Dulce de Calabaza

Piloncillo-Candied Squash


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    8 to 12

Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

This is a seasonal dessert that is typically eaten during Día de Muertos season in Oaxaca. The belief is that its spiced, sweet aroma is so tantalizing that it attracts the spirits to come and indulge. The sweet smell brings me back to the beautiful colors of my favorite time of year in Oaxaca. Muertos has always been a big part of my family’s culture. I still remember the smell of copal incense, cempazuchitl (marigold) flowers, mole, and this dulce de calabaza taking over my grandma’s house. She had a special room in her house dedicated to making an altar for my grandpa, who had passed on. I still remember spending Muertos week helping her get ready for my grandpa’s visit. It was so beautiful, and it is a tradition that I still keep alive today in my home. In Oaxaca, when cooking this dish, they use a type of firm pumpkin named calabaza de castilla. In the States, I use kabocha squash because of the similarities in flavor and texture. Eat it for dessert on a windy fall day.


  • pounds (2 kg) kabocha squash, sliced into 4-inch (10 cm) pieces
  • 2 pounds (910 g) piloncillo (Mexican-style unrefined brown sugar), broken up into pieces
  • 2 whole cloves
  • ½ tablespoon anise seeds wrapped in a sachet
  • 10½ ounces (300 g) sugar cane, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1 (4-inch/10 cm) cinnamon stick


Put the pumpkin, skin-side down, in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add 1 cup (240 ml) water, the piloncillo, cloves, anise seed sachet, sugar cane, and cinnamon stick.

Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the piloncillo and water form a honey-like syrup. Serve warm.