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If you’re looking for a sweet treat after dinner amid the heat of Mexico, here are some of the best Mexican desserts you simply need to try during your next visit.
You can’t go wrong with the country’s famous tacos or burritos, among many other iconic dishes, but when it comes to indulgent, sweet, and fruity foods, Mexico has so much to offer!
1 – Natilla (Vanilla Custard)
A dish with a strong influence from Spanish cuisine, natilla is a sweet Mexican favorite, made with milk, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon. The difference between this dish and other similar continental variations, such as English custard or French crème anglaise, is that natilla is usually richer than the others and it often has more cinnamon in it.
In Mexico, you can also find chocolate natillas, too! They are traditionally served chilled and topped with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon. Rich, filling, and utterly sumptuous, you can’t go wrong with this Mexican staple post-dinner.
2 – Jericalla (Flan and Creme Bruleé in One)
Jericalla, also called jericaya, was created by a nun during the 19th century, named Jérica. She wanted to create something nutritious that orphans could enjoy with their limited resources.
Hence, Jérica combined eggs, milk, cinnamon, and sugar along with other ingredients to make one of Mexico’s most popular desserts today.
Jericallas are well known in west Mexico, especially in the states of Sinaloa, Jalisco, and Michoacán. Families served them every week. Most Mexicans associate jericallas with home cooking and would describe them as comfort food, with fond memories of the dish from their childhood.
3 – Polvorones (Orange Shortbread Cookies)
The name of these delicious cookies simply refers to their fine texture. Polvorones are shortbread delicacies, often covered in powdered sugar. These fragile but delicious treats originated from Andalucia, where lard was used for cooking instead of butter.
Adding orange zest and a touch of salt gives them an unmistakable taste, which reminds many Mexicans why this traditional Christmas cookie has been passed down through generations!
Mexico’s biggest cookie vendor (Marinela) has a version of polvorones which you can find in any cornerstone for less than a dollar!
4 – Nieve de Tuna (Prickled Pear Sorbet)
The prickly pear is a fruit that can be found all over Mexico. It is often sold by the pound for less than a dollar, although you need to handle them with care, even though the thorns are usually removed.
Nieve de tuna is a sorbet that makes for a fresh dessert throughout summer. It tastes delicious no matter what shade or hue the prickled pears are in (green, yellow, red). Cactus grow across Mexico, but this sorbet is very much enjoyed in central Mexico.
5 – Palanqueta (Peanut Bars)
Mexican palanquetas are a delicious, sweet treat with roots dating back to the pre-Spanish conquistador era. These snack bars are made from just four ingredients: peanuts, molasses or honey, and sugar. You can also substitute walnuts or pumpkin seeds for some of the nuts.
This dessert is very cheap and nutritious, and it is renowned for sometimes getting stuck in your teeth (and probably your dentist would not recommend it). You can find it in any Mexican market or festival, and it is a wholesome, nutty treat that brings authentic Mexican food to the foray.
6 – Cabello de Ángel (Pumpkin Jam)
Cabello de ángel, known as the ‘angel hair’ dessert, is made of Siam pumpkin. The delicious golden-colored threads that form from the cooking of this vegetable give rise to angel hair, which can be used in many ways, such as filling cakes and pastries. Angel hair can also be eaten as a dessert in its own right.
The fruit fibers are obtained after soaking the pumpkin in lime water. Once obtained, they are rinsed and boiled in sugar water, then left to rest overnight. To make Cabello de ángel, this process is repeated an impressive three times, to achieve the consistency and texture synonymous with this rich and beloved jam.
Brown sugar helps add a deeper sweetness to the jam, and when stuffed inside puff pastry, it is particularly delicious. Keep your eyes peeled for this jam used in a wide range of sweet treats and desserts.
7 – Pepitoria (Wafers with Pumpkin Seeds)
Pepitorias are Mexican wafers, renowned as light, delicious treats that come in all the colors of the rainbow. They are commonly consumed as snacks at home, or on your walk through any one of Mexico’s many parks.
Mexican Catholics use white pepitorias to celebrate communion, but most Mexicans prefer to snack on colorful pepitorias filled with pumpkin seeds and agave honey, adding a welcome sweetness to the flavor of the wafer.
Pepitorias come in different sizes. Some can fit snuggly in the palm of your hand, while the larger wafers are for the real post-dinner snack fiends, loaded with sweetness and flavor.
8 – Buñuelo (Fried Dough Sugared Fritters)
The process of preparing this iconic Mexican dessert is an ancient tradition, dating back to the 17th century. Buñuelos are a traditional Christmas food in Mexico, consisting of deep-fried dough filled with cheese, pineapple, milk, or raisins.
