Across the United States, candy is often synonymous with “sweet.” Chewy Airheads, sweet-and-tart Smarties, and strawberry licorice twists are guaranteed to satisfy the inevitable midday sugar craving. Even accidentally vegan Sour Patch Kids promises a kick of sweetness after its signature sour flavor melts away. Despite the prevalence of sugary treats in the US, a visit to our southern neighbor quickly reveals that candy doesn’t always have to equal sweet.
The history of Mexican candy
Across Mexico, candy is known for its complex flavor profile, ranging from sweet to salty to sour and even spicy (often containing multiple flavor notes). A dive into the country’s rich history explains the popularity of fruit- and chili-infused treats.
Prior to the Spanish conquest and the introduction of sugar, indigenous populations enjoyed sweets made from fruits and sweetened with honey. While most candy is now made with sugar, Mexico’s signature confections remain mainly fruit-forward.
The practice of infusing chili into foods also has roots in Mexico’s pre-colonial history. During Aztec emperor Montezuma’s reign, chili was infused into drinking chocolate. Today, spices are infused into treats to offer a kick of heat.
Vegan Mexican candy
From tamarind classics to spicy mango gummies, here are the 11 vegan Mexican candies and treats you need to try to spice up your candy game.
1 Tamarind spoons
A walk down the candy aisle at any Mexican convenience store quickly reveals the prominence of tamarind in the country’s confections. Tamarind, while native to parts of Africa and Asia, was introduced to the region by Spanish trading ships sailing between present-day Manila in the Philippines and Acapulco, Mexico. Today, the sour-sweet fruit is used in aguas frescas, chocolate, paletas, and yes, candy. These sweet and spicy treats blend the fleshy fruit with chilies to form a paste before it’s packed into spoons for enjoyment on the go.
2 Pelon Pelo Rico
A favorite in piñatas and party goodie bags, it’s easy to see why this tamarind-flavored candy is so popular among kids. Twist off the cap, place your thumbs on the convenient nubs, and press down to watch your Pelon Pelo Rico grow hair right before your eyes. Medusa who?
Sour Patch lovers, rejoice! This sour-and-hot powdered candy is made with fresh lemon for a face-twisting pucker. Enjoy on its own or sprinkle on chips or fruit for a touch of citrus and spice.
Widely available in the US, Pulparindo is among Mexico’s most popular treats. Made with freshly ground chilies and tamarind pulp, this sweet, salty, and spicy confection comes in Original, Watermelon, Extra Hot, Mango, and Chamoy flavors. Our favorite part? They’re all vegan-friendly!
Often drizzled on fruit, chips, and even drinks, this chili- and lemon-based paste can be enjoyed on its own. Made with alternative sweeteners, Chilito Sirilo’s chamoy is also keto-friendly to boot. Now pass us the cucumbers and chamoy, please!
6 Spicy dried fruit
Extra-sweet dried fruit is transformed with a blend of chili seasoning for a next-level snack that packs a punch of flavors. Dried chili mango is a top choice, but brands such as CHUZA are leaving us breathless with its spicy pineapple, strawberry, apricot, cranberry, and cactus snacks.
Unlike marzipan, which is made with almond meal and sweetened with honey, the ever-popular mazapan is made using peanuts and sugar. Perfect for those who want just a touch of sweetness, this crumbly treat will have you coming back for more. Be sure to avoid the chocolate-covered variety as they contain dairy.
Not crazy about tamarind or spice? These thin, wheat-based wafers are the ideal snack. Stay away from filled obleas, as these often feature a dairy-based caramel or dulce de leche center. Buy a pack of these unfilled wafers and customize them yourself with vegan Nutella, non-dairy whipped cream, or jam.
9 Spicy mango gummies
No candy roundup is complete without gummies. To make your own gelatin-free treats, combine five tablespoons of powdered sugar with two tablespoons of chamoy and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over vegan-friendly mango gummies (we’re obsessed with Sugarfina’s Magic Mangos!), toss until coated, add Tajín to your liking, and toss again. For even more heat, combine Tajín with pico de gallo powder.
10 Coconut-stuffed limes
For the spice averse, coconut candy promises to satisfy sugary cravings without any of the heat. A favorite of Frida Khalo, these coconut-stuffed candied limes can be found in confectionaries across Mexico. Whip up these one-of-a-kind treats with this easy recipe from The Splendid Table.
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11 Candied squash
Candied fruits and vegetables are popular sweets. Often enjoyed after dinner, dulces de mesa are easily prepared at home. A favorite in Mexico is candied chilacayote, a watermelon-sized squash. Checkout this four-ingredient recipe to make your own post-dinner treat.
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