Calabaza En Tacha (Mexican Candied Pumpkin)

Candied Pumpkin

The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
615 Calories
1g Fat
157g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 615
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 41mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 157g 57%
Dietary Fiber 12g 42%
Total Sugars 132g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 119mg 595%
Calcium 230mg 18%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 1114mg 24%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The flavors in this dish are similar to those in candied “yams” or sweet potatoes, but unlike that iconic American Thanksgiving dish, candied pumpkin is not generally served as a side dish. Calabaza en tacha is enjoyed in Mexico as a dessert, snack, or even as breakfast. It is also one of the most common foods placed on family altars for Day of the Dead holiday.

In Mexico, candied pumpkin is usually made with calabaza de Castilla, a rustic, lighter-colored squash with a tough rind, or with a similarly large, very dark green—nearly black—squash. Sometimes holes are drilled in the squash (to allow the steam out and the syrup in) and it is candied whole; at other times, the vegetable is cut into wedges or strips—rind still on—and prepared in large pieces. Feel free to use the bright orange Halloween pumpkin to make this, though, and to cut it into smaller pieces if that seems more manageable.

Regardless of the type of squash you use, don't forget to keep the seeds of it to toast and make pepitas.

"The candied pumpkin was delicious and extremely easy. I couldn't find piloncillo in my area, so I used dark brown sugar. The sweet cinnamon-flavored syrup penetrates the pumpkin pieces. The candied pumpkin was excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream." —Diana Rattray

Candied Calabaza (Pumpkin)/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 5 pounds pumpkin, or similar winter squash

  • 1 medium orange

  • 2 pounds (900 gramspiloncillo, or brown sugar

  • 4 cups (1 liter) water

  • 4 cinnamon sticks

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make candied pumpkin

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  2. Cut the stem off of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half crosswise and scrape out the seeds and stringy parts, saving seeds to make pepitas, if you like.

    A pumpkin, cut in half, scraped, with seeds in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  3. Leaving the rind on, cut each piece in half lengthwise again and again until you have 8 to 10 long strips of pumpkin. Leave pumpkin in strips or cut it into smaller pieces.

    Slices of pumpkin on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  4. Zest and juice the orange.

    A cup of orange juice and a small bowl of orange zest

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  5. In a large saucepan, bring orange zest and juice, piloncillo or brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks to a boil.

    A pot of orange zest, juice, water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  6. Add the pumpkin pieces and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until pumpkin is fork tender, about 1 hour. Uncover the pan for the last 20 minutes or so of simmering so the liquid reduces to a glaze.

    Cooked pumpkin pieces in hot with reduced glaze

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  7. Remove pan from heat and let cool (the glaze will thicken slightly). Serve at room temperature (one portion is about 1 or 2 long strips or several smaller pieces), spooning a little of the glaze over the pumpkin pieces. Eat with a spoon, leaving the inedible outer pumpkin rind (and any cinnamon sticks) in the dish.

    A platter of candied pumpkin pieces

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram


    Candied pumpkin is wonderful on its own, but if you’d like to vary it a bit, consider one or more of the following.

    • Increase the spice flavors with 1 whole star anise, 2 whole cloves, and 2 allspice berries.
    • Add 1 sliced orange for a more pronounced orange flavor.
    • Pour a little liquid crema or evaporated milk over each portion. Alternatively, add a dollop of whipped cream.
    • Sprinkle a few shelled, toasted, and salted pepitas over the pumpkin.
    • Top with a few raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped prunes, pecans, or walnuts.
    • Serve the candied pumpkin over vanilla ice cream.

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