atole, is a smooth and foamy warm drink. It has the consistency of eggnog, however it is served all year long and tastes like chocolate.

Historically, champurrado was a drink given to the wealthy, priests, or soldiers. It was considered to give nourishment and strength. Today, champurrado has become a popular dessert drink. It is often times served with a slice of pan dulce, or sweet bread. It has a chocolatey taste with a perfect balance of spices.

Capirotada

© Joel Kramer - Capirotada

A traditional dessert in Mexico that every native knows is Capirotada. This delicious Mexican dessert is served during Lent, a religious celebration beginning on Ash Wednesday.

The ingredients will vary, depending on what part of the country you are in. The basic ingredients include bread, milk, dried fruits, cheese, sprinkles, nuts and coconut. It is a moist, sweet delicacy with a dense texture, similar to bread pudding. The coconut, sprinkles and other elements add a crunchy surprise.

If you ever happen to be in Mexico during the celebration of Lent, do not forget to ask for a serving of an authentic slice of Capirotada! It is a Mexican dessert that will surprise your taste buds in all the best ways possible.

Rosca de Reyes

© victoriafee - Rosca de Reyes

Similar to capirotada, Rosca de Reyes is a special dessert served on January 6th in celebration of the epiphany. Rosca de Reyes translates to king’s bread. It is a sweet, dry bread that is decorated with dried fruits and candy. In the center of the bread, there are small baby Jesus figures baked into it.

Tradition has it that the person to cut a piece of Rosca de Reyes and reveal a baby Jesus will host a dinner on February second. This represents the fleeing of the holy family in search of shelter.

Pan Dulce

© Christina B. Castro - Pan Dulce

Sweet, tasty, fluffy and crunchy bread. Pan dulce is a variety of sweet breads, known to be made fresh daily. These authentic, rustic sweets are sold fresh at panaderias every morning (much like donut shops). There is no end to the variety and combinations of this sweet dessert.

  • One of the most common pan dulces would be the concha. Concha, or conch, is a round sweet bread that is covered in a sugary frosting that varies in flavor from vanilla to strawberry or chocolate.
  • A cochinito, or pig, is second on the top list of pan dulces. This pig shaped cookie pastry is made out of unrefined Mexican brown sugar. It has a peculiar taste that is not too sweet and a little bit bitter.
  • Another favorite pan dulce is the polvoron, a brittle, sugary shortbread cookie. The polvoron literary means dusty. It gets its name from the soft, powdery consistency that often crumbles to the table as you take a bite. Traditionally, this sweet bread is served in the morning and in the afternoon for la merienda.

Alfajor

© Jakobien van der Veijden - Alfajor

Alfajor is a sweet coconut treat. It is usually sold in a brick form, with a pink candy top that, when sliced, adds a touch of delicacy. Made out of sugar and coconut, alfajor is rich and moist, with a pleasant texture that is not too grainy and not too crunchy. The sweetness and richness of this dessert will not disappoint a coconut lover.

 

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

© Patsy - Mexican Sopapilla Bars

 

Bionicos

© RileyOne - Bionico

Bionicos contain a smooth, creamy sauce referred to as “crema”, fruits, sweet toppings and salty garnishes. Bionicos are like mini fruit salads on a “to go cup”. They are similar to yogurt parfaits, with a larger variety of ingredients. Toppings include chopped strawberries, raisins, granola, coconut, bananas, apples cantaloupe, honey and others, making the list of combinations endless.

Buñuelos

© couldntbeparve - Bunuelos

Ever heard of Elephant Ears? Much like these tasty pastries, buñuelos are made of deep fried dough. They are a classic, traditional Mexican dessert. These crunchy and crispy disk shaped pastries are covered in cane sugar and cinnamon. One bite into the puffy, sweet crunchiness and you are hooked.

Palanquetas

© Gaby Maldonado - Palanquetas

Get a little nutty with a palanqueta. This Mexican dessert consists of sweet, tangy caramel mixed with salty peanuts. They are very crunchy and a traditional sweet delight. Palanquetas are sold commonly in stores or in restaurants.

Cajeta

© Krista - Cajeta

A truly amazing dessert that comes in many varieties, cajeta can be a sweet caramel sauce made from goat’s milk and flavored with either vanilla or wine. The wine flavored variety is referred to as cajeta envinada.

Cajeta varies in color ranging from dark brown to a light tan. It can be eaten as is, or often times used as a syrup or dipping sauce. When mixed with cow’s milk, its name changes to dulce de leche, a solid, sweet caramel candy.

A different variation is cajeta de membrillo. This fruity dessert is made from the quince fruit. Cajeta de membrillo is maroon in color and has a thick pasty consistency.

Mazapan

© Juan Fernández - Mazapan

Mazapan is a type of marzipan, a tasty nutty dessert that has become a staple in Mexico. There is a major distributor of mazapanes in Mexico, Mazapanes De la Rosa. It wouldn’t be difficult to find these, as they are sold in almost every small shop and restaurant.

Mazapanes are very crumbly and fragile desserts. Attempting to unfold them without them crumbling is just as fun as eating them. They are made from very simple ingredients. They consist of crushed peanuts and powdered sugar. This perfect balance of sweet and salty is a great way to end a meal.

Facts about Mexican Desserts

  • No two flans taste the same. This goes for most of the desserts in Mexico. They will slightly vary, depending on what part of the country you are in.
  • Mexican desserts can be sweet and savory. Toppings can include sweet syrups or crunchy options such as fruits or nuts.
  • There are no bland desserts, it is all about rich flavors. Many desserts are drenched in sauces, cane sugar or milk.
  • The ingredients are fresh and often times unpasteurized (milk, cheeses or honey).
  • Some Mexican desserts can have a little bit of heat to them. It is common for fresh fruits to be sold with a sprinkle of hot chili powder, salt and lime juice.
  • Dulces are hard candies sold at a grocery store. However, they can also be a sweetened, caramelized fruits or vegetables sold at a market. They can include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, dulce de leche, tamarind, figs and coconut.
  • Raspados, Glorias, cono de nieve, all refer to shaved ice or snow cones. These cold, tasty treats come in a large variety of flavors. These flavors include vanilla, lemon and a large variety of fruits.
  • Pan dulce refers to a variety of sweet breads. They are bought fresh from a local bakery.
  • People in Mexico will eat desserts any time of the day, including breakfast.