There are popsicles. And then there are paletas. The former is what most Americans think of as a quintessential summer treat. They arrive on a thin wooden stick in unnatural shades of blue, orange, red, and purple and stain your tongue for the rest of the day with a sugary slick. Paletas, or Mexico's take on the frozen treat, also arrive on thin wooden sticks but that is where the similarities stop.
The word paleta roughly translates to “little stick,” which makes sense given how it is served. But unlike American popsicles which are flavored with a mix of sugar syrups and food dyes, paletas are constructed from whole ingredients like fresh pureed fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices, explains Fany Gerson, the talented pastry chef behind New York City-based paleta shop, La Newyorkina. This results in a wide range of flavors beyond things like "grape" and "orange." Gerson notes that at her shop, they have "anywhere between 40-50 [paleta flavors]; some have chunks, others are spicy, a few are filled.”
The varieties of paletas are expansive. Sure, you can snag a standard strawberry or watermelon paleta, but they also come in flavors like tamarind, spicy pineapple jalapeño, and cajeta-canela: a Mexican cinnamon ice pop stuffed with goat’s milk caramel. Gerson's personal favorites include flavors like passion fruit-coconut and hibiscus raspberry. Each flavor is super refreshing and has none of the artificial flavors of most standard popsicles. Plus, thanks to the color variety, they are aesthetically pleasing to boot.