Sweet, warmly spiced, and deliciously cheesy, my family’s Capirotada recipe is easily one of my favorite things to eat. (In fact, I love it so much that it was in my very first Muy Bueno cookbook!) This simple, 7-ingredient Mexican bread pudding is especially popular during Lent and Christmas.

flat lay shot of a 9x13 filled with cheesy capirotada (mexican bread pudding) on a wooden table.

What is Capirotada?

Capirotada is a Mexican bread pudding made with cinnamon, piloncillo, cloves, raisins, butter-toasted bread, and melted cheese. Yes, you read that right…cheese in your sweet bread pudding. Don’t knock it till you try it! Have you ever tasted apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese? This is sort of like that. It’s all about the contrast of sweet and salty. 

Mexican capirotada has been around since the 1400’s, so it has some serious staying power. And as with most authentic Mexican foods, and especially with a dish as historied as capirotada mexicana, there are thousands of family recipes, each unique.

Among the many different capirotada recipes and variations I’ve seen and tried — some include milk (capirotada de leche) or sweetened condensed milk (capirotada con lechera). 

Others include peanuts or almonds, bananas, coconut, and even sprinkles. My family’s recipe does not include any of that. It’s a simple capirotada de piloncillo.

As a kid, I remember working in our family’s neighborhood store (Soza’s Grocery), where friends and neighbors would bring me samples of their unique delicious Mexican dessert recipes. I’d politely try their capirotada recipes as they stood there waiting for my reaction. It was…awkward.

I couldn’t possibly tell them I didn’t like their version. Besides that, my mother would have killed me if I uttered an unkind word to one of our neighbors or customers! Instead I just stood there and thanked them.

My opinion hasn’t changed much since back then. I love our simple family capirotada recipe because it is comforting and nostalgic. That said, feel free to experiment with the add-ins you and your family like, using this recipe as your springboard.

Why is Capirotada Eaten During Lent?

Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is the solemn, 40-day (excluding Sundays) season that precedes Easter. On Ash Wednesday and all Fridays throughout Lent, many Catholics and Mexican families fast and abstain from eating meat. 

The most popular food we eat during Lent is capirotada, which is steeped in religious symbolism. Many Mexican and Mexican-American families view this dish as a reminder of the suffering of Christ on the cross. The ingredients in this recipe carry a rich and symbolic representation.

Classic capirotada ingredients are associated with Jesus on the cross. The bread is for the Body of Christ, the piloncillo syrup is his blood, the cloves represent the nails on the cross, the cinnamon sticks symbolize the wooden cross, and the melted cheese is a representation of the Holy Shroud.

ingredients needed to make classic Mexican capirotada bread pudding measured out on a white table.

If you’re searching for a fun twist on the classic dessert, my tres leches capirotada recipe and many more recipe ideas to enjoy during Lent are in my latest cookbook, Fiestas, which is a fantastic cookbook for all our beloved holidays.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe For Capirotada 

  • It’s a deliciously economical dessert, and is an excellent way to use up stale bread!
  • For many Mexican families, this bread pudding is incredibly nostalgic — it’s a wonderful reminder of our roots.
  • It’s made with just 7 (!!!) simple ingredients, most of which are pantry staples.

Ingredients & Substitutions 

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

flat lay shot of shredded cheese, blocks of piloncillo, raisins, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and sliced bolillos to make capirotada bread pudding.
  • Bolillo Rolls: These classic Mexican rolls are easily found at Latin supermarkets or panaderias (bakeries) and are used to make these veggie tortas and molletes mexicanos, both of which are perfect for Lent! You are welcome to use any other lightly crusty bread like French bread. 
  • Water: For making the cinnamon-clove simple syrup. 
  • Piloncillo: This traditional, minimally refined cane sugar adds a certain caramelly deliciousness. It’s commonly found in Mexican grocery stores, but if you can’t find it, here’s where you can buy it online. In a pinch, packed dark brown sugar is a good substitute.
  • Cinnamon Sticks: If possible, try to find Mexican cinnamon (a.k.a. canela). The flavor is much milder or less spicy than the more ubiquitous Ceylon/cassia cinnamon, and there are lovely floral undertones. If not, “true” cinnamon will do the job.
  • Whole Cloves: Cloves have a lovely warmth. Note that we’re talking about cloves the spice, not garlic cloves!
  • Shredded Cheese: I like the contrast of flavors of salty Longhorn cheddar or Colby with the sweetness of the capirotada. If you like a mild cheese, use queso Oaxaca, queso fresco, or shredded Monterey jack cheese. It comes down to personal preference and what you love, and what you are used to. 
  • Raisins: Raisins are an integral part of my childhood memory of what capiratada tastes like, but you’re welcome to use the dried fruits of your choice. 
  • Butter: Buttering the bread before toasting adds a lovely richness. You can use butter spray for a lighter version. 

