21 Best Cinco de Mayo desserts, from polvorones to churros

21 Best Cinco de Mayo desserts, from polvorones to churros

Starting to plan your Cinco de Mayo menu? Chances are you’ll start with the savory dishes, but that doesn’t mean dessert needs to take a backseat. With these Latin American-inspired desserts, you can stay on theme for your Cinco celebrations while providing your guests with something sweet to snack on after the main course.

Cinco de Mayo, often mistakenly referred to as Mexican Independence Day, is actually a celebration of Mexico’s success in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Although it’s celebrated in some parts of Mexico, Mexican-Americans in the United States are largely responsible for popularizing the holiday. Celebrating Cinco is about more than the tacos and booze — it’s a great way to learn more about Mexican-American culture … and eat some delicious desserts in the process.

These desserts capture the flavors and feel of some of Mexico’s and Latin America’s sweetest treats in sometimes classic, sometimes unexpected ways. We’ve rounded up some of our all-time favorite cinnamon-sprinkled and caramel-covered desserts that will pair beautifully with your Cinco spread. From salty, refreshing ice pops that are reminiscent of your favorite Mexican cocktail to richly sweet, caramel-covered cakes, we’ve got you covered when it comes to all of your sweetest Cinco de Mayo dishes.

Tres Leche French Toast with Guava Puree and Vanilla Sauce

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Tres leche is a dessert that can be found all over Latin America, but it gets a unique twist in this French toast recipe. The guava purée adds a touch of acidity that balances out the sweetness of the vanilla sauce.

Natalie's Pumpkin Flan

Annabelle Breakey / Getty Images

Mexican Chocolate Cake

Victoria Pearson / Nathan Turner’s I Love California: Live, Eat, and Entertain the West Coast Way

Flan, which made its way to Mexico via the Spanish, generally has a distinctly vanilla flavor to it, but this fall-inspired version of the dessert features pumpkin pie mix. Give it a try for Cinco de Mayo, and make a mental note to give it a go again during the fall.



Mexican wedding cookies, or polvorones, have a delightfully soft and crumbly texture that makes it all too easy to eat several in a sitting. The fact that they’re coated with a dusting of powdered sugar can make them messy to prepare and eat, but the chaotic kitchen is definitely worth the slightly sweet, nutty flavor.

Isabel Allende's Childhood Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is an essential Latin American dessert, and we love this version that features fresh cinnamon, citrus peel and star anise. The flavor combo is subtle but complex and perfectly complements the rich, creamy texture of the rice.

Vanilla Bean Churros with Chocolate Dipping Sauce

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

You may assume that churros are too time-consuming to make at home, but think again. This vanilla bean churro recipe only takes 20 minutes to prepare. Add the chocolate dipping sauce on the side, and you’ll find that your new favorite dessert comes together in a flash.

Salted Caramel Flan Cheesecake

Petr Bednarik / Eli’s Chicago

Flan gets a salty-sweet upgrade with this flan cheesecake recipe. Toasted almonds and flaky sea salt add an interesting textural element to this otherwise ultra-creamy dessert. The best part? The toasted almond crust means this recipe is completely gluten-free.

Guacamole Dulce (Sweet Guacamole)

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Guacamole shouldn’t be sidelined to the realm of savory starters, which is why this guacamole dulce, or sweet guacamole, recipe is going to be such a hit at your Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Mint, passionfruit, jicama, coconut and pomegranate transform avocados into a healthy, creamy dessert.

Mexican Chocolate Cake

Victoria Pearson / Nathan Turner’s I Love California: Live, Eat, and Entertain the West Coast Way

Chocolate cake is easy to love in all its forms, but it may just be at its best when it’s enhanced with warm spices. Cinnamon adds a layer of complexity to this recipe, and the cayenne pepper provides a touch of heat that helps the other flavors shine. Add some creamy mascarpone, and you’ll want to enjoy this Cinco de Mayo dessert all year long.

