Have you all ever tried Capirotada or Mexican Bread Pudding? Traditionally served around the Lenten season, Capirotada is an age-old recipe that can trace it’s roots back to the 17th century. People are passionate about their Capirotada! It seems like every family has a recipe that they pass down from one generation to the next; some fry the bread while others toast, some keep the ingredients minimal while others add sprinkles and such.
One thing is for sure…everyone’s abuelita makes the best Capirotada!
I decided to make a really basic Capirotada that could come together quickly for an after-school treat to celebrate the heritage of my children and 16 de Septiembre (Mexican Independence Day). My kids love the doughy sweetness of this dessert while I love the fact that it’s whole wheat and is made with natural ingredients. It’s a win/win for everyone!
Calling this “bread pudding” is a bit misleading because, like many Mexican desserts, Capirotada is a fine balance between savory and sweet. Some recipes even call for onions and tomatoes! There is tons of room to customize this recipe, adding and subtracting ingredients as you wish. I’m using some traditional Mexican ingredients because they’re easy to find here on the border but if you don’t have access to a Latin-American grocery store or want to work with what you already have, you can totally change them out! I’ll list alternatives in the recipe below.
One thing you’re going to be tempted to omit is the cheese in this recipe because I admit, it sounds kinda funky to add cheese to dessert but DON’T! The saltiness of the cheese offsets the sweetness perfectly and really melds the whole thing together wonderfully. Just experiment once with making it with the cheese and I swear, you won’t regret it!
The piloncillo and spices go into a pot of boiling water to make the sauce that will be poured over the bread cubes. Again, you can add or omit spices to the recipe. If you’re not a big fan of anise (which has a licorice-like flavor), just omit it!
A quick word about the sugar used in this recipe, piloncillo. If you can get your hands on some (check your local Latin American markets), I highly recommend it! These pylons (hence the name) made from boiled cane juice are as unrefined as sugar can get which means none of the healthy vitamins and minerals have been processed out. Piloncillo has this amazing smoky, earthy taste to it and can easily substitute brown sugar in any recipe. It perfectly compliments the natural sweetness of the raisins!
While the sauce is simmering, you can start preparing the layers of bread, nuts and raisins. I love adding raisins to any recipe I can. With 9% of your daily fiber and potassium, 6% of daily iron, and no fat, cholesterol, or added sugar? They are the perfect afternoon snack!
Start by laying out one layer of bread cubes in a cast-iron or baking dish. Top with shredded cheese (yes, I said “cheese!), pecans, and raisins. Repeat layers until you use up all the ingredients. Pour syrup over the layers, trying to come in contact with all the bread. There’s not going to be enough syrup to cover the entire dish completely and that’s good. You wouldn’t want it to be a soggy mess!
Cover the dish (I used aluminum foil over my cast-iron skillet) and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove cover and allow the cheese to get toasty for another 15 minutes at the same temperature. As I mentioned above, Capirotada is usually served right around spring, during the Lenten season but I’ve always thought that the flavors and scents were perfectly suited for Autumn. The smell of the raisins and bread soaking up the spiced syrup? Bring on Fall, ya’ll!
With the cheese completely melted and the tips of the bread slightly toasted, remove the dish for the oven and serve warm. You can also eat cold leftovers straight out of the fridge but I prefer Capirotada really warm with a hot cup of coffee. Mmm, my mouth is totally watering!
Mexican Bread Pudding (Capirotada)
- 3 cups water
- 3 small piloncillo cones OR 1 1/2 c brown sugar
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 anise pods
- 3 whole cloves
- 4 whole wheat bolillos OR 1 whole wheat french bread loaf
- 2 cups shredded cheese I used muenster but mozzarella or cheddar is also used
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup pecan pieces
- Add sugar and spices to a medium pot of boiling water. Allow to simmer until all sugar has been dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Cut or tear bread into approximately 1" cubes. Begin layering bread, cheese, pecans and raisins in a large cast-iron skillet or baking dish.
- Pour syrup over layers, making sure to evenly disperse over all the bread.
- Cover (I used aluminum foil over my cast-iron skillet) and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes or until the surface cheese and bread is slightly toasted.
- Serve warm with a hot cup of coffee/tea or enjoy the next day straight out of the fridge!