Chamoy – Two Homemade Recipes

Click here to go to printable recipe: Chamoy Classic Recipe with Hibiscus

Click here to go to printable recipe: Chamoy No-Blender Recipe with Cranberries

As mentioned in my previous post, chamoy is a Mexican snack and topping that was inspired by a preserve made from an Asian fruit known as Chinese plum, or Japanese apricot (Prunus mume).   After harvesting the Japanese apricots (ume, in Japanese) when they are almost ripe, they are mixed with salt; this causes some juice from the fruit to be extracted, which then serves as a brine for the ume.  Oftentimes, red perilla (Perilla frutescens var. crispa, red) leaves are brined together with the fruit, to impart a red colourThe fruit and herbs are then separated from the liquid (called umesu, or plum vinegar), and allowed to dry in the sun for three days, hence the Japanese name umeboshi – dried plum.  They are then packed, either dry, or with some umesu (in the photo below, a sample of the latter):

Umeboshi – Brined and dried Japanese apricots (ume) with red perilla (aka shiso) leaves (from jar with umesu, my kitchen, 2021)

There are similar dishes scattered around in other Asian countries, for example, Chinese Huà méi (话梅), Vietnamese xí muộior Filipino kiamoy, each their own version of preserved ume fruit.  Some people believe that one or more of these preserves might have been the origin of Mexican chamoy; for instance, because of the regular trading routes between The Philippines and Mexico during Spanish colonial times, kiamoy maybe made its way to Mexico since then, and it is not improbable that Chinese nationals might have carried dried plums with them during the first large Chinese migration to Mexico, beginning towards the end of the 19th Century.   

However, the exact Mexican name “chamoy”  is recorded as the creation of Japanese entrepreneur Teikichi Iwadare, who migrated to Mexico in the 1920s, later becoming a denizen of Mexico City, due to a forced move of Japanese nationals during WWII.  After the war, he started growing vegetables and flowers, and selling Japanese foodstuffs; he first developed his “Oriental” soy sauce in the 1950s, following with a successful attempt to recreate umeboshi, by brining and drying apricots (Prunus armeniaca), a product that he called “Chamoy”.  Other products were added to the company’s inventory, such as “Brinquitos” a powdered snack consisting of dry chilies, citric acid, sugar, and salt, with other flavourings.  In the 1970s, Mr. Iwadare (known as Don Luis) had to sell his business due to financial hardships, and this created a branching of the business.  The main company was bought by Mexican entrepreneur Francisco Canovas Corral, creating Alpro Alimentos Proteínicos, continuing the company’s track of excellence with the same line of products (“Oriental” soy sauce, “Brinquitos” powdered snack, chamoy, etc.), also adding more flavours to “Brinquitos” and, with the combination of this powdered snack and the original chamoy, creating one of the earliest versions of the sauce-like snack with Mexican seasonings as it is known nowadays.  The other branch is the interesting story of one of Don Luis’ employees, Valente González, who was given two pieces of equipment as severance pay, when the company dissolved; Mr. González proceeded to use them to create his own product, again a modified salted apricot paste with the addition of powdered chile and other flavourings, which he called Chamoy Miguelito, and started distributing to stores on his bicycle.  Since the mid 1970s, Dulces Miguelito has been a well-known company, never falling out of favour with generations of Mexican children and grown-ups alike.  

Nowadays, chamoy is a generic name for powdered, liquid or paste-like condiments and snacks, with the common denominator of a fruit base (apricot is the original, but prunes, tamarind, and mango are sometimes used), and additions of salty, sour and spicy flavours (natural or artificial.)  Another common characteristic is their bright red colour, which in many cases comes from dried hot peppers, and sadly in many others, from artificial agents.  

I was happy to find a bottle of chamoy at a Hispanic store a few weeks ago (photo below, left), but the flavour was disappointing, and the texture pasty; it became clear why it tasted nothing like the chamoy of my childhood, when I read the ingredient list (photo below, right):

There is hardly any natural ingredients, other than, well, water, salt, and “red peppers” which are sixth, way down on the list!   Other brands, such as Tajín and Miguelito itself, claim to use natural ingredients in their chamoy recipes, indeed having apricots, and hot peppers near the top of their lists.  I have never seen these products in my area, though, and they might be hard to find outside of Mexico and some parts of the United States; maybe that is why there are so many recipes online for homemade chamoy.  They all use dry fruit, such as dry apricots and/or prunes, and, for a bright red colouring and enhanced Mexican, citrusy flavour, most of them cleverly use hibiscus flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa, known as “flor de Jamaica” in Mexico, photo below, left).  It should not come as a surprise, since they look somewhat similar to red perilla (photo below, right), the herb originally used in Japanese umeboshi:

Store-bought, dry hibiscus flowers (left) and backyard grown, fresh red perilla leaves (right); my kitchen, 2021.

