Capirotada Mexican bread pudding DSC9970

Capirotada, Mexican bread pudding

I did not grow up eating capirotada. Truth be told, I had never even heard of it until a few years ago when I was at a Mexican restaurant on a Lenten Friday. “Hay capirotada,” was written on a chalkboard and curious what it was, I ordered some. The waitress brought me a small plate with a dessert made of toasted bread slices drenched in a sweet and spicy syrup. It was soft and sticky, but there were crunchy almonds, chewy raisins, and a creamy tang to keep it from becoming cloying. Capirotada? I was in love!

Newly smitten, I decided to do some research. I learned that capirotada is Mexican bread pudding, with the addition of savory cheese being one of its signatures. It’s traditionally eaten during Lent as some say because the cheese provides extra protein to Lenten observers abstaining from meat on Fridays. My friend Penny, however, informed that it’s a welcome dessert at any festive occasion on the calendar, not just during those periods of abstinence.

Despite its popularity with those in the know, I’ve found that it’s still somewhat of an esoteric dessert, despite it being in existence in some form since the 1400’s. And sure, you’ll see it on menus and it’s even been written about in the Texas press since the 1930’s, but for some reason it never caught on with eaters as much as other Mexican delicacies such as tres leches cake or flan.

Capirotada, Mexican bread pudding for Lent | Homesick Texan

I think I know why.

First, there’s the cheese factor. I reckon that for some people the thought of savory cheese in such a sweet dessert seems odd. Sure, even I at first found it strange. But once you taste it you realize that it’s not bizarre at all and actually, it works. Think about it—cheese is a classic pairing with sweets, such as goat cheese and dried apricots, blue cheese with candied pecans or that Northeast autumn stalwart of cheddar cheese with apple pie. And if you’re from Texas, surely you grew up with cheddar cheese sprinkled on your canned pineapple and peaches.

Then there’s the classic Mexican way of making capirotada, which calls for an onion, a tomato and even cilantro to be added to the syrup. OK, even I haven’t been brave enough to try that, but I’m sure it’s not completely bizarre as both tomatoes and onions have a natural sweetness to them when cooked.

But I think the main reason why it hasn’t met with popular approval is that there’s no definitive way to make it. There’s the classic recipe that calls for peanuts and raisins to be sprinkled throughout the pudding (with an occasional tomato or onion to be found). But you may see methods where beyond the syrup, a custard made with eggs and milk is added for binding.

There’s also the temperature factor as some serve it warm and some serve it cold. And what kind of cheese to use? You’ll find some bake it with white Mexican soft melting cheeses such as Chihuahua, while others will use Mexican hard cheeses such as cotija, and in Texas you’ll often find it made with orange Longhorn cheddar. All these variables are enough to confuse anyone!

But you know what? I think this is all what makes capirotada such a fascinating dessert. As the only preconceived notion you have is that it’s Mexican bread pudding made with cheese and syrup, you’re free to do with the details as you wish. Me? I like to make mine with raisins, pecans, and Monterrey Jack.

But I am not adverse to dried apricots, pecans, and Longhorn cheddar. Or if you’re feeling really wild, why not dried figs, soft goat cheese, and pecans? Apples and cheddar? Sure! Bananas and peanuts? But of course! Your only barrier to a captivating capirotada is the limits of your imagination.

Capirotada, Mexican bread pudding for Lent | Homesick Texan

So here is my way of making capirotada. But by all means tinker with it as you wish as that’s the joy in making this dessert. And if you grew up eating it, how did your family serve it? Or was it different every time?

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5 from 4 votes

Capirotada, Mexican bread pudding

Course Dessert
Cuisine Tex-Mex
Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 2 cups brown sugar (or 16 ounces of piloncillo)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 24-inch loaf of French bread, cubed and toasted (about six cups)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup toasted and chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a large cast-iron skillet or an 8-inch square pan.
  • Make a syrup by boiling the sugar, water, cinnamon, and cloves together for 10 minutes or until it’s slightly thickened and reduced.
  • In the prepared skillet., place half the bread and pour over it half the melted butter. Toss to coat. Drizzle about ¼ cup of the syrup over the bread and toss to coat. Layer on top of the bread the cheese, pecans, raisins, and dried apricots.
  • Place the rest of the bread on top, drizzle over the remaining butter and then pour over the rest of the syrup. Make sure that each piece of bread is properly coated in syrup.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes. Serve warm.

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Recipe Rating


  1. This is a great dessert.. And normally (for us mexican/catholics) we only make this dessert during Lent. I love it though!!

  2. Tia Ginger says:

    I also grew up watching adults rave about my abuelita's capirotada but refused to try it because of the the cheese. As a college student home on spring break I accepted a serving out of respect and as a way of sharing special time with my grandmother. One taste and I immediately regretted all the years I refused to even try it. I have been making it now for over twenty years. I make it with golden raisins, monterrey jack cheese and pecans. When serving it I offer my guests sweet cream to pour over it. I would not recommend using untoasted bread. The bread would absorb too much liquid and be too mushy. I also do not use any butter as I think the cheese and sugars make the dish sweet and add enough calories. Avoiding the butter also lets me pretend its ok to have another serving. G. Rosas, Amarillo, Texas

  3. Hi, just bumped into this post, my family from my Mexican side are from Guadalajara, and we make what some call "Capirotada Blanca" our syrup has milk, heavy cream, and sometimes condensed milk, it's a "white syrup" and it's infused with tomato, onion, clove, and cinnamon which are strained out, and sweetened also with some Piloncillo.

    We use a soft fresh mexican cheese, pecans, and raisins, and the dish is heavily buttered and lined with corn tortillas. I posted the recipe on my blog if interested 🙂

  4. I am from the rio grande valley, the tip of Texas and have eaten capirotada since I was a chubby little girl scout wannabe. My mother would make my grandmothers recipe every lenten season. It is a childhood memory and I learned to cook it my freshman year in college so I could feel close to family during lent. These are the types of foods that should be honored as cultural traditions that bind not only the wonderful Mexican American population of Texas but recognize the spiritual connection too. Capirotada was created so that we could eat a meatless tasty dish with items from a kitchen cupboard that would fill our bellies.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This recipe is exactly how I've eaten (and now make) Capirotada my entire life (minus the dried apricots). If possible use piloncillo rather than brown sugar, piloncillo gives it a true Mexican flavor.