Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

updated Dec 8, 2023
Ponche Navideño Recipe

Ponche Navideño is a hot, fruit-based punch served during Las Posadas, a religious festival celebrated throughout Latin America from December 16 to the 24th.


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Overhead shot of punch in a blue pot, with oranges and apples floating on top.
Credit: Photographer: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

On chilly nights through the holiday season the fragrant infusion ponche Navideño warms celebrants from the inside out. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’ll be enchanted.

Quick Overview

How to Make Ponche Navideño

To make this warm, spiced Christmas punch simmer Mexican fruits with cane sugar and spices until the heavenly aroma permeates your kitchen.

What Is Ponche Navideño?

Ponche Navideño is a hot, fruit-based punch served during Las Posadas, a religious festival celebrated throughout Latin America from December 16 to the 24th. You can prepare it without alcohol, or you can add brandy or tequila, making it ponche con piquete (punch with sting). My grandma made a very similar calientito (warm drink) around the holidays, though with slightly different ingredient than you’ll find in my recipe.

Ingredients in Ponche Navideño

Every traditional ponche recipe calls for fresh tejocotes, a small, apple-like fruit. Family versions of the recipe vary, but most include a variety of this and other fruit, tamarind pods, piloncillo and/or fresh sugarcane as sweetener, and canela to build up a rich, bold, sweet flavor.

  • Fresh tejocotes: small fruit also known as Mexican hawthorn with a sweet-tart apple-like flavor when cooked. Substitution: You can use crab apples.
  • Tamarind pods: bean pods from a tamarind tree with a sticky fruit/pulp. Tamarind fruit gives the drink a tart, spiced flavor and a rich, warm color. Substitution: If you can find tamarind paste that will certainly work. Alternatively, you could use lemon juice and a little extra brown sugar; the flavor is quite distant, but at least you’ll get the sweet-tart effect.
  • Other fruits: sweet and soft ingredients like guava, apple, pear, raisins, prunes, and orange slices add layers of flavor to the punch.
  • Piloncillo: also known as panela, an unrefined whole cane sugar made by boiling and reducing sugarcane juice. It’s typically compressed into a cone shape. Substitution: Though processed quite differently, you can use packed brown sugar for a similarly rich, earthy sweetener.
  • Fresh sugar cane sticks: if you’re lucky enough to find fresh sugar cane sticks they add a subtle floral sweetness. Otherwise, simply increase the amount of other sweetener you’re using.
  • Canela: also known as Ceylon cinnamon or true cinnamon, this is the type of cinnamon used in Mexican cuisine. Substitution: You can use Cassia cinnamon, the variety more commonly found in the US.

Where to Get Ingredients for Ponche Navideño

All of these ingredients can usually be found at Latin American markets like Fiesta Mart, Bravo, or Vallarta Supermarket. You may be able to find some of these ingredients (especially the nonperishable ones) in the Latin American or international section of your local supermarket. You can also find some of them at online stores like MexGrocer, Amigo Foods, and even on Amazon.

Credit: Photographer: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

How to Serve Ponche Navideño

Serve the ponche warm in mugs with a few pieces of fruit. If you like the way your Dutch oven looks, you can set it out on a table with the ladle and mugs for guests to serve themselves. Add an ounce of rum or tequila to make it spirited! If you’ve got traditional Mexican mugs, use them; but really, you can use any kind of mug you like. Like so many things, it’s what’s inside that matters.

Can You Make Ponche Navideño Ahead of Time?

Yes, you can make ponche a few days ahead. Remove the fruit and store each separately in the refrigerator. Reheat together on the stove before serving. Make sure the fruit is warmed all the way through.

About Las Posadas

Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration leading up to Christmas Eve widely celebrated in Mexico and other Latin American countries and communities. December 16 marks the beginning of Las Posadas, and it ends on December 24.

I remember being a teenager and attending my very first Posada at a friend’s home. We ate, we prayed, we sang songs, and we walked door-to-door carrying a candle and knocked on houses of neighbors to recreate the holy pilgrimage of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus on their way to Bethlehem. The last house was designated to be an “inn,” and the homeowner allowed us to enter. We kneeled around the Nativity scene to pray and then we ate and sang some more.

That was the one and only time I have ever attended a traditional Posada celebration. Today, I celebrate Las Posadas with my children by setting up our nativity scene together, going to mass on Christmas Eve, and afterwards enjoying traditional Mexican dishes such as tamales and ponche Navideño with family and friends.

Credit: Photographer: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Ponche Navideño Recipe

Ponche Navideño is a hot, fruit-based punch served during Las Posadas, a religious festival celebrated throughout Latin America from December 16 to the 24th.

Serves 16

Nutritional Info


  • 16 cups

    (1 gallon) water

  • 2

    cinnamon sticks

  • 8

    whole cloves

  • 5

    long tamarind pods, husks removed, and seeded

  • 8 ounces

    whole tejocotes or crab apples

  • 6

    large guavas, peeled and diced

  • 2

    medium red apples, peeled, cored, and diced

  • 1

    medium pear, peeled, cored, and diced

  • 2

    (4-inch) sugar cane sticks, peeled and diced

  • 1 cup

    pitted prunes

  • 1/2 cup


  • 1

    medium orange, sliced

  • 8 ounces

    chopped piloncillo, or 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • Brandy or tequila (1 ounce per cup of punch, optional)


  1. Place the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind pods, and tejocotes or crab apples in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the tejocotes are soft, about 10 minutes.

  2. Remove the tejocotes or crab apples from the pot with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, peel, trim the ends, halve, and remove the seeds. Return the apple halves to the pot.

  3. Add the guavas, apples, pear, sugarcane, prunes, raisins, orange, and piloncillo. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks and cloves.

  4. To serve, ladle the punch into coffee cups or mugs, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit. If desired, add 1 ounce of brandy or tequila to each cup.

Recipe Notes

Recipe published by permission of Hippocrene from Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails (Hippocrene, 2015).