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<< back to foods in Oaxaca

Nieve: Leche quemada con tuna

Leche quemada con tuna, a type of nieve or ice cream, from Oaxaca, Mexico.

What: Nieve (“snow”) generally means a frozen treat in Mexico, but ice cream more specifically, though in truth it more closely resembles a creamy sherbet of sorts. While the state of Michoacán is arguably the ice cream capital of Mexico—as suggested by the ever-present La Michoacana Natural franchise of icy sweets—every region has its own distinct, favorite flavor. In Oaxaca, it’s leche quemada con tuna, or burnt milk with tuna, the sweet fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Leche quemada tastes true to its name, strangely enough; as a nieve, it’s white and creamy, with a smoky-sweet flavor. The bright-maroon tuna nieve, dotted with kiwi-like black seeds, is sweet and fruity, more sorbet-like. Together the flavors mysteriously complement each other, the more savory leche balancing the sweet tuna. An odder couple may not exist, but somehow it works. Like, really well.

Where: We like Nevería el Niagara (no. 28) in the Mercado Benito Juárez (Miguel Cabrera at Las Casas, map), a friendly little puesto that serves its nieves in old-fashioned tulip sundae glasses.

When: Daily, 10am-6pm (approx.)

Order: Leche quemada con tuna (20p) is the most regional, but other flavors here include limón, mango, chocolate, fresa (strawberry), guanabana (soursop), and even mezcal (also pretty regional!).

Alternatively: Next door to Niagara in Mercado Benito Juárez is the popular Chaquita stall (no. 27), offering a slightly wider range of flavors. If you’d like to enjoy your ice cream in the great outdoors, head to the tarp-covered collection of neverías in the Plazuela de Soledad (map), next to the Basílica de la Soledad a few blocks northeast of the zócalo. 


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