Agua de Chilacayota

Candied Squash Water


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

This is a staple drink to have while perusing the aisles in Oaxaca’s vibrant markets. Chilacayota is a big green squash with white speckles that has a fibrous texture, and when it is made into an agua fresca, it is almost like having a dessert in a cup. I consider this drink the mole of aguas frescas, because of its complexity and satisfaction. Unlike many other aguas frescas that can be found all over Mexico, agua de chilacayota can only be found in Oaxaca. Think pumpkin spice, chai, and caramel when it comes to chilacayota’s cooked flavor. When it’s served to you in markets, having a long spoon is a must, as the experience demands that you chew on the tender flesh and sip at the same time. I also love chewing into the seeds as I go (similar to chewing on sunflower seeds).


  • 1 chilacayota squash (about 6 pounds/2.7 kg), quartered
  • cups (2.1 L) filtered water
  • 8 key limes, zested

For the Piloncillo Syrup

  • pounds (700 g) piloncillo (Mexican-style unrefined brown sugar)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cups (480 ml) filtered water


Place the sliced squash in a deep pot and cover with enough tap water to completely submerge all pieces of the squash. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and let the squash cook for 45 minutes or until the peel has softened. After the squash has softened and the squash fibers are starting to shred on their own, turn off the heat and allow the squash mixture to cool completely.

Make the Piloncillo Syrup

Boil the piloncillo and cinnamon with the water until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid has started to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Once the squash is cool to the touch, remove it from the water, dispose of the cooking liquid, and scrape the fibrous insides of the squash with a spoon to get all the meat out. Dispose of the peel. Continue to shred the flesh with your hands until all of the fibrous tissue has been pulled apart. (It should have a texture similar to a spaghetti squash).

Combine the fibrous tissue, syrup, zest, and the zested whole limes in a pitcher and stir in the filtered water. Serve over ice and enjoy with a tall spoon.