How to Make Bolillos

Four Parts:Making the DoughForming the RollsMaking the WashBaking the Bolillos

Bolillos are a traditional Mexican bread roll. They are hard and crusty on the outside, but they are very soft on the inside. These rolls are delicious and simple to make, with just a few ingredients and a moderate amount of effort.



  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) granulated sugar
  • 1 envelop active dry yeast, about 1/2 oz (15 g)
  • 2-1/2 cups (625 ml) warm water
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) salt
  • 5 cups (1250 ml) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) masa harina or similar corn flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white cornmeal


  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) cold water
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) corn starch
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) salt


  • Extra cornmeal, as needed
  • Extra all-purpose flour, as needed

Part 1
Making the Dough

  1. Image titled Make Bolillos Step 1
    Proof the yeast. Place 1/2 cup (125 ml) of warm water into a large bowl and add the yeast and sugar, stirring gently to mix the ingredients evenly. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until foam starts developing on the surface.[1]
    • If the yeast mixture does not become foamy, that means the yeast is dead or will otherwise not activate. As a result, the bread will not rise if you continue forward from here. If this happens, you should buy a new packet of yeast and start over.
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    Add most of the remaining dough ingredients. Pour the remaining water into the yeast mixture, along with the oil, salt, and 2 cups (500 ml) of the all-purpose flour. Stir the contents of the bowl together using a wooden mixing spoon until evenly combined.[2]
    • If you have an electric stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, you could mix the dough ingredients together using that instead. The electric mixer can also help you knead the dough in future steps.
    • Do not add all the flour at once, since doing so would make the dough harder to form. Add it in gradually, bit by bit.
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    Stir the corn products into the dough. Add the masa harina (corn flour) and white cornmeal into the bowl and stir well to incorporate it.
    • If you are unable to find masa harina, you will need to substitute it for another type of corn flour. Extra cornmeal can be used in a pinch, but do so only as a last resort, since cornmeal is coarser and will affect the texture of the bread. Regular wheat flour would be a better substitute. Do not use corn starch as a substitute under any circumstances, however.[3]
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    Add the rest of the flour. Gradually add the remaining 3 cups (750 ml) of all-purpose flour into the bowl. Add roughly 1 cup (250 ml) at a time and stir well after each addition. Continue until all the flour has been mixed in.
    • Note that, as the dough gets thicker and tougher, you might find it more difficult to stir it using your wooden mixing spoon. Should this happen, lightly dust your hands with flour and begin mixing the dough using your hands. You can also put flour on the sides of the bowl to prevent it from sticking.
    • If you have been mixing the dough with a stand mixer and dough hook, you will not need to blend the remaining flour in by hand.
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    Knead the dough. Lightly flour a clean kitchen counter. Turn the dough out of the bowl and onto this surface, and knead it for 5 minutes or so.[4]
    • You can also add a little bit of warm water right at the beginning of the kneading process.[5]
    • When ready, the dough should lose most of its stickiness and should be much firmer and smoother.
    • If you have not done so already, lightly dust your hands with flour as you work with the dough. Dust your kneading surface with flour, too.
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    Let the dough rise until doubled in size. Place the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set it aside in a warm location and let it rise for about 1 hour.[6]
    • The bowl you use should be roughly twice the original size of your batch of dough.
    • Make sure that the bowl has a thin coat of vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray along the bottom and sides before you put the dough inside. This oil should be enough to prevent the dough from sticking as it rises.
    • You can cover the bowl with a clean, damp dish towel if you do not have plastic wrap.

