upper waypoint

San Jose’s Most Creative Paleta Cart Is Leveling Up the Mexican Ice Pop

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A batch of paletas featuring the green, white and red tricolor pattern of the Mexican flag.
A batch of Cinco de Mayo–themed paletas from Paleta Planeta. The popular San Jose paleta cart will soon open a brick-and-mortar shop. (Octavio Peña)

On a hot summer day, the sound of a paleta cart’s bells usually signals the arrival of bright red paletas de fresa, ice cream sandwiches and gumball-eyed Spider-Man popsicles.

But the ice pops inside Paleta Planeta’s galaxy-wrapped cart in San Jose are different. While the cart does sell some traditional Mexican fruit paletas, it also offers an ever-rotating selection of hybrid flavors like taro Oreo and avocado chocolate. Other flavors aren’t particularly Mexican, or what you’d think to put in a popsicle, at all — pumpkin pie, for instance.

The experimental approach has earned Paleta Planeta a cult following across the South Bay.

“Our paletas have traditional Mexican roots,” co-founder Mauricio Salazar says. “But we blend them with flavors from other cultures.”

Mauricio and his brother Luis Salazar started selling paletas from their parents’ garage in October 2021. They wanted to start their own business due to the uncertainty of the pandemic’s layoffs, and their cousins — third-generation paleteros in Texas — offered to teach them the basics. Now, the Salazars manufacture and sell their ice pops from a kitchen in the back of Zuñigas Restaurant in San Jose. While recipe development is a joint effort, Luis is the one who makes the paletas. Mauricio primarily handles events and social media. And Gabriel, their younger brother, helps with bookkeeping and invoicing.


“We grew up playing competitive soccer,” Mauricio says. “We understand the importance of having a team.”

Two men in rubber gloves hold up popsicles.
Brothers Mauricio (left) and Luis Salazar started their paleta business in 2021. (Octavio Peña)

As a team of two, Mauricio and Luis are able to produce and package a few hundred paletas per day with the use of a flash freezer. They fill metal paleta molds with fresh fruit purées and dunk them into a water-glycol bath, which freezes a batch within minutes. This is faster than waiting for paletas to solidify in a traditional freezer, and more importantly, it produces paletas that are light and airy.

The brothers take their craft seriously and have even traveled to the international paleta convention in Mexico City to learn the flavors and techniques being used by new-wave paleteros. Indeed, what sets Planeta Paletas apart is the brothers’ creativity and dedication to offering unique flavor combinations.

Three colorful Mexican popsicles on top of a tray of ice.
A trio of colorful paletas. (Octavio Peña)

“Sometimes I go to the bar for inspiration,” says Luis. “If flavors work in a drink, they work in a paleta.” (A mojito inspired him to pair mint with fruit flavors like strawberry, pineapple and mango.) Mauricio keeps an eye out for potential ideas by keeping track of what fruits are in season and perusing boba shop menus.

Their flavor combinations aren’t thoughtless mishmashes of trendy ingredients. The matcha horchata, for example, pairs a drink popular in Japan with one popular in Mexico highlighting the subtle nuttiness of each. It’s herbal, sweet, and, for anyone that’s a fan of both drinks, provides simultaneous flashes of the sophistication of sitting down for a cup of hot tea and the cooling-off effect of a refreshing agua fresca.

The Salazar brothers use mostly seasonal fruits for two reasons: Because they’re more flavorful, they require less additional sugar, and they present the opportunity to experiment with ingredients the Salazars wouldn’t typically consider. Luis is especially proud of a creation he made by pairing mamey sapote, a Mexican fruit that has notes of pumpkin and apricot, with mango, which brightens the earthiness of the sapote.

Ube brownie, mango maracuya lechera, mazapán paletas in a cooler.
Planeta Paleta is known for its creative, non-traditional flavors, and its use of seasonal ingredients. (Octavio Peña)

My favorite is Planeta’s take on an orange cream pop. The paleta’s shattering exterior is made with mango and passionfruit which maintains the original creation’s tropical flavor while introducing a musky complexity. The interior swaps cream for lechera (i.e., Latin American condensed milk), which is sweeter and denser, balancing out the acidity of the fruits.

Other Paleta Planeta flavors are fun reinventions of Mexican classics. Candies like gansito and mazapan are suspended in ice to create a refreshing version of the treats. Abuelita brand Mexican hot chocolate is typically reserved for winter nights, but in ice pop form, you can bring it along for a beach day.

A purple, galaxy-themed paleta cart with the name of the business, "Paleta Planeta," in a space-age font.
The cart makes frequent appearances at a variety of South Bay events. (Octavio Peña)

After years of hard work, the brothers are ready to take their business to the next step: a brick-and-mortar location in downtown San Jose, in the former 4th Street Pizza building across from City Hall. New additions include a system that will allow customers to customize their paletas with a variety of toppings. The Salazars expect to open their doors by July.

“We’re born and raised in Eastside San Jose,” Mauricio says, “so we’re excited to be a part of the city’s new wave of flourishing businesses.”

Paleta Planeta is currently located inside of Zuñiga’s Restaurant at 1783 Alum Rock Ave. Unit 20 in San Jose. When it opens, the new brick-and-mortar shop will be located at 150 E. Santa Clara St. For weekly hours and events, check their Instagram account.

lower waypoint
next waypoint