How to Make a Conchas Recipe Just like a Panaderia

Follow our conchas recipe to learn how to make colorful pan dulce like you see on display in a Mexican bakery.

If you’ve ever stepped foot inside a panaderia, or a Mexican bakery, you will find a bread case filled with colorful, fluffy conchas. One of the most popular types of Mexican pan dulce (sweet bread), this photogenic pastry appears in any respectable panaderia’s selection. Before I explain how to make conchas, I’ll tell you what they are and where they came from.

What Are Conchas?

“Concha” is the Spanish word for “seashell.” One look at this shell-shaped bread and you’ll see why. They’re made in various sizes and colors, from a small cookie-size portion to a large, impressive loaf meant to be sliced and shared. The rounded pastry is topped with a sweet paste made from sugar and shortening which hardens and crumbles when baked.

Conchas are one of the most popular Mexican desserts and can be found at every panaderia. Now, conchas are readily available in the United States grocery stores and neighborhood bakeries, too.

Where Does Pan Dulce Come From?

Wheat products, including pastries, didn’t make an appearance in Mexico until the 16th century, after the Spanish invaded. One of the soldiers who remained in Mexico, Juan Garrido, planted the wheat grains he found while cleaning a rice shipment. The first wheat plants in Mexico thrived.

While the Spanish settlers used the wheat crop to make bread, the indigenous population continued to prefer corn tortillas. It wasn’t until a baker started adding sugar to the bread that the indigenous people took interest, and pan dulce was born.

By the 20th century, bakeries had an abundance of pan dulce, including the first conchas. Now, conchas of all colors and patterns abound!

How to Make Conchas

This recipe makes four large conchas or eight small ones. I used red natural food coloring to give them a fun pink hue; omit the food coloring if you prefer them white.

Ingredients

Conchas Ingredients how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk at 120°F

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 20 drops red food coloring (optional)

Directions

Step 1: Start the dough

Making Dough how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, yeast, sugar and salt.

Attach the dough hook. Add butter and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are evenly distributed; it should take about five minutes.

Step 2: Add wet ingredients

Making Dough 2 how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Reduce speed to low and add egg, vanilla extract and milk. Mix for 8 to 10 minutes or until a dough forms and separates from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Step 3: Let the dough rise

Dough Rise how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover tightly. Set the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen and let the dough rise for about two hours or until it doubles in size.

Step 4: Prepare the topping

Cochas Topping how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

While the dough rises, prepare the topping for your conchas. Combine shortening, flour, sugar, cinnamon and food coloring (if using).

Conchas Paste how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Step 5: Divide the topping

Divide the topping into four sections (or eight if making small conchas) and roll into balls. Set aside.

Step 6: Divide the dough

Divide Dough how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Make four dough balls (or eight if making smaller conchas) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the dough with the palm of your hand to flatten a bit.

Step 7: Roll out the topping

Topping Paste how to make conchasEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Using a small rolling pin, roll out each piece of topping and carefully place it over the concha dough.

Using a paring knife, gently score a seashell design in the topping. Cover and let the conchas rise a second time for one hour.

Step 8: Bake

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 32 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. (Start watching earlier if you’re making smaller conchas.) Remove from oven and let cool.

Tips for Making Conchas

How to store conchas

To keep the conchas fresh, store them in a tightly sealed container for up to four days.

Can you use different flours to make conchas?

If you’re fresh out of all-purpose flour or just want to experiment in the kitchen, bread flour will be the easiest substitute. Test Kitchen expert Maggie Knoebel says that bread flour will absorb a little more liquid than all-purpose flour since it has a higher protein level. When making the dough, use your best judgment and add more water or flour as you see fit.

How can you make conchas your own?

While this recipe makes pink conchas, you could also use yellow food coloring for another classic look. If you skip the food coloring, your conchas will yield the white shell look often seen in bakeries. You can also make the pastry with a chocolate topping, like in this conchas recipe.

Can you make conchas ahead of time?

You can make concha dough in advance and refrigerate it overnight. Maggie says this can make the dough easier to shape when forming the conchas. Be sure to refrigerate the dough before shaping and make sure it’s tightly wrapped to maintain freshness. When you’re ready to bake the following day, shape the dough and let rise according to the instructions.

Ericka Sanchez
Ericka Sanchez is a recipe developer, food stylist, creator of the award-winning culinary website nibblesandfeasts.com and author of two cookbooks: Aguas Frescas & Paletas and ¡Buen Provecho! (October 2021). Ericka's cooking style is inspired by her life as a bicultural Latina living in California and her cherished memories in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother in Mexico. Ericka was born in Torreón Coahuila, Mexico, and immigrated with her family to El Paso, Texas, at eight years old.