Chamoy is a quintessential Mexican ingredient that's included in just about every type of dish you can think of. Find out what is it, how to use it, and everything in between in this detailed guide.
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📖 What is chamoy?
Chamoy is a popular Mexican condiment made from a base of pickled fruits (typically mangoes, apricots, or plums), chiles, limes, and sugar.
How it's made
- Pack the fruit in a brine solution.
- Once the fruit is dried out, separate it from the brine.
- Sell the fruit as snacks (known as saladitos).
- Use leftover brine for the chamoy base.
- Mix in additional limes, chiles, tamarind, Jamaica flower, sweeteners, etc.
What you end up with is a sweet, spicy, salty, and tangy recipe that can be paired with both sweet and savoury dishes.
Chamoy comes in different consistencies, from liquid to paste and even powder forms.
It serves as a tasty dip for sliced fruits and jicama, as a candy flavoring, or as a swirly addition to chamoyadas. You can often find gummy candies coated in chamoy and chile-lime seasoning (called dulces enchilados).
While there are similarities across the board, no two chamoy recipes are the same. You can test out different measurements to really make it your own!
🌶 Tajin vs chamoy
Although chamoy and Tajin are often used in recipes together, they are very different ingredients.
As you've come to find out, chamoy is a condiment made from pickled fruit.
Tajin is actually the brand name of a Mexican chile-lime seasoning. It's used to add spice and tanginess to recipes like cantaritos, elotes, or tostilocos. Tajin also sells chamoy along with many other products.
🌎 History of Chamoy
Despite the popularity of chamoy in Mexican cuisine, the concept of using pickled fruit brine originally comes from Asia.
In China, pickled fruit snacks, known as see mui or crack seed, have been enjoyed for centuries. Crack seed is a type of preserved fruit with the seeds partially exposed to impart more flavors.
Japan later adopted its own version (umeboshi), which is made from a type of tart plum or apricot (known as ume).
How this condiment came to Mexico is likely due to the large influx of Asian immigrants around the late 1500s. Along with other ingredients like mangoes and tamarind, pickled plums eventually formed an integral part of Mexican cuisine.
Nowadays, chamoy is very mass-produced. Most products contain high-fructose corn syrup and some don't even contain real fruit! For this reason, many people regard chamoy is as "junk food," but it can easily be made healthy!
🍴 Flavor profile
Chamoy has a truly unique flavor profile that's best experienced rather than described.
On its own, homemade chamoy is salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and umami flavored. It may sound like it has a lot going on, but it just works!
This incredible mix of flavors is delicious on fruit or in drinks, but it's also really nice to serve with tacos, vegetables, or legume-based dishes — sort of like you would with chutney.
If you ask us, the best way to experience chamoy is by making your own. As we mentioned, you can play around with the fruits and other ingredients to suit your preferences!
🍎 Health facts
Although mass-produced chamoy and chamoy candies don't house many (if any) health benefits, homemade versions are full of vitamins and minerals.
- Fruit: Stone fruits typically used to make chamoy contain high levels of vitamins A, C, and potassium, which are important for proper heart functioning and disease prevention.
- Chiles: Chiles contain a powerful compound called capsaicin, which carries anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
- Lime: Just one lime contains over 20% of our daily vitamin C needs. This vitamin is crucial for protecting our bodies against disease-causing free radicals.
🔪 How to use it
Although we've already mentioned a few different ways to consume chamoy, there are so many other ideas to choose from! Some options include:
Drizzled on fruits and veggies like:
Mixed in drinks like:
- Raspados (shaved ice)
Added to savoury recipes like:
- Chicharrones de harina
- Pepinos locos
As you can see, there's no shortage of things to add chamoy to. If you have a favorite way to incorporate it into your diet, let us know because we'd love to try it!
📋 Recipes with chamoy
While it's convenient to buy at the store, we love the taste of homemade chamoy. You'll be able to use it in so many recipes like:
Once opened, most store-bought chamoy sauce or powder will last in a cool, dark, and dry place for about 3 months.
On the other hand, freshly made chamoy should be kept in your fridge and will store for about 1-2 months.
You can also freeze chamoy to extend its expiration date. We usually freeze ours in ice cube trays and thaw each one individually.
💰 Buying guide
By now, you're probably very intrigued by this infamous condiment and wondering where you can get your hands on some. Follow these tips so you don't end up picking the wrong one!
Where to buy
If you don't have time to make your own chamoy, look in the Mexican or Latin food aisles of large grocery stores. If you don't have access to such stores, you can try ordering online.
Some of the more common chamoy brands include:
If you're unable to make your own or find any to buy, a few substitutions for chamoy include:
- Mango chutney: This tasty condiment from India has a similar fruit base with vinegar, sugar, and spices added. Mango chutney provides sweet, salty, and savoury flavors, making a good chamoy substitute.
- Sweet & sour sauce: Also originating in China, sweet and sour sauce typically consists of fruit, vinegar, and soy sauce. You can use this as a 1:1 replacement for chamoy.
Yes, chamoy does not contain animal products so it is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Chamoy is typically made from fruit, chiles, lime, and sugar. There are many different variations depending on the chef.
As noted in the body of this post, mass-produced chamoy contains high levels of sugar (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup), but making your own chamoy has many health benefits from the chiles and fruit.
Yes, chamoy is gluten-free.