It is common knowledge that Mexican food is spicy, but Mexican candy is often quite fiery as well and the unique combination of flavors awakens all the senses. The Spanish word for candies is “dulces” and adults and children alike enjoy “dulces Mexicanos”. On your next visit to Cancun and Playa del Carmen in the Mexican Caribbean, wander into a colorful candy store and have a look around.
One of the most popular candies in Mexico is made from tamarind or “tamarindo” as it is called here. The tamarind is a tree that is indigenous to tropical Africa, but Mexico is one of the largest consumers and commercial producers of tamarind. It is eaten in various forms.
Pulparindo is made from the pulp of the fruit and is flavored with salt, sugar and “chile piquin” (chili powder made from ground pequin peppers) making it simultaneously tart, sweet, salty and spicy. There is even an extra spicy or “extra picante” version. Chile piquin is also found on other treats like hard candy and lollipops. It is also eaten alone and flavored with mango or chamoy, a commonly used condiment made from pickled fruit.
A less adventurous Mexican candy is oblea, made from “dulce de leche” (a thick milk based spread which is similar to caramel) spread between two very thin wafers that taste similar to an ice cream cone. Dulce de leche or “cajeta” is also eaten in the form of lollipops, small caramel-like candies or as a sauce used in crepes or on ice cream.
Candy made from peanuts is also popular in Mexico. The two most common peanut candies are “palanquetas” and “mazapan”. Palanquetas are similar to peanut brittle but also can be made with pumpkin or amaranth seeds. Mazapan is the peanut version of marzipan, the European almond paste, but mazapan is drier and more powdery.
The most amazing Mexican candy has to be the “calavera de azucar”. These are small skulls made of sugar that are decorated in festive colors. They are presented as offerings (ofrendas) at the graves of deceased loved ones or on alters that people create in their homes for The Day of the Dead, “El Dia de los Muertos”. Not only are the skulls edible, but each one is a beautiful piece of art.
Like many things in Mexico, the candies vary from region to region, offering a diverse number of options for all candy lovers. What’s your favorite piece of Mexican candy?