Churro Cheesecake

Courtesy Alejandra Tapia

Having trouble deciding between crunchy, spiced churros and creamy, decadent cheesecake? You can have the best of both worlds with this ultra-simple dessert recipe that requires just a few pantry staples. It’s hard not to love a caramel-covered cream cheese filling.

Warm Mini Apple Pie Empanadas

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Empanadas are the perfect handheld Cinco de Mayo snack, especially when they’re filled with a delicious, gooey apple pie filling. Since these apple pie empanadas are bite-sized, they’re ideal for passing around after a big meal — but don’t be surprised when everyone asks for seconds.


Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Standard churros get a makeover with this campfire-inspired dessert dish that forgoes the graham crackers in favor of cinnamon-sprinkled churros. You can always use store-bought marshmallows if you’re crunched for time, but making them from scratch will yield even more delicious results.

Frozen Margarita Tarts

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

This sweet take on the popular Mexican cocktail offers the same saltiness and acidity you love in a good margarita, and the pretzel crust provides a perfectly crunchy bite. Make sure you use fresh lime juice for this recipe — it makes a big difference in the final product.

Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Holes

Joy Bauer

Cinnamon is a common ingredient in Mexican desserts, so these cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes can be a fun addition to a sweet Cinco spread. Since they’re made with boxed cake mix and require only five ingredients, they come together surprisingly quickly for a bite-sized dose of sugary sweetness.

Dulce de Leche Apple Pie


This apple pie recipe calls for a mix of different apples for a more interesting, nuanced flavor, and the lusciously sweet Mexican-inspired dulce de leche adds a richness to the already-buttery crust. Can’t find dulce de leche at the store? It’ll only take you a few minutes to make it from scratch using just one can of condensed milk.

Cinnamon Roll Pound Cake

Jocelyn Delk Adams

Cinnamon rolls can be tricky to make, especially if you’re not an experienced baker. That’s why this cinnamon roll pound cake is such a great way to enjoy the treat for Cinco de Mayo. It has the density and richness of a classic pound cake with the flavor and streusel-like texture of traditional cinnamon rolls.

'Buttamilk' Caramel Pie

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Caramel, a beloved ingredient in Latin American desserts, is the star of the show in this pie. Keep an eye on the caramel as it cooks to prevent it from burning, and you’ll have a sticky, sweet dessert that’s ideal for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Vanilla Bean-Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

Grace Parisi / TODAY

Can’t decide on a single dessert to make for your Cinco celebrations? Whip up a batch of this vanilla bean-sea salt caramel sauce for a sweet-and-salty addition to all kinds of treats. It’ll add richness and depth to ice cream, baked goods and more.

Caramel Cake

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

It’s not uncommon to see caramel in Mexican desserts, which makes Cinco de Mayo the perfect excuse for making this impressive caramel cake. From caramel buttercream to the firm caramel coating that gives this cake some texture, you won’t be missing out on any bit of this iconic sweet, sticky ingredient.

Coconut-Key Lime Pie Pops

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Key lime pie, with its creaminess and well-balanced acidity, is a favorite during the warmer months of the year. If you don’t want to contend with pie crust, try these coconut-key lime pie pops. The condensed milk gives these pops a touch of sweetness that complements the slight bitterness of the lime zest. Crushed graham crackers break up the pops’ creamy texture.

Banana Split Nachos

Courtesy Ben Fink

Nachos are a quintessential Cinco de Mayo favorite, but they shouldn’t be relegated to the appetizer only. With this banana split-inspired recipe, you can enjoy sweet nachos topped with fruit, chocolate and plenty of whipped cream. Roasted almonds provide an earthiness and crunch that keeps this dessert from being too one-note.

Mango Margarita Pops with Lime Salt

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Your favorite Cinco de Mayo cocktail is taken to new heights with this refreshing dessert recipe that features ripe, juicy mangoes and tangy lime. Add some tequila for a boozy bite, or keep it alcohol-free for a treat you can enjoy the morning after your Cinco de Mayo celebrations.