November 19, 2011 11:00 AM
Going Nuts and Bananas for Capirotada
POSTED IN: Recipes , Desserts
TAGS: banana , bread , capirotada , cheese , cinnamon , food , mexican , pecan , piloncillo , prune , pudding , queso , recipe
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Sliced bread brushed with melted butter, toasted until golden, layered with handfuls of nuts and dried fruits, drenched in Piloncillo syrup, topped with crumbled salty cheese and baked until it all comes together.... Once out of the oven, it tastes like a cross between French Toast and Bread Pudding. Crisp-on-the-top and moist-in-the-center, every spoonful a delightful mess.

That is Mexico's most well known version of Capirotada. Being a lover of delicious Mexican style food messes, I am one big fan of it. But some newcomers to the dish are taken aback by the salty cheese on top. What -you may ask like many do- is the need for the cheese on top? Well, that salty tease makes the thick feel and sweet taste of the dish come out in bold strokes in your mouth.

It reminds me of how my father loves to slice sweet bananas over his savory lentil soup; or how my family goes crazy over piling ates (fruit pastes) with Manchego cheese, as so many Mexicans do; or how I used to love eating a handful of chocolate covered raisins right after a handful salty pop corn, and then repeat it again and again at the movies growing up, as long as the movie lasted. Capirotada has that same wild mix. 

Once you finish your piece, I bet you will beg for a bit more of that addicting combination. That's probably why I have received so many requests for a recipe.

That is also why, although Capirotada is traditionally made for Lent and we are no way near Easter, I've had such a big craving for it in this cold weather. No. I am not waiting until Spring. And I am making it again this Thanksgiving to share with friends.

As it is baked casserole style and it has such a sweet warmness to it, it is perfect for the holidays and for making ahead and just popping in the oven.


There are, as all popular dishes, many versions of Capirotada.

All Capirotadas call for sliced and toasted bread. Some versions fry the bread in oil or lard to make it crisp and some brush it with melted butter and bake it. I go for the baked.

Also, some versions call for a crusty bread, like a baguette, bolillo or telera, while others call for Pan de Huevo, an egg and yeast based bread similar to the brioche or challah. Again, I go for the later....


Aside from which kind of bread and how to make it crisp, there seem to be two main camps where Capirotada has fallen in the last couple centuries. The Capirotada de Agua (water based) and the Capirotada de Leche (milk based). De Agua is baked in a piloncillo syrup while De Leche goes in a custardy style sauce, with sweetened milk and yolks. Yet, the most traditional is the Agua.

Yet the most common, and the one I've been asked for the most is De Agua. The syrup tends to have the rich tasting piloncillo, true cinnamon and many times whole cloves.


There are many variations as to the additions. Most versions call for peanuts and raisins. So if you are looking for the most traditional Capirotada, no need to add anything else. But there are many versions that add other kinds of nuts, fresh fruits like oranges, bananas, plantains, guavas, and grapes and dried fruits like candied figs and acitrón (the oldest recipes I researched about from a couple centuries ago even call for cooked onions, tomatoes and ground meat...)


After trying one too many versions, what I like to combine the most, are pecans and prunes. And I can't resist adding a full blown layer of bananas, like many cooks in Central Mexico. I am very fond of these three ingredients, and they seem to mingle so happily together, especially tugged between pieces of buttered and toasted slices of bread drenched in syrup...


After the first layer of bread, in go the bananas, prunes, pecans and a bath of syrup.

Then goes another layer of the bread.... with the rest of the syrup poured on top. 

As for the question of the cheese.... De Leche camp of the Capirotadas don't have cheese, while De Agua ones do.

And again...there are many options. While in Michoacán, they tend to sprinkle a dried and crumbly Cotija Cheese or a Queso Fresco, in other regions they use melty stronger cheeses like a Mexican Manchego. So you could go for a Cheddar, a Monterey Jack or a Muenster. You have the chance to play with your taste buds. But as funny as it may sound if it is the first time you try it, don't skip the cheese...


Capirotada is filling, satisfying and sweet. And that cheese.... really does it's thing...


Serves 10

8 cups water
1 pound piloncillo, grated, or about 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 ceylon or true cinammon stick
3 whole cloves
1 challah or brioche, preferably a couple days old, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted for brushing bread, plus more for greasing the casserole
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
2/3 cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped and toasted
4 oz, or about 1 cup, crumbled Queso Fresco, Añejo or Cotija
Ground cinnamon, optional, to sprinkle ontop

In a medium sauce pan, pour the water and set it over medium high heat. Once it comes to a simmer, add the grated piloncillo, cinnamon and cloves, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 25 minutes, until it has all dissolved and has a light syrup consistency. Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon and cloves.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bread slices with unsalted butter. Place in a baking sheet and into the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Butter a 9 x 13 casserole. Place a layer of bread in the bottom covering the entire surface. Cover with the banana slices, prunes and pecans. Pour half the syrup on top. Add another layer of bread, pour the remaining syrup on top and sprinkle the crumbled cheese. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the syrup has been absorbed. Remove from the oven. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes for the Capirotada to settle and for the entire syrup to be soaked up, then serve. You can also serve it lukewarm or cold. It can also be reheated. 


Thank you for this rich version of capirotada. My grandmother was from a little mountain town in Sonora called, "Aconchi". THat's where they have the two versions of flour tortillas....the gorditas of which my mother taught me to make and, the large one made without the rolling pin. THere is an art to waving it and stretching it out....and cooking it on the large outdoor comals.

