If you thought that Mexican cuisine only consisted of corn and beans served in fiery saucy dishes, think again.
Mexican food has been under the influence of many different cultures: Europeans, African and Asian but most importantly it derives most of its creativity and rich heritage from its pre-Columbian roots.
After all, it should not be surprising that a nation that invented hot chocolate would have a sweet tooth. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, sugar in the Aztec diet mainly came from fruits, but this changed when sugar cane was imported into the region.
Besides this new source of sugar, Europeans also brought with them many of their favourites pastries, cakes and dessert, which Mexico's native adapted and incorporated into their national cuisine.
Let's take a look at some of the most delicious Mexican desserts.
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Hot Spiced Hot Chocolate
Chocolate has been consumed in and around Mexico for thousands of years. Some of the earliest archaeological traces of chocolate being processed date from 1750BC and were found in pre-Olmec settlements.
The Moyaka tribes of the Pacific coast region of Mexico are even though to have drunk chocolate as early as 1900BC.
During the Aztec Empire, cacao beans were such a luxury that they were used to pay off debts and taxes, and it was common to use cacao beans as a mean of currency. Written traces show that 100 cacao beans were worth one turkey. Not a bad deal.
Chocolate was mainly consumed as a drink, often spiced vanilla, chilli peppers or annatto.
1/4 cup baking cocoa
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground cloves or nutmeg
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whole cinnamon sticks
Using a small saucepan, mix the sugar and the cocoa and add in water gently. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Keep cooking for two minutes and stir constantly.
Add the cinnamon and cloves as gently pour in the milk. Let to simmer for five minutes making sure it never boils. Add in the vanilla.
Pour the hot chocolate into mugs and top up with whipped cream.
This traditional Mexican dish is known under different names: creamy corn masa pudding, sweet Oaxacan Corn flan or Nicuatole.
This dish existed well before the arrival of Europeans in the region and was prepared from ground maize with the addition of sugar mainly in the form of fruits such as coconut, pineapple or mango. Later on, refined sugar and milk were added to the recipe.
It is considered by some as the pre-Columbian equivalent for our European flan cake or custard cake.
It is relatively simple to prepare from a traditional recipe, making it super easy to cook on the go.
For 12 people.
680g of masa dough
340g of sugar
960ml of water
3 sticks of cinnamon
Put the masa dough in a large bowl and mix in the water until all the dough is dissolved. Pour the mixture into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and add the sugar and cinnamon.
Cook over low heat and frequently stir for about 30 to 45 minutes or until you can see the bottom of the pan. Pour everything through a strainer into a square pan or into individual moulds. Sprinkle the top with sugar.
Let to cool in the fridge, uncovered. Serve once cool.
Pastel de Tres Leches
This Mexican sponge or butter cake, depending on the recipe, is also called tres leches pan (meaning three-milk bread) and it is prepared using three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
Butter can be added to the recipe, giving the cake a denser texture.
This recipe is the results of European influences on Mexican cuisine, and this dish only appeared in Mexico around the 19th century. This cake's recipe appeared on a major food company condensed milk packaging explaining why it became so popular throughout South America.
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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
1 can sweeten condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 175C. Grease and flour a baking pan.
Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.
Cream butter or margarine and the 1 cup sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; beat well.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture 2 tablespoons at a time; mix until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake at 175C for 30 minutes. Pierce cake several times with a fork.
Combine the whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk together. Pour over the top of the cooled cake.
Whip whipping cream, the remaining 1 cup of the sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla together until thick. Spread over the top of the cake.
Be sure and keep cake refrigerated.
Rice Pudding - Arroz Con Leche
This dish has many variations around Latin America: Puerto Ricans use pearl rice for their Arroz con dulce, Ecuador has Morochos, but Mexicans prefer Arroz con leche.
The Mexican version usually calls for milk, cinnamon, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, orange peel, raisins (soaked in sherry, rum or tequila); chocolate, butter, nutmeg, or lime zest may also be added.
The Mexican recipe of the delicious dessert was traditionally passed from generation to generation in Mexican families.
Bride's Cookies - Pastelitos de Boda
Mexican women do not believe in dieting before a wedding and who could blame them.
These devilishly good little treats are not really from the Mexican region as it was an import by the Spanish conquistadors who themselves had borrowed it from the Moors.
These cookies are actually not necessarily eaten during weddings so feel free to cook this recipe any time of the year, marriage or not.
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Dulce de Leche Banana Cream Pie
Dulce de Leche is more Spanish than it is Mexican, but as the Spaniards invaded the Americas, they also brought some sweetness with them.
This confection is prepared by slowly heating milk and essentially by trying to caramelise it without burning the whole thing.
In Central Mexico, it was adapted to include a native ingredient, vanilla. While in the North of Mexico they prefer dulce de leche made out of cow's milk, Central Mexicans like to make cajetas, a candy made of thickened syrup prepared from sweetened caramelised goat's milk.
The Dulce de Leche Banana Cream Pie recipe also uses another non-native ingredient: bananas. First imported to the Caribbeans from South East Asia by the Europeans, the fruit quickly became a favourite element of Mexican cuisine.
Caramel Cinnamon Apple Enchiladas
This customary Mexican dish is one of the native's favourite. The name of the dish comes from the Spanish verb "enchilar" meaning "to add chilli pepper". Tortillas were already used by Mayans who rolled their food in it instead of using cutlery. Enchiladas were one of the dishes included in the very first Mexican cookbook ever published in 1831.
However, this dessert version of the traditionally savoury Mexican dish does not call for the usual meat and vegetable fillings. Instead, it used sugar, apples and pecans. A yummy dessert that can be enjoyed all year round.
Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars
Sopaipilla, sopapilla, sopaipa, or even cachanga are all different names for the same unique dish. This Mexican traditional quick bread was made with leavened wheat dough and some butter or other fat addition.
The risen dough is then rolled in various shapes before being deep-fried in oil.
This Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars recipe is a modern take on the traditional dish and uses cinnamon and sugar with a sweet cream cheese filling. These morish little treats are really simple to prepare to make them doubly dangerous.
Discover how Mexican staple foods have changed to compete on the global stage!
Bionico – Mexican Fruit Salad
Originating from the city of Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, this popular fruit salad has been one of Mexico's favourite dessert since the 1990's.
Unlike a classic fruit salad, the Bionico recipe uses diced up fruits mixed with a generous amount of crema (either a mix of condensed milk and sour cream or yoghurt) with granola, shredded coconut, raisins and honey if you feel like it.
The classic recipe usually includes papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, apples and banana but feel free to add your favourite fruits in the mix.
This vegan Bionico recipe is perfect for a quick and healthy breakfast or served as dessert at the end of a meal.
Churro French Toast
We could not end this article without mentioning some of the most famous Mexican sweet snacks and sometimes dessert: churros.
This fried dough pastry snack was originally made in Spain and Portugal but like many other dishes, it was imported during the conquest of the Americas.
In Mexico, dulce de leche-filled churros are quite popular and can be eaten as a snack during festivals, at breakfast with some hot chocolate or any time you want.
This Churro French Toast recipe blends the Spaniard dessert with French cooking method used to not waste stale bread.
Mexican food might be known for its spicy hot dishes and its corn tortillas used in lieu of cutlery but thanks to hundreds of years of European influence, Mexico has also some great dessert on the menu.
And now, thanks to our super-handy guide to Mexican cuisine, you can create these tasty dishes for your family and friends!
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