Conchas are perhaps one of the best known pan dulces. The shell-like Mexican bread is soft and sugary with a crunchy top. The breads come in different varieties, including chocolate, which is the perfect accompaniment to coffee and hot chocolate. The bread is so beloved that you can find more than 1,000 concha-inspired items on Etsy (including yarn, earring, and pillow versions of the pastry), an overwhelming number of pictures on Instagram, and a Change.org page petitioning for the concha to have its own national holiday. (You can sign it here, btw.)
Even though the conchas prevalent in Mexico and the United States – and it deserves all the shine it gets – so many pan dulces exist in Latin America. That means you definitely don’t have to limit yourself to just eating conchas. If you have a sweet tooth and love bread, then this list is for you.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of Latin America’s pan dulces. If we left out your favorite pan, add it below in the comments.
If you were to draw eyes on them, pan xeca would sort of look like Peeps. But unlike the sugary, marshmallowy Easter candy, the spongy Guatemalan bread has a place in your life year-round. Xecas or shecas are popular in Quetzaltenango. Cinnamon, panela, honey, and anise give them their tasty flavor. Sometimes they’re stuffed with marmalade.
Pão Doce com Coco
Though they typically resemble cinnamon rolls, pão doce com coco is denser and less sweet than the mall staple and full of coconut-y goodness. The dough contains flour, coconut milk, and butter. The filling is absolutely mouth watering, with coconut, condensed milk, vanilla, and nutmeg added in to give it additional flavor. A drizzle of sweetened condensed milk finish off this pastry.
Not to be confused with the Honduran semita – which is closer to a concha – the Salvadoran version is comprised of a rich jam-like filling (guava, pineapple, and other varieties) sandwiched between two layers of pastry dough. They usually have a lattice top.
There are two types of semitas: altas and pachas. Altas have a cake-like texture, while pachas are flatter and crispier. You can’t go wrong with either though, because they’re both delicious.
Barquillos de hojaldre
Barquillos de hojaldre are cone-shaped Mexican treats with a crema pastelera filling. To give it its appearance, thin, long strips of dough are wrapped (and overlapped) around a cylindrical cone, which is how they end up with those uniform lines. They are then filled with crema pastelera, but marmalade or crema para batir would also do in a pinch.
Pan de Mallorca
Pan de Mallorca is a sweet, eggy bread with a distinct swirl pattern. According to The Noshery, the bread derives from Ensaïmades bread from Spain’s Mallorca Island. “But like much of Puerto Rican cuisine, we adopted it and made it part of our culture,” the site explains. It is finished with powdered sugar, and can even be used to make sweet and savory sandwiches.
With their triangular shapes, picos are easily recognizable. The slightly sticky Nicaraguan bread is sweet and salty. Before it’s folded into its classic three-corner shape, queso duro, sugar, and cinnamon are added inside. Then the top is sprinkled with additional sugar. The delicious treat is a popular breakfast, afternoon treat, or dessert option.
Pan Chancay are sweet bread rolls. The Peruvian pastry is reportedly named after the Chancay civilization, a pre-Columbian culture later part of the Incan empire. Anise flavors the soft rolls, and sesame seeds is the finishing touch.