6 Mexican Desserts I Buy on Repeat

published Sep 15, 2022
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One of my favorite memories from my childhood was going to la tiendita, or the little store, with my cousins on the block where one of my aunts lived in Mexico City. These types of stores are extremely common throughout Mexico and are filled with every snack, dessert, and drink imaginable: spicy tomato chips, chocolate cookies, and a sweet-yet-tart apple soda, to name a few. I would always pick out my favorites and bring them back home to California to make the memory and nostalgia of my motherland extend well past those summers. If they lasted long enough, I’d bring the treats to school and share them with my friends. 

Today, I am grateful that I can find my favorite Mexican desserts and treats at my local grocery stores, the same types I could once only find at la tiendita. These six desserts are the ones I buy on repeat to share with friends or my husband — or keep all for myself.  

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

1. Pan Dulce 

Pan dulce is the quintessential Mexican dessert. Literally “sweet bread,” it’s a perfect companion to a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (although pan dulce was my breakfast and not dessert of choice as a child). Of the dozens of types of pan dulce, my favorite has always been conchas. 

Named after their resemblance to a seashell, conchas are fluffy and airy with a crispy sugar topping that can come in a variety of colors and flavors, but are most commonly found in chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. While prepackaged conchas can be tasty, there’s nothing like the freshly baked conchas from the panadería of your local Latinx supermarket. I like to heat mine up in the microwave for about six seconds to get the topping a bit warm and melty.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

2. Mexican Hot Chocolate 

As a kid, I was shocked to find out that my friends drank hot chocolate powder with water. The women in my family always made hot chocolate the Mexican way: Ibarra, milk, and cinnamon sticks simmering on the stovetop and then whisked with a molinillo, a Mexican wooden whisk. A cup of Mexican hot chocolate may be the most nostalgic dessert for me — each sip as rich and delicious as the last. Today, I indulge in it during the fall and winter to feel close to my family.

Ibarra chocolate bars have a grittiness that’s unique to Mexican hot chocolate, combined with the bittersweetness of cacao. To make this dessert the traditional Aztec or Mayan way, add a pinch of cayenne before serving. 

Buy: Ibarra Chocolate Hot Chocolate Drink Tablets, $2.59 for 12.6 ounces at Target

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

3. Orejitas 

After a trip to Costco as a teenager, I discovered that some of my favorite Mexican cookies were actually French. These buttery palmiers were known to me as orejitas, or little ears. I would carefully peel off each crispy flake to make the cookie last as long as possible — a habit I still practice today. 

Even though these cookies are French, I have always tried to buy the ones labeled orejitas rather than palmiers, which is why La Monarca Bakery’s orejitas are my go-to. While these might not be originally Mexican, orejitas were some of my favorite treats when I was growing up (especially when dipped in a cup of hot chocolate).

Buy: La Monarcha Bakery Orejitas, $18.00 for 3 (3.4 ounce) bags at Amazon

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

4. Gansito

Of all the desserts on this list, Gansito might be the most indulgent. This little snack cake is like the Mexican version of a Twinkie. This strawberry-and-cream filled yellow cake is coated with chocolate and chocolate sprinkles, aka the ultimate dessert. Eating one of these as a child felt just as luxurious and decadent as it does when I eat one today. 

On the occasions my husband and I want to switch up our desserts, we share a two-pack of Gansito, but not before leaving them in the freezer for a couple of hours, where they transform into a cool and crunchy treat. 

Buy: Marinela Gansito Filled Snack Cake, $3.44 for 3.53 ounces at Walmart

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

5. Bolis 

It doesn’t have to be a hot summer day to enjoy a Mexican bolis, no matter the flavor. Bolis (basically Mexican freeze pops) were my favorite way to cool down as a kid, so I always (always!) keep a pack of these from La Michoacana, the most famous paleta and ice cream brand in Mexico, in my freezer. This paletería was on the same block my aunt lived on in Mexico City, and now boasts dozens of locations throughout the U.S. My two favorite water-based bolis are lime and mamey, but to try both water- and milk-based bolis, I recommend buying the La Michoacana variety pack.

Buy: La Michoacana CoolStix Bolis Variety Pack, $6.98 for 12 pack at Walmart

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

6. Café de Olla 

The nightly pan y cafe is ritualistic for so many Latinx families (and that includes kids!), so it’s no surprise that a Mexican coffee would make it to my favorite desserts list. Cafe de olla is an essential part of Mexican food culture, and is traditionally made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo, or panela, which is unrefined cane sugar. All of the ingredients are mixed slowly in an earthenware pot. 

For the times when I can’t make my own or want to quickly remember the taste of my favorite childhood coffee, I keep a jar of Nescafe Café de Olla. Instant coffee was always on the table at both of my grandparents’ houses, so the scent alone is immediately transporting. The spice of the cinnamon combined with the sweetness of the piloncillo make for a delicious dessert that can be enjoyed on its own or with another one of my favorite Mexican desserts.

Buy: Nescafe Café de Olla, $9.99 for 5.89 ounces at Amazon

Did your favorite make the list? Tell us about it in the comments.