Capirotada: Mexican Easter Bread Pudding

Mexican capirotada is a delicious Easter dessert made with layers of fried bread, peanuts, and cheese, all drizzled with a flavored piloncillo syrup.

This dish is one of the most representative and traditional desserts of the Mexican Lent. In this post, we tell you how to prepare the step by step recipe, so you can enjoy and serve it at your family table during this period.

Capirotada on a white baking dish.

What is capirotada?

Capirotada is a typical and authentic Mexican dessert that is consumed during the Lent period, known in Spanish as cuaresma.

This dish consists of fried or toasted bread slices that are used to form layers in a casserole along with other ingredients, drizzled with a piloncillo syrup, and finally baked, resulting in a sort of bread pudding with a very particular flavor.

Mexican capirotada served on a plate.

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 that is consumed mainly during Lent, it is normal that popular belief has given it a religious meaning, although 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.

Popular variations

The preparation of the dish has some variants that depend on the State where it is prepared, making use of ingredients that are easily found in those places.

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

The recipe I am sharing with you is the one my grandma Elvira taught me to do (minus the onions+tomatoes in the syrup) and is exactly as she used to make it when I was a little girl.

Substitutes

  • You can substitute the piloncillo for ⅔ cup of molasses.
  • You can also use other types of cheese like mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, Monterey jack, or feta.
  • The lard can be replaced with butter or oil if you wish.
  • In this recipe I used a baguette instead bolillo rolls, which are the ones traditionally used for this recipe.
A baguette cut into slices on a cutting table.

Want to make the bread from scratch? Check up our bolillos recipe and make this fabulous dessert with your leftovers!

The step by step recipe (with photos)

Start by making the syrup, which by the way, you can make even ahead. Read below the section “how to make ahead” for detailed instructions on how to prepare this dish ahead of time.

Prepare the syrup

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.

Fry the bread

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.

Make the capirotada

In a 12×7″ (30x18cm) baking dish, arrange the tortillas on the bottom to cover it and prevent the bread from sticking. 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 layering until you will place the last layer of bread.

Add all the remaining syrup, top with raisins, nuts, and the remaining cheese. Finally, drizzle with melted butter.

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

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and allow to rest while the oven heats up.

Bake

Heat the oven to 360°F / 180°C. Bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking from 5 to 10 minutes or until the Capirotada has the top slightly crispy.

Baked capirotada on a cooling rack.

Useful tips and 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 your capirotada the day before, cover tightly with film and store in the fridge until next day.
A Capirotada close-up.

How to store and reheat

If you have leftovers, transfer them in a container with a tight lid and store them in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 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.

Watch How To Make It

More Mexican recipes for cuaresma

Mexican capirotada recipe.

Mexican Capirotada

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

Equipment

  • 12 x 7" (30x18cm) baking dish

Ingredients 

For the capirotada

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

PREPARE THE SYRUP

  • In a medium saucepan place the water, cinnamon, whole cloves and piloncillo (or molasses).
  • Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, 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 about two 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 place with kitchen paper to absorb the excess of oil.

MAKE THE CAPIROTADA

  • In the baking dish, arrange the tortillas on the bottom to cover it.
  • Start by adding a layer of fried bread. Top with a bit of raisins, peanuts and pecans.
  • Drizzle with piloncillo syrup making sure to soak the bread very well.
  • And last, sprinkle with cheese.
  • 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.

Notes

SUBSTITUTES
  • You can substitute the piloncillo for ⅔ cup of molasses.
  • 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 it 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!