ANyway, Nana taught my mom and my mom taught me. Both are gone now but I continue to make it each year as a tradition to remember them and to continue the cultural influences that I share with my family and friends.

It is almost a lost art, or recipe. When I make a tray for home, I make one for work and the 'old timers' thank me and remember their mothers who used to make it when they were young.

I use peanuts, bananas, mild cheddar cheese, and raisins in the piloncillo syrup with 3 whole cloves. The cloves came from my kids' babysitter , who was from Aguascalientes. Sometimes, I have added shredded coconut.

Thank you, Pati, for sharing this version. I love your show! My husband is from Puerto Rico and I am a "Chicana from BOyle Heights, California which today is referred to as East L.A. What perked my interest on one of your shows was when you made the empanadas with plantain bananas. That's because in my husband's culture they use the green ones for fritters called 'tostones' and the yellow maduros for soups, and desserts. I did not realize that Mexico uses them also. Then I realized that Mexico also has a Caribbean side and menu. My family loved them!
THanks I love your enthusiams and excitement in sharing your recipes on your show!

Irene Guerra-Vazquez | November 19, 2011 1:17 PM

Oh wow, that looks amazing! My husband loves anything that resembles bread pudding, so I think we'll have to try this.

Kari | November 19, 2011 1:40 PM

Made this today... Husband and kids LOVED it!

Sandra G | November 19, 2011 6:37 PM

Hi Patty, Thanks for sharing your secrets. I don't get the TV station any more you were on because they moved in to a digital stations. Are you on you tube . . or Hulu? Happy Holidays, I miss you.

Eric Fulda | November 20, 2011 2:16 AM

Hi Pati, I also could not find your show on my guide.
I googled you and now I am happy to know that you have this
blog. My mother makes this Capirotada for Lent and Christmas.
She makes a huge stockpot, she propably has 10 layers and it's always been the agua with tomatoes,onions,cloves,piloncillo,and
cinnamon. You know, my mother uses plantains instead of bananas, they hold their shape wonderfully. She learned it from her aunts and grandmother who were born in the early 1900's in Michoacan.
Anyway, I am thrilled to see this recipe and your blog, you have
a new follower! P.S. Is there a cookbook in the works?

Eli Gonzalez | November 21, 2011 3:29 PM

Hola Pati,
It is so wonderful to find this recipe here. I have fond memories of my mother making capirotada, and I have attempted it many times, but I have not been so successful. Thank you! I feel so grateful to find someone here online that is so committed and passionate to our Mexican customs and traditions. Thank you for sharing out nation's treasures.

Ari Lomeli | November 21, 2011 10:05 PM

Hola Irene, I'm so happy you use bananas in your capirotada too! I have made it with plantains before and it is also delicious. I love hearing stories and thank you so much for sharing yours! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Irene Guerra-Vazquez | November 22, 2011 10:48 AM

I hope you and your husband enjoy the recipe Kari! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Kari | November 22, 2011 10:55 AM

So glad they all loved it Sandra! I wish I could get my kids to eat more capirotada!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Sandra G | November 22, 2011 11:24 AM

Hola Eric, I have a few clips now on You Tube, but I am looking into more ways to make the whole episodes accessible. I will let you know once I figure this out! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Eric Fulda | November 22, 2011 11:28 AM

Thank you for your comments Eli! I am so happy you are excited by this recipe. I like using plantains sometimes too, and it is also delicious. Yes, there is a cookbook on the way. The manuscript is finished and just waiting for a release date from the publishers. I will keep you updated! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Eli Gonzalez | November 22, 2011 12:01 PM

Thank you for your lovely comments Ari! It is my pleasure to share my recipes. I am so happy that my blog can remind you of memories of your mother's cooking and our Mexican culture. I hope you enjoy the capirotada! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Ari Lomeli | November 22, 2011 12:12 PM

Pati buenas dias como estas felicidades en tu exito.No mas quiero saber que es challah o brioche...Gracias.Lisa

Lisa Hernandez | November 23, 2011 3:41 PM

Hola Lisa,
Pan Challah o Brioche, son dos tipos de panes, parecidos a los "Panes de Huevo o de Yema" que hay en México. Son panes suavecitos que están hechos a base de levadura y huevo. Pero puedes probar la receta con cualquier pan que a ti te guste!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Lisa Hernandez | November 25, 2011 6:04 PM

These type of sweets make me think of my mother. She used to make this for us during cuaresma I think. It's been so long since I've had some, and your version looks like the kind she used to make. I'll have to try and make some for my dad. He loves sweets made with piloncillo. One of his favorites is camotes en piloncillo-in a big bowl so he can pour some cold milk on top them.

Alejandra | December 2, 2011 3:01 PM

Que felicidad que ya casi sale tu libro Pati!! Ya hace tiempo que lo estoy esperando. Sere una de las primeras en comprar lo!!

Gracias por compartir tu arte y tu energia y por llevar la cocina Mexicana en lo alto!!


Carmen | December 16, 2011 10:10 PM

Muchas gracias Carmen! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Carmen | December 20, 2011 11:40 AM

I love this!

Wilford Wykle | December 3, 2012 10:20 AM

Gracias, Wilford!!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Wilford Wykle | December 3, 2012 11:36 AM

THANK YOU!!! My Mom made her version during lent and Christmas and I will give your recipe a try. I ran across your TV show by accident, what a good accident!!

Veronica Marrufo
Houston, TX.

Veronica | December 21, 2012 8:31 PM