If you grew up outside of Latin America, “chamoy” might be a new word for you.
However, in Mexico, chamoy is a condiment as ubiquitous and beloved as peanut butter or ketchup in the United States.
Chamoy is made from preserved fruit, but it is now so much bigger than that. Chamoy is added to everything from street tacos and esquites, to high-end steaks and fancy desserts.
If you’ve never had chamoy, you’re missing out.
What Is Chamoy?
Chamoy can refer to a sauce, a paste, or a candy.
Chamoy as a sauce is a reduction of dried fruits and other ingredients, including chilis. Originally, chamoy was made with dried apricots and plums.
Today, it can be made from mangos and many other fruits as well. Sold in a bottle, it is used as a hot-sauce-style condiment on Mexican street fruit, including sliced fruits, tamales, and elotes.
In Mexico, you will find chamoy drizzled on fruit, poured into shaved ice, and in many other dishes.
Chamoy paste is a thicker version of chamoy sauce that is used to line the rims of glasses, or as a thicker dipping sauce.
Chamoy candy originated as a kind of pickled, salted fruit – typically a variety of peach that grows around Mexico City.
However, in the years since chamoy candy became popular, new varieties have arisen that are made with high-fructose corn syrup and chamoy powder, rather than directly from the fruit.
What Does Chamoy Look Like?
Chamoy sauce is sold by a variety of different brands and companies but is usually a dark red or brown sauce.
Homemade chamoy sauce may have more traces of real fruit in the mixture, while commercial chamoy sauces are more consistent. Chamoy paste looks similar to chamoy sauce, only much thicker.
What Texture Does Chamoy Have?
As a condiment, chamoy has a texture that is similar to hot sauce or plum sauce. It is not exactly liquid, but it is thin enough that it can be drizzled over your food.
Where Does Chamoy Come From?
The history of chamoy in the Mexican culinary tradition is an interesting one. Although chamoy was introduced to Mexico in some form as early as 1500, the current form of chamoy sauce that dominates Mexican street food and home kitchens alike did not become a phenomenon until the 1990s.
Chamoy first arrived in Mexico with a wave of Chinese and Japanese immigration in the 1500s.
These immigrants brought with them the tradition of pickling fruit and enjoying it as a snack, called see mui. Today, these same pickled, salted fruit snacks are called saladitos and are popular in Mexico.
The leftover brine from making pickled fruit was used, rather than discarded, by adding more ingredients including chilis and lime juice.
The result, reduced to a thicker sauce, became the chamoy that the nation now loves.
In 1971, the company Dulces Miguelito started mass producing a chamoy sauce, following that up in 1973 with chamoy candies.
Although the sauce was a part of Mexican cuisine before this, it exploded in the following decades as its availability increased. Today, it is a ubiquitous part of Mexican food and culture.
Is Chamoy Healthy?
Most people in Mexico consider chamoy to be an unhealthy kind of junk food.
It is made up almost entirely of sugar, salt, and acid, and many modern mass-produced varieties of commercial chamoy sauce have removed all of the natural ingredients except fruit juice.
With plenty of salt, sugar (high-fructose corn syrup), preservatives, and no healthy ingredients, chamoy sauce is not something you add to your diet for health reasons.
However, it’s also a condiment and not a food. Ketchup is quite bad for you too, when you look at it through this lens, but most people don’t worry about the health impacts because they only use a little bit of it at a time.
No one eats a bowl of ketchup. Likewise, chamoy is only drizzled on top of foods, and so it is not usually consumed in large quantities, so people write off the high sugar and salt content.
While commercial chamoy is decidedly unhealthy, homemade chamoy does have some significant health benefits. The fruits in chamoy – plums, peaches, and apricots – all contain high levels of important vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
If they are blended into the sauce, this does add a lot of nutrition. Lime juice alone contains a huge part of the vitamin C people need daily.
If you make your chamoy sauce at home, it will still be high in sugar and salt, but it will also include a lot of other healthy nutrients and antioxidants that can benefit your health.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Chamoy?
A little bit of chamoy sauce on your mango slices, or drizzled on top of chips probably won’t put you in danger, but there are some health risks to consider if you start to pour chamoy sauce on top of everything you eat (which is a possibility! It’s addictive!).
Chamoy is high in sugar. If you are using commercial chamoy sauce, this is likely high-fructose corn syrup which is even worse for your health.
A high intake of sugar can put you at a greater risk of developing diabetes and other chronic health conditions. It can also contribute to weight gain and an increased cardiovascular risk.
There is also a lot of salt in chamoy. Too much sodium can lead to increased blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you are eating homemade chamoy or chamoy sauce that includes dried fruit, you should be careful to moderate your consumption.
These dried fruits are high in fiber, which takes extra time and energy for your body to break down. Eating a lot of authentic or homemade chamoy can lead to heartburn and stomach irritation.
How Can I Buy Chamoy Sauce In A Grocery Store?
You should start by looking in the Mexican or international foods aisle in your local grocery store.
Although chamoy sauce is growing in popularity, it is still mostly confined to Mexican and Latin American dishes, so that is where you will be most likely to find it when you are shopping.
If you can’t find chamoy sauce at your local grocery store, you might need to look a little further afield, specifically to Latin American grocery stores in your town.
Chamoy vs. Tajin
These two essential Mexican condiments are often confused, and they are very different sauces.
Chamoy is made from the brine of pickled fruit, and the sweet, tangy, and sour flavors of fruit form the basis of the chamoy taste experience.
Tajin is made from lime, chili, and sugar. Unlike chamoy, Tajin is a brand name. Tajin has become a popular condiment to add a Mexican kick to many different dishes, but it is just a mix of chili, lime, and sugar.
It offers a sweet, salty, and spicy flavor, without the richness, tanginess, and umami flavors that come from the fruit-based chamoy.
