Bolillos are traditional Mexican rolls with a soft and pillowy crumb and a rustic crust. This type of bread is a staple in the Mexican gastronomy and used to make some of the most icon dishes in the country.

So, let me show you how to make bolillos at home with this easy recipe.

As a Mexican, there’s nothing more comforting for me than taking a freshly baked bolillo, tear it with my hands and spread it with butter or cajeta, or also dip it into a café con leche in the morning.

What are bolillos?

Bolillos are also know as pan francés or pan blanco. They are a type of white bread from Mexico with a long, rhomboid shape and a savory taste. Those Mexican rolls were introduced in Mexico during the French intervention in the XIX century.

Mexican bolillos on a basket.

Bolillo bread are widely consumed in Mexico and used to make many traditional dishes, such as capirotada (bread budding that is consumed during the Lent season), tortas (sandwiches), bread pudding, and molletes, just to name a few.

In Mexico City (and pretty much in the whole State of Mexico), you’ll find a popular dish called guajolota. This dish consist in a bolillo bread stuffed with a tamal. Something you should really try if you happen to visit the place.

A look to the bolillos crumb.

The ingredients needed

  • FLOUR: You’ll need a strong flour, the type that’s used to make bread or pizza. Check the package label, flour should have at least 11% of protein.
  • YEAST: A package of active dry yeast is 7g, just about 2 1/4 teaspoons.
  • SALT & SUGAR: The first to give a savoury touch, the second to help the dough to rise quickly.
  • OIL: The traditional recipe calls for pork lard, use that if you have it (melted), otherwise just use any vegetable oil, such as olive, canola, corn, etc.
  • WATER: Lukewarm water is the recommended in this bolillo recipe. It means the water should be neither hot nor cold.
Bolillos ingredients labeled and displayed on a marble surface.

Gather all your ingredients before starting. Also, prepare your oven, the baking sheets, and everything you’ll need to make this Mexican rolls recipe.

Bolillo Recipe – Step by Step

Start by placing the flour, yeast and sugar on a medium-size bowl. Mix to combine. Dissolve salt in the water, add to the flour and then add also the oil. Next, using a fork, start combining the ingredients.

The ingredients just combined in a bowl.

Now, knead the dough just enough to combine well all ingredients and achieve a lumpy and rough dough (about 1 minute). Cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes. This resting time will help the flour to start developing the gluten, making the dough a lot more easy to knead.

Lumpy dough in a bowl.

After the resting time passed, transfer the dough to a slightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until you’ll have a smooth dough.

Kneading the dough in a marble surface.

Make a ball with the dough. Slightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside.

The dough inside a bowl, before proofing.

Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp kitchen towel (to prevent it from drying) and place it in a warm place away from drafts. If your kitchen is too cold, turn on the lights in your oven and place the bowl inside (don’t turn your oven on!).
Allow the dough to proof until doubled in size (about 1 hour and 30 min).

The dough proofed in a bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl, place it in a lightly floured surface and gently push your fist in to deflate it. Quickly knead it into a ball again and divide it into 6 equal pieces. If you have a kitchen scale, use it. My pieces weighed about 135g each.

The dough divided and weighed into small pieces.

Now, roll each piece into a ball, cover them with cling film and let them to rest for 10 minutes to allow the dough to relax a bit.

Forming dough balls.

Slightly flour a surface and shape the bolillos. First, flatten a piece with the palm of your hands and fingers, making some sort of pancake.

Flattening a ball of dough with hands.

Now, fold the pice into an half-moon, pressing the borders lightly with your fingers.

Folding a flattened dough piece into an half-moon.

Next, roll forth and back while pressing the outer edges with your hands, to form the pointed ends of the bolillo’s distinctive shape.

Shaping bolillos with hands.

Repeat with each piece of dough. Place the raw bolillos on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave about 1-inch space between each piece.

Bolillos unbaked and before proof in a baking tray.

Loosely cover with cling film and allow to rest until doubled in size (about 1 hour, depending in the room temperature).

Unbaked bolillos after resting.

How To Bake

Preheat your oven to 450°C (230°C). At the start, place a baking dish or container with about 4 cups of water in the lower rack of the oven. The water will help to create the perfect humidity for baking your bread, so don’t skip this method.

Right before you pop your bolillos in the oven and using a very sharp knife, make a longwise cut to each roll and spray some water on top, to achieve a shiny and crusty texture.

Cutting a raw bolillo just before going into the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until you’ll see bolillos are golden brown. Remove from the oven and place them in a cooling rack.

Mexican rolls bolillos on a cooling rack.

Store & Reheat

If you’re not consuming all your bolillos the day you make it, allow them to cool down completely and then place them in a plastic airtight container or bag to keep them soft. They will lost their crunchiness but you can spray water on them and reheat them in the oven for 5 minutes at 350°F (175°C). Or you can also toast them in a cast iron skillet or comal at medium heat.

Tips & Tricks

  • If it is your first time making bread, I strongly suggest to reading King Arthur’s post about how to yeast bake each season. Weather is a key for proofing doughs and you should learn a bit about this to avoid failure.
  • Use oven mitts when placing the bolillos or removing from the oven to avoid burns.
  • My oven has a “vapor option”, check yours if it have it too and use that instead of placing the container with water.
Mexican bolillos on a basket.

