This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking, and buying right now.
The best part of commuting in New York is by far the subway vendors. Even on days when the platforms are extra crowded, you can almost always find a friendly face hawking churros, candy, and, in the summer, mango seasoned with chile powder. Sweet, spicy, and satisfying, a baggie of these fresh, juicy fruit wedges is my favorite warm-weather accessory and makes sweating through my blouse on the platform—you know, hot girl stuff—borderline tolerable. Still, thanks to a nice and slow return to the office, I’m commuting less often these days. So I went searching for a packaged alternative, and that’s how I found Chuza.
Chuza is a Mexican-owned brand offering a whole range of dried fruits seasoned with chile. There’s the classic dried chile mango, reminiscent of other spicy fruit snacks sold in Mexico and Central America, but Chuza also sells spicy cranberries, pineapple chunks, apricots, and nopal. The mango got me through the door, but my runaway favorite is the spicy strawberries, which are irresistibly easy to pop into your mouth whole and bursting with bright, summery flavor.
My best tip is to add Chuza strawberries to spicy margaritas, in which they infuse the drink with their chile-laden sweetness. Then, once you reach the bottom of your glass, they’ll be pleasantly fortified with tequila and lime juice, transformed into a boozy bite that’s bursting with spicy flavor. This was by far the cocktail of my summer, and thanks to the spicy heat, it’ll be keeping me warm through the colder months as well.
Chuza’s dried fruit is more liberally seasoned with chile than most fresh fruit from street vendors, so the first few seconds on your tongue is all spice, baby. But the longer you chew, the more the fruit reveals its tropical flavors. It’s one of those perfect snacking cycles when the savory moments make me crave the sweet ones, which then get me ready for another salty, spicy chomp.
Beyond the seasoning—which you can buy on its own to use as a flavorful chile powder—the variety of fruits is what really sets Chuza apart. The pineapple chunks are nice and small, a phenomenally munchable movie night snack, while bigger, chewier options like the apricots are great for enjoying slowly on long drives or on a picnic-ready snack board. Although they all come individually packaged, I also recommend mixing and matching the different dried offerings to make a spicy fruit cocktail in your mouth.
I won’t be able to avoid commuting forever, so it’s looking like I’ll be riding the subway once more. But I don’t think I’ll count Chuza out, even with my daily access to mango con chile restored. After all, dried fruit makes a tidy desk snack, and my shirts are stained enough.