Part 2
Forming the Rolls

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    Punch down and knead the dough. Use your fists to gently deflate the risen dough. Lightly flour your kitchen counter again, and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for another 2 minutes.
    • Note that you may also need to sprinkle your hands with flour again, especially if the dough threatens to stick to your fingers when you touch it.
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    Separate the dough into pieces. Start by splitting the dough into three even portions. Further divide each of these three portions into four equal pieces, forming a total of 12 evenly sized rolls.
    • Alternatively, if you want to make more servings, you could split the full amount of dough into four equal sections. Split each of these portions into even fours, creating a total of 16 rolls.
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    Form an oval. Roll one portion of dough in between your hands to form a roll. Place it on the counter, and gently flatten it into an oval using your fingers.
    • The oval should be about 1/2 inch to 1 inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) thick.
    • Position the oval so that the long side runs from top to bottom and the shorter side runs from side to side.
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    Fold each roll into thirds. Bring the bottom third of the oval up and over the center. Fold the top third of the oval over these two layers. Pinch the ends together into a blunt point. This process is similar to folding a piece of paper to fit in an envelope.[7]
    • Essentially, you need to fold each oval of dough in the same way you would fold a letter when placing it into a standard envelope.
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    Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet. Place each uncooked roll on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Keep the seam side down, and space the rolls at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
    • Instead of parchment paper, you could use a silicone baking mat.
    • Consider sprinkling the parchment paper or silicone sheet with a little extra cornmeal for added texture.
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    Cover and let rise again. Place a loose sheet of plastic wrap over the baking sheet and move the dough to a warm location. Let the rolls rise for 30 minutes, or until roughly doubled in volume again.[8]

Part 3
Making the Wash

  1. Image titled Make Bolillos Step 13
    Combine the wash ingredients. Place the cool water, corn starch, and salt in a small saucepan. Quickly stir them together, then place the saucepan on the stove.[9]
    • For best results, create the wash while the dough rises instead of waiting until after the rolls are ready.
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    Boil the wash until thickened. Turn the eye of the stove to medium-high heat. Stir the mixture constantly for several minutes until it boils, thickens, and becomes translucent.[10]
    • Use a whisk or mixing spoon to stir the contents of the saucepan.
    • Remove from the heat once ready.
    • The corn starch acts as a thickener. The final wash will look a little cloudy due to the corn starch, but you should not be able to see any white grains of corn starch in the liquid.
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    Brush each roll with the wash. Dip a pastry brush into the wash. Carefully brush a bit of the wash over the tops and sides of each roll.
    • Wait until the rolls have finished rising before brushing them with the wash.
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    Slash each roll lengthwise. Use a sharp, pointed knife to make a 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) slash from one end of each roll to the other.[11] Stop 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) from each end of each roll.
    • After making the slash, gently pinch the ends of each roll again to accentuate the point.

Part 4
Baking the Bolillos

  1. Image titled Make Bolillos Step 17
    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). For best results, do this while the rolls continue to rise, during the last 15 minutes or so.
    • Try to avoid waiting until after the dough has already risen. The longer the dough sits out, the more delicate it becomes and the more likely it is to deflate.
  2. Image titled Make Bolillos Step 18
    Bake for 25 minutes. Place the baking sheet on the center rack of your preheated oven. Bake them until they turn a pale golden brown.[12]
    • Baking time might vary based on the strength of your oven and the size of your rolls.
    • Be careful as you move the uncooked rolls into the oven. If you are too reckless or quick, you might cause them to deflate slightly.
    • Note that the finished rolls will also have a "hollow" sound if you gently tap them on the bottom with your fingertip.
  3. Image titled Make Bolillos Step 19
    Let cool on a wire rack. Remove the baked rolls from the oven. Slip them off the baking sheet and place them on a wire cooling rack to cool.[13]
  4. Image titled Make Bolillos Step 20
    Enjoy your bolillos as dinner rolls or sandwiches. The bolillos are ready to eat once they are cool enough to handle with your hands. Eat them alongside a meal as a dinner roll. You could also slice them in half lengthwise and use the crusty bread halves for sandwiches.
    • If you want to save the rolls, do so by placing them in an airtight container. Store them at room temperature for up to three days.

Things You'll Need

  • Large bowl
  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Electric stand mixer with dough hook attachment (optional)
  • Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
  • Plastic wrap or damp, clean dish towel
  • Parchment paper or silicone baking mat
  • Small saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Pastry brush
  • Sharp, pointed kitchen knife
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Oven mitts
  • Airtight container

Article Info

Categories: Recipes