Mango Paletas : Frozen Flavors & Scents

Andy explores how freezing changes our perception of flavor and tempts us with mango paletas.

When hot weather strikes, some dream of heading to cooler climes, but my strategy for beating the heat takes a note from the fiery summers of Mexico—where the cuisine opposes the weather with an array of frozen treats. In Mexico, ice pops, called paletas, are made using whole fresh fruit and interesting spices, with flavors including tamarind, jamaica (hibiscus), and fresh strawberry, melon, passionfruit, or other fresh fruits. Many towns are lucky enough to have their own family-owned paleterias that sell a variety each day. Taking a note from these shops, I stock a selection in the freezer, since making your own paletas at home is incredibly easy and allows you to experiment with whatever seasonal fruits and flavors you enjoy.


Paletas are among the easiest of frozen sweets to make, but they are both incredibly addictive and gratifying. The inclusion of large amounts of fresh fruit certainly help make them tempting, but I’m convinced that part of the appeal lies in the exciting way we experience flavors when our food is frozen. Often when we eat, we receive cues about the flavor we are about to experience through the smell of the food, before we even put the first morsel in our mouths.

Yet, just try freezing an ingredient, like fresh herbs or pieces of raw onion, which typically carry an obvious aroma, and notice how the once diffusive, easily perceptible scent becomes “locked in”. Thus, when we eat frozen foods, like ice cream or paletas, we experience the flavorful aromatic components (remember, the nose plays a vital role in our sense of taste!) only when the food melts in the mouth, making the simplest of flavors seem dramatic.


Making a frozen recipe with a favorite fruit or spice allows us to taste these ingredients in a new way, where we are likely to notice different facets of their flavor. In addition, freezing has the effect of dulling our sense of sweetness and other tastes sensed by the tastebuds, which explains why in the recipe below, an additional ½ cup (100g) of sugar added to already succulent mango doesn’t make the finished result taste overly sweet. And just like in savory cooking, salt makes the flavors of lime and mango positively sing in these paletas, so make sure to include a pinch.


As I prepare the recipe below, the zesty scents of ripe mango and tart citrus remind me of a refreshing spritz of Hermès’s Un Jardin sur le Nil. Considering that the mango and lime here go into something I can actually eat though, I’d take the paletas over a pricey bottle of the perfume any day.

While this simple combination is delicious, I encourage you to feel free to experiment with adding other flavorful ingredients too. Chopped mint or a few teaspoons of rosewater would be welcome additions, and in place of lime, any other tart citrus would be just as lovely. I make hundreds of paletas each summer, so I use an ice pop mold (a basic one can be found for under $20), though you can use glasses or other nontraditional molds as well, inserting a stick into the mixture once it has been in the freezer for about an hour, and is solid enough to keep the stick in place.


Mango Paletas

Makes about 3 cups (700ml) liquid mixture, enough for 8 standard ice pops

2 cups (475 ml) cubed fresh mango
1 cup (240 ml) water
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lime juice
small pinch of salt

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the mixture comes to a simmer and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool completely.

In a blender, combine cubed mango, lime juice, cooled sugar syrup, and salt. Puree until smooth.

Pour into molds, insert sticks, and freeze until completely solid before unmolding. Store in freezer, and enjoy!

Note: If you’re as smitten with Mexican frozen treats and aguas frescas as I am, I can’t highly enough recommend Fany Gerson’s book, Paletas. The focus of the book might sound narrow, but it’s complete with beautiful pictures and entertaining anecdotes, and the recipes are surprisingly versatile. In fact, it’s one of my most used cookbooks in summer.

Photography by Andy Gerber



  • solanace: This recipe is mouthwatering, and the idea of making paletas (we call them picolés) out of fresh fruit is perfect for the kids, too. I´ll surely look out for this book. That ice cream one by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop, is one of my all time favorites. June 25, 2014 at 7:34am Reply

    • Andy: Getting your kids involved on this recipe is a great idea. As cooking goes, paleta-making is at the top of the scale for fun! The Perfect Scoop is such a great book, and even though I don’t own a copy, just reading the recipes made me long for an ice cream maker!

      I imagine some ice pop flavors in Brazil might be different than the classic Mexican ones I’m familiar with. What kinds of picolés are popular where you live? June 25, 2014 at 8:19am Reply

      • solanace: The most popular are lime, pineapple, mango, passion fruit… regular stuff. Some more exotic fruit flavors worth trying include pitanga, cajá, açai, graviola and cupuaçu. These are more easily available in the North and Northeast of the country, though. We also have corn picolés, which are creamy and slightly savory – delicious! Do they make these in Mexico? June 25, 2014 at 4:55pm Reply

        • Andy: I can definitely see some variation from some of the one’s I’ve read about being made in Mexico. I didn’t know that cupuaçu was a fruit, as I had only ever heard of the moisturizing cupuaçu butter. Sounds delicious though! And funny, I’ve never come across a recipe for a corn paleta, though I’m sure they are made, considering the uses of corn in many Mexican desserts and sweets. June 25, 2014 at 5:16pm Reply

          • Hannah: I’ve had cupuaçu smoothies at my friend’s cafe (he has a Brazilian cafe). It’s good. June 25, 2014 at 10:11pm Reply

            • Andy: The source I read suggested the flavor of cupuaçu hints at cocoa and pineapple. I’d be curious to know what you think of the taste, as it sounds delightful! June 25, 2014 at 10:35pm Reply

              • Hannah: Now I’m realizing that I’m not sure I’ve had it and I may be confusing it with caju (cashew). According to google they make caju picolés and I know that I really like the caju smoothies so I’m sure it’s really good in popsicle form! June 25, 2014 at 10:46pm Reply

                • Andy: Either way, sounds delectable! June 25, 2014 at 10:55pm Reply

                  • Solanace: Caju, from where the nut is taken, is a delicious, nutritive and beautiful fruit, a bit adstringent and very perfumed. I had totally forgotten to mention it, thank’s Hannah. It does not travel well, so is hard to find even here, but works really nicely on concentrated juices, which are a staple in Brazilian households – ‘batida de caju’, consisting of concentrated juice, cachaça, sugar and ice is a classic!

