Calabaza En Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin

Celebrate Día de los Muertos with Calabaza en Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin. You’ll love this seasonal pumpkin dessert recipe. It’s perfect as a Day of The Dead altar offering or to enjoy all winter long.

Recipe for Mexican Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha)
Calabaza en Tacha with Evaporated Milk

What is Calabaza en Tacha

Mexican pumpkin dessert or calabaza en tacha is pumpkin slowly simmered in a large pot with aromatic spices and a piloncillo syrup.

It’s served warm or at room temperature. Some people, like me, love to drizzle evaporated milk over the pieces of pumpkin. It makes a delectable treat.

It’s truly an easy recipe in which you can use the whole pumpkin, and one of my favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin season. I think you’ll love it too!

(By the way this is also how I love to make my Mexican candied sweet potatoes. Get that recipe here.)

Pumpkin or Calabazas as Part of Day of The Dead Altars

Calabaza en tacha, or Mexican candied pumpkin, is a seasonal sweet that forms part of the traditional food of Día de Muertos. As does pan de muerto and mole.

Day of the Dead is celebrated from the 30th of October to the 2nd of November every year. It’s a very special holiday and among the most important cultural heritages of Mexico.

Dia De Los Muertos is a day meant for honoring, celebrating and remembering loved ones no longer on this Earth.

If you want learn more about this important Mexican holiday read more about it here.

Traditional Dia de Muertos altars are decorated with photographs, candies such as sugar skulls, flowers, personal mementos, drinks, breads, cookies, sweetened pumpkins. Additionally a special meal is cooked just for the departed.

These items all have special significance and are called ofrendas, literally, offerings.

Pumpkins (along with corn, beans and chilies) were highly prized staples of the indigenous diet. They were always included in ceremonies and festivities.

Needless to say, calabazas are still included in the altars even today.

How to Make Mexican Sweet Pumpkin for Day of The Dead
Ingredients for Calabaza en Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin

Ingredients Used to Make Mexican Pumpkin

The most traditional ingredients for this Mexican pumpkin recipe are quite simple.

They are Mexican pumpkins, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, piloncillo and water.

This great recipe includes those plus a few other spices to give it a deeper aromatic flavor and scent. For me it gives it a slightly more autumnal smell and tastes.

Though not traditional, it is my own special way cooking pumpkin for the Day of the Dead celebration in my home. I love it like this, but you are free to omit what you don’t want to use.

  • Pumpkin
  • water
  • orange peel
  • piloncillo
  • cinnamon sticks
  • star anise
  • whole cloves
  • all spice
  • a pinch of ground cardamom
  • a pinch of salt to help bring out all the flavors

As I previously mentioned not all the spices are traditional to the recipe or even typical Mexican cuisine. Particularly the cardamom. It’s a personal choice if you too would like to add it or not.

Some people call star anise, anise star. There are people that prefer to use orange zest instead of large orange peel pieces. Again up to you.

If you don’t have access to piloncillo you can substitute it with brown sugar and molasses.

Is This Recipe Vegan

If you use vegan evaporated milk or swap that for your favorite plant based milk, then yes!

Otherwise the use of regular evaporated milk makes this recipe vegetarian.

How to Make Mexican Candied Pumpkin
Calabaza de Castilla or Castile Pumpkin

What Types of Pumpkin to Use

In Mexico traditionally we use calabaza de castilla or castile pumpkin.

But you can use any kind of pumpkin you’d like. As long as it’s fresh pumpkins you’re good. I’ve previously used the same type of pumpkin used to make jack o’lanterns as well as red kuri pumpkins. Both with delicious results.

Other ones you can use are cinderella pumpkin and sugar pumpkins.

Once you’ve chosen the pumpkin you’d like to use, simply cut it into even large pieces — not too big, they need to fit comfortably in a large pot. You can cut in any shape you’d like. Some people like larger slices and others smaller ones. It’s up to you.

One thing for sure is that you don’t have to either peel nor remove the pumpkin seeds. Leave it all in there if you’d like. The seeds are edible.

Mexican candied pumpkin (calabaza en tacha recipe)
Day of The Dead Dessert

How to Make Calabaza en Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin

Before the arrival of the Spanish pumpkins were sweetened with maguey sap before being placed on the altar. After the arrival of the Spanish the technique for sweetening the pumpkin changed.

The pumpkin was cooked in the same caldrons, or tachas, that were used for processing the sugar from the harvested sugar cane. Those sweet molasses residues were what helped sweetened the pumpkins.

The pumpkins were then simmered alongside other fruits and spices. This would become the calabaza en tacha we still know and love today.

Modern day calabaza en tacha recipes vary from family to family and across the many regions of Mexico.

We could say that each family adapts the recipe to their liking, and that is exactly what I have done, adapted it to my liking.

Traditional Calabaza en Tacha Recipes

The simpler, more traditional recipes will typically only use pumpkin, water, piloncillo, orange juice or peel, and cinnamon. Some will also add cloves and perhaps some guavas.

More Mexican Pumpkin Recipes To Try

Below are some more additional ways to cook pumpkin and give it that Mexican touch.

Calabaza En Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin for Day of The Dead | #diadelosmuertos #diademuertos #pumpkinrecipe
Cooked Pumpkin for Mexican Dessert

How to Make This Mexican Pumpkin Recipe

The first step is to thoroughly clean the pumpkin you’ll be using. Then cut it into even sized pieces — remember you can leave the pumpkin seeds.

In a large pot pour in the cups water then add the piloncillo, orange peel, and all of the spices.

