Torrejas is a traditional Mexican dessert made of bread slices coated in eggs, crispily fried, and then soaked in an aromatic and indulgent piloncillo syrup. A classic comfort dessert that has its origin in Europe.
What Are Torrejas?
This comforting dessert is common throughout Latin America, so you can find many versions of this recipe. In Mexico, they are particularly popular during la Cuaresma (Lent) and Semana Santa (Holy Week).
The Mexican recipe consists of sliced slate bread which is drenched in fluffy eggs, fried in oil until crispy, and then soaked in a syrup made of piloncillo and spices.
The Recipe Origin
In Europe, this is an old dessert and has been traced back to the Roman Empire. Many countries have their version of this dish and are served on different occasions, from Christmas to Lent, carnival, and even fairs; this sweet treat is widely consumed in the old Continent.
Torrejas were brought to Latin America by Spaniards during the Conquest, which is why there are different interpretations of them.
Now, we don’t know exactly why it became such a popular dish during Lent and the Holy Week, but there are a couple of theories that make sense.
As you may know, you can’t eat red meat during these Catholic holidays, so they had to get a bit creative. One theory is that this preparation allowed people to kind of elevate the leftover bread. Since they couldn’t eat meat during the holidays, they didn’t have much else to eat the bread with.
Another theory is that nuns started making them so they could have something fulfilling to replace the meat.
Torrejas are very versatile, so there are many different Mexican variants you can try. For example,
- In Chihuahua, they are made with sliced bread, egg, and piloncillo syrup, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. They also have an apple version with sliced apples, and a pinole version, and a salty version with dried shrimp.
- In Comitán, Chiapas, they make them with loaf bread, milk, wine, egg, and honey.
- In Coahuila and Nuevo León, they’re made with buttered sliced white bread, piloncillo honey with anise, cinnamon, and clove.
- In Chilapa, Guerrero, they make them with sliced marquesote, a type of sweet cake, drenched in a syrup that contains sugar, cinnamon, and brandy.
- In Zacatecas, they serve them with agave syrup and sweet sherry wine.
- In Puebla the bread is first soaked in a milk mixture then coated in egg, fried, and served with a light sugar syrup with rum.
- In Yucatán, they are made with ripe plantain, which is pureed and mixed with corn dough and sugar. Then, they are shaped into cakes, fried, and served hot.
- In Tabasco torrejas are made with yuca, a tuberous.
Of course, these are just a few of the many different versions in Mexico. There are many more all over Latin America!
What Type of Bread to Use
Though there are many kinds of bread available, this dish calls for bread preferably with a hard crust and a sturdy crumb.
Bolillo rolls are the perfect option for this recipe but of course, if you don’t have it available at your nearest supermarket or don’t want to make your own, just go with french bread or baguette.
I recommend not using buns-type bread such as dinner rolls, brioche, or white sandwich bread because it absorbs too much oil, and when soaked it becomes mushy.
It should be a few days old because stale bread doesn’t get as soggy as fresh bread and won’t fall apart when soaking in the syrup. In other words, this is the perfect way to recycle your old bread.
How To Make Torrejas Recipe
Cut the bread into slices about 1-inch (2.5cm) thick. I used rolls that were about 6-inch/16cm large and ended with about 25 slices in total.
Place water in a large stockpot, add piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, anise star, and whole cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes or until a light syrup has formed.
Keep the piloncillo syrup warm until needed (leave it on the stove with the heat turned to the lowest).
Separate the whites and yolks, placing whites in a large mixer bowl, and the yolks into a small bowl.
Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat at high speed until soft peaks form.
Next, while beating at low speed, add one by one the egg yolks and beat until fully combined. Set aside.
Heat about 2 cups of oil in a deep pan. Prepare also a large plate lined with a couple of kitchen paper towels.
Take one slice of bread and dip it into the eggs mixture making sure it coats evenly on all sides.
Carefully, add it to the frying pan. Repeat and add as many slices fit on your pan but don’t overcrowed it.
Fry the bread on all sides until nicely browned, depending on the temperature, you might need from 30 to 40 seconds on each side.
As the fried bread slices come out of the pan, place them onto the paper-lined plate. Repeat until all bread and egg mixture are used.
Next, add all fried bread slices into the pot with the piloncillo syrup. Make sure to push them gently to the bottom so they will soak all the flavorful mixture.
Allow torrejas to rest for 10 minutes then serve on plates making sure to pour plenty of piloncillo syrup over.
- If you don’t have stale bread, just cut the slices and leave them on your kitchen countertop for a few hours before starting the recipe.
- Can’t find piloncillo where you live? Use the same amount of packed brown sugar or about 2/3 cup molasses.
How To Store and Reheat
Before storing, allow the Mexican torrejas to cool down, place them in a container with all the piloncillo syrup and close with an airtight lid. They store nicely from 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
To reheat, place the leftovers on a shallow pan over medium-low heat until nicely warmed. Or place the container in the microwave and heat at intervals of half a minute.
More Mexican Easy Desserts
- Gorditas de nata (Mexican clotted cream cakes).
- Coricos (gluten-free corn cookies).
- Mazapan (peanut Mexican candy).
- Mexican Flan (with only 4 ingredients!).
- 4 medium bolillos (read note 1)
- 4 medium eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- oil for frying
For the piloncillo syrup
- 1.1 lb piloncillo or brown sugar
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- 1 orange peel
- 1 anise star
- 3 whole cloves
- 6 cups water
- Cut the bread into slices about 1-inch/2.5cm thick (read note 2).
- Place water in a large stockpot, add piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, anise star, and whole cloves.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes or until a light syrup has formed.
- Keep the piloncillo syrup warm until needed.
- Separate the whites and yolks.
- Place whites in a mixer bowl add a pinch of salt and beat at high speed until soft peaks form.
- While beating at low speed, add one by one the egg yolks and beat until fully combined. Set aside.
- Heat about 1 1/2 cups of oil in a deep pan. Prepare also a large plate lined with a couple of kitchen paper towels.
- Take one slice of bread and dip it into the eggs mixture making sure it coats on all sides.
- Carefully, add it to the frying pan.
- Repeat and add as many slices fit on your pan but don’t overcrowd it.
- Fry the bread on all sides until nicely browned, depending on the temperature, you might need from 30 to 40 seconds on each side.
- As the fried bread slices come out of the pan, place them onto the paper-lined plate.
- Repeat until all bread and egg mixture are used.
- Add all fried bread slices into the pot with the piloncillo syrup. Make sure to push them gently to the bottom so they will soak well.
- Leave to rest for 10 minutes then serve on plates with plenty of piloncillo syrup over.
- Bolillo rolls are the perfect option for this recipe but of course, if you don’t have it available at your nearest supermarket or don’t want to make your own, just go with french bread or baguette.
- Depending on the type of bread you use, your slices might be smaller or larger, just make sure to cut them 1 inch/2.5cm thicker as the recipe calls. I got about 25 slices in total.
- Nutritional info includes approximately 1/2 cup oil for frying.