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Oaxaca Food Tour: Desserts Take Center Stage at Mexican Festivals

You can find regional sweets of the baked and fried varieties all around Oaxaca City just about any day of the year, but it’s during festival weeks that these treats take center stage. Popping up street-side and outside churchyards, you’ll find the street-food stands of your dreams, all selling a variety of goods with creamy centers and meringue tops. Which will you choose?

The most common festival treats in Oaxaca are meringue-based and you’ll find them on almost every dessert table. They’re usually paired with a sweet egg crust and topped with sugar: turong, a heaping pile of meringue dusted with sugar; tortita or casquito, a small, crispy pie filled with meringue and topped with a cross of pink sugar; and rollitos, a crispy tube filled in with piped meringue.

Next up, coconut-laced sweets. You’ll find empanadas packed with shredded coconut, coconut cake with heaps of shredded coconut, and coconut fried into cruncy macaroons.

Filling in the gap are cookies though you won’t find any chocolate chips here. Simple sugar cookies are the prize to be had or menguanitos (sometimes written nenguanitos). To make these, pork fat is mixed with flour and piloncillo then the dough is formed into small cookies, fried, stacked in piles of four or five, and drenched in honey.

Oaxaca’s other fine festival dessert tradition is mamon, a yellow cake similar to Salvadorian marquesote. A mix of egg yolks and whipped whites, sugar, flour, cornmeal, and vinegar, it’s tangy and dense. If you really want to appreciate this treat, pair it with a few scoops of burnt milk ice cream (leche quemada, another local favorite) or a drizzle of condensed milk.

You can grab a wide selection of dulces regionales at the two biggest markets in town, 20 de Noviembre and Central de Abastos. But if you really want to enjoy yourself, head over to the Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude (Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad). There, you’ll find a variety of popular local sweet stands, benches, and a few quiet corners perfect for people watching. Better yet, you can cross the small platform outside the church and buy your favorite ice cream to go with it.

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