Bring to a boil and stir often to help break down the piloncillo. Make sure the piloncillo has dissolved into the water. Then add the pumpkin pieces flesh down.

Cover and cook until the pumpkin is fork tender. You should also flip the pieces to make sure they all get covered with the spiced syrup.

To make the thick syrup to drizzle over the pumpkin. Carefully remove the pumpkin pieces as well as the cinnamon and if you can the other small whole spices. Simmer until the liquid has thickened into the consistency of thick syrup.

How to Make Mexican Candied Pumpkin
Mexican Pumpkin Dessert

How to Serve Calabaza en Tacha or Mexican Pumpkin Dessert

Serve a couple of pieces in a small shallow bowl, then drizzle with some of the piloncillo spiced syrup.

Lastly drizzle with room temperature evaporated milk. You could also use warm milk of your choice.

How to Make Calabaza en Dulce
Calabaza en Dulce

Other Uses for This Pumpkin Dessert

The pumpkin is so incredibly delicious. Since it’s slowly simmered until tender you can use it in other ways instead of eating it as previously mentioned — or it’s a good way to use up any leftovers.

You can cut scrape away the pumpkin flesh from the peel and mash it up to make pumpkin empanadas. Add more spices if you’d like or even some butter would be a nice addition. You can use store bought pie crust or empanada discs if you’d like to save some time.

Another delicious use for this pumpkin would be to make pumpkin puree. Just take into account the spices already added if you’re going to be making pumpkin pie.

How to Make Mexican Sweet Pumpkin for Day of The Dead
Calabaza en Tacha or Calabaza en Dulce

What Does Calabaza en Tacha Taste Like

You will find that the spices permeate the calabaza slices perfectly to create an aromatic and soothing touch to your senses.

While silky creaminess added by the evaporated milk is the perfect compliment to the sweet and tender Mexican pumpkin recipe.

Then, to finish it off with an extra pop of sweet aromatic flavors, comes the drizzling of the syrup over the slices.

Truly a wonderful treat to not only honor the spirits of our loved ones, but to also enjoy the best of this quintessential fruit of autumn.

¡Buen provecho amigos!

Recipe for Mexican pumpkin dessert
Mexican Candied Pumpkin

Calabaza En Tacha or Sweet Mexican Pumpkin Recipe

My recipe is unconventional due to the addition of some non-traditional Mexican spices. We live in a modern age where international flavors and ingredients influence the different cuisines of the world.

My recipe is Mexican at it’s roots and, much like the traditional Aztec recipe evolved to incorporate foreign flavors, so too has my own.

Recipe for Mexican pumpkin dessert

Calabaza En Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin Recipe

Nancy Lopez &
A Mexican pumpkin dessert simmered in a piloncillo and spices syrup then drizzled with evaporated milk. This is a traditional Day of the Dead altar ofrenda recipe.
5 from 59 votes
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Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican, vegan, vegan mexican
Servings 4 servings
Calories 191 kcal





  • Pour the water into to the pot, then add all the spices, piloncillo or sugar and molasses. Bring to a soft boil. Gently place the pumpkin slices in the pot, the first layer flesh face down the top layer flesh up.
    How to Make Mexican Sweet Pumpkin for Day of The Dead
  • Turn heat to medium low and allow to simmer until the pumpkin is tender, you should carefully flip the pumpkin so that both the top and bottom layers cook and absorb the flavour of the spices and piloncillo. Gently remove the pumpkin from the pan and allow to cool on a separate large plate. Alternatively it can be placed in the refrigerator to eat the following day. The remaining liquid from the pot will be reduced done even more.
    Mexican candied pumpkin (calabaza en tacha recipe)
  • Over medium heat and stirring often reduce the liquid to half of what it was and until it reaches a thicker consistency almost like syrup. Turn heat off, allow to cool and if not using right away store in the refrigerator. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve before using.
    How to Make Calabaza en Dulce
  • Once ready to eat the pumpkin you can either eat it cool or slightly warm. Pour some evaporated milk and syrup over it or alternatively serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.
    Recipe for Mexican Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha)


* Some recipes tell you to cut the pumpkin into chunks, as you can see in these pictures I have chosen to leave it in even sized small wedges but for the video I cut into chunks. It’s really up to which way to cut, either works perfectly fine.
Additionally the traditional recipes leave the seeds and stringy bits attached to the pumpkin, but I don’t like to.
Please know too that different pumpkin varieties will cook at different rates, so keep checking on the pot as it simmers.
**Piloncillo can be found at Latin food markets either under the piloncillo or panela name, the later being the Central and South American name for it. In a pinch you can buy it on Amazon.


Serving: 4servingsCalories: 191kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 9gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 115mgPotassium: 1116mgFiber: 2gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 21449IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 302mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Leave me a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review and tag me on social media @MexicanMadeMeatless or tag #mexicanmademeatless!
Calabaza En Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin for Day of The Dead | #diadelosmuertos #diademuertos #pumpkinrecipe
Mexican Candied Pumpkin for Day of The Dead

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I my mom used to make us calabaza en tacha when we where young. There is something so comforting about eating the calabaza with the milk and Piloncillo syrup. I cant wait to make it myself.

  2. 5 stars
    Ƭoday, Ӏ wentt to the beachfrⲟnt witһ my kids.
    I found a ssea shell annd gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said
    “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the sһell to her ear and screamed.

    There was a ermit crab insіde and it рinched heer ear.
    Shе never wantts ttо ggo back! LoL I know this iѕ totally
    off topic butt I had to tell someone!