You have a Pumpkin? Turn it into Tacha!


You have a Pumpkin? Turn it into Tacha!

They go hand in hand, Autumn and Pumpkins.

In the US, I see them scary faced on Halloween, and then, sweetly dressed as pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Yet to me, one of their best impersonations is as Calabaza en Tacha: Pumpkin cooked in a Piloncillo Syrup.

Craving Tacha, I paired two things: The pumpkin I saved from my boys’ Halloween makeover and my new orange flamed French Oven.

It was a matter of time. The French Oven needed a sweet Mexican ride to become baptized in my kitchen.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 1

Making Pumpkin Tacha in a French Oven or heavy pot is a contemporary trend. The original method, as in XVII c., was to cook the whole pumpkin in a Tompiate (woven palm leaves basket) for hours, simmer it in lime water (not lime as in citrus but lime as in slaked lime or calcium hydroxide, so the thick skin of the pumpkin wouldn’t come apart), bathe it in syrup and cook it for hours, and finally, let it bask in the sun for many more hours.

That was a long and messy ordeal for sure. But there was no refrigeration then. Times have changed. No Tompiate nor slaked lime needed anymore.

You can make your Tacha (sounding like Cha Cha Cha) in a fourth of the time and in a simpler way.

First, place the Piloncillo or brown sugar in a large heavy pot.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 2

Pour water over the Piloncillo. If you find Piloncillo also called Panela, you will get that old fashioned, deep, rustic and small Pueblo flavor right there. But brown sugar also does a pretty good job.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 3

Place the cinnamon sticks in there too. Not all Tachas have cinnamon, but I like it. If you find True or Ceylon cinnamon, which is soft, crumbly and very aromatic it will have a more Mexican feel. If you only find Cassia, no worries, that works too.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 4

I like to add the rind of an orange, because it cuts across the sweetness of the Tacha in a stunning way…

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 5

…as well as the juice.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 6

Not all Tacha versions have cinnamon, orange rind or orange juice. Mine does.

Whichever way you go, let the piloncillo or brown sugar dissolve in the water over medium heat before you add the pumpkin.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 7

That gives you time to deal with the pumpkin…

Rinse it and cut it into large pieces.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 8

Then cut it into individually sized chunks, of about 3″ by 3″.

It is up to you if you want to remove the seeds and strings. Some cooks do, some cooks don’t. I LOVE to leave it all on. It magically transforms into something delicious as you cook i. Plus, those sweetened pumpkin seeds are to die for. Really.

If you do scoop out the seeds and strings, save the seeds so you can rinse, dry and toast them to make Pepitas.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 9

There you go…

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 10

Using a knife, make some slits in the skin of the pumpkin chunks, without cutting all the way through. This will help the thick skin get all soaked up in the sweet citrusy syrup.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 11

Once the piloncillo has dissolved into the water, layer the pumpkin chunks.

First, do a layer skin side down…

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 12

…followed by a layer, skin side up. Don’t worry if it seems like the pumpkin chunks aren’t all covered in the syrup.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 13

Once you cover the pot and let it all cook over medium heat, it will ALL get soaked up.

After you place it all in the pot, you have nothing to do but let the heavy pot do its thing.

That’s how it looks after just one hour…

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 14

See? It all gets soaked up.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 15

That’s how it looks after another half hour.

Don’t you dare complain…. you could have been gardening, taking a bath, reading or tweeting all this time. Or something..

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 16

Then let it simmer uncovered for a half hour and turn off the heat.

The pumpkin will look wet. Really wet. But as it cools down, the chunks will soak most of the syrup and the remaining syrup will thicken. A lot.

You can eat your Tacha still warm.

Or you can let it cool, refrigerate and eat it cold. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for months!

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup 17

My favorite way to eat it, is with Mexican style cream or Creme Fraiche.

The contrast between the brown, deep, sweet, meaty, soft pumpkin with the fresh, white, cold, tangy cream is hard to describe.

Tacha is a traditional food for Day of the Dead and quite popular throughout the Christmas season. In fact, in the XVII and XVIII centuries, Pumpkin Tacha was a preferred gift Hacienda owners gave to their friends for Christmas. Though the methods to make Tacha have changed, that practice of giving it as a Holiday gift remains timeless.

Pumpkin in Piloncillo Syrup

Calabaza en Tacha
12 to 15 people
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cinnamon, Dessert, orange, orange juice, piloncillo, pumpkin, Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
They go hand in hand, Autumn and Pumpkins. In the US, I see them scary faced on Halloween, and then, sweetly dressed as pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Yet to me, one of their best impersonations is as Calabaza en Tacha: Pumpkin cooked in a Piloncillo Syrup. Craving Tacha, I paired two things: The pumpkin I saved from my boys’ Halloween makeover and my new orange flamed French Oven.


  • 1 medium pumpkin, about 8 to 10 pounds
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 pounds piloncillo, or about 6 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Rind of an orange
  • Juice of an orange, or about 1/3 cup orange juice

To Prepare

  • Place the piloncillo (or brown sugar) into a large, heavy pot. Pour the water on top. Incorporate the cinnamon, orange juice, and orange rind. Place over medium heat and let it come to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the piloncillo has fully dissolved, making a loose syrup. It will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
  • While the piloncillo is dissolving, rinse the pumpkin clean of any dirt. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks of about 3"x3". Some cooks remove the strings and seeds, some don't, I leave them on. Using a knife, score the skin of the pumpkin chunks, to help the pumpkin absorb the syrup.
  • Once the piloncillo is dissolved into the water, remove the pot from the heat and begin adding the pumpkin pieces. Arrange the pieces of the pumpkin in the pot, with the first layer skin side down and the second layer skin side up.
  • Cover the pot and place it over medium to medium-low heat, for about one and a half hours. Uncover and continue cooking the pumpkin until the it has turned into a rich brown color and has become well soaked in syrup, for about another half hour. Turn off the heat and let the pumpkin cool and finish absorbing all the syrup it can as the rest of the syrup thickens. You may it it warm or let it cool and refrigerate. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for months.

