How have the flavors of Mexican Candy evolved over thousands of years? KSAT Explains

This episode covers the long history of some of San Antonio’s favorite treats

SAN ANTONIO – If you live in San Antonio, you’re probably familiar with at least some types of Mexican candy.

If you’ve ever been inside a Mexican restaurant, if you’ve ever been to El Mercado and even if you’ve ever been inside a bar, you’ve likely been exposed to some variation of it.

But while it has always been a favorite for some families, lately it seems that it’s become even more popular.

In this episode of KSAT Explains, we take a look at the history, the culture and the evolution of Mexican candy. (Watch the full episode in the video player above.)

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The History

The flavors of Mexican candy run the gamut from sweet to sour, salty to spicy. And that range has been around from the beginning.

Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark, professor emerita at the University of Texas San Antonio, said that even before sugar was introduced to present-day Mexico by the Spanish, the indigenous people enjoyed sweets.

“They would have candy made out of fruit, candy made sweetened with honey,” Clark said. “It’s very natural. And I still think that’s an element that runs through most of the Mexican candy.”

And then there’s chocolate. There’s evidence that people living in present-day Mexico were producing chocolate as early as 1900 B.C.

They made it into a beverage, and at some point they also added another ingredient to give the chocolate a kick.

“The spicy comes from adding the chilis to it,” Clark said. “That started happening with chocolate way back during Montezuma’s time.”

Montezuma ruled the Aztec Empire from 1502-1520 (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Of course when sugar was introduced by the Spanish in the 1500s, this led to the creation of many more treats that are still have today: camotes, dulce de leche, cocadas.

Another Mexican candy that remains popular in 2020: chamoy.

Chamoy’s roots are in Asia though. They stem from the practice of preserving fruit.

“It all started with the Japanese,” said Ana Fernandez, Chamoy City Limits owner. “They call it the Japanese salted plum, which is actually an apricot.”

Both chamoy and tamarindo are good options for those who want to avoid anything too sickly sweet, or empalagoso.

Local Shops

Mexican candy is one of a kind and it seems its popularity is growing.

Breweries, restaurants and bars are starting to implement the flavors of Mexican candy, which in return, helps local candy shops like Alamo Candy Company and La Dulceria.

Watch the video below to meet two local business owners in the Mexican candy business.

Chamoy Evolution

The flavors of Mexican candy are becoming part of an experiment. Especially when it comes to chamoy.

Today it’s not uncommon to see chamoy used on raspas and to spice up drinks. Watch the video below to learn more about chamoy’s growing popularity.

Fernandez attributed social media and foodies for chamoy becoming more mainstream.

She also said that while chamoy is often written off as a junk food, the flavor profile is actually very complex.

“It’s got the four main things that you want,” Fernandez said. “It’s something that’s got the hot, spicy, salty, sweet, all perfectly balanced.”

About the Authors:

Brina is the Executive Producer of the NightBeat and KSAT Explains. She has been with KSAT since 2015. She is a Houston native and proud to call San Antonio home.

Myra Arthur is passionate about San Antonio and sharing its stories. She graduated high school in the Alamo City and always wanted to anchor and report in her hometown. Myra anchors KSAT News at 6:00 p.m. and hosts and reports for the streaming show, KSAT Explains. She joined KSAT in 2012 after anchoring and reporting in Waco and Corpus Christi.