If there’s one thing that LA isn’t lacking, besides questionable landlords and pre-pubescent Internet stars, it’s an abundance of panaderías. We know this all too well, just like we know that everyone will inevitably have their personal favorite. But after years of eating around LA and occasionally peeling off the road for the impromptu concha, we’ve managed to compile a list of spots that satisfy that need for a pastry on good, bad, and perfectly whatever kinds of days.
While most shops offer similar assortments of breads and pastries, there’s still plenty of variety in the city’s Latin American bakeries. Some sell a mix of Mexican, Salvadoran, or Guatemalan specialties, while others have successfully veganized their options to appeal to their growing plant-based community. But no matter what you’re after, these are the 10 panaderías and pan dulce shops you should prioritize.
Few places in Boyle Heights are as iconic as La Mascota Bakery. This panadería has been open since 1952 and specializes in two very important foods: conchas and tamales. The conchas here are the main attraction, and come fluffy, perfectly sweet, and fresh out of the oven beginning at 5am (in case you happen to be up for the day’s first batch). The tamales, coming in both sweet and savory options, are also delicious and can be enjoyed year-round rather than waiting in Disneyland-esque lines during the weeks leading up to Christmas. The sheer amount of pan dulce in this shop is genuinely impressive, but fear not because you can’t go wrong with the bakery’s creamy capirotada pudding, piloncillo-flavored puerquitos, sugary gusano rolls, or really anything else.
La Monarca is a popular chain of pan dulce shops that can be found all over the city, making them very convenient for whenever the morning cravings hit and you can’t handle the idea of I-10 traffic without a mini concha. We love their excellent tacos, which should not be confused with the meat/tortilla kind that we’re also very into, but in their own special way. These pastries are more like rolls of buttery dough that get baked until golden brown, covered in sugar, and filled with delicious things like custard or dulce de leche. Their fresh bolillo rolls are also truly great, but these salty and chewy loaves are even better as a warm breakfast mollete. The rolls are first cut in half, then slathered with refried beans, topped with fresh cheese, and baked to create a hot open-faced sandwich that you should definitely cover in salsa verde.
According to our sources (i.e. the bakery’s website), Delicia Bakery And Some was LA’s first panadería to offer vegan-friendly options to plant-based pan dulce fans. More importantly, this Highland Park operation has managed to successfully substitute the butter and other animal products in several of these traditional recipes without compromising on taste or texture. Their vegan conchas are big, soft pillows and super moist on the inside. We’re also huge fans of their vegan tres leches cake that is just as rich and delicious as its dairy-heavy counterpart while absorbing everything even better due to its spongier texture. These two sweets really only scratch the surface of what Delicia Bakery can do, with their vegan coconut flan and “meaty” milanesa tortas changing our perception of how good plant-based Mexican food can actually be.
Another shop with plenty of vegan-friendly options, Panadería Cuscatleca in Pico-Union makes traditional pan dulces, hot breakfasts, and other baked goods from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The family-owned spot is best known for their not-so-vegan but beautifully golden brown quesadillas - a Salvadoran pound cake that’s super light, semi-sweet, and mildly salty from the recipe’s parmesan cheese, which really helps bring out the cake’s sweetness before aggressively dunking it in your 8am coffee. Plant-based visitors can instead enjoy the vegan semita de piña, which is a soft square cake with a flaky top and a sweet pineapple filling, or a plate of gently fried all-corn tamales that come with silky refried beans and a vegan Salvadoran sour cream we’d happily drench anything in, sweet or savory.
This Belvedere Gardens bakery has been around since the 1940s, and its wooden display cases and commitment to traditional recipes continue to be part of its charm. Their cuernitos de mantequilla are some of our favorites in town, with a beautiful golden yellow color, glossy top layer, and just the right amount of sweetness that calls for some butter. But if you want something a little sweeter, try the ojos de buey, which are two small sweet breads sandwiched together, covered in a strawberry glaze, and rolled in dry coconut for tons of varying texture. Where El Gallo really gets us, though, are their pre-packaged bread boxes where you can try an assortment of everything, share with friends, or use it to make amends with your mom after missing her birthday (again).
