How to appreciate the Mexican Tradition of Capirotada

Do you know what capirotada is? If you’re Mexican and you don’t know, let me at least catch you up with my limited knowledge. Capirotada is a dessert that my ama made during Easter time, it’s the only time of the year we ate it. It was one of those traditions that are just a part of your life and you just accept it, no questions asked.

Pero, this week I’ve been wondering about Capirotada. When I’ve googled capirotada, it’s categorized as bread pudding because of the bread, fruits, and spices. Somehow it doesn’t feel right to call it that. My amas Capirotada included corn tortilla in the ingredients! It is such a strange and tasty dessert. This week I’ve learned a bit of the religious history behind it. It was interesting, pero para mi, capirotada is just a segway to a sweet memory of my ama in the kitchen. Here are the important  ingredients, or the ones that my tastebuds remembered. 

In true Mexican fashion Capirotada dessert has tortillas in it. It is layered starting with corn tortillas at the bottom of the pan. Then comes the toasted birrote slices. I can see my ama arranging the slices, making sure to cover the entire pan. Luego, she sprinkled the top of the bread with peanuts, ciruelas y pasas.  Prunes and raisins were the only fruits I remember that she added into the mix. Then she covered those ingredients with a sugary syrup that was made from Pilloncillo which is another one of those ingredients you will most likely find in a Mexican kitchen. She had several meticulous layers so by the time she layered on the chunks of cheese I lost interest and went outside to play. Hijole! It was not a fancy dessert, but now I know that it involved a good amount of prep work and cooking time. How disappointing, because although I enjoyed eating my amas capirotada, I didn’t want to make it. Pero gracias a Dios, my big sister came to the rescue again!  

Asi es, last week my sister told me that she was going to make capirotada! She hoped she could make it like our ama. Although I was skeptical, I was happy, porque pues, it was very possible that I could come really really close to tasting my amas capirotada, oh sweet memories. We talked about the ingredients. Her best memory was the delicious melted cheese in it, but she also remembered the details about the process of making it. My greatest concern was that she made sure to add corn tortilla to the layers. I mean, it doesn’t make sense that a dessert has tortillas in it, pero, my ama added tortillas and I was sure that if Marina was going to succeed at making my amas capirotada she must add the key ingredient, corn tortillas. She promised to bring me a sample when she did it so that I could tell her the honest truth; could she even come close though? Estaba preocupada, what if she didn’t make it right? Would I hurt her feelings? Hijole! 

Last weekend we met in Pine Valley Ca. It was a beautiful dayfull of quality time together but first things first, we made the most important transaction of the day, which was the capirotada. In a nice floral cooler bag she had packaged very carefully, her version of my amas capirotada, I was both excited and nervous to receive my prize. It was a beautiful day. My nietas and my bestie  were part of the date. They played and we talked, a win-win arrangement. The recent rains have made San Diego County beautiful again, Pine Valley is as green and pretty as ever. We met at the park so the girls could play in the playground, mientras platicamos.

Luego, in between more platica we went shopping at the nearby outlet center. Y por supuesto, shopping and talking makes you hungry. The day passed a little too quickly, before we knew it the girls were hugging their tia “Rina” goodbye.  I drove away with capirotada on my mind. Imaginate, it had been years since I’ve had that wonderfully strange once a year dessert. I imagined my ama layering her casuela, making sure the tortillas went in first. 

My sister called to ask if I tried it. I had not. I wanted to be all in, I didn’t want a full stomach to mess up my taste test. I waited until the next day to try the capirotada. I warmed it in the microwave, then my flaco said “I want to try it.” I couldn’t tell if he was just being polite, I served and watched him while my own serving warmed in the microwave. I was a bit dramatic about slowly getting my coffee and my spoon and sitting at the table with my capirotada. I asked Ben, “What did you think? Was it good?” He said, “Yes, it was alright, it reminded me a little bit of apple pie? Que?! I should not have asked him.  I carefully  bit into it, all the ingredients in one spoonful. The sweet and salty flavor came alive in my mouth. She did it! The capirotada was sweet enough, but not too sugary. The bread was bread pudding-ish and the mixture of the fruit and nuts blended so nicely. Y pues the tortilla was in the mix somehow bringing it all together. Immediately I called her, I had to tell her everything, about my worry and how I was so wonderfully relieved and happy to know my amas capirotada would come again at Easter.

En Conclusion

If you’ve never had capirotada, I encourage you to try it. Asking my sis for the recipe may be tricky though because like my Ama, we tend to cook without measurements or recipes. My bestie said “Mexican food has a very distinct way of combining flavors” Capirotada is definitely distinct, it’s a good combination of sweet and salty and soft and crunchy. Gracias a Dios for traditions that live on. 


One thought on “How to appreciate the Mexican Tradition of Capirotada

  1. Marina Martinez

    Hi, well I made mi Ama capirotada it was not to hard it was more of a worry situation cuz like Rosalba I wanted it to be like mi Ama’s to get close to how her tasted but I was afraid cuz I didn’t want to use too much pilonsillo so I gamble on how much and I prayed lol, but like she said to I didn’t measure:( so I’ll see how it taste second time and about bring it back lol I don’t know 😕 😅 will see next year. MzM


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