Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding, is made with layers of crusty bread, raisins, bananas, almonds and cheese all soaked in sweetened cinnamon milk! This dessert is traditionally served during Lent and Easter.
It’s the time of year to start eating Capirotada again, and I couldn’t be more excited!
There’s nothing better than an extra-large helping of this Mexican bread pudding during Lent and Easter, especially since my family only makes it once or twice a year. I grew up eating Capirotada so it’s always been a normal Mexican dessert for me, but I know that many people have never heard of it at all.
It’s time to change that.
Once people get their first bite of this sweet dessert, I know it will become an instant hit!
What is Capirotada?
Capirotada is a traditional Mexican bread pudding that’s served during Lent. There are many variations of this dish throughout the U.S. and Mexico, but it’s typically made with layers of bolillo bread (or french bread), raisins, bananas, nuts, cheese and sweetened milk or syrup.
It can be eaten warm right out of the oven or chilled for a tasty after-dinner treat.
If you’re ready to try out this Mexican staple, follow along and let’s get started!
Ingredients in Capirotada
There are various preparations of Capirotada depending on where you are in Mexico. It seems like no two families make it the same way! Here’s what you’ll need to make the version that I love and grew up eating. (For reference, my family is from a rural town near Sombrerete, Zacatecas.)
- Bolillo bread – Commonly found in Mexican bakeries and grocery stores, this is the type of bread that’s traditionally used to make Capirotada. If you don’t have access to a Mexican bakery or store, you can make your own bolillo bread at home. Alternatively, you can use French bread or any crusty bread you can find.
- Shredded cheese – I used shredded Oaxaca cheese, but you can use any melty cheese that you have on hand. I typically opt for a milder cheese like mozzarella or provolone, but others prefer a cheese with a little more punch like Monterey jack, colby, or even cheddar. It’s all personal preference!
- Piloncillo – A staple sweetner in Mexican kitchens, piloncillo is an unrefined form of pure cane sugar. The cane sugar is melted down until it reaches a caramel-like consistency, then it’s poured into a cone-shaped mold. It’s commonly found in Mexican grocery stores, but if you can’t get it near you, here’s where you can buy it online.
- Milk, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves – These ingredients are mixed together with the piloncillo to create a sweetened milk that is poured over the bread.
- Raisins, bananas, sliced almonds – These fruits and nuts give the bread pudding a little sweetness, nutiness, and texture in each and every bite.
How to make Capirotada
Start by cutting the bread into cubes and baking it for 5 minutes to dry it out and toast it a little bit. I like doing this because I find that it doesn’t get super mushy to the point of disintegration when soaked in the milk right away.
Alternatively, you can leave out the cubed bread on the kitchen counter overnight to harden slightly or use stale bread. Don’t worry if you think the bread is too hard – it will soften once it soaks up all liquid.
Next, prepare the sweetened milk mixture by simmering some milk, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a pot.
To build the capirotada, add the bread, raisins, banana slices, sliced almonds and cheese in two layers into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish (or larger).
Pour the sweetened milk all over the bread and let it soak on the counter for 15 minutes. When pouring the milk, pay close attention to the bread along the edges of the baking dish as I find that those pieces don’t tend to get as much milk as others.
Right before baking the Capirotada, I like to tilt the baking dish from side to side to help the top layer of bread and the edges soak up as much milk as possible.
Bake the capirotada in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.
How to serve Capirotada
You can eat it right out of the oven while it’s still warm and bubbly, or you can refrigerate it and eat it cold.
I eat it both ways, but my personal favorite is eating it once it’s cooled and sat in the refrigerator for a day. The bread layers on the bottom of the dish soften and soak up all the sweetened milk, while the top layer remains a little crunchy and chewy from the melted cheese. It’s just the best combination and I can’t get enough of it!
On the other hand, my mom and husband like it best when it’s warm and gooey, so it’s totally personal preference. Try it both ways and see which way you prefer!
Substitutions and variations
- Bread – If you don’t have bolillo bread, you can use French bread or any crusty loaf of bread.
- Cheese – Any melty cheese will work. Oaxaca, Monterey Jack, Provolone, Mozzarella, or even cheddar will work.
- Sweetener – If you don’t have piloncillo, you can use 1 1/4 cups of dark brown sugar.
- Sprinkles – It’s totally optional, but my family always served it with round rainbow nonpareils sprinkles on top! It sounds a little strange, but it adds such a fun pop of color and a little crunch. Since we only make this dish once or twice a year, what better way to celebrate than with sprinkles!
Storing and Reheating
To store, cover the baking dish and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Keep in mind that the longer it sits, the softer the bread will become.
To reheat, bake the leftovers for 10 minutes in a 350°F oven or until fully warmed through. Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave until warm.