Amber Bobadilla remembers the day the concha ice cream sandwich was born.
It was six years ago, and Horchateria Rio Luna, the Paramount, California coffeeshop run by her sister and brother-in-law, had only been open a few months. During one particularly slow day, recalls Amber, “my sister was eating a scoop of ice cream and I was eating a concha. I dipped the concha into the ice cream, kind of like a tortilla [into] beans. … And I was just like ‘Oh my god, this is delicious together.’” She immediately turned to her sister, Ashley Leon-Vazquez, and declared, “I have an idea.”
Amber and Ashley split a concha in half, stuffed it with horchata ice cream, drizzled on cajeta (Mexican goat’s milk caramel), and sprinkled it with walnuts: The concha ice cream sandwich was born.
It was an immediate success. “The concha ice cream sandwich is one of the items that put us on the map,” says Amber.
People came from everywhere to try their creation, resulting in lines up to 3 hours long. And the idea spread, even as far as Chicago, where Xiomara Casas began experimenting with her own versions and selling them through her bakery, Panadería Nuevo Leon.
“A lot of people were shocked by it,” Xiomara says. A few customers bristled to see such a classic bread altered; Xiomara says that, for some people, “conchas shouldn’t be messed with.” At the same time, “A lot of people were interested and intrigued by ice cream in the concha,” and the sweet sandwich resonated.
Elsewhere, some bakers are making savory concha sandwiches. At Tía María in Santa Rosa, California, vanilla and chocolate conchas are loaded with fillings including bacon, cheddar cheese, and steamed eggs. While a sweet bread might not immediately spring to mind as the go-to vessel for a breakfast sandwich, manager Cynthia Linares says the salty-sweet pairing is unbeatable: “You taste little hints of cinnamon that go well with the bacon."
Amber also points to the classic bread’s density and size, attributes that make it well-suited for sandwiches. “You’re not going to have this soggy bread that’s gonna fall [apart]” when loaded up with fillings, she explains.
Intrigued? Try whipping up your own concha sandwich at home. Begin by baking these Cinnamon Conchas or Conchas de Maíz, then choose your filling. Do you want to keep things sweet for the summer? Add a scoop of ice cream (strawberry or cookies and cream would be excellent) and a little something extra, like caramel, hot fudge sauce, toasted nuts, or coconut.
Or, for a savory version, borrow one of the many egg-based fillings developed for our Recipe of the Year, Ultimate Sandwich Bagels. We’ve dreamed up plenty of flavorful options, from an upgraded BLT to a vegetarian Reuben, that would make excellent fillings for a concha sandwich. Find them all here: Our favorite fillings for your Ultimate Sandwich Bagels.
Once you assemble and dig in, you'll realize why the concha is so cherished: From solo eating to sweet-and-savory sandwiches, it really can do it all.
Cover photography and food styling by Liz Neily.