Capirotada: Mexican Easter Bread Pudding

Mexican capirotada is a delicious Easter dessert made with layers of fried bread, peanuts, and cheese, all drizzled with sweet-flavored piloncillo syrup. This dish is one of the most representative and traditional desserts of the Mexican Lent.

Capirotada on a white baking dish.

About

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.

Mexican capirotada served on a plate.

Popular variations

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.

  • In Jalisco, it is prepared with bolillos (the traditional bread from there).
  • In Sinaloa guayaba (guava) fruit is added.
  • In Colima, the syrup is prepared with tomatoes and onions.
  • In Chihuahua milk is added to the syrup.
  • Cheese is another of the ingredients that are most varied, ranging from Queso añejo to cheeses such as Chihuahua, Manchego, Parmesan, or queso fresco.
  • Other variations include banana slices, shredded coconut, rainbow sprinkles, almonds, and any other nuts available.

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.

Authentic capirotada in a white baking dish.

Ingredients

  • 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.

Making syrup for capirotada.

Cut the bread into thick slices. You can also do this step the day before to stale your bread.

A baguette cut into slices on a cutting table.

In a large frying pan heat about two tablespoons of lard or butter. Working in batches fry the bread until crispy and browned.

Frying bread on a white pan.

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 where you will prepare the Capirotada. The tortillas and this step are optional if you want to skip it I suggest to brushing the baking dish with butter instead.

Assemble

In a 12×7″ (30x18cm) baking dish, arrange the tortillas on the bottom and then, arrange a layer of fried bread.

A layer of fried bread on a baking dish.

Top the bread with some raisins, peanuts, and pecans. Drizzle with piloncillo syrup making sure to soak the bread very well.

Drizzling with syrup.

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.

Making a second layer of bread, covering the first one.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and let the unbaked pudding rest while the oven heats up.

Bake

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.

Baked capirotada on a cooling rack.

Notes

  • Make it healthier: instead of frying the slices of bread you can brush them with melted butter and bake them for about 6-8 minutes at 360 °F (180 °C).
  • Tweak it: Use your favorite nuts to top it, I love making mine sometimes with toasted cashews.
  • Gift it: Mexican capirotada is the perfect gift for family and friends during cuaresma (Lent), so you can bring it to your church gatherings or Easter potlucks.

How To Make Ahead

  • 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.
Close-up of capirotada.

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 capirotada as the light syrup will crystallize and create a soggy mess when defrosted.

More Recipes For Cuaresma

Watch How To Make It

Mexican capirotada recipe.

Mexican Capirotada

author Maricruz
6 servings
Mexican capirotada is a delicious dessert made with layers of fried bread, peanuts, and cheese and drizzled with flavored piloncillo syrup.
prep 20 minutes
cook 1 hour
total 1 hour 20 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 12 x 7" (30x18cm) baking dish

Ingredients 

For the capirotada

  • 1 baguette or 4 bolillo rolls (cut into  ⅓"/1cm thick slices)
  • 2 corn tortillas (optional)
  • cup raisins
  • ½ cup toasted peanuts
  • ½ cup pecans (roughly chopped)
  • 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

Instructions
 

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.

Assemble

  • 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.

Bake

  • 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.

Notes

SUBSTITUTES
  • 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.
LIGHT VERSION
If you want a lighter version of this Mexican Capirotada recipe, instead of frying the slices of bread you can brush them with melted butter and bake them for about 6-8 minutes at 360 °F (180 °C).
Nutrition Information
Calories: 603kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 498mg | Potassium: 278mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 575IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 165mg | Iron: 3mg
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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I didn’t wait for cuaresma to make capirotada. I went ahead and made it last week 😜😆 it was delicious by the way and the recipe very easy to follow. Thanks!