Friday, July 12, 2013


Project Popsicle

Whenever people say they love summer, I have to assume their air conditioning situation is better than mine. If I could find a way to spend July and August in a pool with a bottomless Michelada and no threat of skin cancer, it seems possible I might hate summer less. As things stand, I spend most of my time boxed up in my apartment, waiting for the heat rage to flatten into despondence so I can get some work done.

That is, until recently, when I discovered a neat trick: It’s near impossible to feel mad or despondent while you’re eating a popsicle. They are cooling, which is good for morale. They are crazy delicious. And for the most part, they’re not even that bad for you; some popsicles are healthy enough to pass for breakfast, and at worst they make a modest dessert.

I gather that NYC and the whole of Mexico are vast wonderlands filled with artisanal popsicle purveyors. Unfortunately, I live in Chicago, where people still seem suspicious of frozen yogurt. Since most grocery store pops are filled with corn syrup and smell like magic markers, I decided to make some at home. You can, too.


Like almost all cookware, popsicle-making equipment is as simple or as fancy as you want it to be. Whether you’re a pervert, a raver, a psychopath, a dork, or an asshole, in the year 2013, I guarantee there’s an apparatus out there that is just right for you. Let’s review.

DIY Setups

Technically, pretty much any vessel can be converted into a popsicle mold. Probably the cheapest rig would be Dixie cups + wooden popsicle sticks. This is a decent option if you’re broke or on vacation or having a party, but know that it’s prone to spills, and freezer spills are the absolute worst. Shot glasses work well with the same caveat. Silicone ice cube trays are even better if you happen to have some on hand.

But honestly, if you plan to make popsicles more than once this summer, you should invest in a dedicated solution.

Traditional Molds

Aesthetically, it’s hard to beat classic popsicle molds, but in practice these things are the pits. The design of the lid is poor, for one thing. Moreover, any mold made of plastic requires you to use hot water to unmold the pop, which feels vaguely treacherous. I recommend Zoku’s clever silicone line, which lets you peel popsicles out from the individual molds with no fuss. Try this one or this one, which both retail for well under $20.

Popsicles on Demand

Instant popsicle makers like the this one are pretty much pure wizard magic, cutting the interminable time the pops spend freezing down to about 10 minutes. Instant popsicles tend to have an excellent creamy texture and, of course, they don’t develop freezer burn. Highly recommended.

That said, there remains something deeply unsatisfying about the instant popsicle experience, at least at first. The plastic stick is very wide and awkward to eat around. The pop itself is a tad too small. And heaven help you if you try to extract it too soon. You’ll have no choice but to scrape it out of the machine with a knife like an animal.


Everyone has a different idea about what a popsicle should be, and here is mine: simple, light, and refreshing. In no way should your preparation resemble batter or frosting or fudge. Three or four ingredients is usually plenty, and none of them should be heavy cream or butter. (That’s actually not a dig at She Who Must Not Be Named; these recipes are everywhere!) That said, I fully endorse the use of full-fat milk and yogurt for taste and texture purposes. Anything less will be icy and wan.

As far as kitchen experiments go, popsicles are low-risk, high-reward. It’s fun to futz around with different flavors until you land on something you really like. (Bonus: popsicles are a great way to use up stuff in your fridge that’s about to go off, like mushy fruit and elderly dairy.) Inevitably, you will fail. Perhaps one night after a few drinks you have a brilliant idea for a sparkling water popsicle that doesn’t exactly pan out. Or maybe you’ve made a mango mixture with chiles that looks like a big bowl of sick. So what? In less than 10 minutes you can turn out a batch of something better, no harm done.

The obvious place to start is fruit juice. Squeeze your own, buy it fresh, or just use something off the shelf (mmm, Concord grape). The next level is fruit purees, which are delicious and healthier than juice. While you don’t need any special tools to make popsicles apart from the molds, a hand blender will make everything easier. You can make excellent fruit puree pops out of pretty much anything by adding something sweet and a healthy squirt of lemon.

Once you get the hang of things you can experiment with whatever ingredients your hungry heart desires: vegetables, sodas, teas, liquors, etc. Soon you’ll be the King Midas of your kitchen, with everything you touch turning into delicious popsicles.


If you’re feeling ambitious right out of the gate, there are two great cookbooks I recommend: Paletas and People’s Pops. Both contain some unusual ideas that will bring you one step closer to the dream (my dream?) of eating popsicles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also, of course, many recipes on the web, though in my opinion too many of them are unnecessarily complicated or totally slapdash. I’m including a handful of my own recipes below, which are likely both.

The difficulty with popsicle recipes in general is the sweetener situation. Personal preference and variation amongst fruits means that any measurements you see should be considered a suggestion. To avoid overdoing it, add the sweet stuff one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is slightly more sickening than something you would drink. (Freezing dulls flavors.) I usually prefer sugar because it’s less assertive than agave, maple syrup, or honey, but as with everything in life, the results will be best if you do you.

