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Naturally sweet and tangy, ponche de frutas navideño is a festive Mexican drink perfect for the holidays. It’s sweetened with piloncillo and features a variety of flavorful fruits like plums, pears, tejocotes, and apples. If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat!
I’m always in the mood for a fun sip and this is especially true around the holidays. When the weather is chilly and the atmosphere is festive, there’s nothing quite like a warm beverage to lift the spirits.
For my husband, that means mulled cider and mulled wine, both of which he is exceptionally good at making. And after he met me? That cold weather drink menu expanded to include ponche de frutas navideño.
This sweet and tangy fruit punch is served warm throughout the holiday season in Mexico. Sweetened with piloncillo, it has hints of molasses and caramel, balanced out by the natural sweetness of fruits. Apples, plums, and pears add subtle sugariness, while tamarind paste and tejocotes add tang. For a bit of tartness, dried hibiscus flowers can’t be beat.
Ponche de frutas navideño is usually served with cinnamon sticks and sugar cane, both of which can be used as yummy stirrers. If you’ve never tried this Mexican drink before, give it a try! The ponche is simmered until the fruits release their flavor and your kitchen will smell like a tropical getaway in the middle of winter.
Ponche de frutas navideño is a traditional Mexican fruit punch that’s prepared and consumed throughout late November and December leading up to Christmas Day. In English, it is sometimes called Mexican Christmas fruit punch.
For fruitiness and tang, a wide variety of fruits are used. Guavas, tamarind paste, apples, plums, pears, and tejocotes are the most common ingredients. However, you can also add other fruits like figs, peaches, and dried cranberries to make it your own.
This drink is sweetened with piloncillo, a natural sugar made with sugarcane juice. Sugar cane also adds sweetness and a nice crunch. Dried hibiscus also provides tartness and floral notes, while cinnamon and cloves add spicy earthiness.
If you’ve never tried ponche before, give it a go. I’d wager you’ll fall in love with this easy Mexican recipe!
The ingredient list is a fruit carnival, so stock up to get started. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need. Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for exact ingredient amounts.
- Piloncillo cone – You can also use 1 cup granulated piloncillo or dark brown sugar + 2 1/2 tbsp molasses.
- Guavas – Adding guava juice to taste works too.
- Unsweetened tamarind paste – If it’s sweetened, reduce the amount of piloncillo or sugar in the recipe.
- Yellow apples – Any kind of red apple works too.
- Plums – Peaches and nectarines are good substitutes.
- Pears – Feel free to use your favorite kind.
- Dried hibiscus flowers
- Sugar cane
- Tejocotes – Also called “hawthorns”. These are a seasonal fruit, so look for them in your local Mexican market.
- Whole clove – If needed, you can substitute it for a pinch (or 1/16 tsp) of ground cloves.
- Cinnamon sticks – You can also swap these out for 3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon, but I recommend using them for stirring your ponche.
- Granulated sugar – White, light brown, or dark brown sugar are fine.
Can I Use Other Types of Fruit?
Sure! Feel free to use a variety of fresh and dried fruits like peaches, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, tangerines, prunes, cranberries, figs, apricots, and pineapple.
For the most part, stick to sweet and slightly sour fruits. Use whatever combination of them you’d like. I don’t recommend using bananas as they will fall apart.
How to Make Mexican Ponche
4 easy steps is all it takes to get your hands on a hot cup of homemade ponche de frutas navideño.
- Boil the water. Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, tamarind paste, and tejocotes. Stir continuously until the piloncillo and tamarind paste have dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the fruit. Add the apples, plums, pears, hibiscus, and sugar cane. Stir and add the whole clove.
- Simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Let the mixture simmer for 1 hour. If the water begins to evaporate, add more as needed.
- Serve. Sweeten with granulated sugar to taste. Remove from the heat and serve with or without pieces of fruit. Add fresh cinnamon sticks and sugar can sticks to serve as stirrers.
Tips for the Best Ponche
Making ponche navideño isn’t difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid occasional slip-ups. Follow these tips for an extra easy process:
- Don’t forget the tejocotes. Although they’re small, tejocotes take a long time to soften so don’t forget to add them at the very beginning.
- Where to find tejocotes. The best place to find tejocotes, guavas, piloncillo, and pieces of sugar cane is in a Latin American grocery store. Oftentimes if these stores don’t carry these items fresh they will have jarred versions, which work equally well in this ponche.
- Get a head start. You can start the tamarind-tejocote step a day before. This will give you plenty of time for the tejocotes to soften. The next day, you’ll only have to worry about adding the rest of the fruit and simmering.
Spicing things up is also very easy, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Here are a couple of ideas for a more flavorful, out-of-the-ordinary fruit punch:
- Spike it. Add rum to taste to make this holiday drink a little boozy.
- Add dried fruits. Prunes and cranberries pack a lot of sweetness, so feel free to add a handful of them.
- Add a tea bag. Seeping 3-4 tea bags in the pot will release a lovely herbal, floral flavor. Black, green, earl grey, and jasmine tea are great options.
- Add “boba”. This is definitely not a traditional preparation but you can make your own fruit punch bubble tea if you add tapioca balls.
- Make it citrus-y. Add 2-3 orange or lemon peels to make add a subtle citrus taste.
- Add red wine. For a quick “mulled wine” situation, add a bit of red wine to your cup before serving the fruit punch.
- Blend the guavas. For a creamier, fruitier punch, blend and strain the guavas into the mixture once the “ponche” is ready. Only do this for the portion you’ll be drinking or the entire pot will ferment within a day.
Ponche navideño is the perfect on its own to warm up during chilly afternoons.
Since it’s very fruity, it’s often eaten with sweet treats like buñuelos, rosca de reyes, and pan de muerto. Mexican sweet breads like conchas and puerquitos go perfectly with it too.
However, there’s also a strongly-rooted tradition of enjoying it with tamales, which are masa-based pockets filled with shredded chicken or pork. I will try to post a recipe for those soon!
Can Mexican Fruit Punch Be Made in Advance?
Ponche de frutas navideño can be made up to 3 days in advance if it’s stored in an airtight container in the fridge. If you try to keep it for longer, the fruits will ferment and give the punch an unpleasant sour taste.Print
Packed with fruits, spices, and piloncillo, this ponche de frutas navideño is the perfect Mexican fruit punch for the holiday season.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings
- Category: Drinks
- Method: Stove-top
- Cuisine: Mexican
- 3/4 piloncillo cone (can be substituted for 1 cup granulated piloncillo or dark brown sugar + 2 1/2 tbsp molasses)
- 1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/4 cup unsweetened tamarind paste
- 1 1/4 cups tejocotes
- 3 yellow apples, quartered
- 3 plums
- 2 pears, sliced
- 7 guavas, halved
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
- 3/4 pound sugar cane, peeled and quartered
- 1 whole clove
- 16 cups water
- Granulated sugar, to taste
Boil the water. Bring the water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, tamarind paste, and tejocotes. Stir until the piloncillo and tamarind paste have dissolved completely. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add the fruit. Add the apples, plums, pears, guavas, hibiscus, and sugar cane. Stir until well combined and add the whole clove.
Simmer. Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 1 hour. Add more water as needed. Sweeten with granulated sugar to taste.
Serve. Remove from the heat and serve with or without pieces of fruit. You can add fresh cinnamon sticks and sugar can sticks to each cup, which can be used as yummy stirrers.
Keywords: Ponche Navideño, Mexican Ponche, Mexican Fruit Punch, Mexican drinks, Mexican Christmas Food