How to Make Conchas

You can learn how to make colorful conchas like the ones 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. The star 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. You can also make the pastry with a chocolate topping, like in this conchas recipe.

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

For the 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)

Tools for Making Conchas

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 5 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 8-10 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 2 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 4 sections (or 8 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 4 dough balls (or 8 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 1 hour.

Step 8: Bake

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

How to Store Conchas

To keep the conchas fresh, store in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 days.

Note: Recipes submitted by our trusted contributors are created and tested in their kitchens.

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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.