How to Make Capirotada the Muy Bueno Way

Step 1: Dry Out Bread. Cut rolls in ½ inch thick slices and butter both sides, layer on a baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes on each side, until lightly toasted and dry. 

Step 2: Make Piloncillo Syrup. Combine water, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, creating a thin syrup. Simmer syrup uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered for 2 hours. Pour through a strainer and discard cinnamon sticks and cloves. Set syrup aside.

Step 3: Assemble. Spray baking dish with non-stick spray, layer ingredients in the following order: a third of the toasted bread, third of the raisins, third of the cheese, and 1 1/2 cups syrup evenly over cheese. 

Wait 15 minutes and layer another third of the bread, raisins, cheese, and 1 1/2 cups syrup evenly over cheese. Let soak for another 15 minutes, and again top with the remaining bread, raisins, cheese, and syrup evenly over bread. Before baking let set for another 15 minutes.

Step 4: Bake. Cover the dish with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and bake 40 minutes, uncover and bake until cheese is golden brown about 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve warm.

Watch the instructional video for our heavenly capirotada family recipe. Try very hard not to eat the entire dish of capirotada at one sitting. ¡Sabroso!

slice of cheesy Mexican bread pudding (capirotada) on a small dessert plate with an antique silver fork.

Serving Suggestions

For brunch, nothing beats the savory satisfaction of red or green chilaquiles, perfectly complemented by a side of bread pudding for dessert, accompanied by a steaming cup of café de olla.

Having a slice after lunch? I won’t tell. Make sure to pack some of my tuna patties with citrusy avocado mango salsa or a sandwich made with my mom’s best tuna salad. For dinner, try my veracruz fish soup or espuageti verde for a meal the whole family will love.

serving of capirotada on a small dessert plate next to a small statue of an angel, a pot of cafe de olla, and the remaining Mexican bread pudding in the casserole dish in the background.

Topping Options 

  • Sprinkles: It might sound a little unusual, but it adds a delightful pop of color and a satisfying crunch. 
  • Fruits: Feel free to add the fruits of your choice, such as banana, prunes, mangos, coconut, and tomato.
  • Nuts: Add almonds, peanuts, or pecans to give the bread pudding a nutty crunch.

Expert Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t rush the step-by-step soak. If you’re familiar with tres leches cake or other bread pudding or bread-based casserole recipes, you know the key to getting that custardy, soft texture is letting the dried bread soak up all the flavorful goodness! 
  • Don’t over-bake your Mexican bread pudding or the bread will be dry. Unlike a French-style bread pudding made with an egg custard base, this capirotada is made with fat-free, water-based simple syrup, so you don’t have as much of a window of error. 
  • Let the pudding cool slightly before serving. Warm capirotada? DELICIOUS! Straight-out-of-the-oven-scalding-hot-capirotada? With the melty cheese in there, it’s basically the culinary equivalent of napalm. Unless you want the whole roof of your mouth to slough off, give it 10 minutes of patience.
  • Capirotada can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. I personally prefer warm, but do what calls to you!
  • If your baking dish is too shallow, place a parchment-lined baking sheet underneath it to catch any potential drips.

Storage & Heating Instructions 

  • Feel free to prepare your capirotada up to a day ahead without baking it. It will keep in a well-covered container in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • Once baked, capirotadas should be allowed to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container or freezer-friendly container. It should keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
  • Leftovers can also be frozen for up to 3 months. 
  • To reheat and serve capirotada, you can gently warm refrigerated or thawed capirotada, covered, in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can use the microwave.
hero shot of capirotada topped with colorful nonpareil sprinkles next to a mug of Mexican coffee and the baking dish with the remaining bread pudding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does capirotada have coconut?

Both my mom and grandma used the most simple ingredients to make this old world and traditional dish, so that’s the way I’ve written the recipe below — with no coconut. As humans, we are such creatures of habit, and any capirotada that doesn’t taste like our simple family recipe just doesn’t do it for me. This basic, coconut-free version is sometimes referred to as capirotada michoacana

Is capirotada Mexican?

It sure is! Well, at least this particular kind is. Another, more savory version of capirotada was popular in Spain in the 1300’s. The Spanish bread pudding by the same name was more what I’d consider a strata — a savory breakfast-y bread pudding featuring eggs, broth, cheese, garlic, herbs, and meat, particularly chicken and other poultry.

The conquistadors brought this recipe with them (along with Catholicism) to Latin America, and the old world methods collided with new traditions and ingredients. For example, the Aztecs had a dish that used anise tea to soak stale bread — so using a piloncillo and cinnamon-clove syrup replaced the savory broth used by the Spanish. And then, as the recipe spread, more and more families began to put their own unique Mexican spin on it.

What is capirotada made of?

At its most basic, Mexican capirotada is a sweet bread pudding that features crusty bread, warming cinnamon and cloves, and shredded cheese. Our family also uses raisins, but some recipes call for different dried fruit, nuts, or other inclusions like chocolate or sprinkles.

