How to Make Strawberry, Basil and Honey Paletas

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This Mexican paletas recipe will keep you refreshed all summer long.

Ice cream parlors in Mexico, commonly known as paleterias, are popular year round. The brightly lit stores are lined with rows of refrigerated display cases filled to the brim with a colorful visual feast: paletas. In both Mexico and the United States, paleteros, or ice cream men, push around carts lined with dry ice and filled with these delicious desserts. You can find them in residential areas and popular walking locations, like parks. To know a paletero is headed your way, all you have to do is listen for the distinct jingle of their pushcart bells!

What Are Paletas?

Paletas are a frozen treat made with fresh fruit. The origin of Mexican paletas is not quite clear, though. Many tell the tale of peasants who sought ice from the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City. It is said they would mix the ice with fruit and serve this special treat to Aztec emperors.

Another explanation comes from the 1800s, when Mexico was celebrating its independence from Spain. Spain’s monopoly and high ice taxes had ceased and that meant ordinary citizens could afford ice and experiment by mixing it with fresh fruit to beat the heat.

The paletas recipe we know today gained popularity in the 1940s in a town named Tocumbo. In Mexico, Tocumbo is known as la cuna de la paleta de hielo, the capital of the frozen pop. It’s also the home of La Michoacana, the famous brand of paleterias with an indigenous doll as its logo.

Strawberry, Basil and Honey Paletas Recipe

This recipe for strawberry paletas is one of my favorites. It’s fruity, fragrant, sweet and refreshing—perfect for a warm summer day outdoors. You can find more paleta recipes in my book, Aguas Frescas y Paletas: Refreshing Mexican Beverages and Frozen Treats, Traditional and Reimagined.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds strawberries
  • 2/3 cup fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup raw honey (or sweetener of choice)

Tools You’ll Need

Editor’s note: You can also make homemade paletas without a mold—use small paper cups or an ice cube tray instead.

Directions

Step 1: Chop the strawberries

Strawberries Paletas recipeEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Hull and chop strawberries. Set aside 6 whole strawberries.

Step 2: Blend ingredients

Blender With Strawberries paletas recipeEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Place the chopped strawberries, basil and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Step 3: Add sweetener

Honey paletas recipeEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Add honey or your sweetener of choice to the blended mix. Blend again.

Step 4: Add strawberry slices to mold

Mold With Strawberries paletas recipeEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Hull and slice remaining whole strawberries. Then, add 3 to 4 slices to each paleta mold.

Step 5: Top with fruit mixture

Adding Paleta Liquid paletas recipeEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Fill each paleta mold approximately 3/4 of the way up with fruit mixture.

Step 6: Cover mold, insert sticks and chill

Covered Paleta Mold paletas recipeEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Chill mold in the freezer for 4 hours to overnight. Remove from freezer and let mold sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove lid and pull on wooden stick to release paleta from mold. If the mold does not release the paleta, run the molds under warm water for 20 seconds, gently pulling on the sticks until the paletas are released. You can also dip the bottom of the mold in a large bowl filled with warm water.

Making your own paletas at home is a wonderful activity for a family. Experiment with different fruits, flavor extracts and sweeteners!

Tips for How to Make Paletas

Use fresh fruit

You want fresh fruit at the peak of its season with just the right ripeness. This sweetens and colors the paleta naturally, but you will still need to add a sweetener if you like your paletas a bit more sweet. Please refrain from using food coloring, though.

Sample all kinds of sweetener

You can use any natural sweetener—granulated sugar, cane sugar, honey, sweetened condensed milk, cream of coconut, maple syrup, piloncillo or agave syrup. Your choice, but remember to taste test your sweet, fruity mixture before freezing.

Make creamy paletas

Use yogurt, cream or milk to make cool and creamy paletas.

Kick up the heat

You can make spicy paletas, too! Here’s what you can add:

  • Chamoy: A chile sauce made with salt, sugar and pickled apricots or tamarind.
  • Tajín: A powdered seasoning made with various types of powdered chili, lime and salt.
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Ericka Sanchez
Ericka Sanchez is a recipe developer, food stylist, creator of the award-winning culinary website nibblesandfeasts.com and author of two cookbooks: Aguas Frescas & Paletas and ¡Buen Provecho! (October 2021). Ericka's cooking style is inspired by her life as a bicultural Latina living in California and her cherished memories in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother in Mexico. Ericka was born in Torreón Coahuila, Mexico, and immigrated with her family to El Paso, Texas, at eight years old.