                    Cupuaçu looks a bit like a cocoa, but it is rounder and ‘furry’ on the outside, and smells somehow boozy even if it contains no alcohol. (How cool is nature?) The butter is extracted from the nut, but we eat and make desserts out of the pulp most usually, although it is possible to make cupuaçu ‘chocolate’, as well.

                    But my favorite is pitanga, dubbed the Brazilian cherry. Still waiting for a perfume able to capture the zing of its ephemerous flowers! June 26, 2014 at 4:50am Reply

                    • Andy: Thank you for sharing so much about Brazilian fruits, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. The pitanga flowers you’ve mentioned sound like a truly special experience. June 26, 2014 at 7:22am

  • Jillie: What a wonderful idea! All I’ve ever done is make sorbets, but this is so appealing. I am now going to order some moulds and sticks and can’t wait to try your recipe out. June 25, 2014 at 7:39am Reply

    • Andy: Paletas are easier to make than a sorbet, and twice the fun to eat! I like to make an assortment for casual summer parties, and you should see how everyone’s eyes light up when I bring them out. Usually, every single one is snatched up within minutes! June 25, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

  • iodine: Now- that’s a great excuse to buy those wonderful molds I’ve spotted in my favourite kitchenware shop!!!!:-) Thanks Andy for the recipe, I’ll try it soon! June 25, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

    • Andy: I hope you enjoy the paletas! Once you get into the habit of making them using whatever fruit you have on hand, an ice pop mold quickly becomes a worthwhile purchase. June 25, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Andy,

    Great post not to mention the visuals. Can the sugar called for (in this recipe)be eliminated or replaced? Also, what about including alcohol? June 25, 2014 at 3:33pm Reply

    • Andy: Yes, you can eliminate the sugar entirely, or replace it with another sweetener of choice, adjusting to taste. Without the sugar the paletas will just freeze a little firmer. As for alcohol, since it doesn’t freeze solid, I’m not sure how much you could add before affecting the ability of the mixture to hold its shape in an ice pop. If you try though, and the mixture doesn’t freeze through, I imagine it will make a delicious, slushy frozen drink! June 25, 2014 at 4:11pm Reply

      • Victoria: Actually, a slushy drink made according to this recipe sounds great! I picked mulberries and mint leaves today at my grandmother’s neighbor and after eating more mulberries than is thought reasonable, I’m thinking of doing something with them. June 25, 2014 at 4:16pm Reply

        • Andy: Mulberry slush sounds really good. And I suppose it’s worth mentioning here that the recipe above can be made as an agua fresca too, by using a larger amount of water, and possibly a little more lime juice for an extra twist of tart contrast.

          And I am reminded, I need to check on a tree in my area to see if the mulberries are ripe yet. I’m tempted to go take a bowl of yogurt to the park with me tomorrow morning and pick berries right into it. June 25, 2014 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: Oh, this sounds wonderful! We love mango around here and the variations on fruits and herbs seem endless. I just bought some popsicle molds (the silocone squeeze up sort) to make a recipe for iced fudge popsicles using Valrona cocoa powder and they were delicious. My fussy 12-year-old son who usually won’t go near dark chocolate ate the entire popsicle. And agreed on the pinch of salt. It really brought out the complexity of the cocoa in a lovely way.

    Now I’m contemplating the fruit we have on hand to whip up some tomorrow. The mulberries are everywhere here so maybe we’ll add some to the mix. Thanks for the lovely recipe, Andy. This will be fun! June 26, 2014 at 12:12am Reply

    • Andy: Ice pops seem to be one of those foods that make even the picky eaters want to try new things, so it’s great that your son was so receptive (and may I add, Valrhona chocolate fudge pops? Sign me up!). The idea of mulberry paletas is brilliant, by the way, do let me know how they turn out if you try it. June 26, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

  • maja: I love making popsicles, too. My favourite is strawberry popsicle – I usually add a bit of full fat yogurt. I also love that frozen banana one ingredient recipe for ice cream which is very popular on the net. Adding a bit of peanut butter makes it wonderfully creamy but still healthy. 🙂 June 26, 2014 at 3:30am Reply

    • Andy: The addition of a bit of yogurt is a great idea, as I’m sure you’ve noticed it can really improve the texture of an ice pop significantly. I often freeze ripe bananas the night before so that, in the morning, I can make Nigella Lawson’s “go get ’em” breakfast smoothie. It consists of milk, cocoa powder, instant espresso, malt powder, a squeeze of honey, and the frozen banana, so perhaps it’s more of an indulgence than anything, but it is a great way to start the day. June 26, 2014 at 7:39am Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: Andy, thank you for sharing this recipe! I have limes and mangoes at the ready and think I am going to make some of these this afternoon. It sounds delicious. June 26, 2014 at 11:54am Reply

    • Andy: Be sure to let me know how they turn out! June 26, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

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