When should I eat capirotada?

While this recipe for capirotada usually only comes out for Lent in our house, it’s also a delicious and celebratory Mexican dessert that is very popular during the Christmas holiday, but can be eaten all year round!

Is capirotada served hot or cold?

I personally think capirotada is best served warm (but I think that’s true of ALL bread puddings), but it’s also quite tasty at room temp.

What does capirotada mean in English?

While the word is now synonymous with Mexican bread pudding, its etymology has religious roots. Capirotada comes from the Spanish word “capirote,” which refers to the tall pointy hats worn during some Catholic ceremonies.

How do you pronounce capirotada?

It sounds like “cah-PEE-row-TA-da.”

I thought this bread pudding was called “migas” — is that incorrect?

Nope, your family just uses a different name than mine does. In our house, migas are a savory breakfast dish. But many of my readers have told me they grew up calling capirotada-style bread pudding “migas,” which roughly translates to “crumbs or leftovers.” Since we make capirotada with stale or leftover bread, who am I to say you’re wrong??

What is Mexican pudding?

Much like other global dessert traditions, there are quite a few different types of Mexican pudding. There’s rice-based arroz con leche (and, while you’re at it, my horchata rice pudding and pumpkin rice pudding) and this bread-based pudding (which I also make in adorable mini capirotada muffin form). I’d also argue that flan recipes (like my Mexican coffee flan, tres leches pumpkin flan and magic chocoflan cake) would be under the umbrella of “Mexican puddings.”

Enjoying This Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)? Try These, Too:

If you have tried this capirotada recipe, please leave me with a star rating and comment below! I’d also love to hear your special family memories with this classic dish! If you’d like more recipes delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my email newsletter

flat lay shot of a 9x13 filled with cheesy capirotada (mexican bread pudding) on a wooden table.

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

4.84 (149 ratings)
Capirotada is a Mexican bread pudding made with cinnamon, piloncillo, cloves, raisins, bread, and cheese. I can smell and taste the sweet warm melted cheese as I type this. Yes, you read it right…cheese. The combination of these ingredients is sure to awaken your taste buds!

Ingredients

  • 4 bolillo rolls or French rolls
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 12 ounces piloncillo or 1½ cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 cups shredded cheese, Longhorn Cheddar, Colby, or cheese of your choice
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 4 tablespoons butter or spray butter

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cut rolls in ½ inch slices and butter both sides, layer on a baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes on each side, until lightly toasted and dry. Remove and cool.
  • Combine water, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, creating a syrup. Simmer syrup uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered for 2 hours. Pour through a strainer and discard cinnamon sticks and cloves. Set syrup aside.
  • Spray 8 x 10 ½” baking dish with non-stick spray, layer ingredients in the following order: a third of the toasted bread, third of the raisins, third of the cheese, and 1 1/2 cups syrup evenly over cheese. Wait 15 minutes and layer another third of the bread, raisins, cheese, and 1 1/2 cups syrup evenly over cheese. Let soak for another 15 minutes, and again top with the remaining bread, raisins, cheese, and syrup evenly over bread. Before baking let set for another 15 minutes.
  • Cover the dish with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and bake 40 minutes, uncover and bake until cheese is golden brown about 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve warm.

Video

Notes

Storage & Heating:
  • Feel free to prepare your capirotada up to a day ahead without baking it. It will keep in a well-covered container in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • Once baked, capirotadas should be allowed to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container or freezer-friendly container. It should keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
  • Leftovers can also be frozen for up to 3 months. 
  • To reheat and serve capirotada, you can gently warm refrigerated or thawed capirotada, covered,
Expert Tips:
  • Don’t rush the step-by-step soak. If you’re familiar with tres leches cake or other bread pudding or bread-based casserole recipes, you know the key to getting that custardy, soft texture is letting the dried bread soak up all the flavorful goodness! 
  • Don’t over-bake your Mexican bread pudding or the bread will be dry. Unlike a French-style bread pudding made with an egg custard base, this capirotada is made with fat-free, water-based simple syrup, so you don’t have as much of a window of error. 
  • Let the pudding cool slightly before serving. Warm capirotada? DELICIOUS! Straight-out-of-the-oven-scalding-hot-capirotada? With the melty cheese in there, it’s basically the culinary equivalent of napalm. Unless you want the whole roof of your mouth to slough off, give it 10 minutes of patience.
  • Capirotada can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. I personally prefer warm, but do what calls to you!
  • If your baking dish is too shallow, place a parchment-lined baking sheet underneath it to catch any potential drips.
 
Calories: 473kcal, Carbohydrates: 69g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 48mg, Sodium: 472mg, Potassium: 189mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 39g, Vitamin A: 459IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 256mg, Iron: 6mg

Originally published: March 2011. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.