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The Salty, Sour, Spicy Sauce In Every Mexican Ice Cream Shop

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Yes, Mexican cuisine is filled with intense heat and fiery flavors. But what’s perhaps the most quintessentially Mexican taste is a bit more complex—sweet, salty, sour, and spicy.

Chamoy is kind of like the Mexican umami,” says Fany Gerson, who features the sauce in her latest cookbook Mexican Ice Cream. “It’s very common in Mexico to add chile, lime, and salt to fruits and vegetables as a snack. This is the same idea, but in liquid form.”

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Add Chamoy to Your Bar Cart, Get a Salty, Spicy, Umami Margarita
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Add Chamoy to Your Bar Cart, Get a Salty, Spicy, Umami Margarita

Made from salted preserved apricots or plums, chamoy is naturally sour and spiked with chiles for varying degrees of heat. People eat both the pickled fruits or the liquid on its own. The bright red sauce is often used as a topping on fruit-based frozen treats, similar to sprinkles or fudge sauce.

“The origins are uncertain, but it is believed to have been derived from Japanese umeboshi, or salted preserved plums,” Gerson says. Chamoy became more popular in the last 20 years, with heladerías (ice cream parlors) pouring the sauce over fruit-forward or acidic nieves de agua (sorbets). But Gerson doesn’t recommend adding chamoy to any ice cream because the acid can make it curdle.

For many Mexicans, chamoy is a nostalgic flavor, and homemade versions lack that processed deliciousness they expect. Gerson tried to experiment with her own chamoy recipe, but, ultimately, decided store-bought tasted best. You can buy chamoy at Latin American markets, or order it online.

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To try chamoy at home, Gerson recommends pairing it with flavors from her book like cucumber, hibiscus, watermelon, peach, mixed berries, or lime. If you insist on sampling the sauce on ice cream, Gerson says coconut will be your best bet. Check out some of our favorite frozen recipes that we think will pair well with this Mexican treat.

Sensational Strawberry Sorbet

Sensational Strawberry Sorbet by Alice Medrich

Lemon Granita (Granita al Limone)

Lemon Granita (Granita al Limone) by Emiko

Citrus Tarragon Sorbet

Citrus Tarragon Sorbet by Cherry Bombe

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Pear Vanilla Sorbet by gabsimonelouise

Fresh honeydew sorbet with lime and black pepper

Fresh honeydew sorbet with lime and black pepper by hope.thurman

Instant persimmon sorbet

Instant persimmon sorbet by Mandy @ Lady and pups

Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Lime Ice Pops
Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Lime Ice Pops
Coconut Ginger Ice Cream

Coconut Ginger Ice Cream by Posie Harwood

Roasted Cherry Sorbet

Roasted Cherry Sorbet by EmilyC

Almond Ice with Glazed Cherries

Almond Ice with Glazed Cherries by Amanda Hesser

Blood Orange, Tangerine and Cardamom Granita

Blood Orange, Tangerine and Cardamom Granita by yummy supper

For more ice cream recipes, tips, and saves for when things go awry, check out Ice Cream & Friends, our cookbook dedicated to ice cream and all its pals: pops, gelato, milkshakes—sprinkles, cones, and so much more.

Have you tried chamoy? What flavors do you pair with it?

Tags: chamoy, mexican sauces, condiments, sweet and sour