¡Bienvenidos a Mexican Paletas!
From classic flavors to fun fusions, these easy Mexican popsicle recipes are fun to make, and even more fun to eat! Mango-vanilla swirl, anyone?
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Photograph by Lola Wiarco Dweck
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¡Hola, amigos! I’m back to talk about one of my all-time favorite summer treats — paletas! As a child, I had the privilege of spending summers with family in Mexico where paletas, also known as Mexican popsicles, were plentiful. My favorite flavor has always been (and continues to be!) limón.
Luckily, after spending months in Mexico, I also had access to paletas in my native California, where our neighborhood paletero strolled through our cul-de-sac on a regular basis. What’s a paletero, you ask? This was the person who sold ice cream, popsicles, and other street snacks from a pushcart — the Mexican version of an ice cream man.
Now, as an adult and mother, I take great pride in experimenting with homemade paletas just as much as my children enjoy helping make and tasting all of the new flavors we concoct in our cocina.
So to get you started on your paleta-making journey, keep reading for a brief overview of paletas, some helpful tips, and several of my absolute favorite recipes. Most of these are super easy to make even for a novice paleta maker. Here’s to staying cool this summer!
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Get to know the world of Mexican popsicles, from common ingredients and tools for making them at home, to how long they’ll keep in the freezer
What are paletas?
Paletas are essentially popsicles made with fresh fruits and local ingredients. They can be enjoyed year-round, but are especially popular in summertime throughout Mexico and other parts of Latin America. They can be fruit-based, milk-based, dairy-free, spicy, boozy, and everything in between.
Since having children, I make the extra effort to avoid processed white sugar in my paletas and have begun experimenting with kid-friendly and sugar-free recipes. The one thing that all of these sweet treats have in common is that they’re sure to cool you down on hot summer days, and they are most definitely a hit with both children and adults.
What tools, supplies, and ingredients do I need to make paletas?
In this section, you’ll find a brief list of all that you need to get started. One of the most common questions I receive is, “Which paleta mold do you use?” I offer recommendations for three of my favorite mold styles below, all of which are washable and reusable. But if you don't have a mold or prefer not to purchase one, you can easily use what you already have on hand; shot glasses and narrow plastic or paper cups work just fine as long as you have craft sticks.
What you’ll need to get started:
space in your freezer
a little bit of patience while your popsicles set for a few hours or overnight
My three favorite styles of popsicle mold:
Small cone-shaped molds are perfect for children and adults who are looking to satisfy a sweet-tooth craving without going overboard. A shot glass would also work well for small paletas. You’ll just have to purchase sticks separately.
There are also infant-sized paleta molds that are great for frozen fruit purees and they have easy-to-hold handles and drip trays, ideal for little ones (or for a two-bite adult treat).
There are a variety of other fun shapes and sizes, but traditional popsicle molds get the most use in my cocina. They’re about $15-20 online and hold ten full-size paletas.
If your heart is set on stepping up your paleta game, it’s important to know that you really can’t go wrong when picking popsicle molds — it truly is a matter of preference and budget. I have found small, inexpensive molds at my local dollar and grocery stores and other larger ones online for about $15. Of course there are fancier, more expensive models, but most of those seem bulky to me — or maybe that’s because my freezer is already jam-packed!
Most popsicle molds come with either wooden popsicle sticks or reusable attachments. I like using the reusable attachments at home, but if I’m making popsicles to give away or to share with the kids in our neighborhood I use the heavy-duty wooden sticks I picked up in Mexico. Or check out this reusable acrylic popsicle stick option that looks interesting.
How long do paletas last?
Typically, homemade paletas don’t last long in my house, but if you’re stocking up your inventory, you can freeze them for up to one month. If you keep them any longer than this, you run the risk of your paletas accumulating ice crystals and tasting a bit like freezer burn.
What fruit is in paletas?
The variety of fruit you’ll find in paletas is endless. Some popular flavors include: lime, mango, strawberry, cucumber, coconut, tuna (prickly pear), guava, pineapple, and passion fruit. Non-fruit flavors are just as varied. I’ve enjoyed chocolate, walnut, pistachio, corn, and even cheese paletas!
Classic paleta flavors
While there’s a rainbow of paleta colors and flavors, there are a few that stand out among the rest. The following list includes some of the most popular flavors you’ll find throughout Mexico.
A traditional, popular flavor all throughout Mexico, these are made extra light and creamy with homemade whipping cream. Other versions may call for condensed milk or crema Mexicana, which are equally delicious.
If you love agua de tamarindo, this recipe is for you!
Keep these jamaica popsicles classic with a strong hibiscus concentrate, or add chopped fruit such as mango, along with chocolate morsels and shredded coconut if you’re feeling a little extra.
Traditional, water-based lime paletas are one of the most popular flavors in Mexico, but creamy versions are just as tasty and this recipe provides extra tang with a touch of yogurt.
Mango is at its peak sweetness in summer, which makes it a go-to fruit for paletas in Mexico. Add a little chile-lime salt or sliced strawberries for an extra special treat.
Water-based strawberry popsicles are just as popular as their creamy cousin. These include a squeeze of lemon juice, but lime juice would work in this recipe, too.
Creamy dairy-free paleta flavors
Many paletas are dairy-free by nature, but there are some cream- and milk-based flavors as well. This list includes great dairy-free interpretations of the creamy classics.
Perfumed with vanilla from Mexico and made with coconut milk and summer berries, this makes for the perfect creamy-tart combination.
Reminiscent of classic coconut paletas, vanilla bean and chocolate drizzle make these totally gourmet.
Made with vanilla-flavored rice milk, this recipe is perfect for those looking to save time in the kitchen while wowing their guests.
The rice, almonds, and coconut milk in this recipe create an extra creamy, dreamy, and dairy-free medley of flavors.
This combo takes me back to the town of Dolores Hidalgo, where corn and mole make for some of the most delicious frozen treats.
Walnut and pecan paletas are another classic flavor in Mexico, and the addition of banana just about makes them breakfast-friendly, right?
A spin on another classic, this dairy-free version of strawberries and cream popsicles is made with coconut milk and honey.
Fun fusions and unique flavors
There’s always someone who takes it to the next level when it comes to paletas, and while the list of fun fusions is endless, here are some that are beautiful, delicious, and include a little something extra — or leave something out, like processed sugars, without sacrificing flavor.
Made with fresh grapes, chia seeds, and a hint of agave, these are the perfect kid-friendly or pre-workout snack.
While Mexican chocolate is picking up steam in the U.S., you’ll be really lucky to find it in paleta form, so I suggest you make the very best version ever using this recipe, of course.
You won’t find raspberries in many Mexican paleta recipes, but they’re the perfect tart complement to the tropical flavors found in mango and papaya.
The marble swirl makes these paletas almost too beautiful to bite into. Almost!
This is the perfect blended mixture of flavors and it’s sugar-free, so my kids are allowed to eat them morning, noon, and night.
The marble look makes these popsicles look extra fancy, but in reality they’re quite easy to prepare and require only two ingredients. That’s right, two ingredients (and no added sugar!).
Some fun reading material
I suggest you pick up a copy of Fany Gerson’s cookbook Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice, & Aguas Frescas, and Erika Sanchez’s Aguas Frescas & Paletas: Refreshing Mexican Drinks and Frozen Treats, Traditional and Reimagined — trust me, you’re in for a real treat with both books! And if you’re just too hot to make Mexican paletas yourself, check out La Newyorkina, La Michoacana, or your local paleta shop to beat the summer heat.
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