How Do You Make Chamoy?
Today, most of the commercially available chamoy sauces and candies are made in factories, using industrial processes with few natural ingredients.
However, if you want to make your own, authentic chamoy at home, you can use the same methods that have been used for hundreds of years, or a simplified method, and get a much healthier result either way.
Traditionally, chamoy is made from pickling fruit – usually peaches, apricots, or plums. You add your base of fruit to a brine mixture until they are dried out and pickled.
This fruit can be removed and eaten as snacks – saladitos. Then, more ingredients are added to the brine and reduced until they can be blended into a smooth and consistent chamoy sauce.
However, you can skip the entire pickling process if your only goal is to produce chamoy sauce at home.
Add prunes along with dried apricots, dried mangoes, or dried peaches, to a saucepan along with sugar, chili powder, and dried flor de Jamaica or hibiscus, if you like.
Cook the mixture until the dried fruit is soft and falling apart. Blend the mixture, adding the lime juice at the very end. You now have your own chamoy sauce!
Chamoy Nutrition Information
|Per 2 tbsp, 30g serving of MEGA chamoy, according to nutritionvalue.org|
Quick Table: 3 Chamoy Taste Recipes
|Mexican Cucumber Snack With Chamoy||90||45 Minutes|
|Homemade Chamoy Sauce||220||50 Minutes|
|Mangonada (chamoyada)||150||40 Minutes|
This recipe is so simple, but it really is one of the best ways to sample the rich and interesting flavor of chamoy. All you need to do is cut up a cucumber and drizzle your homemade or store-bought chamoy sauce on top!
The vibrant, sweet, spicy, and tangy flavor of chamoy is the perfect contrast to the crisp, watery, and neutral cucumber.
This recipe is even better when enjoyed with more types of fruit, like cut-up mangos, apples, or peaches, to create a sweet and savory plate of fruit and vegetables to serve with chamoy.
You can even go above and beyond and serve this with a cucumber lime Agua fresca, to help cut the heat from the chilis in the chamoy.
Calories Per Serving: 90
Preparation Time: 45 Minutes
This simplified chamoy recipe will make it even easier for you to create your own mouth-watering authentic chamoy at home.
It calls for apricot jam rather than dried apricots, which makes it easier to reduce and leads to an even sweeter result. You can follow this recipe in a few short hours to create a unique chamoy sauce you’ll love.
The prunes and tamarind pulp are optional, but do contribute a deeper and richer flavor that evokes traditional chamoy. However, you can complete this recipe without them and still get a great result.
If you want to create your own chamoy at home but you are a little bit intimidated by the process, this recipe can guide you step by step using ingredients you probably have lying around at home.
Calories Per Serving: 220
Preparation Time: 50 Minutes
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One of the best uses of chamoy sauce in Mexico has to be the chamoyada, also called the mangonada – a blended mango slushie, swirled with chamoy sauce, drizzled with tajin, and served with a rim frosted with chamoy paste, garnished with fresh chopped mangos, and a candy straw called a banderilla.
The flavor of chamoy amplifies the tangy flavor of the mango, for a drink that is truly refreshing on the hottest of days.
It’s easy to make mangonadas at home that will thrill and impress your friends and family. If they are just getting used to the flavor of chamoy, this is one way to cement it in their hearts.
Mangonadas can be served anytime (and even made as an alcoholic drink), but they seem to work best in the blazing heat when you are looking for a cool refreshment.
Calories Per Serving: 120
Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Chamoy Sweet Or Spicy
There is a mix of different flavors at work in chamoy – sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and umami.
Chamoy is definitely spicy, with a hot-sauce kick that comes from the chili peppers used in it. Although it might not be as spicy as some other hot sauces, it definitely provides some additional heat.
The sweetness in chamoy is a little more subtle, but it is definitely there. The fruits that form the basis of chamoy are sweet, and on top of that, there is often added sugar and high-fructose corn syrup that make chamoy sweeter.
Chamoy is both sweet and spicy, although it may be a little spicier than it is sweet.
What Does Chamoy Taste Good On?
You could make an argument that chamoy tastes good on almost anything, both sweet and savory. Chamoy is a popular dipping sauce for churros, which are incredibly sweet, as well as cucumbers, which are watery and neutral.
The flavor of chamoy is versatile, and can complement many other kinds of ingredients.
Some of the most popular uses of chamoy are as a topping for fruits that you can buy from Mexican street vendors.
The sweetness and water in the fruit are complemented by the salty, spicy, and sour flavors in the chamoy.
However, chamoy is just as good with savory foods, like tacos, and even fish or steak. You can add chamoy to just about anything.
Is Chamoy An Acquired Taste?
Not everyone loves chamoy when they first taste it. For many people, chamoy is an acquired taste that comes after sampling it a few times and gradually becoming more accustomed to the flavor.
Chamoy has a strong and salty flavor that can be overpowering and is very unfamiliar to people who grew up outside of Mexico and Latin America.
If you aren’t used to it and don’t expect it, you might find the taste of chamoy surprising, complex, and challenging.
However, chamoy brings out the flavor in other foods and dishes so well, that it’s a taste that is easy to acquire if you stay open-minded and try different foods to get a feel for what you like.
Is Chamoy Sour Or Spicy?
Chamoy is both sour and spicy at the same time. The heat in chamoy comes from the chili peppers that are reduced in it along with prunes and dried apricots or peaches.
The capsaicin in chili peppers creates the redness in your face and the sweating that comes from eating hot things.
The sourness, or tartness, in chamoy comes from the lime juice that is added, as well as the pickled fruits that form the basis for chamoy.
Although there is a sweetness to complement and offset this sour, tart flavor, it is a part of chamoy that is supposed to be there, and it is never completely erased by the added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.