Bolillos

6
Bolillos are Mexican dinner rolls with a soft crumb and a rustic crust. This type of bread is used in many Mexican recipes. Learn how to make them easily.
prep 15 minutes
cook 20 minutes
Proofing time 2 hours 55 minutes
total 3 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 ½ cups bread flour (about 500g)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water (about 300 ml)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Extras

  • flour for the surface
  • oil for bowl

Instructions
 

  • Place the flour, yeast and sugar on a medium-size bowl. Mix to combine.
  • Dissolve salt in the water, add to the flour and then add also the oil. Use a fork to combine the ingredients.
  • Knead the dough just enough to combine well all ingredients and achieve a lumpy and rough dough (about 1 minute).
  • Cover and leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a slightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until you’ll achieve a smooth dough.
  • Make a ball, slightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in a warm place away from drafts.
  • Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour and 30 min).
  • Remove the dough from the bowl, place it in a lightly floured surface and gently push your fist in to deflate it.
  • Quickly knead it into a ball again and divide it into 6 equal pieces.
  • Roll each piece into a ball, cover them with cling film and let them to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Slightly flour a working surface. Take a piece of dough and flatten it with the palm of your hands and fingers, making some sort of pancake.
  • Now, fold the pice into an half-moon, pressing the borders lightly with your fingers.
  • Next, roll forth and back while pressing the outer edges with your hands, to form the pointed ends of the bolillo shape.
  • Place the bolillo on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Repeat with each piece of dough, leaving about 1-inch space between each of them.
  • Loosely cover with cling film and allow to rest until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Bake

  • Preheat your oven to 450°C (230°C) placing a baking dish or container with about 4 cups of water in the lower rack (read notes).
  • Right before baking and using a very sharp knife, make a longwise cut to each roll and spray some water on top, to achieve a shiny and crusty texture.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until you’ll see bolillos are golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and place them in a cooling rack.

Notes

  • Use oven mitts when placing the bolillos or removing them from the oven to prevent burns.
  • The water will help to create the perfect humidity for baking your bread, so don’t skip this method for baking.
  • My oven has a “vapor (steam) option”, check yours if it have it too and use that instead of placing the container with water.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 319kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 585mg | Potassium: 111mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg
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Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.

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26 Comments

  1. Definitely going to try this out but do you put the water in a baking tray in the oven and take it out when you’re ready to start baking, or leave it in during baking? Unfortunately my oven only has one rack and it’s an older oven so I’m not sure if placing a pan directly on the oven floor so to say would be dangerous.

    1. Hi Angie, the water should stay while the bread is baking, but don’t use this method if you’re not sure your oven can handle the pot placed on the floor. What you can do is lightly spray each small loaf with water before baking, this is also a popular method for achieving the bright and crusty texture on bolillos.

  2. 5 stars
    Excellante!!!! First time I’ve made bread, when i saw this recipe it reminded me of the bread that was made by the Cuban bakers in my hometown of Key West Fla. We called the loaves,(appox 2 1/2 ft long) Cuban bread,this bread was called a “cuban coca” Those French people must have made a side trip to Cuba because the bread is the same texture and taste! Looked at about 5 recipes and choose yours glad i did!! Thank you Joe

  3. 5 stars
    I love this recipe! I’ve made it 3 times and they come out perfect. Used to buy these rolls at the store and it’s so awesome being able to make them at home.

  4. Are you using fast or rapid rise yeast in this recipe? I ask because I noticed you’re not proofing your yeast, as you would with regular yeast. I made these to use for bbq sandwiches and they held up fairly well. I used traditional yeast, which I ended up proofing as I didn’t think it would work otherwise. They didn’t raise as much as I had hoped they would.

    I also added vital gluten to my AP flour to increase the protein level and kneaded it for about 20 minutes in my KitchenAid to give it some added structure.

    Please advise.

  5. Are you using fast or rapid rise yeast in this recipe? I ask because I noticed you’re not proofing your yeast, as you would with regular yeast. I made these to use for bbq sandwiches and they held up fairly well. I used traditional yeast, which I ended up proofing as I didn’t think it would work otherwise. They didn’t raise as much as I had hoped they would. Please advise.

  6. Hello,
    I don’t have a big oven, can I spray / brush water on the bolillos before baking instead of placing a container with water? If so, how can I do it? Or which type of container I have to use?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Adri, you can place a small baking tray with some water under the rack where you’ll place the bolillos.

      If you can’t, just brush them with water and bake them normally. The crust won’t be as crispy but they will be good anyway.

    1. You can use all purpose flour as long as it’s not too weak, it should have at least 11% protein to work in this recipe.

      1. How do you check how much protein is in your flour? If I use AP flour it says it is 3g protein per 1/4 cup. Is it the total combined of all the flour used in the recipe?

        1. Hi Amy, in Europe flour packages include protein content for every 100g, you can maybe convert your cups to grams using an online converter.
          Or you can use bread flour which usually has a high protein content (like 13-14% —for every 100g).

          Also, according to King Arthur website, AP flour has about 11.7% protein, so you definitely can use their flour for this recipe. More of that here: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2023/09/25/protein-percentage

  7. My phone autocorrected my earlier comment

    I meant to type “this” but my comment was changed to “enthusiasm”.
    My question was: Will making the dough ahead of time affect texture or flavor?

    1. Yes, the taste will become a little bit sour, like the one from sourdough bread. The texture can also change a bit but is hardly noticeable. And yes, you can make the dough the day before and place it in the fridge to proof overnight. In this case, you will need less yeast as the dough will have enough time to slowly raise (1 teaspoon would be enough).

      The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, allow it to reach room temperature, and follow the recipe from step 8.

  8. 5 stars
    These were delicious and so much easier to make than I expected. I’m not savvy with yeast breads so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but they came out beautifully golden, crisp, and soft on the inside. We used them to make Sonoran dogs.

  9. 5 stars
    Loved your bolillos recipe! I wish I could send you a photo because they not only came out delicious but the texture was perfect as in your photos!