Cherry-Hibiscus Paletas

Hibiscus is one beautiful blossom.  It's also tangy, tropical, and the perfect partner to the sweet, seasonal fruit of the moment: cherries.  Fruity and floral, these Cherry-Hibiscus Paletas hit all the high notes.  

If these Cherry-Hibiscus Paletas could dance, it would be to Calypso or dancehall.  (I hope you're envisioning a popsicle gyrating to Murder She Wrote.  Got that visual?)  

These frozen treats are inspired in part by Feroza's, a Trinidadian spot in the North Bronx.  Aside from the massive beef roti and cod fritters, this hole-in-the-wall vends an impressive array of Caribbean beverages - everything from peanut milk to ginger beer to sorrel drink.  I could also devote an entire blog post to the sweet little kerchief-wearing ladies behind the counter who ask "peppa?" to gauge your spice tolerance, but once again, I digress.

Back to the hibiscus: sorrel, also known as Flor de Jamaica, specifically refers to the hibiscus species roselle, even MORE specifically, the sepals of the roselle.  The dried sepals are the foundation for a variety of beverages all over the world, including the cloyingly sweet sorrel drink mentioned above, and Jamaican Rum Punch (more on that below).  Though I relish washing down a roti with a few sips of sorrel drink at Feroza's, the insane sugar content forces me to leave it at that: just a few sips.  

These Cherry-Hibiscus Paletas have all the tangy sorrel flavor with a fraction of the sugar.  Sorrel is easy enough to find in a Mexican market or bodega, and the rest of the ingredients are quite common.  Yes, the addition of tamarind nectar imparts a bit of added sugar, but the flavor payoff is worth it.  And since we're right in the sweet spot of cherry season, so you'll be getting the most nutritional bang for your buck - Vitamin C, potassium, and anthocyanins (antioxidants).  

The flavor profile of these Cherry-Hibiscus Paletas is a nod to Jamaican Rum Punch.  If you're looking for a boozy treat this holiday weekend, go crazy and add some Myer's (or Wray and Nephew, if you're feeling REALLY festive) to the blender, and skip the popsicle molds altogether.  This recipe holds its own as a mixer, too!  

Whatever your plans this weekend, stay cool, stay safe, and...


Cherry-Hibiscus Paletas

Author: Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT

Special Equipment: High-powered blender, Norpro Popsicle Maker  and popsicle sticks


2 1/2 C. fresh cherry halves (sweet, dark red, not tart)

1 C. water

1 C. sorrel

3 inch "knob" of fresh ginger root, scrubbed and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

3 cinnamon sticks

2/3 C. tamarind pulp (I used Goya brand)

1/3 C. fresh-squeezed lime juice (equivalent juice of two good limes)


Once cherries are halved and measured, place them in a Ziploc and freeze overnight, at least 8 hours.  Freezing the fresh cherries will ensure a more uniformly-textured paleta. 

Combine water, sorrel, ginger and cinnamon sticks in small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes, then remove saucepan from heat to cool completely, about an hour or so.

Using fine mesh sieve or colander, drain cooled liquid into a glass container.  Without squeezing the sorrel, you will still retain most of the liquid.  Resist the urge to touch the sorrel and discard it.  Note: sorrel is very, very brightly hued and will stain surfaces if not cleaned immediately.  

Combine sorrel liquid, lime juice, tamarind pulp, and cherries in high-powered blender.  Transfer mixture to popsicle molds and place in freezer.  Allow paletas to freeze for an hour before inserting popsicle sticks.  Freeze overnight.

When you're ready to remove the paletas, run warm water over the mold to help ease them out.  If you haven't worked with this kind of popsicle mold before, I can tell you firsthand that there's a bit of a learning curve here.  Be gentle and patient in removing your paletas!  

Place each paleta in a snack-size Ziploc bag.  They're a perfect fit!  

Yield: 10 paletas