The pucker of lime and heat of chiles are addicting sensations, but couple them with cooling fruits and vegetables and you’ve got a recipe for the ultimate refreshment: cóctel de frutas. You’ve undoubtedly seen fruterías, Mexican juice bars or kiosks lined with cups of fresh-cut fruit doused in lime, chile powder, and dripping in a deep red sauce, and you either bought a cup and found yourself hooked, or wandered by curiously vowing to try it another time.
Here’s a quick guide to create one of your own at home with natural ingredients that will make you a devoted fan in no time.
1. Chile Lime Seasoning
Popular under the brand name Tajín, this seasoning blend is made from chiles, salt, lime, and an anticaking agent. While we’d grab Tajín from our pantry in a pinch, there’s nothing like making your own that’s completely customized to your palate and free of any preservatives. Here’s a recipe to get you started: Remove seeds and stems of 1 cup dried chiles de árbol and 1 whole ancho chile. Toast in a skillet until fragrant and set aside to cool. Break chiles into smaller pieces and finely grind using a spice grinder; mix with 2 1⁄2 tablespoons ground dried lime (available at international markets) and smoked salt to taste.
Sweet, sour, spicy, and salty: This condiment is a secret weapon you’ll want to find any excuse to use. Aside from its use as a sauce on cóctel de frutas or swirled through a fruit smoothie, it’s also great in savory dishes (just imagine it as a glaze brushed over grilled chicken). There are many brands available at the grocery store but making your own with a few ingredients means you always know what’s in it. Soak 5 dried apricots in warm water for 30 minutes or up to overnight. Discard liquid and add the fruit to a blender with 1 cup apricot jam, 1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile, and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
Spices and condiments can only do so much, so be sure to select seasonal fruits and vegetables with varying textures, colors, and sweetness for the best result. Favorites include mango, watermelon, jicama, cantelope, cucumber, pineapple, and young coconut. Cut into spears, wedges, cubes, or slices, and arrange on a serving platter, or divide into cups. Dust everything with chile powder, drizzle with chamoy, and top with dried coconut, chile mango, crushed peanuts, or pieces of tamarind candy.