Posted by: Lydia | April 27, 2011

Semana Santa 2011

What do you get when you combine 11 pounds of red beans, 11 pounds of sugar, 4 gallons of fresh cow’s milk, 6 cans of condensed milk, 2 pounds of white sweet potato, cinnamon, and nutmeg then boil it for 5 hours in a shack and top it with raisins and milk crackers?

My host dad Ramire adding the sweet potato

Why, barely enough of the preferred Dominican Easter-time dessert; Habichueles con Dulce, to fulfill your Holy Week needs.

If your stomach starts to ache just reading the ingredient list, you are not alone. Many volunteers start to bloat uncontrollably after only a few spoonfulls of this delicious treat, however for some reason, despite my frailty in the face of other Dominican classics such as boiled green bananas, I can eat unlimited quanities of Habichueles con Dulce. Maybe this superpower comes from years of eating similarly-flavored Chinese desserts, but this is the one week of the year that I can delight the neighborhood Doñas with my gastronomic prowess.

Cooking the habichueles is a day-long, family affair, and what most people do to celebrate Good Friday.

You can’t see it very well through the steam, however my host mom Nelis is grating nutmeg into the roiling sea of sweet beans. Whereas most Dominican housewives in the campo live very happily without ever using a sauté pan, they would never consider their kitchen arsenal complete without a tiny grater devoted entirely to nutmeg.

Joining in the fun. Nelis may cook all of the meals in this household, but Ramire is the master of sweets. I am surprised I didn’t get diabetes from the three months I lived with the Santos family, considering that snack time was a constant stream of dulce de leche and tropical fruit milkshakes, all made with my good friend sweetened condensed milk.

It tastes much better than it looks, I swear.

That same morning, our neighbor Maria was gifting milk to the community from her cow that had recently given birth.

She insisted I take some, which naturally I used to make more dessert, since what else is my lactose-intolerant self going to do with a gallon of raw milk?

2 ½ hours later, dulce de leche!



  1. Wonder if there is a version of dulce de leche that is kosher for passover….the bean dish certainly wouldn’t make it.

  2. beans and milk and sweet potatoes aren’t kosher for passover?

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