Capirotada, sometimes described as a bread pudding, is a scrumptious dessert made with layers of bread drenched in a sweet and aromatic syrup. It is popular during Lent season and during the winter holidays, and is made with slices of toasted bread as well as a variety of toppings like nuts, cheese, and raisins. All these ingredients are layered in a baking dish and then soaked in a syrup made with piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), cloves, and cinnamon, before being baked in the oven.
If you are into salty, sweet, soft, crunchy, spongy mixed all together with a dash of spice, this is for you. Yes, this concoction sounds really weird, but it is an explosion of flavors in your mouth. According to some books, this recipe is a long-lost relative to one served in the Middle Ages.
Capirotada is one of the many recipes brought to the New World by the Spaniards. A dish with a heavy Moorish influence, Capirotada was originally used as a convenient way to use leftover bread. It was also popular to make and consume it before and during the Lent season, a tradition that continues to this day. The Capirotada dish even carries Christian symbolism in its ingredients, with the bread believed to represent the body of Christ, and the syrup representing his blood. Capirotada was originally not as sweet as it is now, with the ingredients and flavors changing over time. Today, you can find many varieties of Capirotada all throughout Mexico.
Even though I prefer to think that a very savvy woman seeing the approach of lent decided to make good use of what she has leftover in the kitchen before the fasting days of Lent, and then Capirotada was created. Just picture her looking at the dry pieces of bread.
Capirotada: a Mexican Lenten Dish
Wondering what to do to make good use of it. Searching into her baskets for anything else to add. There she found a dry piece of salty cheese and some raisins. But still, the bread was 2 days old, well add some water to soften it, and since water is just too plain, then sweeten the water the only way they knew, with piloncillo. And what goes great with piloncillo? Cinnamon and clove! Shall we add it? Of course! And what about those peanuts over the top shelf? That sounds like a great idea, let’s add them too. And Viola! Let’s call it “Capirotada”.
The truth is that I don’t care what they called, as long as you let me have a huge portion of my dish.
I wonder how many times you find yourself in the same situation, looking at your freezer with the door wide open. Thinking about what to do with that lonely package of meat or chicken, then searching in your vegetable drawers and the spice’s jars asking yourself what to do with it. Then after an hour or so you have created a dish that now is your family favorite. Has that ever happened to you? If so, let me know if the comments/ I would love to hear about it.
Making Capirotada in Advance
If you make Capirotada in advance, keep in mind that the bread will get soggy, and it will become mushy if you let it sit for a long period of time. Some people prefer that texture, while others don’t. If you want the layers of bread to hold their shape, but still want to do some preparation in advance, one option is to prepare the toasted bread and have all your ingredients ready to assemble, then bake the dish later.
I have never stored Capirotada in the fridge for longer than two days after baking, because we usually finish it the same day or the next! This is a dish that is usually made to enjoy the same day you prepare it. It is not common to freeze Capirotada.
In Mexico, every region of the country has its own variation of this dish. From the famous Capirotada Michoacána, where people add chocolate chips and fried plantains or bananas, to the Capirotada found in Zacatecas, where guavas and local cheese are added to the toppings. You can be in Jalisco, Durango, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, or Guerrero, no matter the place in Mexico, you will always find this dish, and it will always be delicious!
Where to buy ready-made Capirotada
Years ago, this dish used to only be made at home, but nowadays you can find this delicious treat for sale at Latin grocery stores here in the States during Lent season. I can even find it in my local Facebook marketplace!
And now to the Capirotada recipe, which is a basic one. See notes below for substitutions and other additions.
How to make Capirotada
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium-size pot place the Piloncillo, cinnamon stick, cloves, and water. Place in the stove and melt in medium heat. (Please check the ingredients list below)
- 2. Mix the melted butter with the oil and brush over the slices of bread. Place in a baking tray and bake for 8 minutes and then turn over to bake 5 more minutes. The bread should have a deep golden color.
Start assembling the slices of bread in a round oven-proof dish. With the help of a ladle slowly pour syrup over the bread making sure the bread absorbs the syrup, do not let it go to the bottom of the dish in order to have enough syrup to moist all the bread pieces. Better yet dip the bread into the syrup to get an even moist crumb.
- Top the first layer of bread with cheese, raisins, and peanut, or any other fruit or nuts you would like to add according to the suggestions given below or your own.
- Place another layer of bread and continue the process as in step 4.
- Pour the remaining syrup over the last layer of bread and top with the cheese, raisins, and peanut. Dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter cut into small cubes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes until the top crust is golden and the lower layers are moist. If you are also adding sliced bananas and candy sprinkles, add them at serving time. Serve warm or cold.
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Capirotada Mexican Bread Pudding
- 12 Ounces About 1 ¼ cup of piloncillo or dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup of water
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 whole clove spice
- 3 Tablespoons melted butter
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 16 slices ⅓” thick of Bolillo or French bread at least 2 days old
- ¾ cup of Cotija Cheese
- ¼ cup of roasted peanut
- ¼ cup raisins
- 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes
OPTIONAL EXTRA TOPPINGS
- 2 Bananas sliced
- 4 tbsp rainvow decorative sprinkles
- Preheat oven at 350F. In a medium size pot place the Piloncillo, cinnamon stick, cloves and water. Place in the stove and melt in a medium heat.( If you have a hard time cutting the piloncillo for the amount needed, place it in your microwave for intervals of 30 seconds until it is soften enough to cut. Be careful while removing it out of the microwave since it gets extremely hot.)
- Mix the melted butter with the oil and brush over the slices of bread. Place in a baking tray and bake 8 minutes and then turn over to bake 5 more minutes. The bread should have a deep golden color.
- Start assembling the slices of bread in an round oven proof dish. With the help of a ladle slowly pour syrup over the bread making sure the bread absorbs the syrup, do not let it go to the bottom of the dish in order to have enough syrup to moist all the bread pieces. Better yet dip the bread into the syrup to get and even moist crumb.
- Top the first layer of bread with cheese, raisins and peanut or any other fruit or nuts you would like to add according to the suggestions given above or your own.
- Place another layer or bread and continue the process as in step 4.
- Pour the remaining syrup over the last layer of bread and top with the cheese, raisings and peanut. Dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes until the top crust is golden and the lower layers are moist. Serve warm or cold.