For my first recipe, I followed this approach, which is very simple: cook dry fruit and hibiscus flowers in water, then add flavourings, such as sugar and in many cases, Tajín™ seasoning, which may be deconstructed into readily available salt, lime juice (or citric acid, for those who make preserves often), and dry red chile powder.  I had comapeño, piquín, and cayenne in my kitchen (clockwise from top, left):

Chamoy – Classic Recipe with Hibiscus Flower

Printable recipe: Chamoy Classic Recipe with Hibiscus

Ingredients (for approximately one cup)

¼ cup (50 g) dry apricots
¼ cup dry hibiscus flower (flor de Jamaica)
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp hot chile powder (such as piquín, cayenne, etc.), or to taste
1 tsp salt, or to taste
4 tbsp lime juice, or ½ tsp citric acid, or to taste
½ cup water, plus more, as needed

Rinse hibiscus flowers in cold water, then drain.  Add to a pot, along with the dry apricots and half a cup of cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then add sugar:

103 cook apricots, hibiscus in water add sugar

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the flowers have rehydrated and the apricots become soft, approximately twenty minutes.  Add (photos below from left to right) salt, lime juice (or citric acid), and chile powder (I added comapeño):

Mix all ingredients together, and continue cooking for another ten minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool down.  

Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender jar (photo below, left), and process for at least one minute, until well blended (photo below, centre).  Adjust consistency, to taste, by adding more water, as needed, and processing for another few seconds (photo below, right):

It makes approximately one cup of chamoy:

This was a very nice sauce, close to the flavour I remembered from back in the day, when I used to pour it on top of potato chips, cut-up fruit, or just drink it out of the package, with a mini straw that used to be included.  

Once I followed the well documented recipe, I wanted to develop an alternative that did not require special ingredients (namely, hibiscus flowers, citric acid, or Mexican chile powder) or a blender, for extra easy preparation.  I remembered that I have successfully used frozen cranberries instead of hibiscus flowers in another recipe, and figured that the extra sour punch from the cranberries, and their bright red colour, would work really well for chamoy; using lime juice and cayenne pepper powder would be convenient and inexpensive choices of citrus agent and dry chile powder.  Finally, to avoid using the blender, apricot jam came to the rescue, with the added advantage of no extra sugar needed.

Chamoy – No-Blender Recipe with Cranberries

Printable recipe: Chamoy No-Blender Recipe with Cranberries

Ingredients (for approximately one cup)

½ cup whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
½ cup apricot jam
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tsp salt, or to taste
2 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
½ cup water, plus more, as needed

Place cranberries, apricot jam and half a cup of water in a pot over high heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to pop (approximately ten minutes).   Mash cranberries with the back the spoon, and continue cooking and stirring, until it becomes a uniform paste (photo below, right):

Add cayenne, salt and lime juice, mix and cook for one more minute.  Adjust consistency by adding more water, as needed.  Makes approximately one cup of chamoy:

This rendition tasted more sour (yum!) and the colour was somewhat closer to the commercial chamoy than the classic homemade, as seen in the photo below, clockwise from top left, pieces of jícama dipped in chamoy: classic with hibiscus, no-blender with cranberries, and commercial:

I think my classic chamoy would be great to add an extra touch of sweetness and tartness to frozen sweet-and-sour beverages, or fruits and fresh veggies, such as mango, carrots, cucumber, etc. :

The no-blender one is less sweet, and will complement savoury snacks such as prepared potato chips, or popcorn:

For your convenience, click on the images below for products available on Amazon™.  DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you (thank you to readers who have bought other products starting with a click from my links!):  

Announcement – I was thrilled to have one of my photos and post about Amaranth treats – Alegrías, featured on Prevention Magazine’s article “8 Popular Hispanic Desserts That Celebrate Traditional Flavors“; mine is #4!

I am linking to Inspire Me Monday #502, hosted by Create with Joy.

I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #505, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.  

I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #552 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am joining Fiesta Friday #396 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.  Special thanks to Angie for featuring my Paddle Cactus (Nopales) Healthy Breakfast at this party!

I am also sharing my recipes at Create, Bake, Grow & Gather Party #484, graciously hosted by Kerryanne @ The Shabby Art Boutique.

I am also joining What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up # 331 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.

8 thoughts on “Chamoy – Two Homemade Recipes

  1. It is always a delight to feature your awesome post on Full Plate Thursday 553! Thanks so much for sharing with us and come back to see us soon!
    Miz Helen

    Liked by 2 people

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