What is Chamoy? 5 Reasons Why We Love This Classic Mexican Flavor

Spicy, salty, sweet, sour — there’s so much to love about the flavor of chamoy! Chamoy is a popular condiment all over Mexico used in savory meals, sweet desserts, and — of course — tangy, delicious candy. 

But what is chamoy exactly, and why do we love it so much? 

In today’s article, the MexiCrate team breaks down the history of chamoy flavoring and 5 things we love about it! 

What is Chamoy? 

Chamoy is a beloved Mexican condiment and flavoring used in a wide variety of Mexican dishes. Chamoy is the definition of sweet, spice, and everything nice — this combination of pickled fruits, chilies, and sugar goes on just about anything, including our favorite Mexican chamoy candy.

To make chamoy, we simmer fruit like apricots, plums, mangos, or raisins in a brine made from water, sugar, and salt. To add the beautiful spiciness of chamoy, we add ingredients like chile de árbol, ancho chile, or Tajin. Some people add hibiscus flowers or other floral components to give their homemade chamoy a little somethin’ extra.

We simmer all of this in a saucepan for about half an hour, then blend up the results with lime juice to create the gooey, pasty goodness that is chamoy. Some people prefer to strain their chamoy, but others like the texture the blended fruit adds to homemade chamoy. (You can also skip the blending, save the cooked brine, and eat the brined fruit as a delicious snack called saladitos, but that’s a story for another blog!) 

Today, most people in Mexico and abroad buy chamoy premade at the supermarket, but making it yourself is a great way to control the flavor, spice level, and amount of sugar in your chamoy. 

5 Reasons to Love Chamoy

1. Chamoy is a classic flavor from childhood. 

Chamoy is one of the most popular flavors in Mexican food, especially in candy. This unique mixture encapsulates many of the unique flavor profiles that make Mexican food so delicious. Chamoy is spicy, sweet, salty, and sour all at once, and it can be highly creative with add-ins like edible flowers, herbs, or chilies. 

Many of us on the MexiCrate team remember not only chamoy candies like Pulparindo, but making chamoy ourselves with our grandparents or aunts and uncles. Chamoy is one of those flavors that stays with you, no matter how long it’s been since you last had it. 

2. Chamoy connects us to Mexico’s international history. 

Chamoy’s origins are fascinating. Chamoy as a concept actually didn’t come from Mexico: depending on who you ask, chamoy originated as a sour fruit treat brought to Mexico from China or Japan. 

In China, see mui (pronounced similarly to “chamoy”) is a savory snack made with dried apricots. See mui has been around for centuries, but it’s estimated that immigrants from the Philippines and Chinese workers in Hawaii brought see mui to Mexico sometime between 1565 and 1815. From there, Mexican cooks adapted the flavor with local fruits and chilies to create the chamoy we know today.

Another theory is that Mexican chamoy comes from umeboshi, a Japanese treat made from apricots or sour plums that’s sweeter and less vinegary than the Chinese see mui. Umeboshi found its way to Mexico in the 1950s, courtesy of a Japanese immigrant named Teikichi Iwadare. 

However the flavor found its way to Mexico, the chamoy we know today was popularized in the 1970s and represents generations of culinary conversations between Mexico and its international partners. 

3. Chamoy is a lower-sugar alternative for many diets. 

Chamoy is good for people with vegan, vegetarian, ketogenic, paleo, gluten-free, and low-fat diets. Because chamoy’s flavor comes from pickling the fruit rather than packing it full of sugar, chamoy can fit well into a wide variety of diets. 

Some store-bought kinds of chamoy have added sugars, preservatives, and food colorings, but others have low-sugar, organic versions. Of course, the best way to guarantee your chamoy works for your diet is to make it at home! 

4. Chamoy is pretty darn good for you. 

If you haven’t heard the news, pickled fruit has a ton of health benefits. Depending on the fruit used, chamoy is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s also been linked to improvements in digestion, weight management, and immune system function, but you should always talk to your doctor before adding a new food to your diet purely for health benefits. 

Capsaicin, the natural chemical in chilies that adds spice and heat, has also been linked to things like boosted metabolism, weight loss, and energy levels. Some people use chamoy as a home remedy for coughs, sore throats, and colds. There’s nothing quite like spicy, tangy chamoy to clear your sinuses! 

5. Chamoy is great on just about anything! 

Finally, we’ve got to talk about the way chamoy is just so darn delicious. We’re not exaggerating when we say it’s good on everything. Chamoy is an excellent addition to grilled meats, fresh fruit, cocktails, mocktails, and candy.

We love chamoy because of its familiarity and versatility. Biting into candy, fruit, or a snack doused with chamoy takes us right back to our childhoods and fills us up with the warm, fuzzy feelings of home. 

It doesn’t get much better than that! 

Ready to try chamoy for yourself? Check out the chamoy section of our Dulceria. If you’re not sure where to start, our favorite chamoy candies are Jovy’s Chamoy Watermelon Rings, De La Rosa Pulparindo, and Anahuac’s Chipileta-like Mango Lollipops

If you just want the good stuff — pourable, dippable chamoy — we like Lucas Gusano’s spicy bottled chamoy and Miguelito’s chamoy candy powder

You can also sign up for one of MexiCrate’s variety boxes — chamoy sneaks into most of our boxes because we love it so much! 

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