Dulce de Zapallo

Recipe for sweet squash, this delicious dessert is prepared with squash or squash simmered in brown sugar syrup (piloncillo) with cinnamon, cloves, and sweet pepper.

The sweet squash is also known as squash with panela honey and is a traditional Latin dessert prepared in Ecuador and several Latin countries. It is prepared with pumpkin or squash, brown sugar, and spices. This delicious dessert uses simple ingredients and is very easy to prepare.

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In general, desserts that are too sweet harass me. I like sweet squash because, in Ecuador, it is served accompanied by a piece of quesillo. It creates a rich contrast between the sweetness of the squash, the syrup of panela, and the freshness of the cheese.

The quesillo is a tender cheese typical of Ecuador. If you are not in Ecuador, you can replace it with mozzarella cheese or fresh cheese. I have been lucky to find cheeses very similar to the Ecuadorian quesillo in the farmer’s markets. The sweet squash can be served as a dessert to accompany the afternoon coffee or as part of the cheese plate.

In Ecuador, this sweet is prepared with squash or a variety of green squash called sambo. In the US, the types of squash known as acorn squash and Kubota squash physically resemble sambo. I wanted to experiment with the different varieties of squash found here to find the best one for sweet squash.

The acorn squash and Kubota disappointed me; the consistency is very smooth when cooked – which is great for a soup but not for squash fudge. I also prepared the pumpkin sweet with the pumpkin during the fall, which turned out very well. When I can’t find the pumpkin, I recommend using the butternut squash; it has excellent flavor, good consistency for this dessert, and perfect color. I also recommend using organic squash, as chunks are cooked with the rind.


  • 1 almost 2pound squash; can use pumpkin or butternut squash in USA
  • 1 pound of panela or piloncillo
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 sweet peppercorns
  • ~ 3 cups of water


  1. Wash the squash well, cut it in half, and remove the seeds and membranes.
  2. Cut the pumpkin into medium-sized pieces and put them in a large pot with brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and sweet pepper.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil over medium heat for about 30 minutes with the lid on.
  4. Uncover and simmer for about 1 hour or until syrup thickens and squash pieces are “pasty” or candied.
  5. Remove from heat and serve hot or cold squash chunks with a slice of queso fresco.


To accompany: pieces of cheese, you can use queso fresco or fresh mozzarella.

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