The Panaderías of Pilsen Offer a Window Into the Regional Baked Goods of Mexico

The rituals of the bakeries in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago bring back the familiarity of home for Mexicans here in town — from the buttery aroma of the bread that lines up on trays, to the easily recognizable sweet and savory staples that disappear into paper bags as bakery workers tally them up for sale.

Pan dulce, the umbrella term for a multitude of sweet Mexican breads, has an inarguable place in the Mexican experience — one that is both collective and personal; one that is shared across time and space. In Mexico, pan dulce is as vast in its assortment as it is ubiquitous. The tradition of baking is equal parts legacy and ingenuity; a recipe that continues to repeat and rewrite itself every day. Its variety is a mix of legacy recipes, local ingredients, and personal touch.

It is easy to understand why Chicago has a handful of traditional style Mexican bakeries: It’s home to the second largest Mexican-born immigrant community in the U.S., including an especially strong representation from standout bread-focused states like Guanajuato and Michoacán.