Perfect Paletas for Cinco de Mayo [Recipe]

Paletas for Cinco de Mayo [Recipe] Latin Biz Today

Colorful Mexican treats packed with flavor are party favorites for Sunday

In honor of Cinco de Mayo which kicks off the summer season, I thought it would be fun to take a favorite treat from my childhood, the Mexican Paleta, and turn it into an adult version with some tequila. The mix of fresh fruits, lime juice and tequila turn this into an authentic frozen margarita!

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I recall on hot summer days, reaching into our freezer to grab a refreshing popsicle that would end up staining my tongue and lips some wild shade of red or blue. They were so good, so refreshing, and of course as we all know could leave anyone with a serious case of brain freeze. They were the kind of frozen treat that moms bought in their local supermarket in boxes of 10 or 12 for all the neighborhood kids on hot summer days. All my friends’ moms stocked them as well. This was way before the days of reading nutrition labels and eating natural. In the 70’s and 80’s the only kind you could buy in Ohio and probably most of the United States were made with artificial flavors and colors, but boy did they hit the spot!

What a delight to my young Latina tastebuds, when I took one of my first trips to Mexico with my parents. Crossing the border in those days was very safe and I was so excited to see all the local shops and street vendors. On a super-hot day, on a side street somewhere in Reynosa, Mexico, we eagerly bought paletas from a vendor. I didn’t know exactly what I was in for. It was the first time I ever tasted one and let me tell you, it was life changing. I chose a mango paleta chock full of real fruit chunks and pulpy goodness. I recall eating it so fast to avoid it melting all over my hands under the blazing Mexican sun. I don’t think we often had mangoes at home. In those days, they were a very pricey fruit and difficult to come by so I couldn’t believe that I had a whole popsicle full of mango chunks all to myself for probably not even twenty cents in those days. It gave me the same funny sensation of needing to floss my teeth afterwards because of the stringy texture.

Tina Trevino & sister in Mexico

Paletas with my sister in La Crucecita, Mexico

My 2nd and 3rd favorite flavors were watermelon and strawberry because you could literally see the seeds in them. Eating a watermelon paleta was a similar experience to eating a watermelon slice where half the fun is spitting the seeds out. I have so many memorable experiences of traveling to Mexico and enjoying the local foods from street vendors. From gorditas, to candies like nogadas and La Cajetas, pan dulce, and yes that hot weather favorite, the paleta – every experience was a gourmet experience to my young palette.

I still love eating paletas when I visit Mexico but these days, they’ve come a long way from their street vendor days. Because of their popularity, many towns have a paleteria that makes and sells these frozen treats in a magical array of many new and unusual flavors. Taking the time to select your paleta is a fun experience.

The word paleta literally means little stick which is exactly how these street vendor treats are meant to be served up on little wooden flat sticks that look like tongue depressors. They’re super easy to make so once the temperatures start to hit the 80’s, it’s time to get out your popsicle molds and turn your kitchen into a paleteria.

The basic recipe for paletas is usually a mix of ½ blended fruit and ½ fruit chopped into small chunks for an artisanal, natural look and taste. This fruit texture is what I love about the paleta experience, but if you don’t have fresh fruit on hand, you can certainly use frozen fruit as well.

Here’s a great paletas recipe to try:

  • 4 cups coarsely chopped ripe fresh fruit
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ cup your favorite tequila (you can use less, but using more can affect the ability to freeze fully). You can also omit this part if you want to make non-alcoholic versions for the kids or just to hydrate on a hot day.
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice

Place half the fruit along with the sugar, water and lime juice into a blender and blend till smooth.

Spoon the remaining chopped fruit into the popsicle molds and add the blended mixture leaving about ½” of space at the top so they can expand. Your popsicle mold may come with plastic “paletas”, or you can use the traditional wooden ones for a more authentic look. If you don’t have popsicle molds, no problem. You can make these in paper or plastic cups. Just let the mixture freeze for about 1 hour to slightly firm up, then insert a paleta in the middle and let them finish the freezing process.

Place the popsicle molds in the freezer for about 6 hours to finish.

There are so many variations on this easy recipe. It’s fun to play around with them by adding herbs and spices to give them a bit of a twist.

Here are a few ideas:

  • You can use other fruits like kiwi, raspberries, blueberries, or guava. You can even add some banana to these fruits to make the texture a bit creamier.
  • You can also vary the liquid so instead of water, you can try cow’s milk, almond milk, or coconut milk. These can also vary the texture.
  • You can change the sweetener to be brown sugar, stevia, agave nectar, or honey. If your feel that your fruit is sweet enough on its own, leave the sweetener out entirely.
  • Add other herbs or spices like fresh mint or basil. You can chop them and add them into the popsicle mold.
  • You can add some heat to them with chile powder or jalapeño pieces. If you want the heat a little bit lighter, you can brew your water with the fresh jalapeno and let it steep for a bit to infuse into the water.
  • As a garnish, you can dip them into tajin or coarse salt before presenting them to your friends and family.

There are so many fun options so get ready to enjoy the summer. These are a great snack to make to keep the heat out of the kitchen. You can pre-make a lot of batches as well so you can spend more time having fun by the pool this summer.

Related content:

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with La Magica Margarita (Recipe)

A Refreshing Cinco de Mayo Treat: Spicy Fruit & Cotija Cheese Skewers – Recipe [Video]

7-Layer Bean Dip Cups for a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta – Recipe [Video]

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with DIY Piñatas [Video]

A Cinco de Mayo Fiesta with Mom’s Enchiladas- Recipe [Video]

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations:

Hispanic Culture – A Special Latin Biz Today Cinco de Mayo Retrospective [Video]

Multicultural Hispanic Business Puts a Twist on Cinco de Mayo [Video]

Many Happenings to Highlight the Week…Happy Cinco de Mayo!


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