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Sonora Bakery definitely isn’t the biggest panadería you’ll find in LA, but it’s still stocked with every pan dulce, cake, and baked good you could ever want. Most of the space in this Belvedere Gardens shop is occupied by tall glass displays filled with rows of crescent-shaped cuernitos, sweet conchas, and freshly baked bolillo rolls for you to fill your tray (and entire car) with. But Sonora is mostly known for its custom cakes, great Argentinian empanadas, and party subs that can reach up to 10 feet in length. These gargantuan sandwiches are made with freshly baked bread and come with everything from salami, ham, and turkey to breaded veal for those who enjoy the occasional milanesa. If you’re not looking to feed a Super Bowl party or your teenage son’s chess team, sandwiches for one are also on the menu for a solid $5.99.
Nothing about the name Pacific French Bakery alludes to it being a panadería, and that’s mostly because it originally wasn’t. This Arlington Heights shop started off as a French bakery specializing in French rolls and baguettes before catering to the local Latinx community. Next thing you know, this family business underwent quite the rebrand and now offers traditional pan dulces, cakes, and Latin American desserts at three locations. Their beautiful pastries grab our attention every time we walk in, like the perfectly round and airy torta de azucar with a crimped spiral design and coating of sugar crystals on top. Not only is it the most symmetrical ball of dough we’ve ever seen, but it’s surprisingly light and the perfect loaf to gnaw on during long morning commutes. The gusano roll is another picturesque bite with its slightly curved shape, deep brown color, and slits of sweet butter paste poking through (similar to the crunchy topping you’d find on a concha).
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La Panadería Michoacana is one of those shops with so many things going on that you end up walking out with a bit of everything. If you want pressed juices, Mexican popsicles, or even a homemade café de olla, they have it. In need of a three-layered Barbie Beach House-themed birthday cake for your niece that occasionally likes you? Done. But the main reason to stop by this South Central spot is still their excellent bakery that makes delicious pan dulce and one of our favorite tres leches in the city - it comes very moist, never too sweet, and tastes even better the next day if you can manage to wait. Don’t forget to also grab a soft rebanada de mantequilla, a classic pastry that resembles a slice of bread with thick butter and sugar on top. We love the flaky orejas as well, which come glossy from the dough’s sugar caramelizing in the oven.
This vibrantly colored Pico-Union trifecta is a Oaxacan restaurant, food market, and panadería all wrapped in one. A casual lunch excursion for some chicken mole or crispy tlayudas might quickly turn into an impulsive buying spree of bitter chocolate, handcrafted pots, and miscellaneous kitchenware that you never knew you needed. This same feeling can be applied to touring El Valle Oaxaqueño’s baked goods section, where tall glass displays are packed to the brim with golden, flakey, and sugar-dusted pan dulce. Oaxacan specialties are a must here, like their pan de yema - a fluffy egg bread best enjoyed with Mexican hot chocolate any time of day. Pan de muerto, typically seasonal, is also sold fresh here and comes as face-sized loaves of sweet bread sprinkled with sesame seeds for a classic touch.
If the name, menu items, or abundance of patriotic memorabilia didn’t blatantly give it away, this East Hollywood spot wants you to know that it’s a 100% Salvadoran bakery (and a great one too.) Here you’ll find excellent quesadillas salvadoreñas that are always the right balance of sweet and savory, and a rather sticky and eggy bread pudding with custard and sweet bananas that we usually devour before making it back to the car. There’s plenty more to sample in case you want even more variety, like large sheets of jelly-filled semitas, cheese-stuffed pupusas, and some tall milhojas made from slabs of whipped cream sandwiched between flakey puff pastry.