This Mexican capirotada is made with layers of fried bread, peanuts, and cheese, all drizzled with sweet-flavored piloncillo syrup. It is warm, sweet, and hearty!
Capirotada is a typical and authentic Mexican dessert consumed during the Lent period, known in Spanish as cuaresma. It consists of fried bread slices arranged in layers in a casserole along with other ingredients, then drizzled with piloncillo syrup and baked.
Because of the contrasting ingredients, Mexican capirotada has a smoky, caramelized, and sweet taste with some salty bits here and there, and a moist texture with also some crunch from peanuts and pecans.
Origin and Meaning
There is no certainty about the origin of the Mexican Capirotada recipe, although it is believed that this dessert was introduced with the arrival of the Spaniards to the country.
Being a dish consumed mainly during Lent, it is normal that popular belief has given it a religious meaning, although it is not recognized by the Catholic Church.
Thus, it is said that the bread symbolizes the body of Christ and the syrup with which it is bathed, his blood. Spices like cloves and cinnamon represent the nails and the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
- Bread: Bolillo rolls are the traditional bread used for the traditional recipe, but feel free to use french bread or crusty bread.
- Piloncillo: You can find this piloncillo at any Mexican grocery store or on Amazon. Or you can substitute with ⅔ cup of molasses or dark brown sugar.
- Cheese: I used Queso añejo, but feel free to use other types of cheese like queso fresco, mozzarella, white cheddar cheese, provolone, Monterey jack, or feta.
- Lard: To fry the bread, you can replace it with your favorite frying oil or butter. I used butter to add on top.
- Dried fruit: Use peanuts and pecans or substitute with your favorite nuts. Raisins are also traditionally used in this recipe.
- Spices: Cinnamon stick and whole cloves to add aroma to the syrup.
- Tortillas: Use corn tortillas to create a layer in the bottom of the casserole or leave them out if you want.
How To Make Capirotada
In a medium saucepan place the water, cinnamon, whole cloves, and brown sugar (or molasses).
Bring to a boil over medium heat then low the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the piloncillo has completely dissolved and an aromatic and light syrup has formed (about 10 minutes). Strain the syrup in a bowl and set it aside.
Cut the bread into about 1/2-inch thick slices. You can also do this step the day before to stale your bread.
Top Tip: Using stale bread will prevent the dessert from becoming too soggy.
In a large frying pan heat about two tablespoons of lard or butter. Working in batches fry the bread until crispy and browned.
Place fried bread on a plate with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Keep frying the bread, adding more butter if necessary. Set aside.
NOTE: Once you have finished frying all the bread, also fry the tortillas to cover the bottom of the baking dish you’ll use. The tortillas and this step are optional if you want to skip it I suggest to brushing the baking dish with butter instead.
In a 12×7″ (30x18cm) baking dish, arrange the tortillas on the bottom and then, arrange a layer of fried bread.
Top the bread with some raisins, peanuts, and pecans. Drizzle with piloncillo syrup making sure to soak the bread very well.
Sprinkle with cheese on top and continue making layers with the ingredientes until you will place the last layer of bread.
Add all the remaining syrup, and top with raisins, nuts, and the remaining cheese. Last, drizzle with melted butter.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and let the unbaked pudding rest while the oven heats up.
Heat the oven to 360°F / 180°C. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes or until the top is slightly crispy.
The preparation of this Mexican bread pudding has some variants that depend on the State where it is prepared, making use of ingredients that are easily found in those places.
Check out also our most popular Mexican Lent recipes!
Store & Reheat
If you have leftovers, transfer them to a container with a tight lid and store them in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 4 days. If you have made it in a ceramic or glass dish you can also cover it with cling film and store it in the refrigerator.
To reheat it, pop the dish into the oven at 360 °F (180 °C) for about 5 minutes. Or you can also reheat small portions in the microwave.
I don’t recommend freezing it as the light syrup will crystallize and create a soggy mess when defrosted.
- Make the syrup up to 4 days ahead.
- Stale your bread 3-4 days ahead and fry it (or bake it) the day before you intend to serve this dish.
- Assemble the dish the day before, cover it tightly with film, and store it in the fridge until the next day.
What does capirotada taste like?
Capirotada has a sweet, spiced, and earthy taste with salty hints from cheese. It combines perfectly sweet and savory with smoky notes from piloncillo.
During which time of the year is capirotada most popular?
Capirotada is popular during the Lent season which goes from Ash Wednesday in February, until Palm Sunday about 46 days later.
More Mexican Lent Desserts
- 1 12 x 7" (30x18cm) baking dish
For the capirotada
- 1 baguette or 4 bolillo rolls (cut into ⅓"/1cm thick slices)
- 2 corn tortillas (optional)
- ⅓ cup raisins
- ½ cup toasted peanuts
- ½ cup pecans (roughly chopped)
- ⅔ cup queso añejo (read notes)
- lard or butter for frying (as needed)
- 3 Tbsp butter (melted)
For the syrup
- 10 oz piloncillo (or ⅔ cup of molasses)
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 whole cloves
- 3 cups water
Make the syrup
- In a medium saucepan place the water, cinnamon, whole cloves, and piloncillo (or molasses).
- Let it simmer, occasionally stirring until the piloncillo has completely dissolved and a light syrup has formed (about 10 minutes). Strain and set aside.
Fry the bread
- In a large frying pan heat a couple of tablespoons of lard or butter.
- Working in batches fry the bread until crispy and browned, adding more butter to the pan if needed.
- Place bread onto a plate with kitchen paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Once done, fry also the tortillas and set them aside.
- Arrange the tortillas on the bottom of a baking dish.
- Add a layer of fried bread and top with some raisins, peanuts, and pecans.
- Drizzle with piloncillo syrup making sure to soak the bread very well.
- Nicely sprinkle with some cheese on top.
- Repeat the steps until you will place the last layer of bread, then add all the remaining syrup and top with cheese, raisins, and nuts.
- Drizzle with melted butter and cover the dish with aluminum foil.
- Heat the oven to 360°F / 180°C. Bake for 40 minutes.
- Remove the foil and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes or until the Capirotada has the top slightly crispy and browned.
- Remove from oven and allow to reach room temperature before serving.
- You can substitute the piloncillo for ⅔ cup of molasses or brown sugar.
- You can also use other types of cheese like mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, Monterey jack, etc.
- The lard can be replaced with butter or oil if you wish.
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.