Skip to Content

Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Paste): Everything You Need to Know

Dulce de Membrillo is a beloved dessert in many regions of Mexico, showcasing the region’s fondness for traditional sweets made from local fruits. This delightful confection is made from membrillo, or ”quince fruit” in English. It’s a fruit that is similar in appearance to a pear but with a unique tart flavor. The quince is cooked down with sugar and sometimes spices like cinnamon or anise, transforming it into a thick, caramel-like paste known as cajeta.

Let us first describe what quince fruit is, since not many people (me included) have heard of this fruit before tasting this dessert.

What Is Quince

Quince is a fruit that belongs to the same family as apples and pears (Rosaceae). It is known for its distinct, pear-like shape and bright yellow skin when ripe. Quince is native to the Caucasus region and has been cultivated in various parts of Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean for centuries.

The fruit is quite hard and has a tart, astringent flavor when raw, making it generally unsuitable for direct consumption. However, when cooked, quince undergoes a remarkable transformation, becoming sweet and tender with a delightful floral aroma. It is often used in jams, jellies, preserves, and desserts, such as the aforementioned membrillo (quince paste), and is also a popular ingredient in stews and tagines in some cuisines.

Quince is rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, making it a nutritious addition to the diet. Its unique flavor and versatility in cooking have made it a cherished fruit in many culinary traditions around the world.

How Membrillo Is Made

The process of making membrillo is very meticulous and requires patience. It begins with selecting ripe, fragrant quinces, which are then washed and peeled. The fruit is cut into chunks, removing the core and seeds, as these parts contain natural pectin that aids in the thickening process.

The quince pieces are then simmered in water with a touch of lemon juice until they become soft and tender. Once cooked, the quinces are strained and pureed to create a smooth paste. This paste is then combined with an equal weight of sugar and returned to the heat. The mixture is cooked slowly, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning, until it thickens and turns a deep orange or reddish color. This can take several hours, as the mixture needs to reduce and concentrate in flavor.

Once the desired consistency and color are achieved, the thickened paste is poured into molds or trays lined with parchment paper to cool and set. After cooling, the membrillo is cut into slices or shapes and can be served with cheese, particularly Manchego, or used as a sweet spread. The final product is a dense, jelly-like paste with a sweet, floral, and slightly tart flavor, making it a delightful accompaniment to a variety of dishes.

As you can see this is a very long process.

Conclusion

Dulce de Membrillo is often enjoyed as a spread on bread or crackers, as a filling for pastries, or simply on its own as a sweet treat. It is also a popular gift, often packaged in decorative jars and given as a token of appreciation or hospitality. Try it for yourself. If you love sweet desserts, you’ll definitely like Dulce de Membrillo.