Pudding Pops

Yield: 5 to 8 pudding pops

Pretty much every pudding pop recipe I’ve ever seen calls for instant pudding. Regular pudding takes like two extra minutes and tastes infinitely better. Let’s do this right.

1 package cook & serve pudding (I like chocolate)

2.25 cups whole milk

Whisk the pudding mix and 2 cups of the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove to a bowl off the heat as soon as the mixture begins to boil. Let stand for about 10 minutes—enough time for the pudding to partially cool, but not enough time for it to set. (Don’t worry, the recipe has been optimized for all the warm pudding you will eat during this time.) Stir in a quarter cup of cold milk. If you left the pudding too long, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture pours easily. Mold, freeze, and serve with your favorite episode of The Cosby Show.

Extreme Lemon Pops

Yield: 7 to 10 popsicles

Intensely sweet and lemony, these popsicles are not messing around. To take the edge off, stir in lots of plain yogurt.

1 cup sugar

0.5 cup water

10 lemons

Combine the sugar and the water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is just about to boil. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, peel and segment the lemons, removing the pith and seeds as you go. Puree the segments. (If you have more or less than 2 cups of lemon puree, tweak your sugar input accordingly.) Stir in the cooled syrup, mold, and freeze.

Basic Breakfast Pops

Yield: 6 to 10 popsicles

I prefer these popsicles plain, but you could easily add fruit.

1.5 cups plain unsweetened Greek yogurt

1 cup whole milk

1 cup granola

Whisk the yogurt and milk in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the granola. Mold, freeze, and serve. Hey, good job, you’re done.

The Full Nilsson

Yield: 6 to 9 Nilssons

1.25 cups fresh lime juice (maybe 10-12 limes)

10 tablespoons sugar

1.25 cups full-fat coconut milk (I like Chaokoh brand)

Combine the lime juice and the sugar in a bowl. Let stand for a minute or two to let the sugar dissolve. Stir in the coconut milk. Mold, freeze, and surrender the remains of your day to a first-rate Internet k-hole.


Kim O’Connor is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago. You can find her on Twitter.

55 Comments / Post A Comment


Pudding pops. PUDDING. POPS.
I am SO there.


@Jinxie Also, I keep intending to make some fancypants boozy ice pops and it's high time I got off my tuchus and made it happen.


@Jinxie I’ve got some boozy pops in R&D!


@Jinxie this is not a Popsicle but when I was living in Chicago with no AC (no one realizes how damn hot and humid it can get in Chicago!) I used to make a big old Tupperware container of vodka lemonade and stick it in the freezer. My friends and I would scoop it into cups and eat it with spoons. So refreshing!!


@Jinxie ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~IntërracialFìshes. Çom ~This is a Specialized Online Interracial Dating Services. For black women meet white men, black men dating white women. Meet interracial singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, have a try.yrry---


@Jinxie ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~IntërracialFìshes. Çom ~This is a Specialized Online Interracial Dating Services. For black women meet white men, black men dating white women. Meet interracial singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, have a try.yrry---


YUM. Thanks for the recipes.
But.... If you are in Chicago, you have no excuse to not be hitting up any of several great mexican paleterias, my favorite being Monarca. Arroz y canella paleta ftw!


@liverwortlaura Or at the very least the paleta men who outnumber ice cream trucks 5 to 1 in this town (somehow I deleted my comment, oops)


@Amphora Yup. Don't be scared of them! And don't be fooled by the creepy spiderman and hello kitty popsicles advertised on the carts, they probably have the goods, too (coconut! mango! spicy mango! spicy cucumber! tamarind! cookies and cream! ahhhhhhhh now I need a paleta!)


@liverwortlaura Ooh, thanks for the reco. Sort of far from my HQ but it looks worth the trip.


wooow I need to convince Mr Iceberg that the Bergy Bits are ready for us to buy a popsicle mold! (they still pronounce "stick" as "dick" which leads to lots of comments about "eating a dick" whenever we give them Popsicles)


@iceberg In that case, I'd say now is DEFINITELY time for you to get a popsicle mold. Tasty homemade treats AND toddler hilarity!


@iceberg I bet you'll get a hiatus of about 10 years, and then comments about "eating a dick" will resurge, full force.


@Jinxie "Mama! Mama![brother's name] eat a dick!"


This reminds me of an unintelligible pink drawing one of my friend's students made, labelled BIG KIDS CAN RIDE A DICK.
(it was supposed to be "bike" and she kept it and it's on the fridge)

Lily Rowan

@iceberg PS: I bought a popsicle mold for $3 this weekend, so it's not like it has to be a big commitment!

Lily Rowan

You're so right! Why am I not making popsicles?? I either eat ice cubes or ice cream, and there actually is something in between.

Tape Recorder

Important question: how do we add alcohol?

Emma Carmichael

@Tape Recorder TK!


@Tape Recorder
With difficulty! The alcohol inhibits freezing. So instead you make something more like a snow cone or Slurpee!


