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Calabaza en tacha, a Mexican dessert traditionally prepared for Día de los Muertos, was the inspiration for these candied pumpkins drenched with a rich syrup made from piloncillo cones, an unrefined, molasses-laden Mexican cane sugar. Small sugar pie pumpkins have more concentrated sugars, making them perfect for this simple dessert. As the pumpkin wedges cool, they soak up the syrup, resulting in custardy bites laced with cinnamon, clove, and a hint of orange. Serve leftovers mashed in a yogurt or ice cream parfait, churned into pumpkin ice cream, or alongside gingerbread cookies with crema drizzled on top.

November 2021


Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Recipe Summary

55 hrs 3 mins
25 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Combine 4 cups water, piloncillo, orange slices, canela sticks, cloves, and salt in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, cut pumpkins in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds; discard or reserve for another use (see p. 106). Cut each pumpkin half lengthwise into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices. Using the tip of a sharp knife, poke the skin side of each slice a few times to help syrup soak through.

  • Place pumpkin slices, skin sides down, in piloncillo mixture in Dutch oven. (Slices can be layered and do not have to be fully submerged.) 

  • Cover Dutch oven; cook over low, undisturbed, until pumpkin is tender, about 1 hour. Uncover. Gently rearrange slices to submerge as much as possible. Cook, uncovered and undisturbed, until pumpkin is very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Let pumpkin cool in syrup at room temperature 2 hours. Drizzle servings with crema.

Make Ahead

Candied pumpkin can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated with syrup in an airtight container.