This delicious treat was first made by using your fists, or ‘puños’, to shape them. That explains why they were called puñuelos at the time. Today, modern methods include using round stones to shape buñuelo dough instead.
This allows the popular treat to be made year-round, and not only during Christmas. In fact, nowadays even star-shaped buñuelos are becoming wildly popular! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this ancient Mexican dish during your visit.
9 – Calabaza en Tacha (Sugared Pumpkin)
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a festival that celebrates family and friends who have passed away. In preparation for this celebration, Calabaza en tacha is one of the traditionally prepared foods and is still prepared for the festival to this day.
Two centuries ago, calabaza en tacha was cooked in big copper cauldrons that were used to process the sugar. To cook them, you add cinnamon and water until the pumpkins are soft enough, before spooning out the sweet chunks, ready to be served.
Sugared pumpkin is prepared in many different ways throughout Mexico. In some regions, it can be cooked with different spices, such as cloves and star anise. But however you try it, you’re in for a true taste of traditional and authentic Mexican food.
10 – Alegrías (Amaranth Bars)
Sweet and sticky, amaranth is the go-to treat for so many Mexicans. Legend has it that a Franciscan missionary arrived in Mexico to spread the word of Christianity, but ran into some trouble when trying to light a fire.
A passer-by suggested using amaranth rods as tinder, and hence the legend was born of how Mexicans invented their most famous treat!
Under Spanish rule, the amaranth plant almost became extinct in the country, as the Spanish believed it was a symbol of war and stopped growing it. Luckily, Mexicans were able to eventually use deposits of hidden seeds to replant the crop.
The name of these wholesome snacks can literally be translated as “joy”, and when you bite into one, there’s a strong chance you’ll agree!
11 – Capirotada (Spicy Bread Pudding)
Capirotada is a traditional Mexican dish that is made with toasted or aged bread, cut into slices, and cooked in brown sugar syrup. This old-fashioned comfort food is commonly made from a mixture of banana, raisins, walnuts, and guava, topped with grated cheese.
Capirotada traditionally dates back to the 16th century, where people would eat this dessert during the Lenten season while fasting. The recipe for the aged bread dessert originally comes from Spain, and the name derives from “capirote,” which is Spanish for a type of pointed hat worn by certain priests in Holy Week processions in Spain and Latin America.
12 – Churros (Cinnamon-Covered Dough Sticks)
A beloved sweet dish, these fried dough sticks of Spanish origin are made with wheat flour-based dough, similar to buñuelos.
Once fried, churros are rolled in sugar and spices. While a sweet dish, they are often eaten for dinner, if accompanied by hot cocoa. Churros can even have different fillings, such as jam, vanilla pudding, or eggnog.
In Mexico, churros can be bought from a wide range of street food vendors, commonly found on downtown streets. Many coffee shops also sell churros and serve them with hot chocolate. There’s no shortage of places you can find these sweet, fried snacks of sugary and doughy joy.
13 – Zapote con Naranja (Black Fruit Pureé)
A truly weird fruit, black sapote is known as the ‘chocolate pudding fruit’. Don’t let its green rind fool you – peel back the skin and you’ll find its pulp is velvety black and sweet as chocolate mousse.
Black fruit pureé is a delicious and traditional Mexican dessert, that you’ll struggle to find on the menu of most restaurants. It is a rare dish, but if you manage to spot it, be sure to order because this dish may very well become your new favorite!
The sweetness is commonly described as delicate by many chefs. To really take things up a notch, try this unique pureé mixed with orange juice and good rum, for an unexpected yet smooth flavor combination.
14 – Chongos Zamoranos (Curdled Milk Dessert)
Though the origin of this delicious dessert is attributed to convents in Michoacan, it is believed that in fact, a mistake during cheese production led to its creation.
It is said a cheese maker accidentally added rennet and sugar during production when they were supposed to only add milk! Instead of throwing the batch, the cheesemaker instead committed to the batter, baked it, and by pure chance created Chongos zamoranos.
Rich, indulgent, and flavorsome, the texture of this beloved dessert is so unique, you can feel your teeth grinding against the curdled milk, so be prepared for some interesting sounds as you chow down on this Mexican classic!
15 – Marquesitas (Cheese-Filled Wafers)
Marquesitas came about from an interesting conundrum. In 1930, in Mérida, local vendor Don Leopoldo Mena was selling ice cream to his customers. But every time the winter season came around, people would buy little, if any, ice cream.
Getting creative, Leopoldo instead decided instead to fill his ice cream cones with a ball of these, then grill them before serving. Little did he know that moment of innovation would go on to become a beloved Mexican favorite, known as marquesitas!.