@Jinxie Anyway, even if it were a slushie, it'd still be damn good.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Here's my icy summer treat:

Leave work late. Get bottle of wine on the way home, as the sun fades. Stick it in the freezer unopened after you notice you have 1/3 of a bottle sitting on the counter. Pour a glass of the old warm wine over the frozen grapes you left in the freezer for this very purpose.

Start cooking something. Have another glass of wine. Keep cooking, boyfriend arrives, you make out or bitch about your day or whatever.

Eat all the frozen grapes out of your wine glass as an appetizer. Delicious.

Want a third glass of wine. Open bottle in the freezer. Top comes off, and pressure change causes wine to freeze into delicious slush. Leave to the bottle on the counter to defrost. Drink delicious slush.

Have slushy sex with boyfriend.


Stupid Flanders

@Tape Recorder Like this!!! http://www.endlesssimmer.com/featured/endless-poptails/


@Tape Recorder I made some pretty tasty pops out of pink moscato and strawberry puree (plus a little lemon and then sweetened to taste).

Like Rock and Roll Ken Doll said, they ended up softer than non-boozeypops. Still doable, but I was glad I used molds with a bottom to catch drips and spills -- the molds were at the dollar store and had a built-in straw. #winenightjustgotclassy

After a few days, I ended up scraping the remaining ones into a bowl and calling them granita.


Okay there is only 1 way to resolve this freezing-solid/not-freezing-solid issue: rigorous experimentation with extensive peer review!!


@Stupid Flanders Hmm...I may pass on the Bloody Mary pops, but all the other sound AMAZING. Especially the Bourbon Butterscotch Latte holy cow.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I'm happy to do my part for my country.
And along those lines - I want to make pudding pops this weekend, but I also want to make boozy pops. What booze would go best in the pudding pops? Bourbon?

Stupid Flanders

@Jinxie I actually bought popsicle molds the other day to try out the watermelon/blackberry margarita ones. I am very excited for this.


@Jinxie something like Kahlua or Baileys


@Tape Recorder This roundup has 25 recipes. Including a French 75 popsicle and a sour cherry tequila popsicle. Hot damn.


@Jinxie For pudding pops, a nice porter or stout might be worth trying? For the other flavors here I'd suggest rum with the lime/coconut. Vodka or maybe something herbaceous like St. Germain for the lemon.


@Tape Recorder there are these molds that make basically frozen shot glasses. A friend of mine made limey ones and put tequila in them once. It was AWESOME. http://tinyurl.com/nymhpf9


@Tape Recorder What about using dry ice??? Because then maybe you could add more booze and freeze them all the way through???? I don't have any experience, but I am curious so maybe I'll google it!


@bnna this internet lady seemed to figure it out! You could even multi-task the dry ice for a Halloween in July party or something!


@bnna There's no link in your link :(


@everyone Can't believe I'm the first one to make that reference:

Bring me my lolly!


YUM. I am too lazy to mix things and wait, though, so I just freeze grapes, which get slushy/icy pretty fast! Also, frozen peas out of the bag, shhh.

oh! valencia

@yeah-elle Also excellent!


@yeah-elle Frozen blueberries! They have purpled my fingers many a summer afternoon.

oh! valencia

Nutella Pops: Blend up 1 cup of whole-fat milk with maybe 2 tbsp of Nutella.

I have been making tons of fruit smoothie popsicles because they are the only way I can get a certain preschooler in my house to eat fruit. She will not drink the smoothie but will gladly eat the popsicle. And no, she does not respond well to queries regarding the logic of that choice.


@oh! valencia ohhhhhhhh


@oh! valencia :O :D


Anachronistique, prepare to partake in a popsicle tasting party when you come over.


@lobsterhug I'M SO EXCITED!

Nellie, the Dickensian Factory Urchin

Any love for Helados Mexicos out there? Horchata, quince, pecan, coconut, chocolate with little crunchy chocolate bits? Mexican popsicles rock my world.


"It’s near impossible to feel mad or despondent while you’re eating a popsicle."

Au contraire! I have sobbed uncontrollably while eating a popsicle. But it in no way diminished my enjoyment of said popsicle.


Also a couple summers ago (in an apartment with no A/C) my husband and I went through a box of Edy's Real Fruit bars every three or four days. A quarter of our grocery budget was JUST popsicles. The raspberry ones are fantastic but be careful with the lime or you will burn your taste buds off.


Yeah, as late July and August approach in DC, it might be time to revive my "popsicles for breakfast" practice. When it's over 80 before you even get to work in the morning, it is the only sane choice.


I needed to comment to marvel at the writer's lack of popsicles in Chicago-what neighborhood are you in?!? It is the wrong one!! There are tons of popsicles. I mean, i still want to make these though.


In the last couple of weeks I made pineapple yogurt pops and raspberry banana yogurt pops. I have a package of flan languishing in the cupboard - time to try flan pudding pops!

nill lee

You're so right! Why am I not making popsicles?? I either eat ice cubes or ice cream, and there actually is something in between.


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