Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

Today is Ash Wednesday, and so begins Lent. Lent is the 40-day (excluding Sundays) season that precedes Easter. On Ash Wednesday and all Fridays throughout Lent, most people fast and abstain from eating meat.

The most popular food we eat during Lent is capirotada. 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.

While working in our family’s neighborhood grocery store (Soza’s Grocery) friends and neighbors would share their capirotada dish. I remember some were quite interesting with the addition of peanuts, coconut, bananas, and sprinkles. I politely tried their recipe as they stood there waiting for my reaction. I couldn’t possibly tell them I didn’t like it, 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. We are such creatures of habit, and any capirotada that didn’t taste like our recipe just didn’t cut it for me.

Both my mom and grandma used the most basic of ingredients to make this old world and traditional dish.

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. The bread is for the Body of Christ, the syrup is his blood, the cloves are the nails on the cross, the cinnamon sticks symbolize the wooden cross, and the melted cheese stands for the Holy Shroud.

This is our heavenly family recipe. Try very hard not to eat the entire dish of capirotada at one sitting. Sabroso!

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

Yield: 8 to 10 servings


  • 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 cheese (Longhorn Cheddar or Colby), shredded
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 4 tablespoons butter or spay butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

More recipes available at
This recipe is also published in Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor

Photography by Jeanine Thurston

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  1. Do i strain before i cover and let it sit or after?

  2. LOVED IT!  Just like how my mom’s used to taste.  I never learned to make capirotada at easter.  It’s one of the things  you take for granted.  My passed away and I regret so much not learning all I could.  After reading your article about being from El Paso I knew it was going to be good.  (born and reared there myself) I made it, and it brought back so many wonderful memories.  Thank you so much!

  3. This is an exceptional entry – I’m very grateful for the video – it was the best instructional video I’ve ever seen. I found the recipe easy to follow, and adapted it to create individual capirotadas in muffin cups for my son’s Spanish Club. The only trouble I ran into was the syrup. I found that the recipe only allowed for 12 muffins, and i’d hoped for 24. I’ll need to remember to double the syrup recipe in the future! Thanks again for this great recipe!

  4. I just want to say that il so proud that you consider yourself as well as your Family as Mexican American. That’s what I’ve considered myself growing up. I’m overly proud of it. My grandfather on my Dads side was from Mexico. So I considered my roots as from Mexico, because of Him. My Moms parents were both from Mexico as well. So I’m not one to not give credit where credit is due. I’m so proud of my heritage. And so I’m proud to say that I too am Mexican American and will never forget it. About your recipe, we too growing up make it quite similar as yours. Only we don’t use the piloncillo or cloves. We also use white bread in stead of the French bread. We layer it all as you call for it in your recipe . Only I’ve shorten my recipe to using Raisin cinnamon bread and layer that with the cheese. I too use cinnamon sticks to boil with sugar to make the syrup for theis dish. Thanks for the recipe of yours. 

    God bless!


    I’m fro Austin, Tx.

  5. My mom used to use this same , simple ,gear recipe and we love it.. Thank u

  6. To make authentic capirotada you must use Mexican white melting cheese. In Chicago, we use Chihuahua cheese. We never use cheddar or Colby cheese for any Mexican dishes. We also use sliced, toasted and buttered French bread. Toasted pecans make it more decadent.

  7. Muy bueno Yvette, te felicito! So beautifully prepared and presented.
    I look forward to trying it!
    Felices Pascuas!

  8. My husbands family who lives in the state of GTO, uses Cotija cheese which gives it a different favor. I really like it!

  9. This recipe produces the same taste of my mom and my Tia’s Capriotada!!!   My cousins and I had a “Mom” moment when we ate it.  Our moms have been gone for 3+ years. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. 

  10. I am looking for historical information and or records specifically on Capirotada or Mexican (bread pudding) because of the spiritual, religious and family symbolism behind the ingredients which is typically served during Lent or on Good Friday.
    For example, the bread represents the body of Christ this syrup represents the blood of Christ the cloves represent the nails used to crucify Christ, and the cheese represents the cloak that was used to wrap, and buried Christ in the tomb. However, all of these ingredients or representations comes from my grandmother explaining it to me as we make the dish together.
    Question, do you know of a book, website or article that I can use to document the meaning behind the ingredients for the Capirotada dish?

    P.S. Any Historical Information… Or can you refer me to someone that might know.

  11. Pingback: Cinnamon Recipes: 263 Things To Do With It, Part I | Chocolate & Zucchini

  12. This is fantastic, I’m from San Antonio & was looking for a recipe just like my grandma used to make. So many called for pecans, coconut, no cheese etc. I knew the one I was looking for only called for cheese & raisins. I’m curious if this recipe is somewhat of a Texas thing. All the restaurants who have it seem to be just like yours. 

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