Marquesitas are similar, yet different, from crepes. Their dough is more golden and served rolled rather than flat, as with typical crepes. Marquesitas can be filled with cream cheese, strawberry jam, or caramel, making them both a delicious sweet or savory snack, depending on your mood and preference.
16 – Coyotas (Sugar-Filled Cookies)
Coyotas are sweet-filled cookies that have been made from a traditional recipe for over half a century. They are baked from a simple but delicious mixture of wheat, butter, and salt, traditionally filled with brown sugar. However, in recent years coyotas with caramel filling have gained popularity.
Coyotas have been made in Mexico since 1954, when Doña María Ochoa González, a Mexican cook, first created this beloved and delicate cookie.
Maria passed away when she was 86 years old, but her legacy to this day lives on. People from all over Mexico and the US still insist that coyotas are indeed worth a trip to their local Sonora to buy a batch of these cookies.
17 – Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread)
Pan de muerto, or Day of the Dead bread, is typically a spooky treat with a fascinating connection to the festival. Traditionally, this bread is placed by Mexicans on top of an altar, to invite dead souls to rejoice when they visit their family on November 1st and 2nd.
This dry yeast bread is commonly baked with sweet ingredients, such as orange and sugar, to add a generous amount of zest and sweetness to each warm and soft mouthful.
Atop the loaf, it is common to mold the shape of a skull and crossbones, sometimes literally, or representative through balls and cylinders of dough, before baking.
This makes Pan de muerto not only rich, sweet, and delicious, but a truly fascinating load of bread to lay eyes on.
The origin of the bread of the dead dates back to when human sacrifices were practiced in Mesoamerica. The Spanish conquistadors found the human sacrifices very disturbing and instead suggested preparing wheat bread covered in red sugar that emulated blood.
18 – Rosca de Reyes (Epiphany Night Bread)
Every year, on January 6th, Mexico homes celebrate Día de Reyes (also known as Three Kings Day) by eating fresh-baked bread called Rosca de Reyes.
This bread is traditionally baked with one or two small plastic figures, shaped like baby Jesus, wrapped in a blanket. Whoever finds the doll has to prepare and host a tamales party on February 2nd.
It is called the Candelaria feast, which celebrates baby Jesus sitting up by himself. Whoever does this also needs to buy atole (a hot drink made from cornmeal), so they can share it with everyone who comes over.
19 – Limones Rellenos (Coconut Filled Limes)
Limones rellenos, or coconut stuffed limes, are a must in any home that celebrates Mexican Independence Day in September. These delicious candies can be found in plenty of Mexican markets, so be sure to stop by and look around for this beloved sweet when in Mexico.
It is said that the history of crystallized sweets dates back to Mesoamerican era, before the Spaniards arrived. Natives would traditionally mix fruits and honey to create these rich, fruit, sweet candies.
It is not uncommon for families in Santa Cruz Acalpixca to prepare them traditionally on special occasions, such as weddings and baptisms. First, they cook them with baking soda, making their exterior fluorescent green. They will then dip the limes in syrup to soften them, before filling them with cocada (or sweet coconut).
20 – Ate de fruta (Fruit Paste)
Ate is a favorite dessert in Mexico, but it can also be served as an appetizer with salty cheese. In fact, it has become so popular, even the traditional Rosca de Reyes cake now includes this rich fruit paste in several recipe variations.
This dish originated from the Middle East, and it is essentially fruit puree, cooked with sugar until it reaches a thick, luscious consistency.
Due to the wide variety of flavors available, people often add the particle “ate” at the end of their chosen fruit type name. For example, in Mexico, we commonly enjoy guayabate (guava paste), membrillate (quince paste), almendrate (almond paste), and piñonate (pine nut paste), among many others.
Mexican Desserts Summary
Mexico is a country rife with delicious, creative, and mouthwatering food. And while many of its savory dishes are renowned across the globe, there is an entire world of sweet, rich, and delightful desserts to delve into when traveling to and in Mexico.
These 20 desserts showcase the flair, passion, and culinary innovation of Mexican food. From exotic fruits to foods prepared for ancient traditions, the origins and the stories of these sweet dishes alone are enough to captivate and intrigue.
But then we get into the dishes, and the sumptuous flavor combinations that delight, awe, and keep you coming back for more. The sweet dishes of Mexico bring richness, zest, and passion to the dinner table, and all are beloved and adored in their own right.
Embrace the food of Mexico. Gorge on tacos. Visit the food markets. And try to find as many of these flavorsome desserts as you can. You won’t regret it.
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Author: Ana Perusquia is a bilingual writer, editor, and designer, hailing from Mexico City. She has extensive experience in the publishing industry and is eager to share her love of Mexican cuisine and culture through her writing.
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