Fresas con Crema de Vainilla (Strawberries and Mexican Vanilla Bean Sweet Cream)
This one’s for the mamis fresas! Over the weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day across the U.S., and on May 10, we pay homage to the Mexican madres. Since May is also National Strawberry Month and these fun frutas are at their peak sweetness, I decided to whip up one of my favorite strawberry recipes. My take on fresas con crema has a gourmet twist that will tantalize your taste buds.
Fun Fresa Fact
While strawberries are typically available year-round in the United States, they are extra sweet between April and June. Any time I’m in town visiting my mom in Chino during strawberry season, I make it a point to take the kids for a morning stroll to buy these heart-shaped treats right from the fields where they grow.
What is Fresas con Crema?
My first experience with fresas con crema was in the town of Irapuato, Guanajuato, also known as the strawberry capital of Mexico. It’s a classic Mexican dessert, made with strawberries and cream and the recipes change from region to region and vendor to vendor.
I’ve tasted fresas con crema while wandering aimlessly through Mexican mercados where strawberries are served whole or quartered in tall plastic cups, with a whipped cream of sorts. In Mexican ice cream shops, you can try a different spin on them where sliced frozen strawberries come in the small milk-like carton, and topped with a fluffy cream – a real treat on hot summer days.
The crema, or sweet cream sauce, is actually what differs from region to region. Some recipes call for Mexican crema, while others require heavy whipping or sour cream. My recipe requires plain yogurt that is sweetened with leche condensada and infused with Mexican vanilla beans.
Another Fun Fact
Real Mexican vanilla extract (not cheap synthetic blends) commands a higher price and comes from the worlds’ only orchid with an edible pod, also known as a vanilla bean.
“Legend or not, the very delicate vanilla plant is actually a temperamental species of orchid that has to be treated like a capricious bride-to-be in order for it to bloom, be pollinated, harvested, and cured and dried in such a way that either vanilla beans or vanilla extract can exist.” Read more about Mexican vanilla in this writeup by Pati Jinich.
How to Make Strawberries and Cream with Mexican Vanilla
Thanks to the native California strawberry, Mexico’s signature dessert can be easily replicated for all to savor and enjoy with this easy two-step recipe.
- Whisk together yogurt, condensed milk, and either vanilla bean seeds or Mexican vanilla extract. Chill for at least one hour. This cream can be prepared a day or two in advance.
- When ready to serve, cut strawberries into slices, halves, or fourths. Fill a small glass with the strawberries then top with the sweet vanilla cream mixture. Garnish with more fresh strawberries and edible flowers for an extra fancy touch.
If you’re entertaining a crowd, you can prepare the cream in a large bowl and add the sliced strawberries a few hours in advance, cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, scoop the strawberry-cream mixture into small dessert bowls or clear glasses. Top with more fresh strawberries and edible flowers for an extra elegant touch.
Dairy-Free Swaps and Other Substitutes
As I mentioned earlier, there are many versions of this recipe. One of the simplest I’ve tasted included frozen strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Here are a few substitutes and swaps to consider:
Swap out fresh strawberries for frozen strawberries if that’s what you have on hand.
Mexican vanilla beans can be pricey and while I believe they are worth every penny (a single vanilla bean can cost up to $10 at a gourmet spice shop), good quality Mexican vanilla extract infuses excellent flavor, too.
Many versions of this recipe call for a blend of sour cream, heavy cream, evaporated, or condensed milks instead of my simple plain yogurt and condensed milk blend. These are also just as tasty! Freshly whipped cream with a touch of sweetener and Mexican vanilla would create a lighter spin on this as well.
Looking for a dairy-free fresas con crema recipe? Luckily there are a number of substitutes out there – consider your favorite dairy-free yogurt, coconut whipping cream, coconut condensed milk, or even a sweet homemade cashew crema!
FRESAS CON CREMA RECIPE
PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES, COOK TIME: 0 MINUTES, SERVINGS: 6 to 8 small bowls or glasses
TOOLS, SUPPLIES, AND EQUIPMENT
Large mixing bowl
Small dessert bowls or clear glasses
32 ounces plain yogurt
14 ounces condensed milk
2 Mexican vanilla beans or 2 tablespoons Mexican Vanilla Extract
1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
Edible flowers for garnish, optional
Whisk together yogurt, condensed milk, and either vanilla bean seeds or Mexican vanilla extract. Chill for at least one hour. This cream can be prepared a day or two in advance.
When ready to serve, cut strawberries into slices, halves, or fourths. Fill a small glass with the strawberries then top with sweet vanilla cream mixture. Garnish with more fresh strawberries and edible flowers for an extra fancy touch.
Photography + Styling: Cacey McReavy
Hand-embroidered Mexican dress and hand-painted spoons: Lola’s Mercadito