30 comments on “You have a Pumpkin? Turn it into Tacha!

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  1. Pati, we have tried several pumpkin varieties in the U.S. in an attempt to get the same texture as the green pumpkins used in Mexico. Have you found any to be a close substitute? Or, do you think the Jack-o-latern variety is the best? I have used butternut squash with some success and recently used a squash called Fairytale, which was wonderful. It cooked up with a wonderful custard-like texture. Yet – we long for the flavor, texture, and oomph of the green Mexican variety. Maybe we just need to go to Mexico, but am hoping you have some suggestions as to a comparable U.S. type. Thank you!

  2. Hola!

    Is the liquid supposed to cover both layers of the pumpkin? I stacked mine according to your directions but the liquid is only covering up the first layer.

    Thank you!

  3. Hi Pati-

    I was wondering if you have ever made this in the crock pot? We live in Haiti and don’t have a fancy french oven for the stove top. I do have a heavy pan, but it is cooking beans. Thanks for the suggestion!


  4. Pati, The Tacha sounds delicious and I am excited to make it. My only questions is do I have to use 6 cups of sugar. It seems like a lot but I still want to make sure that the finished dish tastes yummy. Do you think I could use 4? Thanks.

  5. I made this yesterday and it was WONDERFUL!! And I am not a cook by any stretch of the imagination. Thank you, Pati, for making this recipe so accessible!!

  6. De chiquilla mi Abuelita Paula le encantaba cenar calabaza, camotes y platanos enmielados en leche. Por chiquilla no se me antojaban pero ahora ya de vieja y por los recuerdos si quiero probarlos. Gracias por ensenarnos como preparar estas delicias.

  7. I made this on Monday and it was delicious! I took it to a celebration of Mexico’s independence and I served it with a little milk; everyone liked it. When I read the recipe I was surprised to see that the skin was left on the pumpkin, but after making it myself the skin is now my favorite part! The cinnamon and citrus are wonderful additions. It makes a lot so be sure to have some friends in mind to share it with. I was also surprised that a recipe that was so simple to make, and with only 4 to 5 ingredients, could turn out a dish so sophisticated in taste. Thank you for the recipe!

  8. Hola Pati!
    me encantan tus recetas. Soy de Monterrey y ahora vivimos en New Jersey. Añoro mi comida mexicana y me encanta cocinar para mis familia y mis amistades cosas de mi pais. Gracias!
    Pregunta: Puedo hacer la tacha con camotes (sweet potatoes)?


    1. Dora, hola! Si puedes hacer la tacha con camotes, sin embargo: hay que pelarlos y se tardaran mucho menos que la calabaza. Puedes arriesgar que queden como pure de camote ; )

  9. Hi Pati,
    I remember my mother making something like this but using a calabaza instead of a pumpkin (blue hubbard, I think)and serving it in chunks in a glass of cold milk. It might be a Sonora thing. Anyway, I assume the cooked skin is edible, right? Thank you for your show and recipes!

    1. Hola Rene, It sounds delicious with calabaza! Yes, the cooked pumpkin skin is edible. Let me know if you try it with the pumpkin.

    2. Oh my goodness my mom served it to us in a bowl of milk. I have not had this for many years. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  10. Hi Pati! Hi everyone,hey guys! I made the (Tasha)! Oh my goodness!It’s soooo easy! and delicious!! WOW what a different taste, I had never had anything like this in my life, and I’m a foody.Pati thank you so much for this great pumpkin recipe, it will be a keeper for my holiday table. This will also be part of my thanksgiving desserts, that I’ll be putting out with my homemade pies too. all you pati fans like me, you must try this recipe! It’s real easy.Oh and pati I put the pumpkin in with seeds and all, and your right! It taste great! Later everyone

  11. Hola Pati,
    me encantan tus recetas porque me haces recordar mi infancia al aldo de mama que cocina tan rico.
    ahora yo las preparo y para mejor guia me meto a tu blog y mmmhhh
    me salen riquisimos los platillos
    disfruto mucho tu blog y gracias por compartir nuestra cultura
    yolis desde houston, tx

  12. Hola Pati!
    Gracias por todas tus recetas, pero ese email es para platicarte de una coincidencia:
    Por segunda vez los ultimos anos, acompane a mi mama a un viaje organizado por medio de la universidad hebrea de Jerusalem.
    En estos viajes he convivido muy de cerca con unas muy buenas amigas de mi mama a las que carinosamente llamo “las mamis”. En esta ocasion, platicando con una de ellas, comente de tu web site y que tenias recetas muy sabrosas.
    Para mi sorpresa, una de mis “mamis” es nada mas que tu tias Celia, a quien verdaderamente adoro!!!Hablamos del episodio donde tu papa esta en la mesa y resulta que es su hermano!
    Que chiquito es el mundo, no?
    En fin, que gusto hacer “jewish geography”!
    Un abrazo,
    claris levin (desde san diego, ca)

    1. Hola Claris,
      Que chiquito es el mundo! Muchas gracias por tu notita y que bueno que te gustan las recetas… yo las seguire subiendo ; )