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Capirotada, or Mexican bread pudding, screams Lent!
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.
It starts with getting ashes put on our foreheads. Some people will even fast. As a kid, we would have planned for months what we were giving up for Lent – chocolate, pizza, TV.
There are also dietary restrictions. Very little meat is consumed and prohibited on Fridays. Certain dishes only pop out during this time like this Mexican dessert.
More Mexican Dessert Recipes:
Pastel de Tres Leches
Mexican Wedding Cookies
20 Best Mexican Desserts
How to Make It
- Add water, star anise, cinnamon stick, and piloncillo to a pot.
- Bring to a boil and let the piloncillo melt.
There are variations of this dish. Capirotada Mexicana is either made with a milk or water base. In Spanish, Capirotada de Agua, and Capirotada de Leche.
The recipe I’m sharing is the way we make it in Durango, Mexico.
This is the way my mother’s family makes it. I even found this exact recipe in a cookbook dated over 100 years old.
This recipe is made with water and not baked. We also make it on the stove, and the bread is NOT toasted.
If you can’t find you can piloncillo substitute with 1 cup of brown sugar and stir as it cooks. Or buy it online piloncillo
During Lent, Mexican bakeries will sell already sliced bread just for Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding. That bread tends to be too hard or already toasted.
For this recipe, OLD BOLILLO is strongly recommended. However, you can use fresh bolillo or cut up French Baguette.
Pro Tip:Before the bolillo goes bad, wrap it up in plastic wrap, and stick it in the freezer. Bread can last up to 6 months in the freezer. Take it out when you’re ready to make this traditional Mexican dessert.
- Banana slices
- Shredded Coconut
- candy sprinkles
- Candied pineapple
Capirotada with sprinkles is an absolute must in my family! You can add all of these toppings or a combination.
Dice up a block of cheese, or you can use shredded cheese too.
Durango-style Capirotada must include cheese. Menonite cheese is what is traditional for Durango, but since it is nearly impossible to find in the US, here are some suggestions.
What type of cheese?
- Queso Monterery
- Queso Oaxaca
- Queso Chihuahua
Yellow cheese is NOT authentic Mexican and not recommended for this recipe. If the recipe asks for yellow cheese, it is a Mexican-American adaptation from the authentic recipe.
- Layer the bread.
- Add the desired toppings.
- Continue layering until there are no more ingredients.
Capirotada Mexicana has deep Catholic roots. It was originally called “Capirotada de Vigilia.”
People needed to use up leftovers before the beginning of the Lenten fast. Some genius cook decided to mix bread, syrup, spices, and white cheese together.
- The bread represents the Body of Christ.
- The syrup his blood, the cloves are the nails of the cross, the cinnamon stick is the wood used for the cross.
- The melted cheese stands for the Holy Shroud of Turin.
The original recipes for this dessert were even recorded by the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition. We’re talking 1640s! They can still be found in the archives to this day.
More authentic Mexican dessert recipes:
Carlota de Limón
Pan de Elote
Arroz con Leche
- Pour the sweet syrup into the pot over the layered bread.
- Cover and cook on very LOW heat on the stove for 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Word to the Wise: Be sure to REMOVE the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves before pouring into the pot.
You can serve it either warm or cold. With the warm version, though, there is the ooey gooey cheese. Some people even eat Capirotada for breakfast.
How Long Does it Last?
- In the fridge, capirotada only last 3-4 days.
- In the freezer, it will last for up to 5 months in a sealable, airtight plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible.
To bake your capirotada mexicana:
- Make the sauce as per recipe.
- Layer everything in a baking dish.
- Pour sauce over bread and toppings.
- Cover with foil.
- Put in the oven 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Serve and top with more sprinkles!
For all dessert lovers, you’re going to love my Capirotada de Conchas.
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Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)
- 4 cups water
- 1 stick piloncillo or 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise or 2 whole cloves
- 4 bolillos cubed (or french bread)
- 1-2 banana sliced
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 1 lb Monterey Jack cheese cubed
- 2 tbsp candy sprinkles (plus more for topping)
- 1/2 cup raisins optional
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut optional
- In a pot, add the water, piloncillo, cinnamon stick, and star of anise.
- Bring to boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, or until everything is dissolved.
- In the meantime, get the other ingredients ready.
- In a large stockpot, add a layer of bread, bananas, nuts, and cheese.
- Keep layering until there are no remaining ingredients.
- Add the hot liquid to the pot.
- Place the pot on the stove top.
- Make sure it’s on LOW heat and cook for 7 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed and the cheese is melted.
- Turn off the stove and let sit for another 8 minutes before serving.
- Serve and top with more sprinkles.
Note: New pictures were added to this post. You might remember the old pictures.
Roxanna P. Rodriguez
Wow, I love this recipe presentation! I appreciate how you incorporated its roots and how it associates with the Mexican culture. Thank you so much for sharing, Maggie. You’re super awesome & have inspired me! XO -Roxy
Awww.. Thank you for your comment!